Thursday, 31 January 2008

"It was the first two weeks of autumn; I kissed you on the cheek and gave you flowers out of season"

It's been on the horizon for a while now, but I've finally gone and done it: I've crossed over to the Twee Side. There's little ahead in my life except for Sarah Records reissues, girls who work in libraries, the Rough Trade Shops Indiepop compilation, and merry skips through blustery autumn landscapes. Eh, so it goes.

The upside to all this is that it gives me the perfect excuse to listen to The Deirdres. I saw them live last night, first on at at a Spiral Scratch night at the charmingly-delapidated Enterprise in Chalk Farm, and pretty much lay waste to the entire room using only handclaps, glockenspiel, sparkly capes and co-ordinated shouting. Imagine Los Campesinos! if they were five years younger, played everything faster and backwards and didn't rehearse very much. Their set was the best thing I've seen in AGES. There's also the paradox that if they were twice as good at being a Proper Band they'd be half as good at being the band they are. And the band they are is ACE.

Here are some stupid videos for you to watch. The first one is of them on the Antiques Roadshow. With Michael Aspall and everything. Really.

COMING TO AN STA EVENT NEAR YOU, SOON. I'm going to bug them until they say yes.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Skibunny Debut Single

The Belfast institution that is Skibunny are finally treating us with a physical embodiment of their legendary club night.

"Good times, good music, good vibe. If it’s good, it goes on is the philosophy, and we’ll all have a good time. The whole place tonight has an end of the world and we don’t care vibe. If that is the case, then we’ve found our DJs"

Available as 7inch vinyl and download title track 'Aah Ooh' has a sumptuous depth that belies it's simplistic title. Tender vocals and lo-fi electronica with a deliciously understated break-beat. Sounds like Laetitia Sadler left alone in a room for an evening with Cubase and a two bottles of vin rouge. Simply gorgeous.

b. AAH OOH - Handsomeboy Technique remix

ITUNE me here | Myspace me up Myspace me down

The dying breath of an industry attempting to secure brand loyalty

We're often asked to contribute to people's dissertations and research studies. Digital is the big thing at the moment of course. My view on it is ANY WAY you can buy Smalltown America stuff is great, be it direct from our store, direct from a band on tour or via iTunes etc. We're doing our best to service you in as many convenient ways as possible AND as I say in the interview below - only buy our products if you truly believe we deserve the money.

Our attitude when Jetplane was gigging heavily was to encourage tape trading and recording of all our live shows - the independent underground relies on the kindness of others to promote its messages and art. Thanks to Stef Purenins for posing the Qs>>

How has the internet helped your label so far?
The internet provides a record label or any small business with the means to do business with anyone, anywhere. If you have a product you can sell it, if you have a message you can promote it - it also allows for collaborative working on a scale previously impossible without a large team working in the same building.

How has the internet been a problem for your label?
The only issue with the proliferation of any network's users is that the network itself becomes difficult to navigate. Anyone can set up a myspace page and distribute links, it doesn't necessarily mean that they should. It simply means that a large portion of any record label administrator's day is to deal with a multitude of requests for your cyber attention. It also means that it is very difficult now for an artist to keep his or her 'powder dry'. As a case in point look to XL's Adele - over promoted before she even starts.

How do you foresee the internet helping your label in the future?
Online retail is fast becoming the largest component of our business, I predict that these sales will overtake tactile shop-based distribution by the middle of 2009.

How do you foresee the internet being a problem for your label in the future?
Piracy isn't an issue for a label of our size, we want people to talk about our releases and share our music; we actively encourage it in fact. We labour under the possible misapprehension that if you like our artists' music you will support them by going to their shows and support us by buying one of our products.

Has the sale of digital music files affected physical sales of releases on your label?
It has simply increased our market reach and become a new income stream - it has had no discernible effect on our tactile businesses - in fact, we have seen an upturn in gig attendances for all our artists over the last year.

What do you foresee happening to the music industry in terms of digital promotion and distribution, in the next 10 years?
Content is always going to the prime commodity in this industry. The music industry relies on a steady stream of new artists and new 'hits' to survive. I see the creation of 'Networking Engines' in which people's servers are used to aggregate not just their playlists and video favourites on social networking sites - but the entire usage of your complete machine. Marketeers will exploit this information accordingly in an attempt to extract a tiny trickle of money from us each day rather than 'chunks' of £10 pieces.

As the network expands, the net worth of music content will fall - artists will rely on volume sales of a few pence per stream or download rather than the big ticket item of the album sale. As the value of the content drops, the need for subscription based services will rise; people will view music procurement as a 'virtual' affair - collections will be housed remotely and vaults of CD/record collections (in the main) will give way to the subscription model described above.

As a result there will be a polar reaction in the underground and eclectic music genres; a push back to traditional formats and a brand niche of 'specialist' record collectors.

Traditional releases will still be available for the next ten years - after this they will become more and more a minority taste. Stores like HMV will downsize their physical footprint and become 'channels' for content rather than a high-street music warehouse.

What are your opinions on DRM (Digital Rights Management)?
It is the dying breath of an industry attempting to secure brand loyalty - it's a pointless affair, that will be eradicated sooner rather than later. Sony, Apple and the like should have focussed all their attention on researching the ultimate compression algorithm to digitise music lossless-ly at a fraction of the current filesizes, rather than attempting to hobble file-sharers. This would have placed them as market leaders in mobile content delivery, the big place to be over the next ten years.

Do you believe that independent record labels can survive the digital age of the music industry?
I feel that if your music is good then people will support you. Independent labels tend to have a maximum lifespan of five years, virtual technologies allow this life-span to increase indefinitely as the logistics of running a record label now are as straightforward as maintaining an email inbox. It's an exciting time.

Do you believe that the mp3 file will ever replace physical music formats?
MP3 as a compression format, will have it's day relatively soon. As discussed previously, compression algorithms will become the next 'format war' between online vendors. Owning records will become a quaint pastime in a few years. We don't really have stamps anymore when we go to the post office, we have virtual sticky labelling; it's the same sort of thing. It's too expensive now to produce tactile, individual content.

Do you believe the digital age of music distribution and promotion is creating a level playing field in the music industry?
No, corporations that have access to the largest marketing budgets will always have market dominance. However, the niche marketeers (like Smalltown America) will proliferate and the long-tail model of product distribution will come into being. There is money to be made, you just have to work hard for it.

Friday, 25 January 2008

YouTubery Greatness With A Musical Theme

Firstly, an apology to Daniel for waking him up on his day off at 8:10am. I feel exonerated by the fact that my day begins at 5:30am at the moment, as young Milo Ferris has decided that it's party time when the sun breaks. He might grow up to be a druid.

Sleeping much better this week are previous STA blog starlets Danananananananakroyd - who after a single stealthy post on DiS find themselves at the centre of a mini-major bidding war. Canny and well deserved. This year's festival hit I feel.

Onto today's post. My mate Neal is officially the most tangential person I know; I always take my notebook with me everytime we go out drinking as he is generally good for song titles 'We Need To Effect A Change' being a good case in point. The picture was taken at AD3 - where he worked the stage with Birdlegs & Cundall. Cheap labour (read 'free') that's the STA way. Isn't it Daniel? erm... yeah.

As well as being a valued STA volunteer he's also addicted to YouTube (he's a recovering WOW addict you see, one replaces the other) - it's a wonderful archivist fascination, fueled by half-remembered childhood VHS duplication and encyclopedic retention for musical detail. He and Simon Sweeping could go head to head in 'Indie Mastermind' (now there's a TV programme that should never be made.)

Here are some notes from our last session - our drinking was proceeded by my falling 'into' the road at Blackheath Common and almost getting run over by an oncoming Mini Metro. Just Say No! Kids.
We've got loads of other Favourites on the STA YouTube Channel. Mr. Burchell is often good for turning up the funk gold. There's a great Chaka Kahn clip on there at the moment.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Indiep♥p Until I Dr♥p!

As some of you might know, I spend a fair chunk of time on the Drowned In Sound message boards - what can I say, they help pass the time at work far better than staring forlornly out my window at the grey concrete of Camden Town does. One of the things that seem to pop up fairly regularly is hardcore fans of an artist registering accounts specifically to reply to bad reviews of their chosen artist, and to tell the reviwer hoo "wrong" they are. often using bad words. Such an event happened today, and while far from the worst example (go look up any review/news item about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, f'rexample), it's kinda caught me on a bad day and so irritated me far more than it should have.

Seriously, kids, what effect does yelling aimlessly into cyberspace actually achieve? A review is one person's opinion, no more, no less. Rather than telling me why this reviewer's opinion is OMG SO WRONG AND AN THE REVIEWER IS AN IDIOT and whatever, why don't you tell me why you like the music in question? Start a blog, write a fanzine, why not even use Drowned In Sound's user reviews feature? Of course, I'm sure this is something we've all been guilty of in the past (remember the NME's review of There Is No Real Courage Unless There Is Real Danger?) but really, it's never been easier to get a well-constructed opinion heard.

Yes yes, I'm aware that I'm moaning about people moaning.

Anyway, onto something far more fun!

I've always been a sucker for cottage-industry labour-of-love indie pop labels, the kind who hand make each CDR and send you free stickers and have cutesy websites and suchlike. So when I stumbled upon WeePOP! Records last weekend it came as no surprise to find myself on autopilot and spending money on their releases. They turned up yesterday, and I'm really glad I did. Check this out:

(click on photos to make them larger!)

first of all, you get a stickered envelope...

... open it up, and there's a little case! with cute pictures! also, check out my Azure Ray coaster - how indie am I?

and on the inside - a hand-stamped three-inch CD and a handmade book with cute more pictures!

I've also got extra respect for how beautiful these are, as I've spent the last four hours making promotional copies of the new Fighting With Wire album and it's reaaaaaaaaaally not a fun activity.

please don't judge me by the cleanliness of my floor

So it goes! Seriously though, these WeePOP! releases are probably the prettiest CDs I've ever bought. You should all go give them money. Tell them STA sent you! It'll confuse them.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Underground Party Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcast Club Number One - was a great success I thought. Gone the decapitated chicken madness of previous PSB shows; replaced by effortless stage management and wonderful sound provided by the able hands at RoTa.

Pocock and I got locked out of the show ten minutes before it was meant to begin but this aside everything was smooth.

It always goes without saying it still needs to be said - THANKS - to Pocketbooks, Alan MX and Q Without U for making their respective journeys. Alan said to me after his set 'I felt like vomiting with nerves' - poor love.

We also met up with Rege from The Underground Party Broadcast, what a nice chap - and what a great idea. Think if you will a DIY version of Jools Holland - minus the honkey tonk. Episode One is fully available via their site or youtube. For now, a snippet of the one and only Babar Luck: "And this is long before the use of SPELL Check! I am strictly Old Skool!"

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

"Excess Robert Pollard albums will destroy the universe"

Not just a 'clever' riff on the opening line of The Young Plaything's super ace debut album (still not heard it? go here), but also the subject of a piece that popped up this week in a Stateside publication.

this picture is stolen from the Scottish Green party's website, and it's terrible. 1) The continents are NOT THAT SHAPE. 2) Fire CANNOT BURN IN SPACE. YOUR PICTURE IS BAD AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD. It's hard to tell if the piece is tongue-in-cheek or not - I'd say it is, Bob Pollard superfan Jamie of The Runout Groove says not, the comments at the bottom certainly don't think it is - but regardless of this, it does certainly raise an interesting issue. Considering how fast the world seems to be drunkenly staggering towards the roaring fireplace, having fun but completely unaware of just how close it is to horrible pain, how can supposedly intelligent (which, y'know, I like to think we are) people justify expending even more of the world's ever-dwindling resources on something as "trivial" as music, especially when we don't even have the 'decency' to focus on music that could at least enable us to make a living?

It's something that really does trouble me, but also something for which I don't have an answer. However, two things are for certain: firstly, the world would be a much greyer place without music and art in general, as "wasteful" as it may seem, and secondly I deserve to suffer a lot less guilt over getting a thousand Alan MX CDs pressed up than Interpol should do for unleashing two hundred times that amount of their last stagnant record on the world. 100% truth!

Monday, 14 January 2008

two thousand and heaven

So 2008 is already two weeks down, and I bet you thought you'd escaped the unending cycle of retrospectives on the year just departed, right? RIGHT?

You've got a lot of attitude.

I decided to ask around the STA extended family for thoughts, opinions and rantings on 2007, and got exactly three responses. So here they, along with something I wrote when I was drunk.

Andrew Ferris - Smalltown America head honcho, guitarist/singer with Jetplane Landing.
This was originally posted here, as Andrew, being the total maverick he is, ignored my request to email it to me directly and posted it on here himself.

My friend Ian said the best thing about 2007 was his girlfriend moving out; "the bitch" with that as context this is my year in review.

Music: '07 was the year of Ideas Over Marketing as the online democracy finally took hold. Robyn's Konichiwa Bitches was the best start to the year the DIY industry could have had.
After his Tomahawk distractions, Stainer fans could rest easy that the undisputed master of the snare drum was back in the now to often lauded Battles. Future Of The Left proved they were vastly superior than the sum of their parts (even NME sez so - so meh!) on the wonderfully executed and titled 'Curses'. Even a cursed Soothsayer couldn't keep The Mars Volta down and Les Savy Fav laid waste with their first fully realised record. Album of the year was Comicopera by Robert Wyatt.

Interviews: Unembarrassed by the fact that they actually began to start playing Les Savy Fav on the Radio in the year that we decided to release 'Why Do They Never Play Les Savy Fav On The Radio?' - one of my personal highlights was interviewing Tim Harrington before their Scala show. You can download the whole sycophantic thirty minutes right here.

In matters much more professional; interview of the year was at the Purcell Room with Robert Wyatt curated by Sean O'Hagan.

Magazines: Alternative Ulster became AU and looks all the better for the missing letters; Rocksound's monthly reviews became indispensably comprehensive; Organ is the best it's ever been; Plan B became more willfully and brilliantly obscure and Artrocker remains the essential purchase for the indie pop trawler. If Robert Wyatt had published a magazine this year it would have been Magazine Of The Year - just for completeness.

Bateman - singer/guitarist from The Young Playthings

I’m not a religiously ‘new music’ person, more the bargain-bin guy. Every year, before Christmas when I’m supposed to be buying presents for my nearest and dearest, I always treat myself to a shitload of cheap records and new albums are rarely on sale; when they are, like the Enter Shikari album whose title I can’t be bothered to remember and which I bought for £1.99 in Impulse in Heathrow, it’s usually for good reason – they suck. However, I did get a few new good albums this year (Amazon vouchers and Limewire etc) and I just LOVE boring people with my opinions, so here goes.

Best Albums

STRUNG OUT, Blackhawks Over Los Angeles
I’m probably the only person with a brain who realises how fucking cool this band is. It sounds like if Iron Maiden were from the suburbs of California, smoked pot instead of drank ale and grew up listening to Nofx instead of Black Sabbath. The double bass drum machine-gun bursts and duelling guitars give me an insane hard-on.
MODEST MOUSE, We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
I’m not the only person with a brain who appreciates that Isaac Brock is a total genius. The presence of Johnny Marr only confirms that Brock is bidding for world domination, of which I wholeheartedly approve.
RYAN ADAMS, Easy Tiger
I thought the dickhead Boy Wonder had finally fallen foul of the mark with this, his, like, 200th studio album but I thunk too soon; not as great as Jacksonville City Nights or Cold Roses but there are still some stunning songs here, most notably Tears Of Gold, Two, Pearls On A String (of which I saw a better version on the Internet, performed live on David Letterman) and the acoustic Off Broadway (of which I didn’t think much until I saw him perform an incredible version of it with the Cardinals at Hammersmith Apollo this year). Oh, plus the best/worst metaphor for a drug addict ever – a Halloweenhead.
As the rains plundered homes around the rest of the country this miserable summer, Mark and I, from the secluded vantage point of our east London loft flat, debated the important issue of whether Amy Winehouse is fit. Little did we know that this would precede our most exciting social news of 2007, for just a few months later she would move in to our apartment complex! Okay, okay, we haven’t actually spied her yet but she’s here; the paparazzo permanently camped outside the gates watching DVDs on their laptops in their mini vans 24/7 are testament to that and their photos of her leaving in the London Paper fool’s proof (while the whole thing reached an apotheosis of celeb heaven when Pete Dokkers briefly moved in too, to help ween her off the horse, pen a tune with her and, just maybe, snog her while Field-Captain-Civil-Rose was in prison on remand). Amidst all this excitement I downloaded Back To Black from Limewire on Christmas Eve and was well and truly blown away. The up-close and personal pix may confirm that Slay-Me Slimehouse (Mark’s hilarious, ludicrous new moniker for her) is, currently, physically hideous but her voice and her music and her words are to die for. Good luck getting better in 2008 Ames.
The Guardian called it ‘drive-time indie’, which is actually quite apt, though it doesn’t really do it justice. Fine, it’s not a patch on Reconstruction Site (Samson’s words and voice on Elegy For Worzel Gummidge, or whatever it’s called, make you want to curl up and die they’re so yucky) but songs like Civil Twilight, Relative Surplus Value and the utterly consuming Night Windows confirm that no one writes everyday losers like Jay Kay Samson.

Best Songs

ROBYN, Handle Me
RIHANNA, Umbrella
FEIST, 1234
CHE’NELLE, I Fell In Love With The DJ
‘I fell in love with the DJ/Sneaking round the backdoor, banging till we hear somebody say “ooh-ooh-ooh”/I fell in love with the DJ/ getting intoxicated every weekend, making my heart go ooh-ooh-ooh’. Unfortunately, in the bridge, her boyfriend turns up with a knife (seriously, listen to this shit!) but she avoids that potentially fatal predicament by simply jumping straight back into the chorus! God, how great is pop music?!

Bargain-bin best-grabs

I’m probably the only person with a brain who thinks Joey Cape is a genius. He wrote the whole of Resolve after the suicide of former Lagwagon drummer Derrick Plourde and perhaps that’s why it sounds so powerful – a cohesive, 12 song elegy of grief and regret that, amongst other things, indicts the physical and emotional isolation felt by so many in 21st century American life, confronts the horrific scene of Plourde’s death but ends, most movingly, with a plaintive eulogy of hope, addressed to Cape’s wife, to whom he was introduced by Plourde.
RYAN ADAMS, Love Is Hell
Yeh, he seems like a nob, but what a great songwriter. The whole thing’s brilliant, the Wonderwall cover, English Girls Approximately and Hotel Chelsea Nights the spine-tingling standouts.
PANTERA, Vulgar Display Of Power
Stuck this on my iPod to listen to when embarking on a post-Christmas Day run and it made me want to punch an unsuspecting fellow runner in the face its pure aggression is so fucking genius.
LOTION, The Telephone Album
My friend Jason is a big fan of Thomas Pynchon. He got into Lotion because Pynchon wrote the liner notes to their Nobody’s Cool album and he lent me Gravity’s Rainbow and ripped me this album. Gravity’s Rainbow put me off Pynchon forever but The Telephone Album made me remember nights getting drunk on Mark’s roof in the mid ‘90s all over again listening to Nobody’s Cool – oh, so glorious! A criminally forgotten band.
THE WALKMEN, Bows + Arrows
The Rat. Plus 10 other amazing, weird, warm, shambolic songs. I fall in love with this album a bit more with each listen.

Dan Emergency - Guitar / Vocals in An Emergency
Dan also makes solo electro wizzzzzzkid music, plays in the dreamy Farewell, Appalachia! and has just started a new band with some people who were in the really awesome punk rockers Bullet Union. I think he also plays in about three other bands as well, I can't keep up. We call him "Dan Emergency" because it sounds like "An Emergency" and we're clever with stuff like that. I don't think he realises this.

2007 was the year that I quit skateboarding in the real world. Why? Because I can now do 360 flips to noseblunt slides before 180 kick-flipping out over the shuddering body of an old lady I knocked over a few moments before from the comfort of my easy chair. In summary SKATE. is the best game ever made.

BEST 'GUITAR MUSIC' LP: Black Lips - Good Bad Not Evil
Black Lips look like a real bunch of scum bags and I mean that in a good way. I have come to realise that I like my rock (and roll) sleazy, dirty and with plenty of slacker-jerk-goofball attitude. I saw them play acoustically in a shop in Brighton and I feared them. That's how good they are. Also, you get the impression that these guys know what they are doing and although present themselves as crazy fools are actually way clued up. You can keep your super-tech nano-bot guitar stylings and octopus drum rhythms. Also, I don't want to hear any of your lovey-dovey nonsense. I just want to listen to Black Lips, wear sun glasses and pretend I am as cool as them.

BEST GIG: Dan Sartain @ The Bristol Thekla
Dan Sartain is a legend. He is younger than I am (I think) and is already a legend. I hate that guy! My girlfriend was too scared to talk to him 'cos he is so great and I'd have to agree. His songs are amazing, his voice is brilliant and he is the kind of dude you wouldn't wanna leave your girl alone with because he'd just swan off with her and deservedly so! Anyway, this show was awesome. He tore the place down and came across as being as humble as a piece of pie.

BEST HIP HOP LP: Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury

Just last week, I was out in Aspen
Me and Puff hoppin off the plane, both us laughing
A week before that, I was out in Italy
Attire heart throbs could not get rid of me
Up and down the tella crib, me and like ten hoes
Call from the cell phone, give me that enzo



In 2007 I got really in to drawing, I figured I couldn't draw but it turns out that shit doesn't matter! Seripop make visuals that look like a bunch of psychedelic puke. Crazy colours, crazy designs and a whole load of mess. They influenced me a lot this past year and hopefully one day I'll be able to achieve some work as positively mind-bending as theirs. Also they are in a beautifully offensively named band: AIDs Wolf. Seripop, I salute you.

Me! Daniel Guntrip - STA's newly appointed label manager
I decided to write seven things that made 2007 great. You know: seven for 2007. They have the same number! And stuff! I said we were clever like that.

All Tomorrow's Parties - Dirty Three weekend, ATP Vs The Fans, Portishead's Nightmare Before Christmas.

Simply put, ATP is the best festival in the UK. I went to all three last year, which - financially speaking - is probably worse for my bank balance than a crack addiction. But who cares? In one year and three festivals, I got to: see Portishead's first show in ten years; see Wilco's current lineup beating ten bells out of their back catalogue; dance in some manic chalet party with twenty of my most awesomest friends to "Touch Me, I'm Sick"; dance while Oneida spent nearly 15 minutes playing the same bit of "Up With Peopl" overandoverandoverandover..; get a million indie points for being totally dissed by Nick Cave; see Okkervil River and for them to be SO INCREDIBLE it was totally worth skipping Les Savy Fav for, and... oh, a million over amazing memories. Including a cute Texan girl groping my bottom at five in the morning whilst I was watching the sun rise.

Battles - Mirrored

Yeah yeah, this has been on everyone's End Of Year List-O-Ramas. Whatever. Listen to the drumming. LISTEN TO THE DRUMMING! My favourite description of this record comes from someone on Drowned In Sound's message boards, who said his 4 year old sister described unlikely-super-hit-single "Atlas" as sounding like drums fighting monsters.

Future Of The Left. Generally.

Curses! makes a lot of things better, not least the fact that it's getting the level of success that Mclusky totally deserved. Despite replacing the overt sarcastic hatred of Mclusky with more a absurd take on things, Falco's still as raging as ever and Kelson From Jarcrew backs him up very nicely indeed. Also, they're great live. You know, I saw half of Mclusky at Reading a few years ago on the Carling stage. I was so hungover that day that I had to leave, which is 'impressive' (ie, not at all) as they played at 8pm or something. I went to see the Super Furry Animals instead, which was fun until Goldie Lookin' Chain came out and they did some kind of rubbish team up. GO TEAM DANIEL!

Los Campesinos - You! Me! Dancing!

Quite simply the finest slap of pop released last year. I must admit I was slightly skeptical that it would be better than the demo version that got them all their initial hype, but golly gosh did they manage. Top marks to the band and producer David Newfeld. They also win extra points for not editing down it's six minutes plus running time for a single release, even though doing so probably would've seen it spank daytime Radio 1 into shape somewhat. Even further extra points to Gareth Campesinos! for introducing it as "Creep" during their show at ULU back in October. Every band should have a "Creep": it makes them work harder.

Lost Season 3

From THAT OPENING SCENE!!!! of episode 1 to THAT CLOSING SCENE!!!! of episode 22, season 3 of Lost possibly more "OH MY GOD" moments per screen minute of television than anything that's ever been produced. I can't wait for series 4 to start, even if this Writer's Guild strike is going to derail it. Episode 1 is called "The Beginning Of The End". We're through the looking glass, people.

New Futurama! NEW FUTURAMA!

OK, time to level with y'all: I probably love Futurama more than I love rock 'n' roll. For five years, it was not only the funniest show on television, but it managed to do this whilst being so goddamn romantic and heartwarming at times as to make even a steely cynic as myself feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And then it was cancelled, and the world became a greyer place. THANKS FOX! But then it came back! Back in November, the first new Futurama in four years arrived, in the form of the 90 minute movie Bender's Big Score. I, being the utter geek I am, was unwilling to wait for the official UK release (April this year, apparently), so I imported it from North America. You know what? It's just as good as it was. It has time travelling, Bender being awesome, Fry and Leela being emo about each other, plenty of hilarious digs at Fox, and lotsandlots of references aimed squarly at hardcore Futurama geeks. Like me. Best of all there are THREE MORE MOVIES COMING OUT THIS YEAR. Hell, even my mother loved it.

Okkervil River - The Stage Names

My love for this album is such that I'm having trouble with words. It's my favourite album of 2007, and here's why:
Musically, it's their most "pop" record to date - the arrangements are as complex as they've ever been, but they've been reigned in and tightened up and everything fits really well.
Lyrically, it's their most complete, if not most complex, a loose concept record that dwells on living your life through art, both as a composer and as a spectator, taking in John Berryman, Savannah, a fictionalised version of lead singer Will Scheff circa 2015 and a lot more along the way.

I saw them play in Brighton back in November, at the tale end of a 5 month tour. They looked exhausted, Will Scheff was visibly/heroically drunk, and they played an incredible show. I'm going to see them again next month!


Yes, yes it is.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Hooray For Humans

I have been boring friends about this band for quite a while now - now it's your turn. Hooray For Humans are a Corkonian boygirl-epic-pop trio. They used to be four, but lost someone along the way - was he mental?! Quite possibly.

Comparisons could be drawn with The Anniversary or the sunny side of Jimmy Eat World (see album opener 'Signature' as evidence of the former); they're the aural eqivalent of eating a summer Sunday ice-cream cone whilst dangling your feet from a fishing boat into the Irish Sea. They probably wouldn't thank me for that description - but it's quarter to seven at night and I have to get the DLR to Lewisham in a minute, so there you go.

These guys are brilliant - and Golden Ears Ash Pocock thinks so too, and he works for Disney so he knows about these things.

Their album Safekeeping is out on Limerick's super reliable Out On A Limb Records and have a seven coming out on new DIY label Hideaway. It got 7/10 in Hot Press and was worthy of four marks more. Here be the Irish tour dates:

28th Feb: ClubHeadBangBang, Tralee
29th Feb: Be Burgo's, Galway
1st March: Lavery's, Beflast
7th March: Baker's, Limerick
8th March: Underground, Carlow
14th March: Cypress Avenue, Cork
15th March: Whelan's, Dublin

The most-exciting part (for me) is that they're planning a UK tour with Super Tennis (Faux Discx) March 22nd to 30th - those dates aren't on the myspace yet; but hopefully they will exist soon. Super Tennis are Exeter based ex-Skiptracer Emo types that are also very, very good indeed. These will be good shows to go - tape Eastenders.

Aren't they pretty? Good beard too on that lad...

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Darren 'Wiz' Brown Charity CD Release - Ipanema

Syndicated From Boss Tuneage

The unexpected and tragic death of Darren “Wiz” Brown on 6th Dec 2006 was a shock to many people. He was a greatly respected and extraordinary musician and writer who touched the lives of many through his work with MEGA CITY FOUR, DOUGHBOYS, SERPICO and most recently IPANEMA.

UK label Boss Tuneage had been releasing records by Wiz’s bands over the previous six years and had built up not only a great working relationship but also a great friendship with IPANEMA.

The question was – how best to honour Wiz? The only answer could be through his music.

So throughout 2007 Boss Tuneage has been working with Wiz’s partner Karina and his IPANEMA band mates Lawrence and Rauf on a self-titled IPANEMA CD. Gathering up the newly demo’d tracks for Ipanema’s envisaged album, the boys once again returned to the recording studio to complete the Ipanema story, the way Wiz wanted to start it.

The result is a magnificent 17 track CD, containing these 9 unreleased recordings plus the out of print “Baseball Bat/Skull” 7” from 2003 and the “Me Me Me” mini album from 2005. Everything that IPANEMA recorded.

All monies raised by the sale of this CD are being donated by Boss Tuneage directly to the Forward 4 Wiz Trust. The Forward 4 Wiz Trust is a charity set up by Wiz’s partner Karina Fraser. Drawing on the inspiration he gave to others through his music and his humanitarian, compassionate and creative outlook on life and his work, F4WT intends to help out talented bands and musicians with advice and some small financial assistance for all the little, and some bigger, things that often get ignored. Creativity matters. Inspiration matters. Music matters. More information on the trust can be found at their myspace.

In order to raise as much money as possible for the Trust, the CD is only available via mailorder, and is set for release on January 18th 2008 – which is Wiz’s birthday.

The CD can be purchased through the Boss Tuneage website for £10 Postpaid (UK), £11 postpaid (Europe) and £11.50 postpaid (Rest of the world) or by post in the UK by sending name , address and a cheque or postal order to Boss Tuneage, PO Box 74, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2WB.

In Germany the CD is also available courtesy of Boss Tuneage Germany/Rookie Records exclusively through Flight 13 mailorder.

In France the CD is available through Dumb Inc.

And in Japan the CD is available through Waterslide Records/Boss Tuneage Tokyo.

“This is not the end, but you are very close… …this is not goodbye, those words won’t pass my lips”
'Defeat of Echoes' - Ipanema

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

LoadsAFun Issue 1

This is super-cool. Tim Murray has created a lovely handmade zine entitled 'Loadsafun' - the first issue features Napoleon III.

To read more jump to his blog - to print out the artwork, simply hit the image on this post. The attached guide shows you how to fold it. How sweet...

Spectator UK Tour - Nepotism Alert!

So I've got a brother that plays in a band as well - we'll leave the fact that he used to play a six-string Yamaha bass to one side (Limp Bizkit were BIG NEWS in Derry I'll tell ye). Anyway his name is Ivor and the band are called Spectator.

But here's the thing, they're actually really good; Helmet/Rollins Band - check; intelligent vocals and shit-hot drumming - check! They've done loads of shows in Ireland (playing with FWW, And So I Watch You From Afar and newest Kerrang! Dahlings In Case Of Fire) and they've released 3 EPs on their own label SO Recordings.

“a refreshingly old school guitar band who play aggressive yet melodic hardcore...” Alternative Ulster Magazine

AND they're going on tour in January - SO here be the dates:

12 Jan - Mason’s, Derry
13 Jan - Lavery’s Bunker, Belfast
17 Jan - The Tunnels, Aberdeen
18 Jan - Corinna Hotel, Perth
25 Jan - The Dry Bar, London
27 Jan - Queen Charlotte, Norwich
28 Jan - The 13th Note, Glasgow

The London date coincides with my works Christmas Do (work that one out campers?) - but I'm rejecting the promise of free alcohol and liberal backstabbing in favour of some straight up DIYXDERRYHC. If you happen to be free, please support the Ferris Family and check out some Sepectator in January. All dates are with Temper Calm who have a record coming out entitled 'True Novella'.

This post was not made under duress from my mother.

The Myspacae: Spectator | Tempercalm

Monday, 7 January 2008

How good are Johnny Foreigner?

The hype machine spits out it's fair share of passion-less bullshit every three months. A&R departments churn and each new influx of twenty something 'really excited' mini-executives regurgitate marketing plans signed off by their previous incumbents. Cynical - OF COURSE I AM.

You'd be right in thinking that end-of-year lists the indie world over have a certain consistency to them, it's as if you could plot a chart of the taste-maker's tastes versus time and eventually they'd flatten into a straight line over the course of twelve months. "Fuck! We Forgot Battles and Panda Bear - How Could We Have?!" The internet for all it's wondrous invention, allows people to confer to the point of ridiculousness. We are relentlessly agreeing on what is hot and what is not - and the Emperor has never seemed more naked.

Christ almighty, I would love to be surprised for once; I'd love to actually hear something on the radio that makes me have to pull the car over lest I crash into a traffic signal. It's my own fault I suppose, through doing this job I have to skim the channels, read every magazine and jump to each myspace as they materialise.

I've complained at length before in Backlash Magazine about bands writing to us before they even get started. I've actually been sent myspace links by bands who haven't even got songs on there yet. I will admit I've added them as friends 'just in case they do something'. Fuck me I'm becoming one of them (albeit sans credit card and lifetime guestlist for Monto).

The Arcade Fire Effect is without doubt one of the most powerful tools in existence for indie rock marketeers; and know this - it is being manipulated to the Nth degree as we speak, by teams larger than you or I can fathom. There are of course unimpeachable bastions of good taste, I think you can always tell a good blogger if they don't reply to emails from record labels - 'I will not be manipulated'. But these are growing fewer and farer between. If we are not careful, these indie outposts that we currently hold dear and lovingly blogroll will become as redundant an arbiter of good taste as Domink 'Gamesmaster' Diamond.

Poor Black Kids - can they survive the spotlight before they even get started. Clearly, one of the US' brightest hopes - can they bear our scrutiny?

Enter for my money, the the UK's brightest hope, Johnny Foreigner. Combining the best pieces of Bloc Party and Los Campesinos with the best parts of Capn Jazz and The Van Pelt - this is an amalgam of the highest possible order. Their music is cerebral, visceral and inspirational. Alexie leads a trio of musical historians plundering a lexicon of influences diverse enough to include bad soundchecks and The Wedding Present. Excited? Of course I am - Worried? A little bit. Alexie's previous band Panda Love Unit were fantastic, this is even better.

But I'll come to my point, for all my annoyance at the fact we have no secrets anymore - I have faith in the skills of our musicians to navigate these waters; I really don't know if JF will end up presenting The Friday Night Project, I would like them to - but what I am certain of is that the best bands (see dananananaykroyd in this group too) will constantly surprise us in a world where it is almost impossible to do so anymore.

No MP3 is included in this post - just go and buy it

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Space Year 2008

To celebrate the start of 2008, possibly the best year yet, here's a lolcat I found that references Black Flag.
Which automatically makes it the best lolcat ever created.

BLACK FLAG! BLACK FLAG!!!!!!!!!! seriously, Black Flag were awesome.

Remember: whilst the start of a New Year isn't really any different to the start of any new day, week, month, decade, century, whatever, it can be a good catalyst to change things you're unhappy with. So go start some fires.
Not literally.

Happy New Year from everyone in Team STA!