Album Review: Tango In The Attic

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Tango In The Attic -’Bank Place Locomotive Society.’ (Self-released)

Glenrothes five-piece have been around for a while now, and have released some really good singles over the course of the last year or so. Still unisgned, they have now unleashed their debut album, Bank Place Locomotive Society. A few listens in -and my initial thought still remains: They sound like a Scottish Vampire Weekend.

Now, that’s not meant as a criticism; I’ve really enjoyed both VW albums. I’m not the only person to have made that comparison either. There’s also a hint of Dogs Die In Hot Cars, particularly the Ska-infused XTC blueprint that they used to make their debut (and so far only released album). As to whether the band have well-played copies of Graceland and The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto…who knows? Certainly the opener ‘One Step Away’ does make you think you could be listening to one of them.

The tracks that have seen the light of day so far as singles ‘Jackanory’ ‘Blunderground’ and ‘Seven Second Stare’ are probably the strongest here, though I’d also nominate ‘Sketch by Quention Blake’ and ‘Off To.’ None of the tracks here are weak, and it’s a promising debut, with some great tunes -and I’ll doubtless be playing some of this on my radio show. What I’d like to see from their next album is them developing their own sound a little further, and wearing their influences on their sleeves a little less!

***1/2

Bank Place Locomotive Society is out now.

Tango In The Attic -’Off To.’ mp3

Tango In The Attic’s myspace

17 Seconds: The Radio Show

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I’ve hinted at it before, but next week I will start four weeks of having my own radio show on Edinburgh’s local student radio statio, Fresh Air.

I was very flattered to be approached by them, to do something during the festival, so I’m going to do the best I possibly can. I will be going out on the airwaves (or whatever you call them when it’s an internet radio station) on Thursday August 5, 12, 19 and 26 between 7 and 8:30 pm (UK time; if you’re wanting to listen to this elsewhere, you’ll need to work out the time difference).

It goes without saying that I will be supporting local acts, and I’ve already worked out what the first track I want to play is (and no, it’s not an act on 17 Seconds Records, past or present!) I’m trying to finalise some live music and hopefully some more guests. I am also hoping to feature some unsigned acts, so if you read this and would like me to consider playing your music, please get in touch via the email on the right. Amongst features I am planning are ‘gone but not forgotten’ (you guessed it -a band or act no longer with us), album of the month (already decided) and quite possibly a cover version related one as well.

And if I can get it sorted, I’ll be updating the blog as I go!

For today, a fine band who are gone, but most definitely not forgotten around here:

Chapterhouse -’Pearl.’ mp3

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The greatest radio DJ ever. FACT.

Presenting…The Suzan

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The Suzan are a Japanese band consisting of four girls who have just grabbed me by the short and curlies, so to speak. they come from Tokyo and they are Saori on Vocals and Guitar; Rie on Guitar and Keyboards, Nico on Drums and Ikue on bass.

I was intrigued that they’d got Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John to produce their album. My ears pricked up further when the small press release mentioned the Violent Femmes and the mighty ESG. And then I heard the new single ‘Home.’ It’s bloody fantastic. It’s aesthetically moorish, I can’t wait to play it again the moment I’ve finished listening to it. Imagine the primal funk of ESG infused with Japanese pop, as hypnotic as an Indian raga. That good. It also reminds me a little of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club circa 1981 (this is meant as high praise).

Their forthcoming album, entitled Golden Week For The Poco Poco Beat will be released in the autumn. I’m trying to find somewhere where I can buy their single from, but in the meantime, cheerish this free (legal download). You will want to investigate further, I PROMISE.

The Suzan ‘Home.’ mp3

Make friends here at their myspace.

Album Review – Stornoway

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Stornoway -’Beachcomber’s Windowsill’ (4AD)

OK, this has been a out for a while. But I’d decided – cautiously- to give it a listen and whether they deserved the adulation that the four piece band from Oxford, named after a Scottish town on the Isle of Lewis were getting.

The answer is -unequivocally -yes. This album not only has gorgeous songs, but in the spirit of the DiY age that we find ourselves in, in this new age of austerity, they mostly recorded it themselves. It’s not only this that they have in common with the likes of Aberfeldy, it’s the fact that this is chamber pop at its’ very finest. It’s a folky take on the sound of c86, that comes from the heart. No windowdressing, no mucking about, just honest-to-goodness songs.

Sure people have compared them to Mumford & Sons (and there are worse bands to be compared to). But much as I like that album, I’m falling head over heels in love with this. What’s impress is is just how many awesome tracks there are, and how they flow together yet remain distinctive at the same time. The banjos on ‘We Are the Battery Human’ initially took me by surprise, but by the second chorus it felt completely natural. Hopefully by now you’ve heard opening track ‘Zorbing’ but whilst it’s a great starting point, you want to hear this whole album.

Yet again 4AD have come up trumps with yet another amazing act. And whatever happens to them (hopefully worldwide fame and fortune), nothing can take away from the fact that Stornoway have made a gorgeous debut LP.

****

Beachcomber’s Windowsill is out now on 4AD.

Stornoway -’Zorbing.’ mp3

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Stornoway’s website/Stornoway’s myspace

Retreat -definitely not a sign of weakness!

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The Retreat Festival will take place in Edinburgh on August 28 and 29 this year.

Both Emily from Tracer Trails and Bart Owl of eagleowl fame have been in touch about this, it’s an awesome lineup with many acts I’ve featured here on 17 Seconds, such as Withered Hand (above), Wounded Knee, Meursault, Jesus H. Foxx and eagleowl. Whilst I won’t be able to attend it all (I’ve got tickets for Broken Records on the Saturday Night), I’m going to bust a gut to go and see at least some of it. I don’t want to rehash the press release, so I’ve cut and pasted it:

” Venerable DIY gig-putteronners Tracer Trails and The Gentle Invasion are thrilled to announce the third edition of Retreat!, a micro-festival celebrating Edinburgh’s contribution to the international pop underground.

Following on from previous years which have seen the festival occupy spaces in St John’s Church and the Bristo Hall, this year’s Retreat! will be a two-day event taking place in Pilrig St Paul’s Church Hall, on the boundary between Edinburgh and the City of Leith.

Retreat! was founded in 2008 to create space for Edinburgh acts amid the bustle of the festivals, and has evolved into a riotous A.G.M. for the capital’s independent pop scene.

In its inaugural year Retreat! encompassed nine events over three weeks; in 2009 it took the form of a giant celebratory all-dayer as part of the Forest Fringe. Retreat! 2010 is different again, a lost weekend when Edinburgh’s first XVI will perform in a deranged gala-day environment in which anything might happen and some things probably will.

Hosted by the incomparable Owen Curtis Williams (The Pineapple Chunks / drummer-about-town), and with stage design by Tessa Lynch, the only common thread in this vibrant melange is the organisers’ overwhelming respect for each act’s inimitable contribution to the international pop underground.

Retreat! stands for: -

• cheap cheap tickets
• all-ages admission
• the most extravagant staging and costumery no money can buy
• film screenings, record stalls, book stalls, and food!

Retreat! The Line-Up:-

7VWWVW (golden synth buzz and burr)
Benni Hemm Hemm (our icelandic friend and his big band)
Conquering Animal Sound (radio friendly unit shifters)
The Douglas Firs (snow-capped downbeat singalong)
eagleowl (fearsome slowcore foursome)
Enfant Bastard (brainless gameboy spraff)
FOUND (slick pop outfit)
Jesus H. Foxx (slacker-pop septet)
The Leg (dangerous panda-masked post-punk)
Meursault (tipped for the top)
Milk (sleazy glasgow supergroup)
Rob St John (resident ecologist)
Skeleton Bob (not a country band)
The Wee Rogue (sings the corries)
Withered Hand (badly lapsed antifolk)
Wounded Knee (loopy primitivist technocrat)”

Visit Retreat bandcamp page here for lots of excellent downloads.

Withered Hand -’Religious Songs.’ mp3

Wounded Knee -’Cold Enough To Snow.’ mp3

eagleowl -’Morpheus.’ mp3

Jesus H. Foxx -’Trying To Be Good.’ mp3

X-Lion Tamer returns!

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X-Lion Tamer (AKA Tony Taylor) is not a man to let the grass grow between his feet. Since recording a session for Radio 1 in February, he’s supported Zoey Van Goey and played alongside 17 Seconds Records labelmates like Chris Bradley and The Wildhouse, to say nothing of working on amazing new tracks.

The first fruits of these will be released as a download single on August 30 ‘Hope’ coupled with ‘The Little Drum Machine Boy.’ If the latter title sounds familiar, that’s because an earlier version appeared on the Avalanche Records Christmas compilation at the end of last year. And no, it wasn’t anything to do with the title of the song Beck recorded years ago, and it still isn’t now.

There will be more to come from X-Lion Tamer before the end of the year. In the meantime, catch him supporting Deserters Deserve Death on Saturday July 31 at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh.

If you still haven’t heard the Radio 1 session check it out here, courtesy of Peenko.

The first two singles ‘Neon Hearts’ and ‘I Said Stop’ are still available on download from iTunes, eMusic etc.. the physical CD has now pretty well sold out.

You can stream the two new tracks here at 17 Seconds Records’ myspace page.

The very welcome return of Aberfeldy!

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Yes indeed!

Four years since their second album Do Whatever Turns You On, and nearly two years since they Christened 17 Seconds Records with the ‘Claire’ single, Aberfeldy return with their third album on August 23 on their own Tenement Records and a whole host of Scottish tour dates.

The album is entitled Somewhere To Jump From and the tracklisting is as follows:

Claire
Somewhere To Jump From
Malcolm
Mean Ol’ Misery
If I Were A Joiner
Turn the Record Over
In Denial
Lisa-marie
Talk Me Round
Wendy
Play The Music Loud
California, West Lothian
Credits

‘If I Were A Joiner’ and ‘Turn The Record Over’ can be heard streaming at Aberfeldy’s myspace. And yes, ‘Claire’ and ‘Talk me Round’ are the songs that we put out as 17 Seconds Records but these are new, different versions.

Good to have you back, guys!

Presenting…Zola Jesus

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Wisconsin always seems to have had a bad press as a US state, not least from Americans. Even nebraska doesn’t get that much flak, possibly because there’s a Springsteen album named after it, or something. Oh, and Conor Oberst comes from there, so that’s enough to get the indie hipsters frothing.

Anyhow, straight out of Madison, Wisconsin comes one Nika Rosa Danilova. I can’t believe I haven’t heard her music before now, but I’m smitten and I want to gorge myself on it. Her latest single ‘Sea Talk’ is phenomenal – imagine Joy Division’s ‘Atmosphere’ meeting This Mortal Coil’s cover of ‘Song To The Siren.’ No doubt the hipsters will be all over her like a rash before you can say Pitchfork, Spin and stereogum, but when something’s as good as this, nothing must be allowed to spoil it. People are even mentioning her in the same breath as Kate Bush-and I don’t want to shoot them for heresy.

This is taken from her forthcoming album Stridulum II. I will be investigating further. If I did a single of the week, this would win hands down.

Zola Jesus -’Sea Talk.’ mp3

If you’re as smitten as I am, check out more free legal music here.

Zola Jesus’ website/Zola Jesus’ myspace

We will all die poor having had our say?

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Ever see Threads?

It was a film scripted by Barry Hines (of A Kestrel For A Knave/Kes) fame, about a nuclear bomb being dropped on Sheffield.

It was very good, seriously bloody scary and hugely influential on me. I saw it at school -and when I was teaching and used it I found it had lost none of its’ power on me, or those I was teaching. ‘How could anyone think nuclear weapons were a good idea?’ said the stunned students. I was actually asked not to use the film after a while, my head of department was getting nervous…

This song ‘Final Day’ is only ninety seconds long, even shorter than ‘Velocity Girl,’ but if you got any of the fear of living through the cold war, I guess you realsied you were not going to have long to reflect on nuclear annihilation:

“When the rich die last
Like the rabbits
Running from a lucky past
Full of shadow cunning
And the world lights up
For the final day
We will all be poor
Having had our say

Put a blanket up on the window pane
When the baby cries lullaby again
As the light goes out on the final day
For the people who never had a say

There is so much noise
There is too much heat
And the living floor
throws you off your feet
As the final day falls into the night
There is peace outside
in the narrow light”

Welsh band Young Marble Giants were a short-lived but awesome band and this song was covered a few years back by belle & Sebastian:

Young Marble Giants -’Final Day.’ mp3

Belle and sebastian -’Final Day.’ mp3

Update: Just reminded by the editor of Is This Music? of this classic:

See here for Peter Porter’s original poem

Burnt Island – free single and exciting news

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A few months ago, I wrote enthusiastically about the six-track release from Burnt Island, Music and Maths. If you haven’t yet got your mits on a copy, silly you, but you can pick up the free single of ‘Hiding Out’/'Gambler’s Dream’ here.

Not only that, but Burnt Island will be supporting the Last Battle at their album launch in Edinburgh on September 18. This is taking place at The Roxy Arthouse in Edinburgh and support also comes from Matt Norris and the Moon.

Oh, and I’m DJing. ; )

Pop along and make friends with Burnt Island here