Friday, 18 January 2013

Hooks, Rats And Sinking. Plus something of the Night

A New Year brings a new start to the blog and a resolution to make sure it is actually updated every Friday afternoon, work permitting. It will happen ;-)

New Year's bring new things generally in our artificial music world. Bands that were signed in April of last year have been held in captivity in order to ensure their appearance in the Sound of 2013 list and so, as every year, we have a plethora of 'new' acts to enjoy. Co-incidentally Loudhailer has taken on a few new things of its own for this bizarre sounding year (2013 just doesn't look right to me on the page, possibly superstition coming from a family where hanging out the washing on New Year's Day was a no-no as you will 'wash someone out of the family before the year is over').

Two of these new contenders played London this week and a good time was undoubtedly had by all who saw them. They are as alike as an orange and an apple but there you go, I always did hate mono-rosters.

Wednesday was the first night out post New Year when Balthazar played a sold out Lexington. Their second album, 'Rats', which is, somewhat confusingly their debut UK release comes out on Feb 25th and they tour with Local Natives in February but it was a pleasure to see a full show from them in the company of Edith Bowman (a big fan) and Gary Lightbody amongst others. Channeling a Gainsbourg spirit but creating a modern groove based chanson the album has that Loudhailer defining quality of being a complete body of work rather than a few songs chucked together and was undoubtedly a big favourite on the Jamieson stereo over Christmas. The show was no departure, building an atmosphere of intensity that grew throughout to the final note. This is probably not something I should do with the album not being out but here's a link to 'Sinking Ship', my favourite track from the album and, hopefully, a post album single.

Last night was a return Northwards to see Velcro Hooks play Artrocker's New Blood Festival. I first saw them last year at a Howling Owl night that Towns played. They were a revelation. I won't easily forget walking in to a packed room at 830 and spending half an hour transfixed by this transmission of the spirit of Pixies channeling Television, Sex Pistols and who knows what else (but most of it noisy and off kilter). To have them on the roster is a big honour and I truly believe that, along with Towns, they will put not just Howling Owl but Bristol on the map. They also have the best 'how we formed' story I have ever heard which involves Guatemala, moustaches, Canadian fishing boats and more. But more of that soon. For now, enjoy the genius of 'Girlfren' from last year's sold out 'Gymnophoria' Ep and already something of a live legend.More soon on this, if you don't have the EP you really are missing out.

The third of the new generation actually got moving at the close of 2012. Night Engine's rise to prominence is suprising even me, which shouldn't really be the case I suppose. Or at least I shouldn't be saying that but there you go. We knew they had tunes and we knew they were clear what they wanted to do, what we didn't bank on was two pages in The Guardian as a tip for 2013, a sold out London debut show last year and reams and reams of online coverage marking them as ones to watch for this year. Not that we're complaining and not that we don't think its deserved. If you caught 'I'll Make It Worth Your While' last year on its journey around the web then you'll know why there's the fuss but the debut single drops 18th February and The Borderline headline follows on the 20th so very exciting times. If you missed it, here's a link to the Guardian piece

and here is 'I'll Make It Worth Your While' for your listening pleasure

Aside from Loudhailer stuff and noting that The Joy Formidable's 'Wolf's Law' album is getting the great reviews it deserves, Glasvegas plans for their album are shaping up nicely and Editors are back in the studio there has been much of interest already in 2013, not all of it happy.

When I first started buying records, HMV was my destination of choice. It felt more real than Our Price and Virgin, probably as a result of the heritage and the staff (at least in the Preston and Blackpool stores) knew about music. I still have a set of Bauhaus albums bought there with Christmas money in 1983 in their protective plastic sleeves. It's demise should be a source of sadness for me but I just can't get there. Watching my brother work for ten years at first the Cardiff store and then the Preston store and become increasingly disillusioned with the way it was being run didn't help. Managing Larrikin Love and being told that their local store had taken 6 copies of the debut single (which sold out in one hour and weren't restocked until the Monday following) definitely added to it. Walking into the Oxford St store last year and being overwhelmed by an immediate urge to go to Fopp or Rough Trade or anywhere nearly sealed the deal. Then being told I couldn't try a pair of noise cancelling headphones (£250) at the London Victoria store and would need to go to 'a bigger store' did it. Run down by bean counters, deprived of genuine music lovers within its staff, chopped and changed from a music store to an entertainment store to an entertainment conglomerate it shared many of its problems with the labels that serviced it; out of touch management living in the past assuming that because they had always been there they were untouchable. Now, like those labels, they are toast. That's capitalism. Here's hoping that the space created is filled by real music stores staffed by people who give a shit and know what they are talking about. In the meantime this excellent piece by Bob Stanley, a year old though it is, says it all. Thought - music once drove fashion, currently fashion drives music. That's what we have to change.

Christmas was an excellent (and rare) opportunity to read. CJ Sansom's Shardlake series now has me hooked. As does his other, non medieval novel, 'Winter In Madrid'. As a fan of Faulks and Carlos Ruiz Zafon he could have been made for me. One of the fascinating things about his Shardlake series, set in Tudor England, is the constant feeling that the nature of power and those who wield it has never changed, nor will it. If you like a decent 600 page cleverly written but readable novel then give it a go. And if you happen to work for a tv or film company surely this is made for an adaptation. Beats the living shit out of Mr Selfridge anyhow (which is possibly the biggest piece of dross I've sat through in some time).

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