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>THE JIM MUIR SLIDESHOW - POPULAR ART/AS EQUATIONS

Wow. Even this CDs packaging invoked curiousity. The little brown card pouch that took my mum and I about twenty minutes to open without breaking the pretty purple sticker and track listing turned me into a kid in a sweet shop who couldn’t reach the extra special stuff up high. The music doesn’t let it down either.

Immediately making me think of Belle and Sebastian, there’s a fantastic balance of synthesisers and acoustic guitar here, making the Jim Muir Slideshow a fantastic listen. The mysterious track listing (numbers 5-8 rather than 1-4) is due to this being the second EP in a series, building an anticipation and mystique around the Jim Muir Slideshow similar to the serialisation of a novel in a Sunday paper. And with track names like ‘After the Fireworks’ and ‘How the North of England Saved My Life’, you can’t help but realise that his music is a very personal journey which you are being invited to join with Jim Muir rather than view retrospectively.

The first track, ‘After The Fireworks’, is so catchy you find yourself singing "…and there’s no ecstasy left to save us" for hours, and yet it never gets annoying. Personally this is the highlight of the EP. The closing track, ‘After The Fireworks…Part 2’ is a more dramatised, almost darker sounding track, to which you can sing that same catchy hook, in spite of it never appearing in the song. The strings are melancholy, and it’s a personal, simple but emotional song, which puts me in mind of Radiohead at their chirpiest if there can be such a description.

The tracks between these two delights are equally great, but in a very different way – ‘I Don’t Want to be a Man’ is a rhythmic track, gloomy sounding at the start but opening up by the second verse with the addition of melodic guitar and strange vocal harmonies. In fact, the first time I listened to the EP I was still struggling to lose the hook from track 1, but when you listen to this track alone for a second time it’s far easier to get into and enjoy. ‘How The North of England Saved My Life’ is a wittily lyriced, light-hearted tale. It’s simple, with none of the synth work of the other tracks, gorgeous, and showcases Jim Muir’s talent excellently. Excellent.

Review by Marie-Clare Kelly

www.jimmuirslideshow.com

>JAMES YORKSTON & THE ATHLETES - SHIPWRECKERS

James Yorkston and his wonderful Athletes were one of my surprise discoveries of last year. They are signed to the Domino Records, the currently hip label and home to Franz Ferdinand. Although this isn’t trendy indie rock. James sings wonderful folk songs with passion and warmth and this release from his second long player, Just Beyond the River, is a great example of how great this album is.

Shipwreckers tells a tale of love on a stormy night , “the storm is hardly a curse for it got us back inside” he sings. The lyrics describe the gratefulness for being alone with a lover but feels guilty for the harm that the storm may do. “I offer a quick prayer for those caught out tonight” This banjo led tune with it’s beautiful atmospheric lyrics shows the passion and warmth which reoccur in all his songs. A must!

Review by Sonia Pagliari

www.jamesyorkston.co.uk

>THE MARCH HARES - DEMO

Approval from the hallowed music pages of Teletext is usually a reliable indication of quality, and The March Hares prove no exception. They’d nicely fit in with the longlasting fashionable indie fixation of the moment, the music giving nods to The Smiths, The Libertines, Killers, a host of New Cross bands, and yet still managing to create it’s own distinctive sound. The tracks are short, snappy, danceable, and you sense that the band aren’t afraid to hang loose and have some fun.

Apparently you can get their stuff for free, as The March Hares think it’s ridiculous to charge people for stuff they’ve never heard of. So, what are you waiting for? Go to www.themarchhares.com and get some!

Review by Nathania Hartley

>DESIGNER BABIES - HOT BABY ACTION / ALABAMA PIG CALL
‘Hot Baby Action’/ ‘Alabama Pig Call’ is the 3rd release by Nottingham’s Designer Babies, after their self released ‘Monstrous Fromage Excavator’ EP (2003) and the ‘Baghdad Boogie’/ ‘R.Mutt’ single on Gringo records (2004). This release has been quite a long time coming as it was recorded in late 2003.

The Designer Babies are a supremely wicked and energetic live band who mostly play in the Nottingham/Derby area, where they’ve rapidly made a name for themselves; they have also been active in other places too- including London. Amongst the more well-known bands that they’ve played with feature the likes of Melt Banana, Oxbow, Deerhoof, Gang Gang Dance and The Apes, with whom they have also toured.

Hot Baby Action launches into attack with rolling drums and a thundering guitar riff kick-started by a wave of feedback. Soon vocals enter which are pretty much indecipherable, perhaps summoning us to tap into their warped sound, they then give way to what sounds like a kid having a freak out or a tantrum. The vocals help to enhance the vastly comic side of the Designer Babies and are in keeping with their wackiness and lack of seriousness. As they get into the swing of things, a theremin enters, and the song then breaks down into various intermittent sounds including a squelching sax and the whoops of the theremin. It picks up again with an awesome guitar riff accompanied by a harmonica, ending with a piglet-like squeal to lead us into ‘Alabama Pig Call’. This starts with a computer belching and a earthy bass line, before a drunk redneck pig farmer enters- mumbling about looking for his pigs, which an equally drunk and blabbering squire-like figure responds to his plea’s in their incomprehensible rustic dialect exclaiming that he’s had to take them in lieu of unpaid rent. The bass and drums gradually become faster and an argument between the two characters erupts, getting more and more ferocious until suddenly the band shout out: “Alabama Pig Call!”, and at this point the song acquires a really pulsating sound with the drums becoming looser and louder. The song then, changes again, spluttering along before one last swinging blast at the end. Both these tracks are typical of the Designer Babies attitude to song writing and show that you do not need to conform to standard time-signatures in order to make great music; and also that dissonance too can rock!

‘Hot Baby Action’/ ‘Alabama Pig Call’ is out on a small label by the name of Olwyn Plant who specialise in 3” limited edition CD’s, so you should snap this up while you can or miss out on one truly original sounding band.

Review by Tristan Deane

www.designerbabies.net

>ABERFELDY - LOVE IS AN ARROW

Taken from their critically acclaimed “Young Forever” debut, this is not their strongest song but it is a simple lush pop song released just in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s a song about the love is unavoidable. Some might just disagree with that on the Monday the 14th Feb. The other songs on this CD are more interesting. Tom Weir is a fun ode to Tom Weir, maybe I should know who he is but I don’t. “On the Penninsula” is a great song. The first few chords are Darkness-esque and then it changes to a sound that comes from a toy, twinkling away this has a lovely old fashioned blue-grass/country sound to it, all that is missing is the crackling of the record. Hopefully after supporting David Kitt they should get the attention that they deserve.

Review by Sonia Pagliari

www.aberfeldys.com

>MELODY CLUB - ELECTRIC

Apologies for the longish single review but this threw me. ‘Melody Club are a five-piece who have toured extensively playing over 160 shows’ you say? So they’re working hard to get somewhere – surely this signals some talent. And even for a depressive indie kid like me, the words ‘disco beat’ and ‘dancefloor smash hit’ didn’t scare me (all thanks to the Scissor Sisters and their genuinely funky take on disco).

Then I heard it, and honestly, to me this is dire. The Scissor Sisters equation – so successful in the past year – has been attempted and to be honest, it sounds more like a serious accident involving a Casio keyboard, Erasure and five unsuspecting Swedish folk. Shame really.

However, later that night, there was a strange metamorphosis happening in my bedroom. My best friend and I were lazing around, mildly tipsy, listening to the music on my PC, when on comes the retrofest that is ‘Electric’. Within about ten seconds we were bouncing around like the cheesy pop nightclubgoers we (secretly) are…so at the end of the day, this could just work out alright for Melody Club.

Perhaps I’m being really unfair…there do appear to be reviews out there that describe this as a guaranteed hit…I personally can’t see it getting the bargain bin as a one hit wonder. And if they do repeat the success they’ve enjoyed in Sweden, I’ll eat my sparkly cycling shorts.

Review by Marie-Clare Kelly

www.melodyclub.nu

>>COLLABIS 301 - TREZCORE/DRIPPELZIMMER

Collabis 301 were doomed for a poor rating from the instant I picked up the cd. Nothing against them personally, this just isn’t music I get, nor is it music that I feel qualified to review. Priding myself in my wide taste, I handily overlook the fact that I generally ignore this genre of dance music – those looping beats, repetitive and monotonous. These songs do indeed fall into that category, Trezcore developing little throughout it’s duration and seeming to be infinitely long. Drippelzimmer, although actually the longer track doesn’t feel it, and this may be something to do with it being of higher quality. The beat is more tribal, fuller in character, and urges you to dance, the song itself progresses more.

On return to the cd a few days later, I found that I had actually warmed to them slightly. Useful perhaps as background music to a boring chore, or in it’s rightful place on a club dancefloor. I’m sure this will be perfectly acceptable in it’s own field, nevertheless it isn’t revolutionary, failing to break any new ground.

Review by Nathania Hartley

>NIXON AND THE BURN - EP

Opening track ‘Shivers’ is a slice of twisted pop perfection : stark, yearning melodies and dark existential lyrics laid bare over soft/raw grunge dynamics. Its fuzzy headspace is situated somewhere on the alt.rock wasteground halfway between Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and Jimi Hendrix’s more-apocalyptic version of the same song.

‘Feral Blues’ is rasped like the truth; marrying a Von Bondies-esque glam stomp with a scorched-earth howl. Freaky biblical noise-folk of the highest order. PJ Harvey would be proud.

The small town angst of ‘Elephant’ “I was born in this dump… you’re no worse than me, man” is possibly the reason why the words ‘rip’ and ‘roaring’ were bound together so tightly in the first place. Lyrically it’s half Pavement-style ‘electricity and lust’; half disaffected (sub)urban blues. Musically, it has less-in-common with the Von Bondies old ‘Elephant’-referencing sparring partners the White Stripes, more-in-common with undervalued Brit-rockers Crackout – right down to the frenzied guitars and transatlantic drawl.

The whiskey-drenched blues of final track ‘Marsha’ wouldn’t sound out of place on the last Black Keys album. Kids everywhere with downtuned guitars and big dreams, strung out on codeine cough syrup would love to sound this good, but they never will.

Nixon and The Burn are limbering up to take their place in the Rock God Locker Room –please can they have the locker next to Frank Black?

Review by Tom Leins

www.nixonandtheburn.com 

>THIS ET AL - HE SHOOTS PRESIDENTS

After several false-starts, the time is now for brooding Leeds art-rockers This Et Al. Terrific new single ‘He Shoots Presidents’ is a paranoid call-to-arms that suggests Morrissey having a nervous breakdown whilst the Gang Of Four do their level best to ignore him. The comparison to the first gang in town is a worthy one - singer Wu’s borderline-androgynous vocals and his band’s angular, spiky glam convulsions make the track sound like a more-urgent, slightly-hysterical version of ‘At Home He’s A Tourist’ by Gang Of Four. Lyrically, you can also detect the briefest of nods in their direction. Halfway through, the track positively explodes in a welter of blood and spunk, and you realise that a lot of people’s lives will never be the same again.

Extra track ‘Catscan’ bursts open with a terrific glam stomp, and Wu, tainted by blackmarket dreams blurts out lyrics like “how did I ever get so talented?” over juddering Franz-esque rhythms. The song is a perfectly-realised wounded howl of intent: raw and melancholic – haunted by the beauty that causes havoc. By the time he swoons the line “I never heard anyone say … “fuck you” to the man” your life will never be quite the same again.

Review by Tom Leins

www.thisetal.com

>NORDBERG - MOSS GATHERER EP
Disembodied wooze-pop from twisted American.

Last year an unmarked envelope from America arrived for me and I was so excited I almost soiled myself. It turned out to be an EP by an artist called Nordberg, with only a minimal amount of information attached. The CD began innocuously enough – well, in a way. Imagine an unhinged, less country and western version of Scott 4. No? I’ll have to fall back on the good old ‘imagine x after taking y’ equation. How about Beck-on-PCP? Lots of PCP.

After a handful of resolutely-weird tracks – weird, but not too weird, the fun really begins. The track is called ‘Gary’s Favorite Movie’ and it offers both a high-point and a low-point rolled into one. All I can say is: Gary’s one sick puppy. After a frantic burst of screeching pop, the opening line “we’re not well adjusted – something is very wrong with us” kind of gives the game away; as does “you wouldn’t want to know what I was thinking”. And, if those of you at the back weren’t paying attention, the line “no I wouldn’t want an ass-fucking – how about just a handjob” would touch-up your senses good and proper. What ensues is an 11 minute+ uneasy-listening epic that takes in “insects and cigarettes” Jimmy Dean, people with big sticks and plenty of dirt, Sylvia Plath, “applesauce and cornflakes”, Bob Dylan, “tying up your sisters” and all manner of fucked-up Pixies-esque imagery. It’s safe to say that Nordberg isn’t a storyteller in the Bob Dylan mould. Not unless Dylan ever drawled chunks of spoken-word trauma over child-like instrumentation on the quiet. I’d love to hear that bootleg…

‘Gary’s Favorite Movie’ is one of the most warped tracks I’ve ever listened to, but all the better for it. It borders on gothic horror, and is ten times scarier than anything Slipknot could come up with. Lousy childhood? History of substance abuse? Diseased mind? Who knows? But, with Beck’s new album imminent, let’s just hope Mr Hansen hasn’t been smoking PCP lately, otherwise we’re all in for a shock.

Review by Tom Leins

>ATHLETE - WIRES

You would have thought that bands would have learned by now that the “difficult second album” is called that for a reason. It’s the album on which you’re required to try something new; prove that you’re more than just a one act show. Athlete delivered the goods the first time round with what was a brilliantly entertaining debut which produced some fantastic catch phrases. But if this new single of theirs is anything go by, I fear we may be finding we’re wanting to “fly to El Salvador” to get away from them.

It’s pleasant enough in the same way that Keane present no threat whatsoever to our ears and their contents but they don’t stimulate them in anyway whatsoever. It sounds like something Embrace probably wrote on that album their record label dropped them for which no-one actually ever listened to after it sold 7 copies or something. Ok, maybe that was slightly harsh. But you get the gist. It’s not life changing and it’s not a nice welcome back song from a band who we really were expecting to deliver so much more.

Rating: 2/5

Review by Jason Edwards

www.athlete.mu

>INTERPOL - EVIL

Evil is the best song from Interpol’s second album (and that’s pretty damn good considering the albums was one of the musical highlights of 2004) and the video is fantastic. Right, now that’s the positives out of the way. Now one problem is that you don’t get the video for the song, you get the video for 'Slow Hands', a worse song with a much worse video. Secondly the b-sides are BBC sessions of 'Narc', another song from the album, and another of 'Evil'. Neither adds anything to their album versions and leaves you wondering why anyone who has the album would want to buy the single. It also makes you wonder why they ever bothered to release this single; oh yeah, the money…

Review by Christian Madden

www.interpolny.com

>FINKA - WHISTLEBLOWER EP

Finka’s Whistleblower EP was a real eye-opener for me. I have to admit I’d never heard of the much-lauded four piece but judging by some deeper delving there’s been a major buzz around Finka, especially since Glasto 2003.

'Whistleblower' opens with the fantastic ‘45’, ripping into my CD player with an edgy bass and drum intro from Matthew Jepson and Mladen Pavlovic. Lead singer Jimmy Frith works his magic over this and the track has a definite Nirvana quality to it. This is a gem of an indie track that causes its own fuss and makes you want to listen on, and when you do you get a real sense of the introspective lyrics and angsty nature of the song. Yet, unlike so many whiny bands that are kicking around these days, Finka maintain an edgy rock sound that keeps interest and energy running high throughout.

‘The Frightening’, although a totally different sound, is equally great. Frith is like a grainy Chris Martin who can "do” Cobain, and his astounding vocals are showcased in this track. The melody soars over excellent guitar work from Adam Coy, and this is a song that should and will be heard as a stadium anthem. It’s a perfect example of what indie music should sound like, in my personal opinion anyway.

The final track, ‘Stuck’, is a live recording, and my god these guys can reproduce their studio sound live. The lyrics are thought-provoking, the rhythm is spot on and the band really works together perfectly. There’s also a great balance between lead vocals, harmony and instruments, resulting in what is a flawless sound. Finka have been compared to the Doors, and Echo and the Bunnymen, which can only be a very good thing. After hearing this I think I’ve found a new band to love – I’m determined to see these guys live. In fact, for those of you lucky enough to be nearby, there is a forthcoming Manchester gig (14th Jan @ MusicBox). And if anyone fancies giving me a lift from Glasgow…

Review by Marie-Clare Kelly

JIM NOIR - EANIE MEANY

This cd is like a finding from a time capsule. Imagine finding music that sounds like The Kinks, French café music, and Woodstock all at once, and you have a rough idea of the weird collection of sounds that will meet your ears listening to Jim Noir for the first time.

Opening with the simplistic, cheery ‘Eanie Meany’, the folk guitar matches Noir’s soft vocals perfectly. The choruses have amazing harmonies throughout that add countless layers to the song, and although it’s mainly repitition of the “Eanie meany, run away” lyric for the majority of the song, the endless variations make the song eternally interesting. It’s a perfect example of how even songs that appear to be so simple can be complex and fantastic in their own right.

By a minute into instrumental piece ‘Tower of Love’ you’re half way to Montmartre in an art-house movie. I’m generally not one for instrumental pieces but it’s catchy and you find yourself humming along. ‘Tell Me What To Do’ is my favourite track on the EP. It is the most distinctive of the 60s style and can’t help but cheer you up. In fact, the whole EP is like a stripped down Polyphonic Spree, and it’s like finding your inner child and running with them. ‘I Can’t See’ is the loudest of the tracks, with a climax of vocals at its close. The basic instrumental part remains steady throughout and the vocals are textural bliss.

Personally, I love how the EP closes with a funked up version of ‘Eanie Meany’, appropriately named ‘Eanie Meany 2’. The version has snippets of the fabulous chorus mixed with a kind of mellow lounge beat. The whole sound of Jim Noir is just universally appealing – your parents like it because it’s “good old-fashioned music”, you like it because it’s the most chilled reminiscence of childhood in all its wide eyed wonder you’ll find (legally), and fans of all genres love it for its amazing ability to adapt to lounge, indie and pop overtones. Jim Noir is an amazing talent, and thankfully for those who didn’t get their hands on the limited EP, ‘Eanie Meany’ is available on itunes and comes highly recommended.

Review by Marie-Clare Kelly

www.jimnoir.com

FUJI HEAVY - DEMO

The Fuji Heavy demo opens with ‘Sunburn’, diving straight into a riproaring vocal with classic garage rock guitar. It quickly calms down to introduce some backing vocals and a snappy, tuneful verse, but maintains the high energy begun in the opening moments. It’s a cracker of a track, really zesty and really proves the band’s purpose (as they put it, to “bring the fun and swagger back into rock”).

‘Face Like A Criminal’ has a fantastic build-up, beginning with drums and bass and a fantastic guitar intro setting the tone for a brilliant track. Of the three, this would probably have the most universal appeal, as it’s the most ‘mainstream’ track. It’s the kind of song The Strokes would love to release, and it wears its Pixies influence firmly on its sleeve.

‘Glitterama’ is another excellent example of Fuji Heavy taking classic sounds and making them their own. The guitar in this track is a kind of dirty grunge rhythm that lets the whole track build around it. The verse starts off with low key vocals and the drawling vocals pulling you into the track, only to build up to yet another occurrence of an energetic chorus.

These songs are supercharged, but unlike many wannabe garage rockers Fuji Heavy manage to draw clean distinctions between their great songs, each being distinct and unique. Overall, this is a great demo, and if you’ve ever been into the Pixies or garage rock, you’ll feel right at home getting into Fuji Heavy.

Review by Marie-Clare Kelly

www.fujiheavy.net

>THE LODGER - DEMO

We really wish we could tell you more about this band but their web site won’t load on our silly web browser!! ARGH!! Bloody internet. Why do we wish we could tell you more? Because they’re great.

Sounding like Blur if they hadn’t parted with the services of Mr Coxon (a.k.a the closest thing to God on the planet), they have produced a demo which should really get people talking. For once we’ve been asked to review a demo by a band with a good name, good tunes and an actual future, so we apologise if this is slightly gushy.

“Getting Special” has a chorus that throws you straight back to the hey day of The Cardigans and makes you want to dance like a fool on your bed whilst you throw flowers around yourself and praise whatever you worship in because it’s so good to be alive.

“Unsatisfied”, with its initial minor chords and unhappy sound, bursts into a pounding drum heavy chorus and “Many Thanks For Your Honest Opinion” has…you guessed it, yet another amazing chorus. It’s loud, it’s chaotic and it’s amazingly catchy and melodic. The Lodger ought to be snapped up by someone soon and may we suggest you get to know them now so you can brag to your mates about how you knew them before anyone else; we’ve caught ourselves a big one!

Review by Jason Edwards

www.thelodger.tk

>ARTICHOKE - FIVER ON FRIDAY EP

Artichoke are angry, acerbic and alternative. Fiver On Friday is a seven minutes forty five second kicking to the head in the best way possible. Though despite this violent urgency it possesses, it took me some considerable time to like it.

First track, ‘Like You’ pounds its way through the window then falls apart at the seams before pounding its way back out, like Pixies were still together and touring. ‘Deer In My Headlights’ bursts on next and its one of those tracks that never really leaves you. Another pounding intro tumbles into some filthy base smacking and an angular guitar whacking. It’s crammed with oowings and mumblings and middle eight breaky things that I don’t really understand but do really love.

It’s a very dirty EP, grungy and muffled but stinking with unadulterated vigour. A must for all humans and hermits alike.

Review by Kolley Kibbler

www.artichokeonline.com

>THE RADIO DEPT. - EWAN

Like Elliott Smith if he had stuck around to finish off “From a Basement on the Hill”, or Death Cab For Cutie with more background noise, The Radio Dept have come out of hiding from their, no doubt idyllic and very quaint, Scandinavian retreat with a bunch of songs that are set to make us all want to hug each other whilst questioning our existence at the same time.

“Ewan” is huge. It’s swooping, its melodic, its aural ecstasy. It truly has everything that anyone who likes their music “indie” could possible want plus a bit more. There are no major obscurities on it that would render it unsuitable for the radio nor is it so consumer orientated that we get the feeling we’ve heard it all before. They’ve struck a perfect balance. Could this be the new sound of indie? We bloody well hope so.

Review by Jason Edwards

www.xlrecordings.com/theradiodept

>CASS MCCOMBS - SACRED HEART

Cass Mccombs is seemingly unknown for writing songs with anything like an upbeat tempo. The entirety of his previous album, 'A', consisted of slow lo-fi heartbreaking songs . 'Sacred Heart' seems to be shifting away from this pattern and although holding with the downbeat feel there is a definite impulse towards a happier ending.

Mccombs' voice still holds a haunting quality, although that may be just the excessive amounts of reverb he thinks he needs to use. Even with a speeded up tempo the ability to hold your attention throughout seems to be lacking, which shows that speeding up a song doesn’t make it less boring in fact it can, and it this case it does, make it worse.

Review by Barry Bennett

www.4ad.com/artists/cassmccombs

>THE GOOD - SEND IN THE CAVALRY
Even just with their name, this band is setting itself up for a fall. It’s the sort of band name the media can have field days with. However, Joyzine’s slightly more professional that that…really…so we shall try avoid any of the obvious jokes and try and review it as fairly as we can.

It’s…The Bad!

Oh NO! We tried so hard as well. We apologise. It sounds like the amazingly bland “The Honeymoon” exchanging song writing tips with that Pete Doherty look alike from last year’s Fame Academy. It’s not very good fun at all. We can however see it appealing to that evil “50 quid man” demographic who will love to buy this to listen to once and then use it to simply bulk up their collection.

We can picture it; placed nicely between “George Michael” and “Jamie Cullum”….mmmm. If only our CD rack looked as…appealing as that!

Review by Jason Edwards