Not since the heady days of the early to mid-nineties has the acoustic rock track enjoyed massive success. Everybody remembers Wet Wet Wet’s epic ‘Love Is All Around’ (more…)
Less a band, more singer-songwriter Rick Webster, Unkle Bob have (has?) been making dreamy slightly lovelorn pop for the past decade, to critical acclaim and some small measure of commercial success.
Following a brief spell working with the Gang of Four’s Andy Gill (plus Eddi Reader) under the Tom Fool moniker, Webster has gone ‘solo’ again and while he’s not quite returned to the semi-acoustic sound that characterised the ‘band’ previously, this is a shift towards more chart-friendly music. Not that this is a problem of course – it’s easy to throw in references like Coldplay, but these multi-layered, slicky-produced tunes has more nods to the likes of REM and Morrissey. When ‘Brother’ builds to a crescendo and muttered vocals flit in and out of the mix it’s a glorious moment.
‘Home’, the other standout on this EP, similarly builds to an epic conclusion, and while 10 years is a long time to be beavering away on the margins of the mainstream, you only need to look at the likes of Elbow to realise that for the truly talented, recognition and wider acclaim can eventually arrive.
The absence of Neil Carlill from the ‘Magus’ ep sees the four tracks coming to you as an instrumental but this is no bad thing, allowing you to delve deeper into the chilled out folk sound. It’s a mini-package that is not going to appeal to everyone, it can be a tad dry over the four songs but there are more than enough sprightly moments to warrant further investigation.
’56 Days To Happiness’ is perhaps the most strident and upbeat whereas ‘Brilliant White Frost’, and its electronic interventions brings a relaxed ending to the collection.
It’s a touching melodic collection of songs as opposed to being in your face, so if you are in the need for some gentle sounds to soundtrack your day or other activities, there could be a bit of scope to find in ‘Magus’ by Shoosh.
Recorded over a staggering 7 years in various churches throughout bonnie Scotland, The Douglas Firs is the brainchild of just one man, Neil Insh, with a host of friends mucking in for good measure. The results are a tantalizing mixture of intriguing field recordings, ambient electronica, and lo-fidelity crooning. Haunting Through really has to be digested as a whole. Each song floats through musical hoops so delicately that casual listeners may suggest the arrangements are non-existent, but invest the time that this EP deserves and repeat listens will unveil it to be a beautiful journey with twists and turns and most importantly, breathing space. Rolling drums, guitars, fiddles, piano, and brass sit comfortably alongside synthesizers and electronic beeps and blips with harmonious vocals tying it all together. The field recordings adding an inimitable quality to the proceedings intertwined throughout each composition. If this writer was a lazy journalist then comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, or the avant-garde splendour of much of Jim O’Rourke’s work may be sited but I’m not lazy, no siree! This is a brave debut, delightfully in a world of its own.
Free / donation download at http://thedouglasfirs.bandcamp.com/
Glasgow five-piece Blue Sky Archives describe themselves as making post-rock pop music with a heart. This is actually a fairly accurate description, there’s a scope to them but an edge that means epic and anthemic wouldn’t do their sound justice.
Of the three songs on here, ‘Crash Your Face’, ‘Sleeves Rolled Up, The Team Rolls Up!’ and ‘The Highest Of fives’ I think it’s actually the latter that’s far and away my favourite. It’s the one that suggests just how much promise they have and where they might be going.
Post-rock pop doesn’t have to be an oxymoron; these guys and gal show that there’s blue sky thinking going on here, and very impressive it is, too.
Lonely Tourist is one former member of Odeon Beatclub, erstwhile Glasgow regulars, decamped to the Bristol area to “go solo” by the looks of things, although the track itself was recorded in Glasgow. Now picking up play on Radio Scotland and elsewhere, it’s not without its charm but very much in the footsteps of some who have gone before; I am thinking especially of one M Middleton (who LT interestingly supported at Bristol Thelka back in December 2009), whose tale of self-doubt and uplift via heavily Scots accented interior monologue verses are well known to many readers of itm.
This builds nicely from an acoustic strum to a bit of a military beat and some swirls of other instrumentation and has “future uplifting indie anthem” (Snow Patrol TM) stamped on the top – not sure, it’s halfway between two bar stools and mock turtle, I suspect the obviously quality songwriting and vocal delivery would have better effect exploring a different direction – other tracks are available on the Lonely Tourist myspace so this review may have missed the best of Lonely Tourist to date.
Now into their third EP, you’d think it would feel like business as usual for Edinburgh four-piece The OK Social Club. Named after their producer, Andy Howden, That Howden Sound collates three different songs of jagged indie-punk.
The fraction of a second of feedback at the start of opener ‘Getting Away With It’ is like being allowed a tiny breath before having your head thrust underwater at the deep end. The song is a Libertines-inspired track for people with a short attention span. The fast-paced guitars start and stop and the drums rush, with none of the sections lasting more than ten seconds before a change. The breaks in the song feel like moments where the runaway train has caught air, before it hits the ground again with a crash.
The hook of ‘Little Broken Bones’ is a call and response between guitar licks and vocal punches over snare-rolls, with a very Strokes-y chorus melody. The bass rattles and oozes through its punky riff. The lyrics sing of a rose tinted look at school day antics. The joy in this song, though, is in the razor-edged, distortion-drenched “rock out” outro.
‘RMT (Radio Days)’ is mostly an acoustic song, with a “la la la” chorus with sweet harmonies, but near the end it bursts into a red-walling distortion session.
In only eight and a half minutes the EP is over, leaving the listener definitely wanting more. But with three differently presented songs held together by straightforward songwriting, The OK Social Club have avoided any unnecessary sections or redundant repetition. They have simply cut out every ounce of fat from the tracks, presumably to help them slip into their skinny jeans.
Following on from last year’s rather fine ‘I Am the President Of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home)’ the Edinburgh five-piece have returned five another five track EP. It’s a winner that shows how they have developed, and if you’ve been enjoying the recent debut album from Kid Canaveral, then I’m pretty sure you’ll love this too.
Is there something different about an EP to a single? Well, I still maintain that there is, or at least should be. Namely that (a) you get more tunes for your money’s worth, and that more than one track therein should be on a par with the lead track. Ride’s first four EPs understood this… umm, twenty years ago now, and for their first eighteen months so did Oasis. Because what counts here is that every single track is excellent, and if I love ‘Funny For A Girl’ the most, then I also think that the sad but sublime ‘Standing Still’ and the closing ‘Listen’ are awesome as well.