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   Tuesday, April 20, 2010  
'It's gonna be a good year, don't you think so?'

But, persuasive as they are, don't just take The School's word for it. According to the latest edition of Mojo, this one month alone sees the release of 42 albums worthy of 4 stars out of five, ie 'brilliant'. By their reckoning that's 42 records just one star shy of equaling the most enduring, era-defining albums ever made. Aah, those crude ratings systems, you gotta love 'em.

But the more nuanced ones can be can also be faintly meaningless. In the latest of it's now ritual kickings of matt pond PA albums, Pitchfork awards The dark leaves a bafflingly precise 4.8 out of 10. Still, its an all-time high for Pond on that site...

..and, blimey, you can't turn round at the moment without running into another 5-star rating for the new Paul Weller effort, Wake up the nation (Guardian, Q, Indy, FT, Telegraph..). Mercury Prize for the lad? But whatever this record is like it ain't never gonna top his solo debut, a very strong candidate for this blog's Desert Island album. And to think he was struggling to get a deal back then (must've been the dodgy barnet):

Thanks to The Boy Least Likely To for that video up top from The School. And The Boy's own fiver-years old debut album, well, it just keeps on giving:

The prevalent aesthetic of The Delicious Ms Dahl, just so Amanda Applewood, don't you think? Anyway, what with this prog, the ING ad from a while back and now the current iPhone commercial featuring A fairytale ending off of The Boy's second album, who needs record sales?

But The Boy are mere amateurs at this game compared to the likes of US west coast duo The Weepies. Seems no US drama serial in the past 2 or 3 years has been complete without one of Deb & Steve's finely turned tunes - and two from new album Be my thrill have already aired on shows before the record's even out!

Dananananaykroyd reworking Linus' theme from the Peanuts cartoon? Hear here!

Neil Young-flecked indie-popsters Unbunny whose last Snow tires got a European distribution (more liked elsewhere than here) surface again: new album, Moon food and London date, even, at The Enterprise 18 May...
   posted by SMc at 3:47 PM |

   Saturday, March 06, 2010  
They're gonna loosen you up...

Some time in the distant past this blog fantasized about the perfectness that might emerge if ever M. Ward were to get his hands (so to speak) on the Be Good Tanyas. Unerring pop melodicism meets unadorned female folksy harmonizin', how good would that be? We're unlikely ever to find out, of course, but that may not matter so much now that the debut collection from LA's The Living Sisters is almost with us:

Given the way She & Him has turned out, that's not too far off, I'd say. Love to live is out March 30...
[the living sisters]

Collectively at least, new material or activity of any kind at all from the Tanyas themselves is nowhere on the horizon but but but...Frazey Ford does have a debut solo album ready to drop on Nettwerk. There's a song called Like you better available to hear here, its slinky vibe and distinctive vocal inflections being instantly seductive...

Festival line-ups coming thick and fast. To Latitude again or not? Tuesday's launch announcement has been impressively leak-free but it can't be any worse than last year music-wise, surely? This blog's only committment so far is the End of the Road in far-off September which is already encrusted with more alt-folk-rock cred than is strictly necessary. rr has been lobbying for some decent pop to lighten the mix. The aforementioned She&Him would be a screamingly obvious main stage selection but this blog might even settle for a distinctly less feted cute actress/husky singer-songwriter combo:

But if reallyrather was a betting blog its money would be on these guys turning up in the Tipi Tent (sometimes being crushingly obvious is very OK):

[peter wolf crier]
   posted by SMc at 5:53 AM |

   Sunday, January 31, 2010  
Fellow seekers after fresh pop brilliantness, rejoice...

The words 'bang' and 'on' spring instantly to mind, do they not? Taken from the latest Boy Omega album The ghost that broke in half which crept out in Europe late last year...
[boy omega][myspace]

...and if you like that you're likely to appreciate some even fresher greatness courtesy of matt pond PA. The building, instantly distinctive pulse of Starting is a (another) perfectly-constructed slice of keaning chamber pop and bodes well for upcoming new album The dark leaves. That bit from 2:25, holygoddamn! Hear here...

And that yummy strummy indie just keeps on a-comin'. Everyone's favourite Belgian combo The Go Find (whaddya mean you've never.., etc) launch album no.3 Everybody knows its gonna happen only not tonight anytime now. No idea if it'll end up a rr Top Tenner like the last one in '07 but advanced party Automatic is super-likeable. They're over here supporting The Album Leaf in March...

[the go find]

And, blimey, here's that Gentleman Reg back again with yet more top pop (maybe that should be Generous Gentleman Reg!). And if Wild heart, newly up on his MySpace, had been on last year's Jet black the album may have inched higher in this blog's Top Ten [see last post]...

Staying in Canada, Corey W. Schmidt aka Scarboro Aquarium Club's cover of an old Andy Kim song called How'd we ever get this way has only had 20-or-so listens over on MySpace and about eight of those of reallyrather's. Lovely stuff in a She & Him stylee, help remedy this minor outrage now...
   posted by SMc at 11:54 PM |

   Thursday, December 31, 2009  
The wrongness of everyone, the rightness of me...

...aka reallyrather's top 10 for 2009, being a mix of whammo guitar noiseage and expert popsmithing, occasionally on the same record...

[Coloured-in edition]

10. The xx / self-titled
Third best British debut of the year, alarmingly singular and chilled effort from these Putney teens. Where was this in everyone else's list, eh? Well?? Oh yes, sorry, in all of them, usually near the top. It's not that great but its certainly notable enough, seemingly taking its sonic cue from thing's like Gnarles Barkley's Crazy

9. Gentleman Reg / Jet black
But really, where was this on everyone else's list, eh? Eh?! Channeling the same uncluttered organic band feel as The xx but injecting a fizzing pop edge that record lacks, Canada's Reg Vermue dishes up more of his distinctive fiesty feyness. Got any other records in your collection by bearded gay albinos? Er, fill that hole...
[gentleman reg]

8. Silversun Pickups / Swoon
Continuing their stealthy climb up the sheer face of the mountain we call Rock (Grammy nom ahoy!), the LA quartet offers up more lashings of deftly modulated, treacle-thick riffage smeared over what are essentially cracking little tunes [see]. Pretty, bombastic...

7. My Sad Captains / Here & elsewhere
Where was this on everyone else's list, eh? Second-best British debut of 2009 and within the context of their slacker pop aesthetic a modest triumph. Fairly freighted with assured, naggingly likeable tuneage - if Linus from Charlie Brown had formed a band this would be it - certainly more durable than the likes of slightly more touted types such as, well, Fanfarlo. Cathy, come home!

6. A Camp / Colonia
So, where was this on everyone else's list? Oh dear, actually it was on that of 'Fleet Street's least credible music hack (stiff competition there), Neil McCormick of the Daily Telegraph. Goes to show everyone can get it right at least once a decade. Sturdy, diverting tunesmithing more or less from the tinkling opening of The crowning to the oriental wooziness of extended closer The weed had got there first. Sound.

5. Cut Off Your Hands / You and I
Where was this on everyone else's list, eh? Eh?! Seems to have been around for much longer but it says 2009 on my copy so its in. Ill-starred NZ quartet go for the '80s indie-guitar-pop jugular with this Bernard Butler-produced debut. The result? Blood everyfuckingwhere. All the 'up' tracks - just the nine of them - hit the back of the net. Good though it also is, this beats out the more shoegazey fuzz of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart's similarly-inspired debut set.

4. Wheat / White ink, black ink
Where, oh where, was this on everyone else's list? OK, so this band have been a bit of a reallyrather weakness over their stop-start existence but chuffin' heck, they've only gone and done it again. With the drummin' ever more direct and between-the-eyes, Brendan and Scott continue to distil their mercurial but effortlessly melodic pop leanings whilst continuing to avoid popular embrace. Strange, most strange...

And so to the top 3 which have revolved - and continue to revolve - in order over the months. But we're pushing the stick between the spokes NOW so the ranking goes:

3. M. Ward / Hold time
Nothing really left to say about Matt Ward and his seemingly efforless command of the 2min50sec bulletproof pop melody, gorgeously, glisteningly rendered. Distinctly more rewarding than the enjoyable Monsters of Folk offering, Ward here adds a nice line in Roy Woods-ian glam stomp. Unquestionably pleasurable stuff all the way through, as per...

2. Dananananaykroyd / Hey everyone
So where the chuffin' heck was this on everyone else's list, eh? Eh?! Hey everyone's thrillingly ectoplasmic splurge was only the best British debut of the year, that's all. How folks can embrace things like the fee-paid faux-folk of Mumford & Son over this is mystifying and a tad depressing. What a relentless belter this is with its mile-high wall of screamo riffage shot through with tightly-wound, whip-smart guitar figures and endlessly restless arangements. Infinity milk, Song one puzzle and hands-down song of the year Black wax are just some of its many peaks. Beaten to the top only by...

1. White Denim / Fits
...with their greater light 'n' shade and smarter editing. Well, it is this Texan trio's second go, Dana.., you'll learn. Coming in at barely 37mins this is a fantastically varied set (way more so than they can pull off live, in truth) ranging from thrillingly derivative acid-rock Jimi/Zep/Cream-isms to the verdant plains of acoustic melodism occupied by contemporaries the likes of Annuals and Plants & Animals. Guaranteed to kick out the jams, the pickles, the chutnies and any other preserves you still have lying around, this record has appeared in some lists, sometimes even near the top. They know and now so do you...

   posted by SMc at 12:30 PM |

   Sunday, November 22, 2009  
"For those about to folk, we salute you..."

...the so-called Monsters of Folk didn't say at their show last week at The Troxy in east London. In fact, they hardly said anything at all (and what they did utter was mostly in Spanish!), content to, yes, yes, let the music do the talking across a three-hour set. It seems a tad perverse to complain of too much music (it, after all, being what we've paid for) but this blog at least would happily have traded a couple of the 30-odd numbers for, well, a little more conversation, a little less action.

Specifically, a couple of the Bright Eyes songs, even though some of Conor's compositions on the MoF album - Say please, Ahead of the curve - are as good as anything on there. Even though Oberst is the most high-profile of this gang if any of their number seemed to have been shuffled forward for frontman duties it was Matt Ward. Which is slightly amazing when rr recalls the reticent figure he cut on his first London visit, his honeyed rasp emerging from the shade of a long-peaked baseball cap at the Arts Cafe half a lifetime ago. And its equally amazing, reading some of the show feedback, that there's still apparently plenty of folks around who haven't woken up to Ward's greatness. OK, his songs on the album don't take much spotting, their sheer M.Ward-ness rendering them impervious to his cohorts influence. But if you can stand there alone with an acoustic and deliver a song like Chinese translation so completely winningly, who needs the others?

That said, the show proved that no song ever suffers from having Jim James singing harmony, being nowhere more evident than when Will Johnson - yes, the Will Johnson - stepped out from behind the drumkit to duet his own song Just to know what you've been dreaming. Due to an oppressive security presence on permanent camera patrol you'll just have to imagine how pretty it sounded:

And, blimey, if folks' thought their M. Ward revision was daunting they'd better said aside the whole of 2010 for Johnson's..ooh, dozen albums is it now? He told the local press recently how the Monsters gig came about...

Yep, some folks you can just rely on. Amongst the early rr bankers for next year are matt pond PA's The dark leaves and whatever The Weepies will be calling their fourth collection. This blog has been in Deb & Steve's corner since, well, February 1 2004 to be exact, and the snatches of new material to be heard on this bit of vid suggest the well is far from dry:

[the weepies]

And when The Weepies do get round to flying the nest again for some touring Haley Bonar would be a great fit for the west coast sweep now she's in Portland. reallyrather makes no excuses for pushing Big star yet again (tho' she's three-parts finished the next one - Nettwerk, make that call!). Here's the fourth-best track:

[haley bonar]

Just as 'Christmas' seems to start ever earlier so too the 'Year End' lists season. Last week came the Rough Trade Top 60 for 2009. Fair enough this is a shop list and probably quite a handy marketing tool sales-wise over the next few weeks but from this blog's POV, tho' it does rank The XX release no.1, the total absence of another British band's debut holes its credibility below the water line:

   posted by SMc at 6:24 AM |

   Tuesday, October 27, 2009  
Though in truth his music doesn't totally hit this blog's spot, there's plenty engaging about Tom Brosseau's vaguely distracted, generous personality live in performance. And even more so when it's augmented, as at the Windmill in Brixton last Thursday, by empathetic assists from no less than Shelley Short, native member of fertile Portland alt-folk scene on her first UK.
Sharing a kind of artless, timeless aesthetic, the pair's all-too-brief set conjured a transporting back-porch reverie (even if the spell was shattered the instant rr stepped out the door to encounter a blaring police BMW ripping past the venue to the latest crack den atrocity or some such).

Read more about Shelley here. This blog totally loved her handmade limited edition debut five years back [go] but was not anticipating taking receipt of the on-order new one (A cave, a canoo - hear/buy) this side of Christmas thanks to the UK postal lack-of-service. My explanation really wasn't a blatant hustle for a freebie, Shelley, but thank you again...
[shelley short][tom brosseau][anikainlondon was there too]

Shelley is an original Portlander(??) but the scene's magnetic pull for girls with guitars has attracted another long-time reallyrather favourite Haley Bonar, recently relocated from the mid-west. How on earth her super-accessible last album Big star wasn't more widely picked up on is just another of life's baffling mysteries (see also: Gravenhurst's The Western lands, matt pond PA's Emblems and, er, most other albums favoured hereabouts). Surely its only a matter of time before she's signed up by..Nettwerk? Anyway, just before she hitched up her wagon and headed west she did a turn down at the zoo (as you do):

Meanwhile, back at the Windmill, earlier on the bill were the very taking melodies (if slightly gauche lyrics) of Iceland's Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir aka Lay Low. When the lap steel accompaniest kicked in the sound approached the airy, lovelorn luminosity of Sweden's long-and-lamentably lost Laurel Music [here hear]:

[lay low]

In any line-up of reallyrather's imaginary festival there's usually a place for The Tyde, LA's proto-surf slackers who can hardly seem to muster a tour of the West Coast let alone Europe. So we must grateful for what we can get, which is Darren Rademaker solo, opening for The Shaky Hands at The Lexington Nov 5...

...and also next month a UK debut for Florida's '60s orch-pop classicists The Postmarks...
   posted by SMc at 8:03 AM |

   Sunday, September 20, 2009  
To the fourth End of the Road Festival at Larmer Tree Gardens on the Dorset/Wilts borders. A lovely pit-stop in glorious sunshine amongst the fruit & veg at the nearby Pythouse Kitchen Garden augered well and, weather-wise at least, EotR IV proved to be the best one yet. Sold out some time in advance but capacity still excellently (and, methinks, crucially) held at 5,000, there were few musical surprises and the usual over-representation of Americana earnestness but still offered way more interest than your average festival (and certainly more than, say, Bestival barely 50 miles away which was ran over the same weekend)...

Favourite act of the weekend turned out to be one of the last to perform, boy-girl guitar & drums combo Wye Oak from Baltimore. Sitting down front in the Tipitent on Sunday night, their brand of driving shoegaze proved a distinctly more compelling proposition live than on disc. Andy drums with three limbs and plays a little synth with the other while Jenn churns out delicious cascades of shimmering guitar noise beneath her proto-indie girl vocal. Necessarily focussed and to-the-point, this set was a treat and highlighted the relative lack of choice indie pop on offer...
[wye oak]

Apparently, like quite a few other hot tickets playing the Tipitent, plently of folks could only hear Wye Oak, not see them. The feel and look of this space was superior to its predecessor but its layout and points of entry need rethinking. Still, if you were smart and determined you generally didn't have to miss out - get there early enough and there was always plenty of space down the front, just don't look back. Young Swedish sisters First Aid Kit were another act many couldn't get in to see but this blog had Position A for their pristine harmonic folkisms:

But it was another, way more American-flavoured, Swedish country-folkster who proved probably the biggest 'break out' act of the weekend, The Tallest Man on Earth's confident demeanour and super-vibrant picking coupled with a voice that simply obligated a singing career holding a huge crowd's attention in the Big Top. Didn't ask 'em but reallyrather suspects the nearby Rough Trade shop's supplies of Kristian Matsson's CDs were entirely hoovered up within minutes of his set ending...
[the tallest man on earth]

Other notebook entries: ..excellent post-Saxondale comedy courtesty of Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine in upcoming shoestring movie Le Donk ... fantastic pizza tent - great grub, great vibe thingy ... Shearwater again showing their swelling substance, brand new material easily holding a goodly Garden Stage crowd rapt ... those way, way too moorish Shepherd's ice creams ... Loney, Dear still crap at ending songs live, undermining willing ovations time and again ...

So, should you snap up an early bird discounted ticket for the EotR 2010? Even though there's not nearly enough optimistic indiepop pleasures and the plaid shirts 'n' beards brigade does predominate, reallyrather is voting 'yes'. Magazines-wise, the festival is equal parts Uncut, Plan B and, perhaps mostly equally of all, the late-lamented Comes With A Smile. Take the contents of any back issue of the latter and you could easily read it as an EotR programme (rr is amazed never to have spotted Matt Dornan at Larmer Tree over the years). Of course, if founders Simon and Sofia have taken inspiration from that publication they'll know that there's one glaring omission from their programming thus far...

...matt pond PA! Come on, guys, and save me the trouble of having to put on my own fest. mpPA's next album The dark leaves is slated for early 2010 with producer Louis Lino (Emblems, Several arrows later) back in the saddle and another bold showing is more confidently expected than the prospect of some UK shows...
[matt pond pa]
   posted by SMc at 6:28 AM |