POP’S LOWLY STATUS

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Regular readers will know that I think Adam Stafford is a bona-fide genius.

My first exposure to his work was when he was part of Y’All Is Fantasy Island, an indie band I first came across around 2007 when playing with the likes of The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit.  I really had high hopes for the band, but they broke up in 2011 without ever gaining much in the way of commercial success.

But it’s been Adam’s work as a solo artist that has continually got me excited.  As I said in one of the many previous posts I’ve written about him, the first few times I saw him live in the solo setting left me completely in awe of what he was doing, as the sounds coming from the stage were equally bewildering and bewitching. It was all down to his highly clever and imaginative vocal and instrumental looping. It was, and has remained ever since, an extraordinary experience.

I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve become good friends with Adam over the years. I don’t just admire him as a musician or creative talent, but he’s incredibly down-to-earth and a wonderful person to sit down with in the pub and talk about all sorts of things. So, when he mentioned he was gearing up to issue a ‘best of’ compilation, I of course said I’d put something up on the blog. 

Adam has called the collection Pop’s Lowly Status, Here’s how it is described on his Bandcamp page:-

Over the ten or so years Adam Stafford has been releasing solo recordings, it is hard to establish an entry point due to the often overwhelming amount of prolific output from the native of Falkirk, Central Scotland. Certainly, a lot of those albums, EPs and collections of Film Soundtrack works (not to mention previous group Y’all is Fantasy Island) have leaned towards the more experimental, minimalist, lo-fi, instrumental and electronic side of the musical spectrum.

But what about Adam Stafford as a Pop artist (in the loosest of terms)? A songwriter of impeccable craft and style able to conjure melody, hooks and harmony out of the mystical melch hat?

Here is a kind of `Best Of’ of that side of Stafford, an Introduction for the uninitiated – a Primer to discover one of Scotland’s best and underrated song craftsman and a chance to unearth some of the finest songs you’ve never heard.

From the explosive acoustic Surf Pop of `Fire & Theft’, to the beautiful, lilting lament of `Ghostly Arms’, the a Capella Alt Soul-Pop of `Shot-down You Summer Wannabes’ to the aching, thrumming ballad `Please’, which imagines a band like Low covering Roy Orbison – the sheer amount of incredible earworms are collected here for the first time, ripe for new discovery.

The thing is, I’ve long planned an Adam Stafford ICA….indeed I had an idea in my head that I’d approach him to see if he fancied coming up with one as a guest posting or perhaps one we could write together.  But this 16-song collection more than does the trick. Here’s its opening track, from the 2011 album Build A Harbour Immediately

mp3: Adam Stafford – Fire & Theft

The next track on the compilation, Cold Seas, was originally released on the 2013 album Imaginary Walls Collapse, a record which would be long-listed or the Scottish Album of The Year award (and should have won it in my humble opinion).  Here’s a live session version:-

That album was his first of four releases on Song, By Toad Records, the much-loved and much-missed Edinburgh-based label owned and run by Matthew Young (another genius to whom the Scottish music scene owes a huge debt).  As part of the promo efforts for the 2016 album Taser Revelations, the lead-off single was afforded a quirky and enjoyable video:-

Phantom Billions just happens to be the third track on Pop’s Lowly Status, and tempting as it is to take you through the remaining thirteen songs, I’ll instead offer up the chance to listen to one of Adam’s newest recordings, a digital only single from a few weeks ago:-

mp3: Adam Stafford – Crushed Steamroller

It’s also on the new compilation, the full details of which can be found on Adam’s Bandcamp page.

Here’s the thing.  Adam has made Pop’s Lowly Progress as something you name your own price for.  I’ve had a chat with him, and we have come to an agreement that I can pay for five digital copies of the album to give away to readers of this blog.  He actually was happy to offer them free of charge, but I insisted otherwise.

Oh, and what I didn’t tell Adam is that one of those five digital copies of the album will be accompanied by a full digital discography of his solo work, a collection which is on offer for just over £50.

So…..if you fancy having the chance of being a recipient of Pop’s Lowly Progress, courtesy of The Vinyl Villain, then just go to the comments section for this post and tell me which Scottish town is home to Adam Stafford.  It’s really that simple……

Closing date for the competition is Friday 16 December.  Good luck.

JC

ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN SINGLES : #003

aka The Vinyl Villain incorporating Sexy Loser

003 – BABYBIRD – ‚Goodnight’ (The Echo Label, ’96)

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Hello friends,
more melody, I hear you say? Well, here you are – today’s choice probably is as catchy a tune as you will get in this series! A bit turgid and without having looked it up, I strongly assume it has even charted back then as well. This, of course, is no obstacle for a song to feature here, but it is unusual nevertheless for the balance of singles to come.

I first got aware of Babybird by a song they had on one of those ‘Volume’ – compilations, ‘Alan Ladd’. Only that they were still called Baby Bird then. The song was okay, I thought, but then they quickly disappeared from my radar. Until I first heard ‘You’re Gorgeous’, their hit single. It was played to death on the radio, even here in Germany. Which – again – normally isn’t a good sign, but I was very fond of it, I remember.

But not as fond as I was of today’s song, which is, in fact, Babybird’s first single:

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mp3: Babybird – ‘Goodnight’

It just blew me away, I must say, and it still has the very same effect these days, after all these years. It made me buy their album ‘Ugly Beautiful’, but if memory serves, I didn’t like it very much. Perhaps I should give it a second chance?

But even if the album fails to me please me again, there’s always ‘Goodnight’ ….

All the best, enjoy,

Dirk

PS: and if hamirthehermit should be reading this: just send me a short mail (dirk dot huppertz at gmx dot de) and I will reply with a rip of the other side of The Akrylykz – single. And probably also with some useful information about where to find even more stuff by the band, partly unreleased …

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (12)

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All being well, I’ll have been home for 24 hours*, but I really wanted to have this post close this short series as it focusses on one of Aldo‘s most-liked bands, and going by the fact they featured on no less than four of the Indietracks compilations, a real favourite among those who used to make the yearly trek to Derbyshire.

mp3: Martha – Sycamore (from Indietracks Compilation, 2013)
mp3: Martha – 1997, Passing In The Hallway (from Indietracks Compilation, 2015)
mp3: Martha – Westerberg Comprehensive (demo) (from Indietracks Compilation, 2017)
mp3: Martha – Heart Is Healing (from Indietracks Compilation, 2019)

Martha, whose members are J.C. Cairns (guitar/vocals), Daniel Ellis (guitar/vocals), Naomi Griffin (bass/vocals), and Nathan Stephens-Griffin (drums/vocals), some from Pity Me, a village in County Durham in the North East of England. They have, in interviews, described themselves as queer, straight edge, vegan and anarchist. They have no designated front person and all contribute vocals. 

After singles on their own Discount Horse label and Odd Box Records, their debut album Courting Strong, was released on Fortuna Pop! and Salinas Records in 2014. A series of spilt singles with a series of bands on different labels preceded the release, in 2016, of the second album, Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart on Fortuna Pop! and Dirtmap Records.

There would be one further single on Fortuna Pop! in 2017 before the label closed down, and Martha chose to sign with Big Scary Monsters, an indie label based in Oxford.  A series of digital singles were released in 2018 and 2019 in advance of their album, Love Keeps Kicking.

Still very much going strong, new album Please Don’t Take Me Back hit the shops at the end of October, this time on Specialist Subject Records, which is based in Bristol.  A UK tour to promote the album took place while I’ve been away, sunning myself.

The four songs on the Indietracks Compilations came from a variety of sources. 

Sycamore was on a limited edition 7″ single issued by Odd Box Records, with copies now fetching upwards of £40 while 1997, Passing In The Hallway can be found on the debut album. 

The demo of Westerberg Comprehensive on Indietracks 2017 was previously unreleased, but its finished form had been the closing track on the band’s second album that has come out in 2016.  Heart Is Healing can also be found on Love Keeps Kicking.

As it’s the final part of the series, I’m going to offer up a few more songs than has been the case over the previous eleven posts. They’ve been picked out at random, and I’m just hoping they manage to capture the fact there are four different vocalists………

mp3: Martha – 1978, Smiling Politely (from the debut EP, 2012)
mp3: Martha – Move To Durham and Never Leave (from Courting Strong, 2014)
mp3: Martha – The Historian (from spilt single, 2015)
mp3: Martha – Do Whatever (from Blisters In The Pit of My Heart, 2016)
mp3: Martha – Orange Juice (from Love Keeps Kicking, 2019)
mp3: Martha – Please Don’t Take Me Back (from Please Don’t Take Me Back, 2022)

Tomorrow will see the return of our dear friend, Dirk.

*I was talking nonsense…..I touched down at London Heathrow around the same time as today’s post was published.   I got my days all mixed up.  But don’t worry, Dirk will still be here tomorrow….it’s just that I’ll need to cut’n’paste his email while I’m half asleep.

JC

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (11)

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mp3: The Hobbes Fanclub – Your Doubting Heart (from Indietracks Compilation, 2012)
mp3: The Hobbes Fanclub – Why Should You Tell The Truth? (from Indietracks Compilation, 2014)

I’ve cobbled this bio from a combination of all music and a piece from a PR agency when the band got round to releasing its debut album:-

Shoegaze-minded indie pop trio The Hobbes Fanclub had its beginnings in 2008 as a transcontinental collaboration between U.K. singer/songwriter Leon Carroll and Brazilian musician Fabiana Karpinski. Without ever meeting in person, the duo worked on songs via file sharing and released a few CD-Rs on smaller indie labels before parting ways in 2010.

At that time Carroll expanded the band to include drummer Adam Theakston and bassist/vocalist Louise Phelan, two musicians from his home base of Bradford, England.

They released a debut 7″ “Your Doubting Heart” on Shelflife in August 2012 and played the NYC Popfest in 2013. Debut album “Up At Lagrange” (August 2014) packs a feedback punch to the face, hitting you with the perfect amount of distortion, feedback and melody. The energy and attitude of the early 90s is heard throughout the album, full of restrained production values and classic song structures. They show off their knack for writing catchy boy/girl vocal melodies up against hazy, overdriven guitars and pounding rhythms. “Up At Lagrange” is a refreshingly diverse album that will leave you wanting to listen on repeat til the grooves wear thin or the foil inside the CD begins to fade.”

As you’ll have noticed, the debut single was included on Indietracks 2012, while the song included on Indietracks 2014 was taken from the debut album.

It appears, given there is nothing else on Discogs post-2014, that The Hobbes Fanclub spilt-up after the release of the album.

Here’s two more songs from said album:-

ICA WORLD CUP 2022 : THE QUARTER FINALS

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The FIFA World Cup has delivered some drama, shocks and last-minute goals that have changed the fortunes of the participating teams.  You could argue it is merely mimicking the ICA World Cup, especially the knockout rounds.

A huge thanks to everyone who took the time to vote on the eight ties brought to you last Sunday. The comments revealed that a number of you had real difficulty choosing one song over another, and this led to a higher number of draws or non-committals than previous weeks.  A couple of the ties were more or less decided quite early on, but nobody was on the end of a thrashing a la Costa Rica at the hands of Spain.

I reckon that the other six ties saw changes of leads on at least one occasions, while two matches swung back and forth to the extent they were only decided with the last couple of kicks of the ball.  46 sets of votes came in…..only one game was voted on by everyone.

Human League 29 Iggy Pop 16

Television 24 Terry Hall 17

Lloyd Cole 20 The Jam 24

Orange Juice 23 Soft Cell 16

John McGeoch 21 Cinerama 19

Joy Division 28 David Bowie 17

Siouxsie & The Banshees 20 Go-Betweens 22

Cocteau Twins 21 Blondie 25

It’s straight into the quarter-final stage. The songs will be Track 2 of Side A of the relevant ICA

Television (ICA 248) v Joy Division (ICA 160)

mp3: Television – Foxhole v mp3 : Joy Division – Transmission

John McGeoch (ICA 259) v The Jam (ICA 152)

mp3:PiL – Home (live)* v mp3: The Jam – The Place I Love

*ICA 259 is a compilation featuring John McGeoch on guitar – this track is taken from a performance on Whistle Test on BBC2 back in 1986

The Go-Betweens (ICA 200) v Orange Juice (ICA 219)

mp3: The Go-Betweens – To Reach Me v mp3: Orange Juice – Lovesick

Human League (ICA 228) v Blondie (ICA 198)

mp3: Human League – Being Boiled (Peel Session) v mp3: Blondie – Rip Her To Shreds

Voting closes at midnight (UK time) next Friday, which is the 9th of December, with the results and the semi-final draw appearing next Sunday.

NB: If Siouxsie and her motley crew had got through, it would have been Hong Kong Garden v Lovesick in the third tie above…..but if Soft Cell had beaten Orange Juice, (and Siouxsie had also won), then it would have been Hong Kong Garden v Bedsitter.  We should maybe collectively be grateful that it didn’t come to that……..

JC

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (10)

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As previously mentioned, having gone through all the Indietrack Compilations between 2012 and 2019 in the previous eight parts of this mini-series, I’m now identifying singers or bands who appear on two or more of the compilations but have yet to make an appearance on the blog.

Today is the turn of a band from London whose members are Brian Bryden (vocals, piano, organ), Bree Wright (keyboards, vocals, bass guitar, percussion, organ), Kris Schoolcraft (drums, bass guitar, keyboards, percussion), Ian Cowen (guitar, backing vocals), and Thom Allott (bass guitar, organ, guitar, keyboards, drums, percussion, mandolin, backing vocals).

A very brief description on last fm states “they make the kind of dreamy indiepop that Felt peddled in their prime, tinged with a caustic wit last seen dribbling from Luke Haines’ mouth.”

Which is a lot to live up to…….

mp3: The Understudies – Jackie (from Indietracks Compilation, 2013)
mp3: The Understudies – Is There Gonna Be Dancing?  (from Indietracks Compilation, 2017)

The band’s debut album, Let Desire Guide Your Hand, came out on the excellent and reliable Berlin-based Firestation Records in 2014, and Jackie was the lead-off track, but prior to this there had been a number of singles and EPs on a variety of UK indie labels.

As far as I can tell, Is There Gonna Be Dancing? was a new and exclusive track for the Indietracks compilation, and it wasn’t included on the band’s second LP, If Destroyed True, which came out in 2019 on their own Carbide & Carbon Records.

Here’s a couple more of their songs:-

mp3: The Understudies – Erika K (single, 2013)
mp3: The Understudies – Travelling Companion (from If Destroyed True, 2019)

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #324: GRAVENHURST

A GUEST POSTING by SWC from NO BADGER REQUIRED

Gravenhurst

It’s difficult to know where to begin with Gravenhurst, I mean the obvious place is the beginning, but if I do that I am in danger of missing so much out. So, thumbing my nose at convention, I am going to start at the beginning and at the end, if that makes sense.

Here’s the beginning. Gravenhurst was the musical pseudonym of Nick Talbot. As well as being a singer, a brilliant songwriter, he was a multi instrumentalist and many of the sounds heard on his first couple of records were all made by him on his own. He was also a record producer and a journalist. The word genius is banded around a lot these days, especially by me, but Nick Talbot genuinely was a genius, and a thoroughly lovely chap to boot.

You’ll note the ‘was’ in the last paragraph, because here’s the end. In early December 2014, Nick Talbot died, he was 37.* The cause of his death has never been disclosed, and that is pretty much all I am going to say about it. I knew Nick, well a bit anyway, I met him a few times, let’s go with that. Friends of mine were very close to him, and I know that his warmth, wit and talent are greatly missed.

*JC adds…..the anniversary of his death is today, hence my decision to interrupt the Indietracks season

I loved the fact that Gravenhurst had signed to Warp Records, a label normally associated with dance music that contorts and twists your mind beyond comprehension. Gravenhurst’s music was the anti-Warp if you like. All acoustic guitar, the organ, ambient soundscapes and an angelic voice that sends shivers running up to your shoulders every time you hear it. It was the perfect home for Gravenhurst, with a label that were prepared to let him do what he wanted, which was to make beautiful music that occasionally veered into the dark and mysterious forces of nature that we all try and fail to understand.

In total Gravenhurst released five studio albums and a couple of mini albums, there was also a posthumous six album box set. The first few releases are almost entirely acoustic and quite folky. At the times the music veers towards shoegaze but remains heavily influenced by the likes of Simon and Garfunkel and Nick Drake. The later releases take a twist towards psychedelic rock, and Talbot cites the work of bands like Flying Saucer Attack as a major influence on him.

This imaginary compilation doesn’t do his work justice, it is just a collection of my personal favourites of his songs.

Side One

Peacock (2012, Taken from ‘The Ghost in Daylight’)

I’ve started this compilation with an instrumental, I’ve done it deliberately so to delay the impact hearing Nick’s voice for the first time will have. ‘Peacock’ is taken from the band’s last album, by which point Gravenhurst were a three-piece and had added the word ‘Ensemble’ to their name. Regardless, ‘The Peacock’ is a scene setting kind of track, an atmospheric affair, featuring a barely strummed guitar, and the occasional wave of ambience which washes over the track, barely noticed.

Bluebeard (2004, Taken from ‘Flashlight Seasons’)

‘Bluebeard’ starts with a mournful sounding guitar and some more of those elegant sounding ambient waves, and it’s nearly thirty seconds before you get to experience Nick’s voice for the first time. If you are anything like me, that moment resulted in your arms having goosebumps. ‘Bluebeard’ is one of the more upbeat tracks on ‘Flashlight Seasons’ but it’s an incredibly simple yet wonderful song about adversity and overcoming demons.

The Collector (2007, Taken from ‘The Western Lands’ )

‘The Collector’ is taken from the bands fourth album ‘The Western Lands’ by this time Nick had turned Gravenhurst into a five piece, and they had started to explore a more psychedelic sound. The track starts off in a style more accustomed to the bands earlier work, but around halfway through the drums kick in and the guitars get plugged in before descending into a wall of feedback.

Black Holes In the Sand (2004, Taken from ‘Black Holes In the Sand Ep’)

In the gap between the release of ‘Flashlight Seasons’ and the follow-up album, ‘Fires In Distant Buildings’, there was an EP of tracks that showed a band in transition. Some guitars were plugged in, organs fire up unexpectedly and all of it physically competing with the acoustic guitars and Nick’s vocals which remain beautifully calm amidst the chaos unfolding around it. The result is a very distinct indie sound that took the band’s music to a place somewhere in the middle of ‘Race for the Prize’ era Flaming Lips and ‘Hail to the Thief’ era Radiohead. It sounded wonderful, and the next album promised great things.

The Diver (2004, Taken from ‘Flashlight Seasons’)

‘The Diver’ is probably Nick Talbot’s finest hour (although this writer tips its hat to the song that opens Side Two). It’s raw, emotional and recorded in such a way that the vocal talents of Nick can be heard to their full effect. The music behind it is stripped back, pretty much just Nick’s guitar, a simple riff that is carried throughout the song and a rumbling old bass line. It’s the vocal that make this such a stunning piece of music. A delicate, fragile sounding falsetto that whispers angelically and menacing at the same time. It’s a mesmerising piece of work.

Side Two

Nicole (2006, Taken from ‘Fires in Distant Buildings’)

‘Nicole’ is probably the band’s most recognisable track, in that it features heavily in a Shane Meadows film and grabbed the band some largely unwanted attention from the mainstream media. It’s as close to a pop song as the band ever got, but even ‘Nicole’ is some distance from being a pop song. It has an almost country edge to it, which you can hear as Nick sings away about doomed relationships. It’s one of the finest things he ever wrote.

Damage II (2004, Taken from ‘Flashlight Seasons’)

‘Damage II’ is desperately short, clocking in at just under two minutes. It’s another Nick and guitar track that looks at guilt, rejection and the pain caused by all that. The emotion can be heard in Nick’s voice which sounds close to cracking at one point. At around two minutes the song fades out and is replaced by the sounds of running water, rain, probably, which washes over the speakers for about 40 seconds.

Diane (2004, Taken from ‘Black Holes In the Sand’)

Over at my blog, I’m going to be doing a rundown of essential cover versions next year. If you are a regular reader, I’d get used to hearing about this track if I were you because it’s one of the greatest cover versions ever recorded. Never has a song about the rape and murder of a teenage girl sounded so essential. It’s really hard to believe that a line such as “We could cruise down Roberts Street all night long, but I think I’ll just rape you and kill you instead” could be sung so perfectly that it almost sounds acceptable. The way that the “Its all over now, with my knife” line is delivered as the song reaches into climax is truly remarkable.

Trust (2007, Taken from ‘The Western Lands’)

I think that Gravenhurst were an entirely different band when they expanded their sound. On ‘Trust’ which was the lead single from the band’s fourth album (one that they had to re-record due to some swearing) they sound almost unrecognisable from the songs that came a year or two earlier. The guitars are almost surf like, the vocals are more polished and almost gruff sounding (although unmistakably still Nick).

Animals (2006, Taken from ‘Fires in Distant Buildings’)

I’ll end with a track from ‘Fires In Distant Buildings’ which hints at what the future held for Nick. You get a quiet guitar, the odd cymbal crash and a subtle sounding organ and this almost devastating opening line “They descend upon the city like flies/ Spring their eggs into a dead dog’s eyes/ It’s England on a Saturday night.”.

Thanks for reading, sorry I’ve gone on a bit.

SWC

NOT WHAT YOU WERE EXPECTING?

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Well, it is the first day of a new month.

mp3: Various – Going Stupid Once Again

Christmas, It’s Not A Biggie – Say Sue Me
Flaming Sword – Care
Jilted John – Jilted John
Alive! – Steve Mason
Inferno (Brisbane In Summer) – Robert Forster
Let Forever Be – Chemical Brothers
Cloudbursting – Kate Bush
Metal Guru – T.Rex
All On You (Perfume) – Paris Angels
Human Behaviour – Bjork
Black Tambourine – Beck
Truck – Hi Fi Sean feat. Fred Schneider
Steven Smith – The Organ
Here Comes Comus – Arab Strap
Sugar Kane – Sonic Youth
Piece of Shit – Wet Leg
Blackpool Rock – Chumawamba

It all lasts about an hour, give or take a handful of seconds.

JC

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (9)

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Having gone through all the Indietrack Compilations between 2012 and 2019 in the previous eight parts of this mini-series, I’m now identifying singers or bands who appear on two or more of the compilations but have yet to make an appearance on the blog:-

mp3: Chorusgirl – No Moon (from Indietracks Compilation, 2015)
mp3: Chorusgirl – Shivers (from Indietracks Compilation, 2017)

From all music:-

“Mixing the noisy, poppy sounds of the dream pop past (Ride, Lush) with those of a more recent vintage (Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls), Chorusgirl take a straightforward approach to their songwriting and arrangements that allows the words and vocals of Silvi Wersing to bubble to the surface. The German native formed Chorusgirl in London and released two albums of stripped-down and emotionally tough songs in the second half of the 2010s.

Wersing spent her formative years as a musician playing bass and guitar in a string of bands, first in Germany, then in England, before striking out on her own under the name Chorusgirl in 2012. She began recording demos, solo and with producer Jan Niklas Jansen, at Bear Cave Studio in Cologne. When enough songs were ready to be aired live, she formed a group. Bassist (and fellow German) Udo Westhoff, drummer Michael Boyle, and guitarist Caroline Arvensis joined in early 2014, though Arvensis was soon replaced by Diogo Oliveira.  Chorusgirl released a single in early 2015 (“No Moon”/”Dream on, Baby Blue” for the Odd Box label’s 100 Club series) and performed at Indietracks, then later in 2015 released their self-titled debut album on Fortuna POP!

The next couple of years saw the band in flux; Oliveira departed and was replaced by guitarist Faith Taylor of the group Suggested Friends, their label closed up shop, and Brexit left the German members of the band feeling uncertain. Add to that mix, Wersing’s struggles with anxiety, and making their second album was a tough go. They kept at it and worked again with Jansen in Cologne on a more thoughtful and stripped-down set of songs, two of which were contributed by Taylor. The group found a new label, Reckless Yes, and released Shimmer and Spin in late 2018.”

Both of the songs on the Indietracks compilations were taken from the self-titled debut album.  Here’s a couple from the second LP:-

mp3: Chorusgirl – In Dreams
mp3: Chorusgirl – Love Is Like

JC

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (8)

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The annual Indietracks Compilations were issued to celebrate the singers and bands performing that particular year, but they didn’t always contain new or recent songs, as this example from the 2019 compilation demonstrates:-

mp3: Advance Base – Summon Satan

Despite its title seemingly more in keeping with some sort of song by a heavy metal band, possibly from the deepest and darkest forests of Central Europe, it is in fact a song that is very typical of Advance Base, the name often used in recording and performance by Owen Ashworth, a Chicago-based musician who, as his website advises,“uses electric piano, Omnichord, samplers, effect pedals & drum machines, Ashworth builds minimalist, heavy-hearted, & nostalgia-obsessed ballads around his conversational baritone.”

He’s been making music for many years, initially as the wonderfully named Casio For The Painfully Alone as far back as 1999, while the Advance Base material dates from 2011 to the present, with Owen currently, as you read this, about to head out on a nine-date tour that will take in cities in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina over the next couple of weeks.  Summon Satan can be found on the album Nephew In The Wild, which was released in 2015.

The website informs visitors that ‘the warm, electronic sound of Advance Base has been described as “lo-fi,” “depressed” & “weirdly uplifting.” ‘, which, based on the above track and those which follow below, is bang on the money.  I reckon he’ll be a mesmerising watch in the live setting.

mp3: Advance Base – Summer Music (from A Shut-in’s Prayer, 2012)
mp3: Advance Base – Rabbits (from Animal Companionship, 2018)

Here’s the link to his official website.

JC

WE INTERUPT THE SUNBATHING…..

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It’s fast approaching 2pm on Monday here in Barbados (6pm in the UK) and I’ve had a quick check to ensure that folk are able to vote in the ties that make up the last 16 of the ICA World Cup.  It’s going well – 25 comments to this stage which is a bit down on the usual, but then again there’s twice as many ties as usual to take into consideration….and interesting also that some folk won’t commit either way on some of them.  As things stand, the biggest lead is 14-9 while one match-up is locked at 12-12.  Keep them coming…..

I also found that another of my guest contributions has popped up over at No Badger Required. 

So….if anyone wants to read my thoughts on why Trapped and Unwrapped, the 1984 debut (and only) LP by Friends Again, is nearly perfect, then feel free to click here.

mp3: Friends Again – Swallows In The Rain

A track produced by none other than Tom Verlaine, whose band Television, is currently battling things out against Terry Hall in the ICA World Cup.

JC

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (7)

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Indietracks was a festival that had a great connection with trains.  Its location was The Midland Railway-Butterly, a heritage railway in Derbyshire, and as well as enjoying the 50 or so live acts who appeared each year, festival-goers were free to enjoy steam train rides and other on-site railway attractions.  The profits from the various Indietracks compilations went to the trust that looked after the visitor attraction which is still open all year round, albeit Indietracks itself is no more.

Which makes this track from the 2018 compilation seem very apt:-

mp3: Just Blankets – Britain’s Least Used Stations

I can’t find too much about Just Blankets other than what is on their bandcamp and discogs pages.  The band members were Claire Swift,
Tom Baker (no, not the one who played Dr. Who), Nick Streeter, and Harry Partridge, although I don’t know who played what instrument.

The positive responses to a self-released cassette EP in 2016 led to them being asked by London-based Everything Sucks Music to record and release a 7″ vinyl EP, Like Velcro, in 2017.   The song on the Indietracks compilation was taken from that EP.

This was also on the EP:-

mp3: Just Blankets – White & Orange

There’s no trace of anything after their appearance at Indietracks.

JC

ICA WORLD CUP 2022 : THE LAST 16

icaworldcupBack on 3 July, when I announced details of the 2022 ICA World Cup, I did recognise in advance that Sunday 27 November would be the pinch point as it marked the busiest day with all 8 matches of the latest round being scheduled.

I hadn’t however, fully appreciated that I’d be thousands of miles away from Villain Towers (not that I’m complaining), or factored in that something could very well go wrong with the laptop or internet access, thus bringing the whole thing crashing down.  But if you happen to be reading this, then my fears have proven to be unfounded.

I also didn’t factor in that one of the match-ups in the final set from Round 2 would prove to be the biggest nail biter of them all.

The Cure’s ICA, on paper, was one of the strongest.  The group stage saw them pick up 40 votes out of a possible 46, and the 87% hit-rate was the best of anyone in that stage.  In Round 1 of the knockout stage, they trounced The Chameleons by 33-8.  By Monday night of Round 2, a point in time when most of the votes have usually been cast, they held a 17-13 lead over Terry Hall, who was being represented by a Colourfield song.  A further eleven votes came in on time between Tuesday and Friday night.  Eleven absolutely crucial votes……

Match M : The Sweet 11 Orange Juice 32

Match N :  Soft Cell 23 The Breeders 18

Match O : David Bowie 25 Elvis Costello 18

Match P : The Cure 20 Terry Hall 21

I’ll add that Bill turned up to vote 90 minutes after the deadline having, unsurprisingly, fallen asleep after the England v USA match in the actual World Cup.   His vote was for Terry H, and so wouldn’t have affected the final outcome, but if he’d been in on time, the draw for the last 16 would have been slightly different…….

No rest at all for last week’s winners, as they join the previous twelve who came through the rigours of Round 2 to take their place in the last 16.

I long ago decided that the draw for this round would see the act with the highest number of votes last time out take on the act which came through with the least votes and so on… (1v16, 2v15, 3v14……..7v10, 8v9).

The song in each instance will be the first song on Side B of the ICA.

(1) Human League (ICA 228) v (16) Iggy Pop (ICA 183)

mp3 : Human League – Black Hit Of Space v mp3 : Iggy Pop – Gardenia

(2) Television (ICA 248) v (15) Terry Hall (ICA 277)

mp3: Television – Call Mr Lee v Nearly God – Bubbles *

*ICA 277 was a compilation of songs on which Terry Hall had a vocal

(3) Lloyd Cole (ICA 300) v (14) The Jam (ICA 152)

mp3: Lloyd Cole – Half Of Everything v mp3: The Jam – In The Street Today

(4) Orange Juice (ICA 219) v (13) Soft Cell (ICA 156)

mp3: Orange Juice – The Artisans v mp3: Soft Cell – Frustration

(5) John McGeoch (ICA 259) v  (12) Cinerama (ICA 296)

Propaganda – P-Machinery (beta)* v mp3: Cinerama – Wow (extended version) 

*ICA 259 was a compilation of songs on which John McGeoch played

(6)  Joy Division (ICA 160) v (11) David Bowie (ICA 284)

mp3: Joy Division – Disorder v mp3: David Bowie – Looking For Water

(7) Siouxsie & The Banshees (ICA 258) v (10) The Go-Betweens (ICA 200)

mp3: Siouxsie and The Banshees – Painted Bird v mp3: Go-Betweens – Head Full Of Steam

(8) Cocteau Twins (ICA 195) v (9) Blondie (ICA 198)

mp3: Cocteau Twins – Bluebeard v mp3: Blondie 11:59

If Bill’s votes had counted, Orange Juice would have been the #3 seed and Soft Cell would have moved up a slot to #12.  Three ties would then have been different – Orange Juice v The Jam; Lloyd Cole v Cinerama; and John McGeoch v Soft Cell.  So it goes……

Voting closes at midnight (UK time) next Friday, which is the 2nd of December. I’ll be coming towards the end of my holiday, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be still be sharp enough to bring you the results next Sunday, along with the match-ups for the quarter-finals.

Please note, the quarter-finals will be an all-in draw, rather than anything based on this week’s results.

JC

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (6)

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We’ve reached 2017 in the look back at the collection of Indietracks Compilation releases.

One of the things about the various Indietracks Festivals is that the line-ups often included bands who had long broken-up but later reformed for one reason or another. Here’s some info cribbed and edited down from wiki-

“Monkey Swallows the Universe (MSTU) were an acoustic/indie band from Sheffield, who were active from 2004 to 2008.

Nat Johnson and Kevin Gori established MSTU in 2003 after meeting at the University of Sheffield. In the band’s first incarnation they both sang and played acoustic guitars, with Gori adding extra touches with instruments such as the recorder and glockenspiel. The band later expanded to include Catherine Tully on violin, Andy George on cello and Rob Dean on drums. Johnson became the main singer and songwriter. In February 2006, the band released its first album, The Bright Carvings, on the small independent record label Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation. The same year saw them record a BBC 6 Music Session for Gideon Coe, play three support shows for Richard Hawley, support The Long Blondes on five dates of a UK tour, and release two singles.

The following year, they signed to Loose Records and released the album The Casket Letters, as well as appearing at a number of outdoor festivals over the summer. At the end of 2007, they announced an indefinite hiatus, playing their last show in February 2008, after which Nat Johnson embarked on a solo career, before she reunited with Kevin Gori to form Nat Johnson and the Figureheads, who released albums on Damaged Goods Records and Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation, befire returning to a solo career in 2014.

MTSU reformed for a one-off gig at Queens Social Club in Sheffield in March 2016 to mark the 10th anniversary of the release of their first album.”

Except, it wasn’t a one-off as they were on the bill of Indietracks 2017, appearing on Sunday 30 July on the Indoor Stage.  Here’s the track which appeared on the 2017 compilation:-

mp3: Monkey Swallows The Universe – Florence

This had originally been one of the tracks on a CD single, Science, that had come out in 2006.

Here’s a couple more songs:-

mp3: Monkey Swallows The Universe – Bloodline (digital single)
mp3: Monkey Swallows The Universe – Matterhoney (from The Casket Letters)

And here’s a fun cover of a Jonathan Richman song:-

mp3: Monkey Swallows The Universe – Ice Cream Man

I’ve a feeling their show in 2017 went down well.  I’ll need to ask Aldo if he saw them.

JC

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (5)

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The final instalment this week from the Indietracks Compilations sees us arrive at 2016 and a band from Barcelona.

mp3: Jessica and The Fletchers – Marble Fountain

Info is hard to come by, but I’ve been able to establish that the four-piece combo, who clearly have a great love for everything from the C86 era, consist of Jane Wildson (vocals, guitar), Antoni Amaya (keyboards/backing vocals), Aitor Bigas (bass) and Sonia Montoya (drums). 

Marble Fountain was one half of a double-A single, released in 2016 on the UK-based indie label, Market Square Records, with the other track being Crystal Tears.  Both songs were composed by Antoni Amaya. This was a year after their debut album, Connecting People, came out on the Barcelona label, Discos de Kirlian.  It must be up there for an nomination in the shortest running debut LP, with its ten tracks last a little over seventeen-and-a-half minutes. Here’s a couple of its tracks:-

mp3: Jessica and The Fletchers – My Blue Jumper
mp3: Jessica and The Fletchers – Jane’s Song

Also in 2015, the band had been one half of a split single on a Madrid-based label, Discos Walden.  The title of this one appealled to me:-

mp3: Jessica and The Fletchers – Mis Amigos Odian Talulah Gosh

I don’t know any Spanish, but I believe the translation is ‘My Friends Hate Talulah Gosh’.

Oh, and please don’t mix up today’s band with The Jessica Fletchers, a Norwegian indie-pop band who released four albums between 1997 and 2007

JC

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (4)

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Now to a band I can recall seeing when they played the CCA in Glasgow in September 2019 as one of the support acts when the debut album from Broken Chanter was released.

mp3: Mammoth Penguins – When I Was Your Age

I genuinely can’t remember too much about Mammoth Penguins from that particular evening, as they didn’t leave too much of an impression on me  – I think I described them afterwards as ‘workmanlike’.

Here’s the bio from all music:-

“Featuring the matter-of-fact vocals and incisive lyrics of Emma Kupa, the Cambridge trio Mammoth Penguins play energetic, bouncy indie rock but aren’t afraid to take chances, as shown on the synth- and sample-laden concept album John Doe.

Kupa played bass and sang in the band Standard Fare, who broke up in 2013 following an eight-year run, during which they toured extensively and released two albums. After the split, Kupa pulled up stakes and moved from her hometown of Sheffield to Cambridge. Once there, she briefly pursued a solo career, recording a solo EP, Home Cinema, and a single with singer/songwriter Darren Hayman. By the time Home Cinema was ready for release in early 2015, Kupa had already lined up a new project. Taking up the guitar, she recruited bassist Mark Boxall and drummer Tom Barden to form Mammoth Penguins, a crunchier, more straight-forward take on indie rock than Standard Fare had been. Their debut single, When I Was Your Age, was released in June 2015, and an album, Hide and Seek, arrived a month later on the Fortuna POP! label.

The band returned in 2017 with the A Simple Misunderstanding single for Kingfisher Bluez; then they endeavoured to make a record that stretched their punk-pop sound. Under the name Mammoth Penguins & Friends, they recorded a concept album about a man who faked his own death and then returned ten years later. Titled John Doe, it featured contributions from Haiku Salut‘s Sophie Barkerwood (programming/samples), Russell Lomas (violin), and Alto 45‘s Joe Bear (samples/synths). The record was released in late 2017 on the wiaiwya label. This experience led the band to want to expand their sound on their next album. To that end, the trio welcomed back Bear to play a variety of keyboards and added guitarist Faith Taylor, whom Kupa played with in the band Suggested Friends. The resulting record, There’s No Fight We Can’t Both Win, was a hybrid of their first two and was released by Fika Recordings in early 2019.”

Just because I’m not a huge fan doesn’t make then a bad listen…..it’s very much all about taste.  Here’s a couple more tracks to help you make up your own minds.

mp3: Mammoth Penguins and Friends – The Sailor (from John Doe, 2017)
mp3: Mammoth Penguins – Closure (from There’s No Fight We Can’t Both Win, 2019)

JC

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (3)

Indietracks-2014-compilation

We began this series in London before heading over to Oslo.  Today….it’s Bordeaux.

mp3: Watoo Watoo – Correspondance

From last fm:-

“Watoo Watoo consist primarily of Pascale & Michaël, who live in Bordeaux. Michaël usually records new songs on his computer, e-mails friends to help with the guitars, and then asks Pascale to add her lovely voice…

Over the years, Watoo Watoo have released 3 albums & 2 E.P.s on various labels throughout the world & have made appearances on an impressive number of compilations.

The music was strictly indiepop in Watoo Watoo’s early years, but now other influences have surfaced. “Felt is still an obsession but Serge Gainsbourg is also one. I also discovered a lot of new music in the last few years, so bossa beats or jazz chords sometimes subconsciously appear when I write a new song”, says Michaël.”

A look at Discogs reveals a debut EP as long ago as 1997, along with five studio LPs released between 2001 and 2018.  The track on the Indietracks compilation was on the 2014 album, Une Si Longue Attente.

Here’s some other songs:-

mp3: Watoo Watoo – Un Peu De Moi (from Un Peu De Moi, 1997)
mp3: Watoo Watoo – Perdu (from La Fuite, 2007)
mp3: Watoo Watoo – Un Lundi Comme Autre (from Uni Si Longue Attente, 2014)
mp3: Watoo Watoo – Modern Express (from Modern Express, 2018)

JC

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (2)

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Today’s offering from the Indietracks 2013 compilation offers up some Scandi-Pop.

mp3: Making Marks – Ticket Machine

Making Marks formed in Oslo in 2012, with its members being Ola Innset (guitar and vocals), Nina Bø (vocals and keyboards), Marie Sneve (bass) and Jørgen Nordby (drums).

They were previously known as My Little Pony, who had released two albums in 2008 and 2011, the latter of which was called Making Marks.

The newly named band signed to the London-based Fika Recordings, with Ticket Machine being the debut single for the new label in October 2012.  One further single, Barcodes, would be issued on Fika in the summer of 2013, before debut album A Thousand Half Truths appeared in February 2014.

Going by the info out there on t’internet, the band gigged extensively across Europe in 2014, culminating in a seven-date UK tour in November, after which it appears as if they called it a day.

Here’s the other single released on Fika:, as well as a track from their only album:-

mp3: Making Marks – Barcodes
mp3: Making Marks – Lemon Sheets

JC

A FURTHER TWELVE DAYS OF INDIETRACKS COMPILATIONS (1)

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Back in June, I featured a mini-series of music from compilation albums that were issued on an annual basis from 2012 to 2019 to commemorate the staging of the Indietracks festival.

It seemed to go down quite well, so much so that for the period in which I’m away sunning myself in the Caribbean, I’m going to bring it back which means it’s going to be a tad obscure, musically wise, around these parts until early December, but you still have the ICA World Cup to enjoy each Sunday.

A reminder that Indietracks was a festival of independent, creative and DIY pop music that took place in the Derbyshire countryside, with around 50 new and established artists performing across a range of stages at the festival.

Aldo was a regular, and I had promised him that once I stopped working, I’d make an effort to come along one year. Sadly, my retiral in March 2020 coincided with the first wave of COVID, and it was the ongoing ramifications of the pandemic that ultimately led to the decision by the organisers to call it a day.

Every year a download compilation album featuring bands playing at the festival was released with all proceeds going to the Midland Railway charity. I’ve downloaded each of the volumes from 2012-2019 via bandcamp, and the idea is to again share with one track per day from a singer or band yet to feature on TVV.

This, kind of appropriately titled song, is from the 2012 compilation:-

mp3: Colour Me Wednesday – Holiday From Your Life

I reckon this is a splendid piece of pop music, and given that there’s quite an extensive back catalogue out there, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t know anything till putting this piece together.

Here’s some info, edited from the wiki entry:-

“Colour Me Wednesday are an English indie pop/pop punk band from West London, built around sisters Jen and Harriet Doveton. The band are noted for their melodic guitar pop, politicised lyrics and DIY punk method, including producing their own recordings, artwork and promotional videos.

They formed in 2007, initially performing local gigs with various line-ups, and settled as a permanent band in 2009, with Danny Gardner on bass and Sam Brackley on drums. Brackley had previously played bass, with Helen Meragi on drums. They self-recorded and self-released their debut CDr EP What To Do In An Emergency that year.

In 2010 and 2011, a series of self-produced YouTube videos for tracks from their follow up Sampler EP brought them to wider attention in DIY punk and indiepop circles.

In 2012, Carmela Pietrangelo (of ¡Ay Carmela!) joined as new bassist.  In June, the band released debut single Shut as a digital download with accompanying video, taken from the album I Thought It Was Morning, released by Discount Horse Records in July. The same year, the band was invited to play the Indietracks festival in 2012 and subsequently the following year in 2013.

2014 saw the band release a split album with Spoonboy on California’s Lauren Records, supported by a US tour including appearances at Plan-It X festival and New York Popfest. A promo video was released for lead track Sugar-Coated.

In 2015, Colour Me Wednesday made a return to the Indietracks festival, joined by new drummer Jaca Freer and guitarist Laura Ankles (both also of ¡Ay Carmela!). This line-up released its first recordings in 2016 as the  Anyone and Everyone EP. The group also played at Madrid Popfest.

In 2017,  they released a new track online, a version of Demi Lovato‘s Cool for the Summer.  2018 saw the release of second album Counting Pennies in the Afterlife.”

Here’s a few more of their songs:-

mp3: Colour Me Wednesday – Shut (from I Thought It Was Dry Land, 2013)
mp3: Colour Me Wednesday – Don’t Tell Anyone (from Anyone and Everyone, 2016)
mp3: Colour Me Wednesday – Sunriser (from Counting Pennies In The Afterlife, 2018)

Sorry it’s taken so long to bring them to your attention.

JC

ICA WORLD CUP 2022 : ROUND TWO OF THE KNOCKOUT STAGE (iv)

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I’m now in the habit of having a check on the scores at the end of Sunday night.  There were 23 votes in by midnight, as compared to 30 at the same time the previous week, which perhaps was an indication that the four ties hadn’t quite grabbed everyone’s attention as others.  Further evidence for this being the case was that none of the ties had been voted on by all who had dropped by, and indeed one tie had seen four of the initial visitors choosing to abstain.

It was also clear that two of the outcomes were going to be foregone conclusions, and to use some boxing parlance, the referee really should have stepped in early to prevent further punishment.  The votes did continue to roll in over the rest of the week (and, as ever, a huge thanks to all concerned), but compared to the previous week, it all felt like an anticlimax…..not that any of the victors are complaining!

Match I : Go-Betweens 26 Neil Young 15

Match J : Human League 37 Beastie Boys 5

Match K : Suede 15 Siouxsie & The Banshees 27

Match L : Lloyd Cole 32 The National 7

Today’s quartet features the four who got through from the seventh and eighth weeks in Round 1.  A reminder that the song up for consideration in Round 2 has always been the third track on Side A of the ICA in question.

The Sweet (ICA 313) v Orange Juice (ICA 219)

mp3: The Sweet – Alexander Graham Bell v mp3: Orange Juice – Bridge

Soft Cell (ICA 159) v The Breeders (ICA 173)

mp3: Soft Cell – The Art Of Falling Apart v mp3 : Breeders – Bang On

Elvis Costello (ICA 284) v David Bowie (ICA 284)

mp3: Elvis Costello – Hoover Factory v mp3: David Bowie – Cactus

The Cure (ICA 157) v Terry Hall (ICA 277)

mp3: The Cure – Doing The Unstuck v The Colourfield – Cruel Circus*

*ICA 277 was a compilation of various acts in which Terry had been or is involved

As ever, thanks for taking part.  Voting closes at midnight (UK time) next Friday, which is the 25th of November.  I’ll be away on holiday in Barbados, and will be counting the votes while sipping some sort of rum-based cocktail, while panicking that I can keep the whole shebang going just as it gets to the busiest stage!

JC