Bits and Pieces of News for an Easter Sunday

Laid low with the dreaded sinus decay I am taking the opportunity to catch up on a few things that have come into my hearing of late…..

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Sic Alps following the successful fourth, and self-titled album, last year,  San Francisco’s Psych Pop-meisters  are back with a 12″ single thingy with three great tracks – delightfully packaged and played it is released on May 20th on Drag City. Highly infectious music and most enjoyable….the three tracks will be featured on the Aural Delights Podcast.

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OM’s Advaitic Songs album was a particular favourite of last year – two tracks ‘Addis’ and “Gethsemane”  from the album were handed over a while back  for dubplate reworking by UK roots and dub legends Alpha & Omega.  This has resulted in two releases ‘Addis’ was released on Drag City on 18 March with ‘Gethsemane’ will be released on 20 May.
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Also looking forward to “Ark Procession” b/w “Jericho” the first Al Cisneros (Om’s bass player and vocalist) 10″ offering for Drag City, in June. As a taster I’ll be featuring the original version of “Gethsemane” on this weeks podcast.
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 Silent Cities is the music project of  experimental recording artist, Simon Maddison. Originating from a small town that basks in the shadow of the ‘Angel of the North’ in the North East of England, Maddison having recorded countless demos in a makeshift bedroom studio, began to acquire attention and acclaim from several BBC radio presenters both locally and nationwide. Now residing amongst a community of visual artists, songwriters, and events organisers in Liverpool the first Silent Cities EP is due for release on the 18th May 2013 and is secretly streaming at the website . I’ll be featuring the excellent “Haptophic” on the podcast.
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Still in Liverpool we have a band called The 69 Watts who describe themselves as “a glam tinged psychedelic blues rock and roll band”. I was reminded of mid 70s Rory Gallagher with a slightly harder edge. Most enjoyable – and i’m featuring two tracks on this weeks podcast.
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On April 29th, Melvins will be releasing their brand new album “Everybody Loves Sausages”. A fascinating album of cover songs, tastefully done and hugely entertaining, in parts. “This record will give people a peak into the kind of things that influence us musically,” explained Buzz Osborne (no relation!). “We REALLY like all of these songs along with the bands who actually wrote this stuff because first and foremost we are HUGE music fans.”  With a decidedly Melvins approach to a covers album, the band not only selected a unique assortment of songs to cover, ranging from Roxy Music’s “In Every Dream Home A Heartache” to Queen’s “Best Friend,” (which is not exactly working for me as a listening experience)  they also enlisted several friends to take part including Mudhoney’s Mark Arm joining them for The Scientists’ “Set It On Fire” and Neurosis’ Scott Kelly pitching in on a cover of Venom’s “Warhead” (which is excellent). While the release is billed as a proper Melvins’ album (featuring the line-up of Osborne, Dale Crover, Jared Warren and Coady Willis), there are a handful of songs recorded as the Melvins Lite incarnation of the band (Osborne, Crover and Trevor Dunn):  “Female Trouble” (Divine a.k.a. John Waters), “Timothy Leary Lives” (Pop-O-Pies) and “Romance By Tales of Terror” (Tales of Terror). Standout track is a version of Bowies’ “Station to Station” with JG Thirwell on guest vox.
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On to matters of a Sonic Attack podcast bent and a track from Belgian band Hessian from their Southern Lord debut “Manégarmr” has been made available. A rabid surge of energetic punk/metal-infused hardcore raging with a blistering solo and pummelling breakdown with a total by-the-throat approach, on par with acts like Ringworm and Southern Lord mates All Pigs Must Die, “Plague Monger” is it’s title and it’s embedded below for your consideration.

As usual Lauren’s promo on this is spot on “From the onset, the combined musical backgrounds of this quartet featuring members of Amenra and The Black Heart Rebellion, and part of the Church Of Ra sect fell effortlessly into place, pushing a sound that was at once pummeling, devouring and empowering across the rural fields where they started rehearsing. After a well received debut EP, a split 7″ with Amenra, a split LP with Pale Creation on Magic Bullet Records and countless shows throughout Europe, HESSIAN have found a new home with Southern Lord who will unleash the band’s debut album, “Manégarmr” on 13th May”.

Hessian
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The Trade are a 5 piece Rock band from the Angus/Tayside area…… http://www.the-trade.co.uk …..  and they have a new single out called “Fight Club” Taken from their debut album “Lie in the Dark” which was recorded at Chem19 Studios in Hamilton, home of Chemical Underground Records, by Jamie Savage.  The album was released in 2011 but the band have been biding their time to release any singles from it till the felt the ‘time was right for guitar music to hit back’. The band is made up of, Ross Milne (Vocals), Sean Hollowmind (Drums), Stevie Morris (Guitars), Liam Moir (Guitars) & Drew McLaren (Bass Guitar & Backing Vocals). Impressive sound and sufficiently unique as to require a dedicated listen – I especially liked Milne’s vocals.
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My chum Mr Christopher Dutton (Kill Pretty, Factory Star, Blue Orchids, Silver Sound Explosion)  who calls himself Carton Head for the purposes of his solo work, has uploaded a new track to Mixcloud, called “The Death Path Conundrum”, which is a lovely piece of ambient music. We are attempting to secure a copy from his dead lap-top for podcasting which seems appropriate given the title of the piece.
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Neurot Recordings have announced the  release of the debut from Arkansas southern rock collective Iron Tongue. Fronted by Chris “CT” Terry, the founding frontman of -sludge band Rwake,the band were  formed when a group of veteran players with diverse musical backgrounds found a common interest in the need to “get down and dirty and way, way gone.”  Churning a soulful blend of earthy, heavily amped, blues-based rock, the band offer up songs of pain, regret and heartache that recall everything from the proto-metal stomp of Blue Cheer and Grand Funk to the darkest hours of Kiss, Deep Purple, Buddy Guy and ‘Skynyrd.  A split 7” with The Dirty Streets, featuring a ballsy version of KISS’s “Two Timer” served as a precursor to the creation their debut full-length for Neurot.

Entitled “The Dogs Have Barked, The Birds Have Flown”, the seven track offering was recorded and produced by  Billy Anderson (Melvins, Sleep, Neurosis, etc) at  guitarist Jason Tedford’s Wolfman Studios. Steve Von Till describes the album as “a solid slab of balls to the wall of shameless rock, with a power and an edge and soul that rarely exists in music today,”. The album is set for release via Neurot Recordings on May 27th in the UK. I’m hoping to get a promo copy before then.

Iron Tongue

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The promo on this next one says…..”Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of former North East favourites Cut Glass Accent, Digits deliver bold, proggy alt-rock that’s as intricate as it is heavy.  Writing, gigging and recording in their current guise since 2012, Digits are ready to release their debut EP, “Acquiesce to Violence”, a sonic sledgehammer of fists-in-the-air choruses and explosive rhythms. Beyond that, the plan is to keep spreading from their homebase in Newcastle. “We’re looking to get out on the festival circuit to spread our sound even further,” says vocalist Chris Bradley.”

I’ll be featuring two tracks on Sonic Attack this week. ” Acquiesce to Violence” will be released on 6th May 2013 via digital download. Pending that here’s a vid-chip.

May – in hindsight

It has just struck me that it is June 16th already and I have not commented on last months activities. This tardiness is down in no small part to a combination of a deluge of new music of somewhat biblical proportions, coupled with a rather nasty virus which laid me low for a week. Anyway enough of my moaning what can I say about May?

Well three major gigs dominated the month.

And it all kicked off rather magnificently with a stunning day as part of the Sounds from the Other City Festival at The Crescent. All of the bands were excellent and the general bonhomie and beers of that fine pub make for a great venue for live music. A pity there are not more venues of a similar size about.

Cramming five bands into nine hours seemed almost brave when first contemplated but the combination of an excellent sound man and Strongbow fueled coordination meant it all went well. Apparently there was a lot of ligging going in the beer garden which I missed. The only downside of the day was I missed both Charlie Barnes and Day for Airstrikes who clashed with some of the acts at the Crescent. The highlights are too many to list but The General not endorsing a brand lager as part of The Blimp set sticks in the memory as hoot of the day.

A couple of weeks later the five bands of SFTOC seemed a tad simple in comparison with the dozen at Mayfest. Islington Mill was the venue and a combination of high winds, mixed messages, and other distractions made for a fraught albeit but very successful day. Again all the bands were excellent and we managed (thanks to Michael from Neuron No) to capture some of the sets live which will be played on the radio over the coming months.  The Souls proved to be as excellent as they always promised to be and Positronik’s debut outing demonstrated a lot of potential. A lot of lessons were learned on the day both collectively and personally. Ambition is fine (and you’ve got to admire it) but stress is a killer and if and  when it is done again it will be less complex. There is also a developing new mathematical formula built around Murphy’s law which roughly indicates that 20% of bands you book for an event are likely to drop out due to any number of reasons – so always have a back-up plan. Many kudos to Frog in the Wall for lending us their PA on the day which made the acoustic stage work much better than we could have anticipated. The award of “Gig of the Week” in the Manchester Evening News was a great honour and we  have to publicly thank all the bands and SCR DJs, managers and board members who turned up on the day to assist.

And finally, a week later, – Salford Against the Cuts – another excellent evening at the Mill with five bands and a lot less stress this time. Musicallly a little more challenging with three of out of the five being unknown to me but a great set from Death of the Strange – the third of their gigs I had seen in as many weeks – and a powerhouse bravura performance from Trojan Horse. And not being directly engaged in coordinating stuff  I was able to enjoy the music.

On the wider music front, as indicated at the beginning, there has been a serious amount of new stuff coming in – a very quick canter reveals:

  • Doctrines – excellent debut EP with a fresh sound and a challenging approach to form and structure
  • Positronik – initial tracks released which demonstrate considerable promise
  • A very catchy single from The Tapestry
  • A marvellous ambient album from Ian Breen under the guise of “Claw the Thin Ice”
  • A great piece of psychedelia from “Salford Media City” a band operating out central Salford.
  • A very interesting EP from Belle Vue demonstrating a unique math take on pop.
  • A slight change in direction from Day for Airstrikes into film soundtracks which was most enjoyable.
  • Excellent new tunes from Trevor Sensitive and the Locals.
  • A raft of great new albums from Efrim Manuel Menuck, Bass Drum of Death,  The Cosmic Dead and Verma, and many others far too numerous to mention,
  • Finding new (to me) bands like The Smitten Ones, Entangled, and Lilies on Mars.

And if you thought that was busy then wait until the June overview comes around.

There was been some considerable (as yet unfinished) discussion and work to bring a broader spectrum of local music to more of the DJs on the station and I think the Mayfest event assisted in doing that but what is clear is that there are a raft of bands/singists out there in Salford that we have not yet uncovered yet.

What is also clear that we need to establish a more consistent broadcast radio platform for our local musicians as it is more than evident that self-promotions and sales would appear to be the way forward as the traditional music industry processes wither slowly and inexorably in the context of the digital age. This is the age of Bandcamp I would suggest!

So in the context of the above we are developing some ideas around mutual promotion of local music in the spirit of the community based approach of the station. However it is clear that the SCR community is becoming increasingly global with the approaches we are getting from musicians around the world. Some ideas around this will emerge in the next few weeks or so.

I also intend to put together some ideas/advice from upcoming bands about the best way of getting music to us for broadcast as the variety of approaches we get from people is mind-bogglingly varied – from the detailed and professional all the way down to the plain weird. I was extremely  dumbfounded to find that the university courses for musicians don’t appear to include advice and assistance on music promotion in  radio/internet  and , whilst it is a broad and moving and complex church, I do feel it would be helpful to give people some pointers – which will also make our lives easier in volunteer radio.

Album of the Year? Already…..!!???

Well the first quarter of the year is over and already I’m seriously conflicted about what is going to be making the top ten when December comes around…..there has been an embarrassment of riches to blast 2010 into oblivion and frankly there have been so many I have not had chance to blog on them all…so in an attempt to keep some sort of grip on my failing memory here is the top ten  roll of honour so far……they are in some sort of order of preference but that may change when the year has unfolded…..there are loads more to add to the list but frankly i’ve been otherwised engaged on other projects to get to them…….

  1. Factory Star – Enter Castle Perilous
  2. Kin – Flickering
  3. Fall Fan Dave and the Lap Top Dancers- Yelling Boil
  4. Danny Short – Love Has Gone
  5. The Love Load – The Human Resourceful
  6. Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion
  7. Grails – Deep Politics
  8. Van Der Graaf Generator – A Grounding In Numbers
  9. Across Tundras – Sage
  10. Magnus Ostrom – Thread of Life

On the EP side of things the choices get more stark and difficult with excellent releases from Doctrines, Mock Duck,  Crash of Rhinos, Elk, and Day for Airstrikes which just about scraped into April, and many more too numerous to mention. The variety across the ones listed here is amazing – a pity that there cannot be wider audiences for these excellent bands.

Similarly so on the single side of things with Mummy Short Arms, Belle Vue,  The Tapestry, Borland/From the Kites of San Quentin and others providing a wealth of new material which beats the crap out of anything that’s in the charts.

On the local scene Twinkle & Co continue to astound with their mix of 60s pop, psychedelia and modern Manc tones, and we wait with baited breath for the debut albums from Sandbox and Death to the Strange. Periscope and The Happy Fallen have delivered great work together and separately, and all of the bands on the Sways lable are excellent. I was particularly pleased to be able to focus on the excellent Superstar Destroyer lable and the Souls continue to amaze and astound with their great sound. Also great to see some new material from The Hired Help. Positronik have risen phoenix like from the ashes of Pearl Divers and the initial work shows great promise. Kudos also for Mancini Fires and Jealous.

Further afield I have been getting a lot of material in from South Wales, Australia, Canada, and America which is gratifying that our community station is able to reach world wide to music audiences and musicians.

The release that gave me the greatest joy this month though was the excellent Doctrines EP.

May will  be busy with three massive gigs at Sounds from the Other City, Mayfest and Salford Against the Cuts so I hope to be reporting back on them in due course.

March 2011 Overview

A busy, busy month with lots of new things coming in through the old interweb and by various other sources who wish to remain nameless.

Very quiet gig wise but  hoping to remedy that in April and May where things look to be getting a tad oversubscribed. My biggest dilemma is on May 1st where I definately need to be in two places at once – Pharoah Sanders is at the Band on the Wall, and Helmets for Men have some stunning bands on at The Crescent – cloning or a Tardis is the only answer I think.

Album wise – other than those already reviewed on this here blog -I would single out Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion which is extremely good indeed – their blend of twangy americana and doom laden reverb soaked atmospherics is remarkable – both referential to what has gone before but also suitably forward looking. In addition the new Moff Skellington album has arrived on a USB stick – as usual his mix of off kilter whimsy and sonic experimentation is well worth a listen – he is trying to work out how to get it out there at the moment. Notable also the albums from Obits (Moody, Standard and Poor), Young Widows (In and out of Youth and Lightness), and Crash of Rhinos (Distal) are well worth a moment of your time.

EP wise – its been incredibly busy – with the standouts being the releases from Sways, and Gulf Records and the split that Well Wisher have done with Polina. Also I am working my way through a pile of excellent stuff from the Outlier lable, all of which seems remarkably good. I’m about four weeks behind with my listening at the moment due to the amount of stuff coming in. I won’t bother to comment on the mainstream stuff as that gets a good hammering elsewhere.

In terms of the local scene new material  from The Hired Help, Periscope, The Black Knights, The Souls, Ghost Outfit, and Glassheads is all good. I have been extremely impressed by The Asteria, Mancini Fires, Phil Davies and the Ninjasmokebombs and the nu-electronica coming in from The Black Paths and Flying Gypsy. Gnod and Trojan Horse continue to amaze with both their work rate and excellent music – and the descriptor prog-nouveau seems to found it’s way into the local patios – who’d have thunk that Eccles would be the birth-place of a new progressive rock music – there you go.

There are around 40 new bands which came to my attention in March but the stand out one was Glasgow’s Mummy Short Arms who have an amazing sound…..

Highlights of the month –

  • The new Van Der Graaf Album
  • The new Factory Star Album
  • The new Crystal Stilts Album
  • Getting the OK to release the Hamsters Sonic Diary session as our free download number three
  • Organising the Mayfest event and getting some great bands to commit to supporting the radio station

Huge disappointment of the month was the decision by Pearl Divers to call it a day. This was a great pity as they were a band with a unique sound that were liked by a lot of people – I hope the various members all find success in their new endeavors – success which sadly eluded a great live band with some memorable tunes.

A big thank-you to all the bands and artists who have sent me material and communicated with me over the last month – it’s very rewarding to get feedback about the radio shows and hear what you have to say. For those of you cannot be bothered – as Uncle Frank once said – “eat chain”…!

february 2011 overview

February turned out to be an incredibly busy month.

Gig wise things have been a bit sparse due to ongoing sciatica problems (in essence if I stand up for too long in one place my back starts hurting) so i’ve restricted myself. This meant I missed the excellent Kayo Dot at Islington Mill, but I did manage to catch the first Helmets for Men of the year, and at least part of the farewell Kin gig. The highlight was seeing The Blimp and Factory Star at FAC 251, and it was of great pleasure to see Mike Leigh and Martin Bramah so obviously enjoying what they are doing at the moment. And seeing The General play a keyboard with his chin is worth the price of admission alone.

New music continues to flow into the radio station at an incredible rate. Something in the realms of 5-10 new musical offerings arrive on a daily basis and trying to keep on top of it all, and more importantly listen to them, all is a task in itself.  The amount of new material, especially from the Salford Scene necessitated the negotiation of an extra hour of time on the stations schedule so Tuesday Nights at 10 is the time and place for a show called somewhat obviously –  Salford Music Scene.

Show production has been made easier by the purchase of a nifty little USB microphone which essentially means I can record the bulk of the programmes at home, and leaves me with some options for podcasting those pieces of music which do not quite make it onto the broadcast radio shows.

In terms of specifics the following are the months highlights and themes  for me :

  • New albums from Fall Fan Dave and the Lap Top Dancers, Danny Short, Moff Skellington and Kin have all proved to be exceptional and building on their work to date they are all vying for album of the year – and we are only two months in, They are all self releasing material now, an increasing trend in an industry struggling to cope with illegal downloading and frankly too much music being released (more on that point later)
  • New Salford bands are emerging regularly and i’ve been impressed by Well North of Watford, Twinkle and Co, and The Asteria but the find of the month has to be The Souls who we believe to have great potential.
  • Borland have been busy sorting out their new album, on which I have contributed a remix, and doing some very strange things indeed with classic mainstream pop tunes which I will get to play shortly. Rob and Ian are investing in some new hardware at the moment which should make the Borland live experience more technically complete. Having seen Jonn Dean’s Vei for the first time now it is interesting to see how a new form of musicianship built around the new technology is becoming as increasingly relevant as traditional musical instruments.
  • A new album from Tim Berne is always a pleasure and whilst the latest – Insomnia – is an older recording from 1997  I always find time to sit and listen to his complex and thought provoking take on jazz. I also got round to getting the Phronesis album which is excellent and manages, to some extent, replace the missing annual offer from the great EST.
  • The first EP from Neuron No is rather fine indeed and reinvigorates my believe that there are musicians out there who are willing to do new things and sound unique in a market which appears to be teetering along on a huge raft of skinny indie kids copyists.
  • Dead Sea Apes “Soy Dios” was excellent …..
  • The SWAYS record lable releasing three excellent singles.
  • ……..and finding out the marvellous Warm Widow who just happen to be as good live as they are on record.

To finish on a somewhat negative note I am slighty disappointed, as alluded to above, that the industry at the moment is tending towards repetition and cloning, there is, as I said before a simply unbelievable amount of new material being released by record companies. I do not get a sense of anything really new coming through other than what is emerging from the disparate scenes around Salford, Manchester and Bolton at the moment. There are one or two exceptions to the rule as noted above but, as an example,  there is just too much post-rock out there at the moment which sounds exactly the same from album to album – viz slow start with mournful cello sounds and ambient chittering, picked guitar picks up the theme, builds to an orgasmic climax and then dies away to the first bit again – optional extra is some spoken word either at the beginning or the end. All a bit too much of the same thing.

Anyway the positive thing is that the Salford scene is healthy and doing well so there is a lot to look forward to!

january 2011 overview

The latter weeks of December 2010 and January 2011 have proved to be particularly busy in respect of new music and unsigned bands coming my way. I’m struggling to find space in the radio show to fit them all in and whilst my chums at the 9 O’clock Alliance at Salford City Radio are assisting by picking up on some of the tunes I am still wading my way through a pile of MP3s and albums that arrive on a daily basis. It’s difficult to see how I can fit them all in and I need to give some thought to how some of the better acts can get some exposure.

An opening observation after all this listening would be that “rock is not dead” – I read an article in some inky newspaper somewhere that “comedy” and “wintendo” (Sic) had replaced “rock” as the new “youth” obsessions. This type of narrow thinking tends to obscure the fact that a lot of people over 25 (say) still listen to music and have the disposable income (even in these times of belt tightening)  to spend on it and there are an awful lot of musicians out there keeping the rock sub-culture alive.

So here is a quick canter through the material that has come in the last eight weeks or so (and which has not got a “big” review on this blog) – of which, as I say, there has been a lot….i’ll pick up on the more recent stuff in the February overview.

Skankadelia – from Leicester and Salford play an up tempo pop ska which is immediate and catchy. All excellent musicians and with a front woman with a marvellous voice they have been away for a while but they are back with a plan for world domination and they have the songs to do it. Brimming with great melodies, choruses and hooks they are destined for something great if they get the breaks.

Bill Davro – are from Warrington and play sharp indie pop songs – they have a current sound but they don’t copy the London groups of the moment and have set themselves aside from others of that ilk. I don’t normally listen at length to music which follows current fashion as it all tends to get a bit samey but these guys have a certain something that requires listening.

John Snow Band – are from Norway and manage to meld a great guitar sound with pop idioms which transcends into indie rock. They have good control over light and shade in their songs which gives a great cinematic feel. They are recording an album at the moment which I certainly am looking forward to listening to.

GlassHeads – hail from Wigan and play driven dual guitar tunes – and are well worth a visit to their My Space page to listen to their current single “The Error of Your Ways”.

Andy Hay – sent me a couple of his songs.  He writes beautiful tunes and self produces his stuff at home on “£200 gear”  you wouldn’t know it given the quality of the recordnigs, and he has a great voice and plays well. I am anticipating a CD with some more music which should be good based on what he has sent me so far.

Glass Ankle – have been getting a lot of exposure lately- they were in the Metro paper the other day – not suprising really, marvellous tunes and a good acoustic/folkly/indie feel….

Robin James – has a unique voice and a style which manages to grab elements of early Nick Drake and push them into a dreamy psychedelic landscape…..

The guitar wizardry of Apparently We Fly is right up my street. Somehow they can grasp Marr like picking and put it in a math-rock agenda. Almost like the offspring of a coupling between something post-punk and post-rock with a bit of genetic tampering around the edges. I’m blissfully ignorant of what might have inspired this sound but regardless of that I love their brashness.

Secret Garden Gathering are a 5 piece band from Liverpool formed in 2010.   Their sound is somewhere between the realms of Indie, Folk and Psychedelia. Comparisons have been made to Jefferson Aeroplane, The XX, Fleetwood Mac and The National.

Danny Short has sent me a copy of his limited cassette only release “Darkened Corridors of Winter” which combines his more experimental sonic stuff  with his melodic pop side into something rather special indeed. I aim to play some of this during February.  His new album “Love has gone” is due soon.

Nick Warren sent me the latest single from Spencer Cloud and the Range Brothers an absolutely breathtaking piece of garage rock – with an amazing vocal from Mark Range. Hopefully 2011 will see this band get the exposure it deserves. It’s called “Hypnotise” by the way!

Guile are from Manchester and make a wonderful racket – their “Alone on the West” song is simply marvellous.

Albums which have tentative recommendations and  which I intend to play on the show eventually are listed below. They are in the pile to be listened to again which seems to be growing a little to quickly for my liking:

  • Baton Rouge – Fragments D’Eux Memes
  • Braids – Native Speaker
  • Covenant – Modern Ruin
  • Ducktails – Arcade Dynamics
  • Glassjaw – Our Colour Green
  • Iron and WIne – Kiss Each Other Clean
  • James Blake – Echoes
  • Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die
  • Sey Hollo – Growth
  • Social Distortion – Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
  • Talib Kweli – Gutter Rainbows
  • The Decemberists – The King is Dead
  • Wire – Red Barked Tree

Hopefully I will get round to reviewing these in the next few weeks.