Album Review: Easter

easter-innocence-man

Easter-’Innocence Man’ (White Box Recordings)

If I told you that this album was only six tracks and thirty five minutes long, would that affect how you saw it? Or if I told you that Easter hail from Manchester, would that mean you’d expect them to sound like a bunch of Stone Roses and Oasis copyists, with a Liam/Ian Brown vocalist for a singer?

You’d be so far off the mark it would almost be funny. Fronted by Thomas Long, Easter produce an atmospheric, leftfield rock that owes far more to the golden era of ‘Alternative’ music than much of what Manchester has been supposedly prviding for nigh on a generation. It’s got nods to post-rock, and serves up a refreshing take on much of the work done by the likes of Godspeed, Sonic Youth and Slint.

The impressive thing -well, one of many of this album -is how much is going on here, without ever feeling overwhelming. The six tracks herein cover a lot of ground- and the vocals and ‘cello of Julie Campbell on ‘Begin Again’ are rightly held up as a highlight -show that just when it seemed rock dhas no further to investigate, no new avenues to pursue, someone can take the spirit as much of the sound of the heroes and run new places with it.

Loud and yet thoughtful, this is an album to play again and again. Excellent stuff.

****

Innocence Man is released on White Box Recordings on June 11.

New from Euros Childs!

euros

I’m pleased to be able to say that I did see Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci live twice, but I have done pretty miserably at following the solo career of former frontman, Euros Childs.

However, this dropped into the inbox earlier on today, it’s a new version of a track from his most recent album, Ends. It really is lovely, and it’s called ‘Spin That girl Around’:

This is a live version, just Euros at the piano, recorded late last year in Bristol:

If you want to get your hands on the single, go to his website here. All donations gratefully received, and all that…

Album Review: The Coronas

coronas

The Coronas -’Closer To You’

Over in Ireland, Dublin’s Coronas have certainly made their mark. A platinum-selling band in Ireland, they are apparently the biggest selling independent artist in Ireland and beat U2, The Script and Snow Patrol to the best album in the Meteor Awards in 2010 with their debut album Tony Was An Ex Con.

Fair play to ‘em. Closer To You is a pleasant enough album, and it’s easy to see how they would go down well at festivals. It’s not particularly anything these ears haven’t heard before, and that may prove to be their stumbling block, that in an already over-crowded market, there’s not a lot here that really sets tyhem apart from their peers.

That said, there’s some strong tunes here in ‘Blind Will Lead The Blind’ and the album’s title track. It is more than an average album -but it needs something else to truly stick.

***

Closer To You is out on May 28.

Album Review: Tango in the Attic

tango-in-the-attic

Tango In The Attic: ‘Sellotape’ (Domicile Crocodiles/Believe Digital)

Last night, I put on Tango In The Attic’s first record, Bank Place Locomotive Society. It is still a warm, wonderful album, with hints of Paul Simon’s Graceland and Vampire Weekend, topped off with a scottish accent. Now that’s not what people generally call World Music, but it is still an accomplished debut album.

And it makes it all the more frustrating, because I sat down to give this, their sophomore album another listen this morning to write the review. Now, second albums are notoriously difficult things. But it can be deeply frustrating when a band seems to be on the move to try and develop their sound, and you feel that their second album catches the transition in a way that’s not what you hope for.

In small chunks there are some good tracks here, particularly the recent freee download ‘Mona Lisa Overdrive.’ But as an overall album, it feels like it is both searching for an identity, and producing something that is falling between two stools. Put bluntly, it can’t seem to work out if it wants to be Vampire Weekend or Arctic Monkeys, and ends up producing something that is a mixture between the two. And that’s like the aural equivalent of chocolate and salmon mousse. and a messy chocolate and salmon mousse at that.

I still rate that first album. But I’m really not sure that I’m going to be going back to this again anytime soon.

**

Sellotape is released on Domicile Crocodiles/Believe Digital on May 28.

Album Review: The Magnetic North

magnetic

The Magnetic North: ‘Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North’ (Full Time Hobby)

There are some PR press releases that arrive for albums that are so strange, bizarre -and just a tiny bit wonderful. One album like this was Bunny Boy by The Residents. Another is Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North.

The group consists Erland Cooper of Erland and The Carnival with band mate Simon Tong and singer/orchestral arranger Hannah Peel. Also involved was Kevin McKormack, also known as Half Cousin. But it’s perhaps the Genesis of the album that is the most strange and unusual and who else is purported to be involved (and no, not another Scottish indie-folker).

As the press release puts it, “When someone comes to you in a dream and tells you to make an album about your homeland – the Orkney islands – would you disregard it? Especially when that someone is Betty Corrigall, the Orcadian girl who in the 1770′s killed herself having been cast out by her village after becoming pregnant by a visiting sailor?”

“Well, would you?” Reportedly the ghost of Ms. Corrigall was quite clear about what she wanted Erland and co. to do. This included handing him a list of track names based on places in Orkney – the beaches Rackwick and Warbeth, the sea port of Stromness, the rock formation Old man of Hoy, for example and even playing him some snippets from the finished album.

At this point in history, we cannot record dreams in visual form, although it does make you wonder. What is lcear, is that this is one almighty God damn amazing album. Beautiful, melancholic and compelling, perhaps the truth of how the album came into being is so wonderful that maybe we should cast aside any cynicism we might have and enjoy this album for hat it is.

I have yet to make it to Orkney. Hell, I moved to Scotland over a decade ago and I have yet to make it to Inverness. But what I do know is that this album may not only have come from strange places but takes you to amazing ones as well.

This album is certain to become a cult classic. This is one cult I would heartily recommend getting involved in.

****

Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North is out now on Full Time Hobby.

Album Review: Gaz Coombes

gaz-coombes

Gaz Coombes Presents ‘Here Come The Bombs’ (EMI)

From the opening notes of his first solo album, it is clear that this is not simply Supergrass part II. Whilst Gaz Coombes hasn’t (thankfully) gone all weird on us, there is clearly a desire to explore and experiment here. However, thankfully, this is matched with his still very impressive way with a song. It’s perhaps a more investigative approach than the five albums he made as frontman with Supergrass.

A song like ‘Universal Cinema’ probably sums up the album best. It’s strong enough as a song in its own right, but the way our hero has approached it there is something more atmospheric and textured (for want of a better word), showing the skill at work here.

With other excellent tracks like ‘Whore’ and the single ‘Hot Fruit’ amongst a very impressive whole, this adds up to a rather fine album. Sure, I was interested because I loved (and still love Supergrass) -and let’s face it, most people will come to it wiith a knowledge of his former band. But even putting that aside, there is something very rewarding and intriguing here.

Definitely worth your time and money.

****
Here Come The Bombs is out now on EMI
Go here to get a free download of ‘Sub-Divider.’

Attention: Edinburgh Music fans!

bwani-junction

Bwani Junction – who were longlisted for the Scottish album of the year award – have been in touch. Their next big challenge is their first headline show in Edinburgh at a BIG venue next Sunday (The Liquid Room). They are doing this in conjunction with some Events Management students from Stevenson College – and would like everyone and their dog to turn up for this one.

It’s a fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis so try and persuade as many of your family and friends to come to this one – it’s an Over-14s night and £6 tickets are available at the link below.

£6 Tickets are available here

Read my interview with Bwani Junction here

Album Review: Cornershop

120427-cornershop

Cornershop -’Urban Turban.’ (Music For Motion)

I first heard Cornershop on John Peel’s late night Radio 1 show back in early 1993. Loud and unruly, I was smitten and went around with ‘Cornershop: In the days of Ford Cortiona EP’ scrawled onto my school bag. According to legend, said debut EP was pressed on curry-coloured vinyl (I’ve got the 7″ in front of me and that’s definitely black vinyl). Truth or not, the band were uncompromising and defiant, in their politics and their music. They’d bamed themselves Cornershop as a comment on British people’s perceptions of the Asian community in the UK. My scrawling Cornershop on my school bag raised the usual ‘why’ questioning from my contemporaries at school (but I was a weirdo who didn’t play Rugby and liked The Cure, so they didn’t really expect any better from the lieks of me). But itr was exciting to someone feeling isolated in a God-forsaken market town in England’s East Midlands.

By the time I saw Cornershop live, four years down the line (bizarrely at the Christian-orientated Greenbelt festival, then held near Corby, where the bill also featured 3 Colours Red and Bennet…er ask your Dad), they had expanded their sound , mixing the Indian folk and angry guitar pop with dance and hip-hop influences. Their second album Woman’s Gotta Have It was as much of a progression from their debut Hold On It Hurts as Blur and Radiohead would make between their debut and sophomore releases. They bookended their brilliant set that afternoon in Northamptonshire with ’6am’ and ’7:20am Jullander Shere’ like on the album. Yet the next six months would prove even more extraordinary. Their third album When I Was Born For The Seventh Time would prove to be a massive hit. Not only did the song ‘Brimful Of Asha’ top John Peel’s Festive 50 at the end of the year, but the remix of the song by Fatboy Slim (allegedly done by Norman Cook for free after then-label Wiiija said they oculdn’t afford to pay for a remix) helped take it to no.1 in early 1998. Whilst they have yet to make the top ten since, the single has had a couple of other Cornershop songs also make the UK Top Forty and it’s meant that there has always been an interest in new material released by the group. Their second decade might have seen longer between releases from the group but they still generate a considerable amount of interest worldwide.

Thing is, no-one wants just to be remembered for a no.1 hit nearly fifteen years ago that came about as the result of someone else’s remix. The fact is: Cornershop show, yet again, on this their eighth album, show that there’s so much to be celebrated about them in the present time. They have continued to grow and evolve over time, and yet impressively for an album that has such a huge amount of influences, it very definitely sounds like Cornershop.

From the hip-hop inflexions of the single ‘Milkin’ It’ to the gorgeous French-influenced ‘Non-stop radio play’ this is Cornershop firing on all cylinders. It has actually taken a long time to write this review not just because of my reflections on how much I have rated Cornershop, but because it’s just such a flaming great album to listen to. ‘Who’s Gonna Lite It Up’ mixes Beck, Indian influences and Hip-Hop. And it makes sense that there was also a disco side project that they put out as Clinton, because that’s still an interest here (‘Solid Gold.’)

I genuinely believe that there is not a duff track on this album. Yes, I’m a fan (in case that wasn’t already obvious enough). And listening to this album shows that nearly into their third decade as a grop, Cornershop are still one of the most creative bands out there. Get them on your stereo now. This album deserves to be a hit; it’s up to you to m ake it the smash it deserves to be.

One of the strongest releases you are likely to hear this year.

****1/2

Urban Turban is out now on Music For Motion.

Presenting… MS MR

ms_mr

‘Blink and you’ll miss it’ to coin a cliche, but in the case of the video MS MR’s video for their forthcoming single ‘Hurricane’ it really is true:

The New York duo are apparently going to be touring with Marina and the Diamonds in the US, but details about who they actually are are seemingly scarce. Just enjoy the music -which is like Lana Del Rey covering Massive Attack, on the evidence of this track.

Download “Hurricane” in exchange for an email at MS MR’s site.