I Had A New York Girlfriend

When music historians look back on the latter half of the 2010s two key things will become clear from their research. Firstly how the hell was Ed Sheeran/Mumford and Sons/Coldplay (delete as applicable) so successful when other bands and artists, clearly more talented, remained largely unnoticed?

Secondly, why didn’t my DJ chums (with the notable exception of Dave Hammond) pick up on the first The Seven Twenty album when I made it my album of the year in 2015.

Three years on from that first album The Seven Twenty are back with a collection of songs that were written around the time of the first release and have been languishing waiting for a record label with any degree of common sense to pick up on them. Such are the vagaries of the music biz these days the band have set up their own label to release it.

In a pub in Prestwich about a year ago I was berating Stephen Doyle about the need to find “The Grant McLennan Moment” in the outpourings of singer we were watching, who was trying hard but I was not connecting with. The “Grant” moment is that bit in a song where you get a shiver up your spine and you smile from the inside out. Very few musicians can do it. Capturing a moment in time through songwriting and making it last is an art. James Burling can do it, and he has a group of musicians around him that can deliver his vision. Their new album does the “Grant” thing on every track.

The Seven Twenty - band promo image 2018 - please credit Stag Lites Photography where used
The Seven Twenty (credit: Stag Lites Photography)

“Joy” is the second album from The Seven Twenty. It was written on a plastic guitar in New York in four days and brought back to the UK where it was polished and developed, before being finished in New York in the Summer of 2016. They have created a collection which is every bit of a triumph as the debut. I’d go as far as to say it’s better than the eponymous first release in that it is better produced and has a complete suite of songs feel about it. The thematic thread of the album is love, but a love separated by distance, lack of resources, cultural divides, and other distractions. New York, as a place, runs through the album with Paul Auster like psychogeographical abandon. Musically it is rich and memorable, with lush string arrangements, epic sweeping moments and also a  great deal of fun.

Burling can be firmly placed in the list of great songwriters like Forster & McLennan, Ray Davies et al. He captures the essence of pop/rock music and modernises it, you will recognise some of the themes, arrangements and melodies in that he has taken the ingredients that make a great song and distilled them into perfect little parcels. On one occasion the similarities to a track by a group from Birmingham are a little less tangential than they ought to be but manage to avoid being a copy/pastiche, in any event, anyone under the age of 55 wouldn’t probably get the allusion/illusion/connection that I got.

Comparisons can and should be made, in part, with The Go-Betweens. A female drummer and great songs are the pedantically obvious points.  What I mean is that this is a quality album in the adventurous spirit of Spring Hill Fair with the sentiment and accessibility of 16 Lovers Lane. And of course, Robert Forster had a solo album called “I Had A New York Girlfriend”.

 ‘Joyʼ is released on 22nd June 2018 on limited run vinyl and digital formats.

The Seven Twenty are James Burling (guitar, lead vocals), Stewart Harris (bass, backing vocals), Geoff Hinkins (keys, backing vocals) and Helen Robertson (drums, backing vocals). Stewart also plays in The Scissors and Helen & Geoff play in Goddamit Jeremiah (whose album I must get around to reviewing as well).

 “Joy “is the first release on the bandʼs Whiskey Ward Records label.  Order it here.

The promo says the album is already being described as a “cult” classic. It transcends cult status in my mind, it ought to be huge. Whether they will be able to break through the 6Music glass ceiling is in the hands of the gods, and luck, I’d guess but I already know that at least three community radio DJs will be featuring the band, I challenge my other DJ chums to ignore it at their peril.

Will it be album of the year 2018? Possibly but there are already six other contenders which are as good, and it is only June, so you’ll have to wait until December to find out.

As for Ed Sheeran and the others? Well, I don’t really care about them.

The Seven Twenty - Joy cover art

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Album Of The Year?

Yes it’s that time again……and with it being a very busy year I thought i’d better prepare the long-list early on…..so in no particular order the candidates for this years “Best Of…..” not jazz albums… I’ll whittle it down to a top ten in due course, and I may well include some other ones I have missed and some things in the pipeline which look like they make the list.

There are a couple of very strong front-runners at the moment and after that it all gets a bit difficult…………

  • The Seven Twenty – The Seven Twenty
  • Niche – Heading East
  • Heroin In Tahiti – Sun and Violence
  • Dilly Dally – Sore
  • The Holy Soul – Fortean Times
  • Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek
  • The Lancashire Hustlers – What Made Him Run
  • Moff Skellington – Scribnalls
  • Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Just Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Think
  • Robert Forster – Songs To Play
  • Bouquet of Dead Crows – Of The Night
  • Dave Graney – Once I Loved The Oceans Roar
  • Monkeys In Love – Take The Biscuit
  • Corrections House – Know How To Carry A Wip
  • Esmerine – Lost Voices
  • Dead Sea Apes – Spectral Domain
  • Moff Skellington – The Corkscrew Tongue
  • Liberez – All Tense Now Lax
  • Vienna Ditto – Circle
  • JD Meatyard – Taking The Asylum
  • Ken Mode – Success
  • Dead to Dying World – Litany
  • Myrkur – M
  • The Creeping Ivies – Your New Favourite Garage Band
  • Ought – Sun Coming Down
  • Big Brave – Au De La
  • The Happy Fallen – Lost and Found
  • Cryin’ Queerwolf – Diva
  • Alif – Aynama -Rtama
  • Dave Graney ‘n’ The Coral Snakes – Night of the Wolverine  (Expanded)
  • ZX+ Don’t Drink The Water
  • Author & Punisher -Melk En Honing
  • Dave Graney & the mistLY – Play mistLY for me – live recordings vol 1
  • Flies On You – Etcetera
  • Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
  • The Go-Betweens – G stands for Go-Betweens : Volume One 1978-1984 (yes I know it’s a box set but it’s too good to ignore)
  • Moff Skellington – The Corduroy Bridge
  • The Fall – Sub Lingual Tablet
  • Minimi Deutsch – Minimi Deutsch
  • Anna Von Hauswolff – The Miraculous

3 Lines 17 Syllables

The Seven Twenty

Haiku (Single)

Castles In Space/Bandcamp

30th October 2015

seven twenty Haiku

I wrote about the forthcoming album from The Seven Twenty a few weeks back.  A track from that album appears as the lead on this debut single, which precedes the main release by four weeks. You also get three tracks which do not appear on the album.

Aside from my love of the lead track, which is one of the many high points of the album, James Burling’s excellent song-craft is at play on the remaining tunes. From the surging motorik punk rush of “Get Your Affairs In Order” via the sprightly guitar driven “Cameo”  to the wistful tongue in cheek pop of “There’s No Trick To Getting A Lot Of Women” you get a clear indication of the variety of material the band can deliver. I’m reminded of the playfulness of Kevin Ayers, and Robyn Hitchcock at his best. Lyrically strong, and with hooks that stay in the head this is quality stuff.

Highly recommended.

 

No Free Lunch To Be Had Here……

The Seven Twenty

The Seven Twenty

Castles In Space

30th November 2015

The Seven Twenty - The Seven Twenty - cover art

It’s a small world, for example the musical threads between Cambridge and Salford are pretty strong at the moment, despite the distance.  Dave Hammond (Cambridge 105FM) and I are sort of revolving around the same musical firmament albeit in slightly different directions. I send him things, he gets bands to send me things, I hear things on his fantastic Smelly Flower Pot Show that I end up investigating etc etc. That has ended up in German Shepherd records doing things with Bouquet of Dead Crows, who in turn know, and have worked with, James Burling, who in turn, sent me the new album from his band The Seven Twenty.

I’m glad he did.

Listening to music as a more or less full time occupation can lead one to be a little jaded, somewhat dismissive and often quite bored with the tsunami of things that come in seeking some form of support. Once in a while though something comes in which immediately grabs the attention and makes listening to music completely worthwhile. From the opening notes of this album I knew it was a classic.

The Seven Twenty are an indie rock n roll band from Cambridge, England, and are signed to Castles in Space Records . Their self-titled debut album (catalogue number Cis005) is released on 30th November 2015, preceded by lead-off single ‘Haiku’. The album will be available via all popular digital stores, and on limited edition 10” vinyl.

The Seven Twenty are currently a three piece, comprising James Burling (guitar, lead vocals, songwriting), Stewart Harris (bass, backing vocals) and Helen Robertson (drums, backing vocals). The line-up is expanded for the album.

This is an album packed with wonderful songs, memorable melodies, marvellous lyrics and a great sense of fun.  Burling is a master of song-writing with an easy, open style which grabs your attention, he mines the rich history of english and american pop tune-smithery, without resorting to cliché, to create a timeless collection of ear-worm tunes which call to mind the Velvet Underground, Steely Dan, The Go-Betweens and 10cc at their best.

It’s a short set – eight songs in 30 minutes – but from the opener “Corridors” with it’s slow blue eyed soul, rich strings and delicious wah-wah solo from Neil Bruce from Bouquet of Dead Crows you are drawn in and held prisoner by an album with a great collection of excellent tunes. The single “Haiku” is pure pop heaven with a raw guitar and vocal hook which requires repeat listening. It’s the sort of two chord thrash that Lou Reed would have made laconic or taciturn, Burling makes it joyful. “Wonderful” has a Spectoresque quality, with a dash of Black Francis that would not be out of place on an early Pixies album. “Coca Cola Can” with it’s sparse string arrangement could have been an early Jagger/Richard ballad,  “FU, NY” is all springy acoustic guitar with an early Paul Simon vibe, and “90 MPH” has the exuberance of something from “16 Lovers Lane” mixed with a cut from “Katy Lied”, and a dash of Calexico, with a plaintive deguello closing the song.  “Technicolor” is in the best tradition of indie-pop songs,  joyful and celebratory , and closer “(Can’t Find No Love In This) City” acts as a perfect end to a fine collection.

The debut album was recorded in New York, London and Cambridge and includes tracks recorded in Henry Rollins of Black Flag fame’s apartment, with the New York City Choir featuring on the track Wonderful. The first single, Haiku is already gathering praise from local and national press, and the band have supplied a specially recorded track for an Oxfam charity compilation to be released in late October 2015.

A short interview with James revealed a few more details about the album, the recording process and the bands history……

Who plays on the album? Strings/Horns etc

I play guitar and do the vocals, Stewart Harris plays the bass and we had an endless stream of drummers through the studio door as we couldn’t seem to hold one down for very long for some reason.

Neil Bruce from Bouquet Of Dead Crows plays the lead and some addition guitar on Corridors, the big epic solo on the end of Wonderful and the one on 90 MPH too.

The strings are by the Lower East Side String Quartet (who I met in a bar when I was recording the early sessions from the album), the trumpets on 90MPH are by a mariachi band’s trumpeter (we wanted to get the full band on there originally but decided we HAD a full band anyway…) and we borrowed Huw the drummer from Stewart’s other band for Haiku because he’s super cool and I wanted to get him on that track cos he’s fun to hang out with.

The New York City Choir (met them in a bar too) let me go sing with them (God knows why) one evening even though I was semi-drunk and didn’t know what they were singing then I somehow conned them into learning Wonderful and recorded 40 of them in a bit school hall with 20 mics 6 months later when I went back. That was a NIGHTMARE to mix, I should have used stereo mics and been done with it, but it sounds pretty huge. That one was mastered to tape for a little of that 60s saturation sound, the guitars were recorded in the rehearsal room that The Strokes used to use and we got a guy from Abbey Road to engineer the drums to get a bit of that old school sound on there – he did the ones for City too.

Have you played in, are you currently in any other bands?

None – I’m an awful musician and terrible to be around. Stewart fronts his own band called The Scissors and he’s one of my favourite songwriters EVER and Helen our new drummer who come after the recordings but just in time to play this live does some solo stuff and seems to be in some other bands too. She’s crazy talented – she writes these sweet little pop songs then the punkyiest catchiest Ramonesiest stuff as well

What are your main musical influences?

I’m much more a ‘songs’ man than a ‘bands’ man – I’ll fall head over heels for a track but not like much else a band does. There’s a Beatlesy band called Cotton Mather from Texas who are INCREDIBLE though, I love most of what they put out and I’m trying to trick Stewart into loving them too – I LOVE the Strokes first album, some Velvet Underground stuff, Ryan Adams about 50% of the time, Aphex Twin now and then, God Only Knows by the Beach Boys is the most perfect pop song I think I’ve ever heard but I can’t quite get into anything else by them, most of the Beatles singles, about 25% of the Rolling Stones stuff I guess, a little hip hop now and then…lots of stuff. I end up being more inspired by a single tune much more often than than being enamoured by a particular band.

Stewart likes loads of bands no-ones ever heard of and he listens to them whilst watching old B movies that no-one’s heard of either.

Have you got your tour dates yet? Are you playing in the Manchester area?

We’re only 3 or 4 rehearsals in with Helen right now so we’re still piecing things together but we’ll play anywhere that will have us – we’ll probably get the album launch done then line up some proper dates from there. New York next May, definitely up for playing Manchester, love it there!!

How did you end up in Henry Rollins apartment?

I went Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow then took a cab from the airport (haha).

You can rent it on the internet, its above a hotel in the Lower East Side. It has weird acoustics, a doorman who wouldn’t let me in when I was drunk one night even with the key and he had a signed picture of Jet (remember them?) on the wall. He wasn’t there when I was there, he would’ve hated what I was recording in his kitchen / bathroom I think – I took a laptop and some mics and holed up in a studio near there and recorded a few bits in the kitchen in the evening. The cop car sound and the arppegiated guitar that closes the album was me playing on the fire escape outside the bedroom window – the cop car siren playing along was a complete fluke, a miraculous little act of god that I didn’t even realise when I was recording it cos I had headphones on. I was like ‘WTF is this?!’ when I listened back.

When you won “Best International Act” what was it for?

Local Radio (Cambridge 105) does an awards show, and by being the only act to have left the country that year I think we won. We’re much more popular in America than here currently and 75% of the album was recorded over there so I guess we’re kinda international.

Why the trumpet solo at the end of 90 mph?

I always had that in my head since I wrote the song – I imagine a 60s Cockney bank robber running off to the Costa Del in a Mk2 Jag to lay low, and as he looks out of his window he feels a twinge of pain at what he’s done. HOW PRETENTIOUS!! Mainly though its cos it got stuck in my head and I couldn’t shake it…which is a nuisance cos I can’t play trumpet or apparently write sheet music for a trumpeter to play off easily. It worked out though.

The sample at the start, incidentally, is from an old 60s vinyl I found at a flea market in Brooklyn – it’s an entire album of little spoken word passages designed to replace a DJ on a Spanish speaking radio station – so they never had to pay any on-air talent to talk between songs! Genius!

*

The Seven Twenty played a string of sold out shows in New York in 2014, before resuming their usual local touring schedule back in the UK, and James was dubbed “arguably Britain’s Best Songwriter” by Cambridge 105 FM. In January 2015 The Seven Twenty won Best International Act and will be appearing in the UK and US in support of the new album throughout 2015 and 2016.

The Seven Twenty can be found at

Castles in Space can be found at

  • CastlesinSpace.com ,
  • Facebook.com/CastlesinSpace