Album Review: The French Semester


French Semester -‘Good Friends Only I Could See’ (Self-released)

This sophomore release is absolutely gorgeous. On the basis of two tracks ‘My Old Hands’ and ‘Backwards Rolling’ I fell hard and fast for this band. They sent me the CD from LA, and it’s set to become one of the albums of the year. ‘Indie pop’ and ‘Psychedelic indie’ are phrases that are banded around so casually across the blogosphere that they threaten to lose their meaning at times.

But not here. This album is lean -ten tracks in thirty minutes, and it does not disappoint, or waste any space. Influences include Syd Barrett and Guided By Voices. Like those two acts, THe French Semester can write pop songs that are experimental, and show that the two do not have to be worlds apart.

In a world of indie by numbers, and where people feel that mining 1982 is the closest we can get to innovation in 2009, the French Semester might seem to be out there on their own. They’re not. They’re leading the pack, kickstarting the assault. If you liked The shins -irrespective of whether or not you heard them through Garden State, you will love the French Semester.

And that’s a promise.


French Semester -‘Backwards Rolling.’ mp3

French Semester -‘My Old Hands.’ mp3

Good Friends Only I Could See is out now.

Album Review: Condo Fucks


Condo Fucks -‘Fuckbook’ (Matador)

There have been many boring stickers on albums over the years. Prices, parental advisory stickers (‘what’s the point in wasting money on music that won’t upset your parents?’ as Bart Simpson once quipped), and the info that it includes the recent hit single that the album shares its’ name with. Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Lose The Plot, sorry, Use Your Illusion I and II boasted the information that ‘This album contains langauge that some people may find offensive. They can f@?! [sic] off and buy something from the new Age section.’ The Condo Fucks’ album boasts the information that ‘This is not the new Yo La Tengo album.’


What it is, though, is a hugely enjoyable romp through a selection of songs written by the likes of Slade (‘Gudbuy T’Jane’), The Beach Boys (‘Shut Down’) and the Kinks (‘This Is Where I Belong’) in a sixties garage punk stylee. It shows that perhaps there is a line that links the sixties surf sound to the sixties garage punk sound at the time. Produced by Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange and mixed by Bob Clearmountain (at least, that’s what the sleeve says), this legendary Connecticut band whose back catalogue is extremely hard to get hold of tear through eleven songs in thirty minutes.

It’s loud, it’s raw, it’s fun and doesn’t matter remotely that it’s not particularly original. The name of the band may stop them getting much daytime airplay, though I suspect their world will continue to spin on its’ axis.

Oh, and it sounds nothing like a Yo La Tengo record I’ve ever heard, either.


Condo Fucks -‘What’cha Gonna Do About it?’ mp3

Fuckbook is released on March 23 on Matador.

2 dance remixes for you…


Doves. Yes, them again… : )

‘There’s always been a dance element to our music!’ protested many bands, nearly twenty years ago, as they tried to jump on the madchester bandwagon. Whatever…or as my students would have it: whatevaaaahhhh.

Anyway, two dance remixes for you.

First up, Chris Cornell gets the remix treatment of his life from Steve Aoki on this track:

Chris Cornell -‘Part Of me (Steve Aoki mix).’ mp3

Meanwhile, the net is truly beginning to buzz with remixes for the new Doves album Kingdom Of Rust. Doves, of course, do have a genuine claim to dance, given that they used to be Sub Sub (I will have to post ‘Ain’t No Love, Ain’t No Use’ one of these days).

Here’s another one (and the links for the last Doves related post I did is still active)…this time ‘Push me On’ is remixed by Playgroup, who were responsible for one of my favourite dance tracks, nay, tracks full stop, of this decade ‘Make It Happen.’ So much so that I owned four different 12″s of it at one stage…but there is only so much space in the flat.

Doves -‘Push Me On (Playgroup Megamix).’ mp3

Hope you enjoy these, btw.

Album Review: Susumu Yokota


Susumu Yokota -‘Mother’ (Lo Recordings)

Sigh. For some reason, I’ve never really got into the music of the Japanese composer Susumu Yokota. I feel bad, because it generally seems to one of the unwritten rules that we should like his music.

And I don’t quite know what the problem is. Because I do like a lot of electronica, I’m more and more into a lot of ‘chillout’ (thanks to the musical education I have received from Mrs. 17 Seconds)…yet somehow, whilst I nod my head and say ‘it’s all very good’ this just leaves me unmoved.

Much of what he has produced could be described as being ambient, this album features a lot of vocals from a host of names that seem to be much respected – Caroline Ross, Nancy Elizabeth, Kaori, Efterklang’s Casper Clausen, Our Broken garden’s Anna Bronsted and Claire Hope and Panos Ghikas from the Chap…and I’m still not getting it.


Hear the album at Rhapsody. Am I right? Am I wrong? or am I just dreaming….

Will 2009 be the year of Future Of The Left?


…I sure as heck hope so.

Future Of the Left are Andy “Falco” Falkous (singer and guitarist) and Jack Egglestone (drummer), both formerly of mclusky*, and Kelson Mathias (singer and bassist), formerly of Jarcrew. The band released their debut album Curses in 2007, and their latest single ‘The Hope That House Built’ is out on Monday. This is the first taster for their as yet untitled second album.

I loved Curses and thought the band were fantastic when I saw them play the Captain’s Rest in Glasgow last year. But on the evidence of this single -and this really cool video- it would surely be an injustice if this didn’t become a massive hit. Life, as people are fond of saying, doesn’t come with a guarantee of fairness, but I like to believe that if people heard this track, they’d support it.

So damn it, I’m doing my bit for the cause.

All together now -‘Come join our lost cause!’

Future Of The Left -‘The Hope That House Built.’

‘The Hope That House Built’ is released on 4AD on Monday.

*really, a lower case m.

The Return Of Super Furry Animals


Next week will see the release of the Super Furry Animals’ ninth album, entitled Dark Days/Light Years.

Released in the sense of the fact that it will be available digitally from Monday night over at their website. It will be physically released on April 13 in the UK and April 21 in the US.

This track has been made available as a free download…and it’s great. Classic SFA, I’m not quite sure what they’re on about, but it’s gorgeous, and makes me wish i could actually dance. And it reminds me that SFA are a national treasure, and whilst so many fell by the wayside, they continue to innovate because they always innovated. To the best of my knowledge it’s the first time they’ve ever had Nick McCarthy from Franz Ferdinand rapping on any of their songs before. In German. Actually, I’m not sure he’s rapped on any of Franz Ferdinand’s stuff before, and I’ve got most of what they’ve put out…

Super Furry Animals -‘Inaugural Trams.’ mp3

A quick blast…


Inspired covers are always good.

Tonight was blown away – yet again! – by Ex Lion tamer’s fantastic take on ‘Tugboat’ by Galaxie 500.

Hopefully one day that will be available to buy, in the meantime…

J Mascis and his merry men take on The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven.’

Dinosaur Jr -‘Just Like Heaven (Cure cover).’ mp3

…and yes, it does end that abruptly!

The return of Maximo Park…and Doves


Is there still a market for indie guitar music in 2009? As the NME pointed out today, recent albums from the likes of the Fratellis, Razorlight and Kaiser Chiefs have bombed (umm, I only got the Kaiser Chiefs one; the lead-off single from the Razorlight one was awful). But I’d like to think that there is still an audience for good indie rock.

Maximo Park are set to return with their third album in may, entitled Quicken the Heart. They have made this track ‘Wraithlike’ available as a free download.

Whilst to some ears this two and a half minute track seems to be too weird, I like this. quirky, different -but still Maximo Park.

See what you think:

Maximo Park -‘Wraithlike.’ mp3


Meanwhile, Doves’ fourth album Kingdom Of Rust is out next month. As well as ‘Jetstream’ from the album which has been doing the rounds for about six weeks now, there is also a remix of the title track doing the rounds as well.

Doves -‘Kingdom Of Rust (Still Going remix).’ mp3

Oh go on, then… ; ))

Doves -‘Jetstream.’ mp3

Album Review: Telefon Tel Aviv


Telefon Tel Aviv -‘Immolate Yourself’ (BPitch Control)

[OK, I am going to have to be honest here, and get one or two things out of the way.

First of all, Telefon Tel Aviv were one of those bands I had been aware of for some time but hadn’t bought any of their stuff until I read about this release. I had to buy it -and I’m glad I did so. Out of the thirty or so new albums I have heard this year, this is my favourite by a country mile. In any genre. Secondly, there is a possibility that this may be the group’s third and final album, after Joshua Eustis indicated on the group’s myspace that he isn’t sure he can go on after the death of Charles Cooper. My interest in this album isn’t shaped by this untimely death, nor is it born out of much knowledge of their previous works. It’s really based on a face value interest that’s developed into a real love.]

I would once have dismissed the idea of shoegazing music without guitars as being like a vegan omelette. That was before I heard Immolate Yourself. As a fresh convert to their music to me whilst, yes it is an electronica album you can dance to (and those two things are not always interchangeable), like shoegazing (or dream-pop, as it is sometimes referred to across the pond), this is a beautiful dreamy album that you can lose yourself in. Is it the missing link between the work of Boards of Canada and that of the Presets and Cut Copy? Maybe…yet the reality is that this album, with its textures, songs and atmosphere is one that stands all on its’ own.

So yes, I want to stick ‘The Birds’ and ‘Helen Of Troy’ on a party playlist or CD-R, but I also want to wander the hills of my adopted homeland, like something out of an Alan Warner novel to the sound of ‘Mostly Transluscent.’ And I want to do it frequently, and back-to-back. This album manages to pack a number of ‘dance-lectronica’ references into it, yet it flows into each other. I’m struggling to think of another comparison…Mylo’s Destroy Rock’n’Roll? No, it’s a ridiculous comparison, and it sounds nothing like that, yet at the same time, it’s the feeling that you genuinely cannot pigeonhole it in one particular area of the electronica scene. And it sounds all the better for it. Maybe there’s more in common with an album like John Foxx’s sophomore effort from 1981, The Garden. Oh heck…

Every so often, an album comes along that makes you want to go back and play it again, even before you’ve finished playing it. Very rarely in life, you feel the urge to start buying copies to send to people for fear that they won’t get to hear it and they’ll miss out.

This is one of those very rare but wonderful occasions. Because this is one of those very rare but wonderful albums.


Telefon Tel Aviv -‘The Birds.’ mp3

Telefon Tel Aviv -‘Stay Away From Being Maybe.’ mp3

Telefon Tel Aviv website/Telefon Tel Aviv

Album Review: Factory Records: Communications 1978-92 [Box set]


Various Artists: Factory Records: Communications 1978-92 [Box set] (Rhino)

Box sets can be tricky beasts. Rather like ‘Greatest Hits’ compilations they tend to be made up very largely of stuff that has been released before. However, unlike ‘Greatest Hits’-type packages, they generally serve as a cherry on the top for collectors of the work therein, rather than serving as an introduction. Quite often the enticement may also be fantastic sleevenotes, and these are reportedly written by Paul Morley, who is in his element doing anything Manchester and Factory, I should imagine…I say imagine, because the 4CD review copy does not come with these, so what might have served as a major incentive for this reviewer isn’t there.

So let’s focus on the music and the legend. It’s strange to think that it is now more than thirty years since Factory was set up, in part by the legendary maverick TV presenter Tony Wilson, who was always seen as being the public face of the label. The times of this label ran from post-punk (even if it wasn’t called that then) through the rise of indie as an alternative to the eighties mainstream and to the acid house and rave era which meeting Factory head-on produced Madchester. The three most legendary bands on the label : Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays are well-represented here (four, seven and seven tracks apiece). The label’s only number single Englandneworder’s ‘World In Motion’ isn’t here – but perhaps it’s the other things that Factory produced that make this box set notable.

Durutti Column must surely get their due one day -never a big seller but represented across all four discs, which run chronologically, by the way. A Certain Ratio’s mutant funk laid the grounds for what would happen twenty-five years later with the DFA label. New Order’s various side projects are represented – Peter Hook’s Revenge, Steven Morris and Gillian Gilbert’s The Other Two (with their track ‘Tasty Fish’ -I swear to this day that this track reminds me of Saint Etienne), and of course Electronic. Electronic brought together Bernard Sumner with former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. Their first single ‘Getting Away With It’ also featured Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys (which is rather like having your cake, eating it and making trifle out of it as well). Tony Wilson didn’t sign the Stone Roses (as to whether any label could have coped with both those bands on the roster is debatable), and passed on The Smiths because he famously told Morrissey ‘Go away and write your novel, Stephen.’ Northside were signed to Factory, and they have probably been saved from being the most ridiculed band in 1990s indie by virtue of Menswe@r a few years later.

If the label wasn’t always having major hits, they were certainly able to recognise future massive sellers, and both James and OMD made their debuts here. For me, the real joy has been discovering the reggae band Xodus whose song ‘English Black Boys’ I had never heard before, but surely belongs as a cousin of its’ times to Steel Pulse’s ‘Ku Klux Klan.’ The only band not represented are ESG due to ‘licensing’ (though their music is available through Soul Jazz in the UK, so get thee to thy playlist, if you feel the need to be completist).

The myths and legends surrounding the label are many – New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ remains the biggest selling 12″ single of all ime, but due to the artwork, they lost five pence per copy (which adds up over two and a million copies). The Happy Mondays deciding to record their final album for Factory …Yes Please in Barbados and blowing the money on crack. Not having proper contracts with the bands, which was a wonderful and laudable ideal, and no help whatsoever when the recievers had to be called in that sad day in November 1992.

Yet Wilson was a visionary and for that he should be saluted. As should many of the bands included here. You can snipe about what should have been here until the cows come home -but just take a leaf out of this reviewer’s book and accept what is.


Factory Records: Communications 1978-92 [Box set] is out now on Rhino

A visual sample of some of the delights contained…

The Other Two -‘Tasty Fish.’

New Order -‘Everything’s Gone Green’

Durutti Column ‘Sketch For Summer’

A Certain Ratio -‘Shack Up’

Cath Carroll -‘Moves Like You’