Album Review: Alasdair Roberts & Friends


Alasdair Roberts & Friends -‘A Wonder Working Stone.’ (Drag City)

Scottish singer-songwriter Alasdair Roberts may be viewed (erroneously) as a somewhat funereal folkie, but by and large, his latest album is quite an uplifting affair. He very much works in a folk tradition, and it’s fair to say that whilst there are no shortages of artists north of the border who produce music that is indebted to folk traditions, his music has far more in common with artists like Kate Rusby, Karine Polwart and Eliza Carthy, say, than many members of the Fence Collective. This is folk music, not folk rock, or God helps us, ‘folk-tronica.’

He writes his own material as well as drawing upon traditional songs, and that is what adds strength to this collection of songs, that he understands the strengths of the tradition(s) he works within, without this being an exercise is simply recycling. He avoids sounding twee-and reigns himself in whenever there is a danger of slipping into folk pastiche, which threatens to happen on album opener ‘The Merry Wake’ but thankfully doesn’t. His guitar work is as evocative as his lyrics, and if at first I wasn’t so sure if I got this record, it unfolds its charms with every listen.

Indeed, a wonder.


A Wonder Working Stone is released on Drag City on January 21.

Alasdair Roberts & Friends -‘The Year Of The Burning.’ mp3

The return of Wire


Following on from 2011’s Red Barked Tree album, it has just been announced that Wire are to release a new album on March 25, entitled Change Becomes Us.

According to the press release: ‘In spring 2012, Wire’s plan had been to convene at Rockfield Studios in Wales to review the rudimentary blueprints of songs that had never made it beyond a few live performances in 1979 and 1980 – a time when the band-members were in creative overdrive yet the band itself was disintegrating. The aim wasn’t simply to resuscitate and record old songs; in fact, many of them hadn’t become proper songs in the first place, existing only as basic ideas or undeveloped parts. Rather, the objective was to approach that unrealized work as an oblique strategy, a potential springboard for Wire’s contemporary, forward-looking processes – a possible point of departure for new compositions.

‘This took place with Wire firing on all cylinders, as a four-piece studio entity again, the core line-up of Newman, Graham Lewis and Robert Grey now enhanced by guitarist Matthew Simms. Simms had played a key role in helping the band to cultivate and shape its new sonic landscape throughout the preceding year’s live work. Out of the exploratory Rockfield session and subsequent, extensive development and production at Newman’s Swim Studio, the ostensible source material became, in the classic Wire tradition, something quite other than what it may have once been – or what it might have become if it had been pursued in 1980.’

This track ‘Doubles and Trebles’ is the first track to do the rounds. See what you think…



Every so often I’m asked how I discover new bands. The honest answer is that I receive emails about an awful lot of them, amongst other things, and yet there’s still plenty that I find out about through old fashioned means like hearing them on the radio.


Such is the case with Teleman, above. The London trio -Thomas Sanders (vocals, guitar), Jonny Sanders (synths) and Pete Cattermoul (bass) -have this week released their debut single on the Moshi Moshi label. And I heard it on Shaun Keaverny’s show this morning. I’ve only heard the single, but it’s flaming awesome!! They used to be in Pete and the Pirates apparently, but there’s something really amazing about this single in a way that their former band didn’t grab me. Some excited tweets going about twitter (obviously) too.

They have also made a video for it:

You can also download the b-side ‘In Your Fur’ below

Album Review: Universal Sex Arena


Universal Sex Arena -‘Women Will Be Girls.’ (Gran Donna)

This is the debut album from the Italian six-piece. The first impression is that the band have been influenced by the Nuggets compilation, and a mixture of both 60s psychedelia and garage-rock from the same era informs the sound, with a bit of surf guitar thrown in for good measure setting the template for the album.

And it’s not a bad album by any means. There are some very good tracks in the likes of album opener ‘Drum Affaire’ and ‘Brain Ferry’ and the slightly slower ‘Waltz For Lou.’

The problem is that fifteen tracks in 53 minutes of this stuff is just a bit too hard to take in one sitting, and I can’t help feeling it would be a stronger album if paired down slightly and in the era of people buying their music from download stores there is the possibility for listeners to exert their own quality control). And the cover art is just sexist, and if it’s meant to be ironic, it’s not communicated clearly enough…


Women Will Be Girls is released on Gran Donna on February 11.

Presenting…Fat Goth


I’m not going to make any excuses about why I haven’t covered Fat Goth before now. The Dundee three-piece have been around for a while now, and they are getting some very good notices indeed for their forthcoming debut album, Stud, which is released in two weeks’ time (January 28).

They are (drum-roll please): Fraser Stewart (Guitar, Vocals, Genius), Mark Keiller – Drums, Pink Pound Offering, and Kevin Black (Bass, replaced a bass player whose interests reportedly also included Alcohol and Sexism).

They are very loud, very noisy and very good indeed. Turn these two tracks ‘Creepy Lounge’ and ‘Debbie’s Dirty Harry’ up as loud as you can. It’s certainly whetted my appetite for the album…



Bristol five piece Coasts play what might be described as anthemic math-rock (that’s meant as a compliment, by the way). They seem to be fairly hard to pin down- no names given on their soundcloud, facebook or tumblr. Nor can I find a clear discography. However, they cite The Cure as one of their influences, which is almost always a good thing.

They formed in 2010 and released a couple of singles last year. (They are not to be confused with an American act by the same name, by the way.) But this April they will release a new EP Paradise from which the gorgeous ‘Oceans’ is taken. This is a song worth shouting about. You can pre-order this on iTunes.

Here’s the video, shot back in December when it was by all accounts very cold.

Album Review: Yo La Tengo


Yo La Tengo -‘Fade.’ (Matador)

I’ve been waiting for this album, as a fan, and I wasn’t disappointed. See, Yo La Tengo have now been around for decades rather than years, but every album still feels like a big deal. They may not play stadia or appear in gossip magazines, but the number of those in the know continues to grow with each album. This, by the way, is their thirteenth studio album.*

Listening to this for about the second or third time before writing this review, I tried to work out where Yo La Tengo fit in -if they need to – on the musical landscape of the last fifty years or so. Like Sonic Youth and Low -and I think they are musically the missing link between the two bands- they’re out of leftfield, uncompromising and yet a mesmerising act.

There’s not a whole heap of guitar abuse on this album, excpt for the final track ‘Before We Run.’ It’s an album comparable to many that they have produced, though the one that I find myself comparing it to most is 2003’s Summer Sun. That album finished with a faithful but heartfelt cover of Big STar’s ‘Take Care’ and I think there’s something of both Summer Sun‘s Sadness, and the Third/Sister Lovers Big Star album. Most strongly can this be felt on ‘Cornelia and Jane.’

So Yo La Tengo do it again. Like The Fall, always the same, always different. Like Wilco, they are trying to break your heart. And like Yo La Tengo, utterly distinctive and brilliant.

Fade is released on Matador on January 14.

Stream Fade over at Pitchfork.

*depending on who you ask and what you read. I’ve also read that this is their twelfth and their fourteenth, and even as a fan I’m not sure.

Album Review: Pantha du Prince and the Bell Laboratory


Pantha du Prince and the Bell Laboratory -‘Elements of Light.’ (Rough Trade)

There’s no doubt that on paper (or on whatever electroc format you choose), the latest project from Berlin’s Hendrik Weber must seem a little unusual to say the least. Indeed, when the press release states ‘The ambitious project is a symphony for electronics, percussion and bell carillon, a three-tonne instrument comprising 50 bronze bells’ your eyebrows are raised.

But you are not forgiven for running away. Because over the course of the album (a single continuous work, but broken down into five tracks, named, um, for elements of light), what you get is an album that is actually really beautiful and, dare I say it, blissful.

So to hell with your prejudices about ‘bloody bell ringers’ and utter paranoia about anything that isn’t two guitars, bass and drums, in the words of one guitar band ‘turn off your mind, relax and float downstream’…


Elements of Light is released on Rough Trade on January 14.

Stream the album over at The Guardian’s website

The return of Low


Well, it’s only the second week of January, and already it’s looking like being an awesome year for music.

Not only have releases from Suede and David Bowie been announced this week (just in case you’ve been under a rock), but Low are celebrating their twentieth anniversary as a band with the release of their tenth album The Invisible Way.

They have released a free mp3 of ‘Just Make It Stop’ which you can get below:

Released on March 18, the tracklisting is as follows:

Plastic Cup
So Blue
Holy Ghost
Clarence White
Four Score
Just Make It Stop
On My Own
To Our Knees

The band are also touring Europe in April and May:

24 – Birmingham, UK – Glee Club
25 – Manchester, UK – Central Methodist Hall
26 – Gateshead, UK – The Sage Gateshead
27 – Glasgow, UK – Classic Grand
29 – Bristol, UK – Trinity
30 – London, UK – Barbican Centre

2 – Copehnhagen, Denmark – Loppen
3 – Stockholm, Sweden – Debaser
4 – Oslo, Norway – Bla
7 – Paris, France – La Maroquinerie
8 – Brussels, Belgium – Cirque Royal – Nuits Botanique
9 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Paradiso De Duif
10 – Frankfurt, Germany – Zoom
11 – Bologna, Italy – Teatro Antoniano
13 – Barcelona, Spain – Casino de la Alianca
14 – Valencia, Spain – Teatro La Rambleta
15 – Zaragoza, Spain – Teatro de las Esquina
16 – Madrid, Spain – Joy Eslava
17 – Valladolid, Spain – Lava
18 – Biarritz, France – Atabal

They also released this free EP just before Christmas, in case you missed it:

Presenting…Deptford Goth


With a name like that, it might surprise you to know that Deptford Goth is, in fact, a Goth from South-east London.

Just kidding, kids.* Although he hails from South London, Daniel Woolhouse’s music has been described as being similar to the XX and James Blake, but even without hearing his forthcoming debut album at this point in time, entitled Life After Defo, there’s so much more to him than sounding like a couple of hipster acts. But yes, this is the place where soul,R&B and electronica meet, producing a sound that has so much more humanity than the inevitable slew of guitar bands that will rain down on us shortly as every A&R is ordered to go and find the next Palma Violets.

It’s intensely beautiful and heartfelt stuff, and not a single acoustic guitar in sight, folks. The former teaching assistant even makes his own videos, two of which you can see below.


After Defo will be released on March 18, on Merok, the Pink Floyd-esque cover art can be seen above.

Stream more tracks below, these are both taken from his earlier EP Youth II.

* In a feature on him in The Guardian, they wrote ‘just don’t expect Bauhaus meets Burial.’