Presenting…Low Cut Connie

Low Cut Connie are a new name to me, but I like Rolling Stone’s description of them being “Piano-slapping rock-n-roll with a drunk-ass punk-rock spirit – like Jerry Lee Lewis if he’d had his first religious experience at a Replacements show.”

They will shortly release their new album Hi Honey, and they’ve made two brilliant, ultra-quirky videos. Once very American, the other very British.

See what you think…

Album Review – Happyness

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Happyness -’Weird Little Birthday.’ (Moshi Moshi)

On paper, the proposition of this album is more than a little odd, I grant you: it’s described as being not quite a concept album about a boy who shares his birthday with Jesus Christ (presumably December 25?) and is eventually driven mad with jealousy.

Now hopefully, that hasn’t put you off – and if it has, more fool you, because this is an absolutely brilliant album. First released last year, the album has been repackaged with extra tracks and is now out again on Moshi Moshi.

And although this trio hail from London, it’s quite clear that it it’s the likes of leftfield 90s American acts in the vein of Pavement, Yo La Tengo and Low (in their less slow moments) who cast a welcome shadow over this album. That’s meant as a compliment; not least in an era when so many bands just serve up indie-by-numbers that make independent imply overly dependant on what has gone before. Because over the course of songs like ‘Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste The Same’ (if Hannibal Lecter was a songwriter, eh?) ‘Lofts’ and ‘A Whole New Shape’ a fantastic piece of work is unveiled, that never loses its way over the course of a whopping great seventeen tracks. A record that I wanted to listen again as soon as it had finished.

****1/2

Weird Little Birthday is out now on Moshi Moshi

Album Review – Blueflint

Blueflint

Blueflint – ‘Stories From Home.’ (Johnny Rock)

Once again, Deborah Arnott and her partner in crime Clare Neilson have served up a fantastic album. Following from their two previous albums, High Bright Morning and Maudy Tree, the Edinburgh duo have returned with another fantastic album.

Pigeonholed variously (and rather lazily) in with bluegrass and Americana, this album shows that they are continuing to evolve as songwriters. In that time, Clare Neilson as also become a mother and all credit to her that ‘Little Stranger’, one of four songs she contributes to the album, manages to be affecting without being trite about the joys of motherhood. It’s also an upbeat number, which makes a change when so many people of either sex seem to think that the joys of parenthood must be sung as slushy ballads.

Given the album’s title, it’s an album that owes as much to Scotland as it does to any American influences; with the legendary ex-Delgados’ drummer Paul Savage in the producer’s seat (who has also produced the likes of Arab Strap, Franz Ferdinand and Mogwai), and affecting photography of Leith in the accompanying booklet. And it’s always great to hear Scottish bands singing in their own accents.

As well as the aforementioned ‘Little Stranger’ other highlights include ‘This Is A Story’ which sounds like a song The Proclaimers would kill to have written and ‘King Of My Apple Tree’, the latter the album’s opener. It’s so nakedly personal that I can’t help but assume it’s about a personal experience, and it raises the question about whether this is about a present or past relationship? That is, of course, a hypothetical question and yet it’s another demonstration of how emotionally affecting (as opposed to emotionally affected) Blueflint’s records are.

Blueflint have scored a hat-trick of brilliant albums. However long the next one takes, six months or a decade, I’ll be waiting.

****1/2

Stories From Home is released by Johnny Rock on March 30.

A song for today #5

Artisans

First things first: I know next to nothing about Boxing.

This much I know about The Artisans: The Artisans are a Teesside and Tyneside based band, are fronted by Kevin McGrother,with the Thompson Twins – Nick (lead guitar) and Steve (drums), and Karen Forster (bass). They’re shortly to release their debut single ‘However Much I Love You, I Love Lloyd Honeyghan More’ as a free download through their website.

The video for the single features two famous boxers – Lloyd Honeyghan himself and Glenn McCrory. It also includes scenes shot at The Lynn (London) and Headland (Hartlepool) Boxing Clubs, a female chicken called Alan (who looks rather confused, it must be said) and a soon-to-be-demolished Hartlepool house decorated with 75,000 beer cans. Though 17 Seconds has been teetotal for many years, it acknowledges the effort that the latter must have taken.

It’s a great tune, very much in the spirit of c-81 and c-86, and it deserves to be played very loud, very often. Ahead of that free download, please enjoy the video responsibly:

They are having a single release party at the Mining Institute in Newcastle on the 25th April, where they’ll be joined by Glasgow’s Randolph’s Leap (who have been featured on 17 Seconds before) and ‘local band’ Slow Decades.

Album Review – Seasick Steve

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Seasick Steve -’Sonic Soul Surfer’ (Caroline International)

Although he wasn’t a new name to me, I must confess that this was the first time I’d really sat down and listened to a Seasick Steve album closely. It’s his seventh album, and one that was recorded in his front room.

There’s definitely a blues-americana feeling to most of the proceedings, and I think the up-tempo numbers on here work a lot better than the ballads which are nice enough, if nothing particularly special. ‘Barracuda ’86′ comes on like ZZ Top jamming with Queens of the Stone Age, and album opener ‘Roy’s Gang’ (probably the best song on this album by a er, country mile) has more in common with the likes of Jack White and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club than Americana as it’s normally understood.

Without wishing to make the album sound uneven (because it isn’t), these tracks and ‘Bring It On’ are stronger and perhaps where newcomers like me are best to start. It still makes for a fun listen, overall.

***1/2

Sonic Soul Surfer is released by Caroline International on March 23.

Album Review – Aaron Fyfe

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Aaron Fyfe – ’10 Songs.’ (Tentman)

The debut album from young Scotsman Aaron Fyfe is definitely a grower. Over the last couple of months since the album dropped on the doormat here, it’s had quite a few plays. No mean feat for someone who is as weary of singer-songwriters as your humble scribe is.

With a title like 10 Songs, what you see is what you get. Co-produced by Teenage Fanclub’s Francis MacDonald, amongst others, there’s a nice warming feel from the album. And if early songs on the album like former single ‘Campfires’ seem a little dark for starting off the album with, respect to him for not simply making it easy.

Over the course of the album, the mood lifts a little, rather like someone who’s coming to terms with things and starting to see a way forward. In a world of over-produced and over-played singer-songwriters (too many to list), there’s a sense of honesty and back to basics with the acoustic pop on offer here.
Whilst this isn’t an amazing debut, it definitely shows promise, both as a songwriter and performer.

***

10 Songs is out now on Tentman.

A Song for today #4

Team Morale

Team Morale is the work of two 22 year-old friends from Kent, who go by the names of George Cloke and Oli Dewdney. They are shortly due (April 6) to release their second EP, Satori, from which the magnificent ‘Ubuntu’ is taken. Whilst phrases like ‘We have a wide range of influences’ are enough to make most writers groan when they can’t actually hear the bloody things when listening, it’s absolutely the case here. Sure, they might be a bit electronica and use some samples from ‘world music’ (whatever the hell that means! – but it’s my words and quotation marks, not theirs), but the end result is nothing less than magical.

If that’s whetted your appetite (and it it should have done!) check out their first EP, Forteana.

Hear more on their soundcloud.

Stream Courtney Barnett’s debut album

Courtney Barnett

It can be frustrating when a hotly tipped artist’s debut arrives and you are left scratching your ahead about what exactly all the fuss is about. (I grant you that it’s something of a first world problem.) However Courtney Barnett’s debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit is out next week and to these ears it’s absolutely brilliant. Yes, there are hints of a lot of cool tars from the past forty or so years (Kim Gordon, Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Kim Deal in her many guises to name but a few) but there is something that is distinctly her. This is an extremely strong debut album, which I am willing to bet will appear in the end of year lists, and hopefully those filled in by the punters not just those filed by the critics.

She has made it available to stream in its entirety a week before its release (March 23 in the UK), so take the time to listen to it, and play it loud.

And if you enjoy that – and I hope you will – check out her two earlier EPs, which were released together The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas which show that the critics who praised it then were definitely right.

Read more at http://www.nme.com/news/courtney-barnett/83564#0txOCM2A7Hr8tl1G.99as

A song for today #3

Johnny Marr

First of all, congratulations to the blog for making it 2,500 posts! In July I will have been writing this for nine years.

But you can only write a music blog if you’ve got good music to write about – and I get sent more of that than I can possibly listen to, never mind write about.

I mentioned earlier this week about Record Store Day, which is taking place on April 18. The NME have done a list of 25 of the ones they really want to get their paws on (and if you’re the kind of scumbag who buys these things up to sell them on*, you’re a scumbag), and there’s a whole website devoted to it, as well.

This is a fine cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘I Feel You’ as performed by Johnny Marr, which will be released as a 7″ for Record Store Day, backed with a version of The Smiths’ ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.’

Not a radical reworking, but subtly different when you listen to it closely.

Remember folks, a record store is not just for Record Store Day…

*the items themselves, not the list, obviously

A song for today #2

Womans-Hour-006

Having first featured Woman’s Hour at the beginning of 2013, it’s a pleasure to see how they have risen over the last couple of years.

April 18 sees the annual Record Store Day, and Woman’s Hour will be releasing a limited 12″ single of their cover version of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark.’ It’s a beautiful reworking, stripped down and utterly beautiful. It’s limited to 500 copies, so you will need to act quickly on the day. (And if you come across anyone buying copies purely to flog on the internet, give them an extra-hard stare from me.)

Hopefully this will get a widespread release, because it’s a beautiful reworking of a classic tune (and it’s just a little scary to realise the original is now over thirty years old…)