Jon Gomm: Don't Panic - Album of the Month - January

Genius can take many forms. In Jon Gomm it has manifested itself in a guitar abusing pioneer who definitely pushes the boundaries of the instrument in a way that many have tried, but rarely manged to achieve. This the second album from the Leeds based guitarist has been a long time in the coming. A wait that has proved fruitful for the listener.

Album opener Waterfall casts a hypnotic percussive spell, complete with lyrics in Urdu, that shows off many of the techniques that fill this album. It is hard to put into context what exactly Gomm is creating here without seeing him live, but the music on display is strong enough without the visual aspect of his performance.

The beautiful Temporary is a haunting and beguiling piece that brings the best out of Gomm's slightly nasal voice while the instrumental Topeka proves his guitar prowess (as if any were needed). The Weather Machine is an epic masterpiece laced with Middle Eastern influences
and certainly makes a nod in the direction of Gomm's long time hero Nick Harper.

This is an album of great beauty, outstanding musicianship and fantastic songwriting. This is an album that is for listening to late at night or on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Like a comfy pair of slippers or your favourite pajamas, there is something warm and comforting about this record.

In the acoustic scene Gomm is revered and quite rightly so. While the likes of Erik Mongrain, Preston Reed and Andy McKee seem to get the column inches, none can match the playing, personality and songwriting ability of Gomm. It may only be January, but is looking like if you only buy one album in 2010..... make it this one.

[][][][][] (5/5)

~ Sunday, 31 January 2010

Josiah Wolf: Jet Lag

Wolf takes some time away from his day job as drummer with the excellent WHY? to stretch his legs on his own and shows that he has an ear for creating endearing folk tinged pop. The lo-fi production is on display from the beginning as album opener The Trailer and the Truck crackles into life with looping marimbas, disjointed drums and the low monophonic drone of the Hammond organ holding it all together. Wolf has an expressive and pleasant voice that is quite unusual in its own way.

The whole vibe of the album is reminiscent of Belle and Sebastian, but without the art school pretensions. Sure there is a certain tweeness to the proceedings, but that only serves to make it all the more enjoyable. On The Opposite of Breathing the instrumentation is quite sublime and Wolf's vocal performance could have you thinking Jonathon Richman has popped into the studio. In fact come to think of it most of this album feels very much like a Jonathon Richman record
. That's a good thing in my book.

I like this album a lot. It just works. Take Skull in the Ice for example. It's simple, yet there is a lot going on and that is why it works. This is not one dimensional music. There is something new that reveals itself with every listen. In The Seam is a joyous affair, like a modern day hymn, that really does put a smile on the face even with the slightly dark lyrics.

Album closer The One Sign is packed with atmosphere and is sparse, soulful even, the tape allowed to run at the end picking up the intriguing yet undefinable sounds in the background.
This is a great album that keeps giving and I'm sure I'll be enjoying it even more 6 month from now.

[][][][][] (5/5)

~ Thursday, 28 January 2010

Chad Neaves: Something In My Soul

It's a tough old world out there for the singer songwriter. There are millions of them plugging away, singing their hearts out, yet only a few will actually receive any recognition. It's not always a level playing field and the public are a fickle lot. Just look at James Blunt. The plastic population could not get enough of his insipid sterile acoustic pop at first, then.... well you know the rest. Blunt has happily been replaced with the likes of Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz and this may prove the making of London lad Chad Neaves. Neaves music has that summer vibe going on and this coupled with his rich voice and good looks may well make a star of him.

Something In My Soul is an album filled with funky acoustic pop that is hugely infectious. Opener Wonderful Day is simple, yet it is lifted by Neaves spirited vocal performance, though it is one of the weaker tracks on offer. Neaves knows how to craft a pop song and demonstrates this on the excellent 7 and This Is War. Both have a whiff of James Morrison about them, though Neaves voice is far more poppy, but no less warm.

It could be said that this is not the most original album you will hear and Neaves certainly plays it safe throughout, but sometimes playing to your strengths is exactly what is required. Take In My Jungle and You Mean More. These songs lodge in your head. Songwriting that is infectious, simple and leaves plenty of room for that voice to do its magic. Playing to his strengths all the way. This album is an assured and confident piece of work that is sure to have the majors sniffing around. Remember the name.... I think we'll be seeing a lot more of Chad Neaves.

[][][][] (4/5)


Baby Scream: Identity Theft

I’m completely split over Baby Scream’s seven track mini album Identity Theft, released on Recorded Recordings. The band are basically Juan Mazzola, a talented Argentinean songwriter with a fixation but also a clear love for Lennon. The problem with aspiring to sound like the legendary ex-Beatle is no matter how close you think you’re getting to identity theft (ha, see what I did there?) you end up sounding like a Lennon impersonator but unfortunately it’s not Winston O’Boogie your getting, it’s probably closer to a Julian Lennon impersonator.

On one hand you’re left thinking, what’s the point of going to all this bother and difficulty to make a decent attempt at sounding like your hero when you clearly have the songwriting talent be more original? On the other hand, you’re thinking it’s clear you can write and sing and this release does have an endearing quality. On songs like Memories and Nicole there’s some tidy guitar playing and a clever melody.

Having said all that, it’s a decent collection of songs recorded with some nice touches. Definitely one for the Lennon fans, just as a curiosity.

There’s no denying Juan Mazzola is a decent chap and his determination and resilience might surely see some type of breakthrough and this could happen by writing more songs like the stand out track Underground Blues. As long as he steers clear of the buttons on the recording studio mixing desk with John Lennon on Imagine, John Lennon on Walls and Bridges and John Lennon on Double Fantasy he’ll be fine.

[][][][ (3.5/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Destroy Nate Allen: Perfect Recipe For A Smile/Don't Let This Smile Fool You

The husband and wife duo of Nate and Tessa bring us a lo-fi songbook of singalong punk folk in the vain of BMX Bandits or They Might Be Giants that can be both wildly catchy and extremely annoying in equal measure. What we get here is two albums on one cd. The first half being the duo and the second being Nate solo. Of the two offerings it is the solo stuff that is the more pleasing, mainly due to the fact that we are spared the voice of his other half that has no hint of either melody or tuning. Coming from a city that's slogan is 'Keep Portland Weird', these guys are living up to that mantra.

With the first half we find ourselves exploring love, life and protest songs.
In Turns Out You're Perfect For Me and Loving You we find Nate and Tesse telling us how they feel about each other and the idiosyncrasies that each of them find endearing. Endearing to them perhaps. They obviously spend a fair bit of time on the lyrics, but they tend to be to personal to allow the listener in. We'll leave the first half here as there is not much to recommend.

Second half is Nate and a banjo. Now, if I was to listen to an instrument on its own for 10 songs, the banjo would not be high on the list, but surprisingly it doesn't grate anything like expected. Humour is to the fore when we kick of with Phil Collins, which contains what are perhaps the greatest lyrics ever written when Nate sings 'I'm not Phil Collins, but I may be Henry Rollins bangin' out a tune on this ol' banjo'. Now that is poetry. The bluegrass tinged Guitar Strings is a throwaway love song that has little to do with guitar strings, but is sweet never the less. The best is saved for last with Pardon Song, a nonsensical piece about belonging and self discovery that shows what this record could have been.

You get the feeling listening to this album that these guys love what they do, but it
borders too much on the amateurish to be taken seriously. Having said that I'm sure this works as a live show and would love to see them live.

[][] (2/5)


Erland and the Carnival: Erland and the Carnival

There is a fair bit of expectation upon the shoulders of Erland Cooper. Having being introduced to ex Verve guitarist Simon Tong and David Nock, drummer with Paul McCartney's The Firemen, by renowned producer Youth, the Carnival was born. Musically their sound is a mish mash of influences that comes mainly from the 60's progressive British folk movement, but there are also definite shades of Beefheart and Love going on in there.

Erland and the Carnival sound quite unlike anything else around at the moment. Perhaps Fleet Foxes or The Corel would be the closest, but there is an intensity and depth to this album that is quite unique. The songs themselves are mainly made up of reworkings of folk songs from the four corners of the British Isles and beyond, but you would be hard pushed to recognise any of them. Their version of My Name Is Carnival is sublime. The Jackson C Frank song is a personal favourite of mine and it's a brave man who takes it on, but full credit to Cooper as the Orcadian has cast his psychedelic moon dust on it and has perhaps bettered the original, but not Bert Jansch's version. Tramps and Hawkers is one of the most recognisable covers on here, known by most from the version by the late Luke Kelly and The Dubliners. It retains the feel of their version and is brought up to date with chopping drums and chugging guitars. Disturbed This Morning takes a poem from the king of melancholy Leonard Cohen and set it to an original piece of music. The result is dark and mesmerising particularly given the sexual undertones of the words.

The album is brought to a close with the wonderful The Echoing Green. A song that sits slightly out of place musically with the rest of the album, but also works perfectly with it and has single written all over it.

This is a new take on folk, or an old one depending on your point of view, but either way it is an incredibly intense and satisfying one. Come December this album will be sitting on top of many a persons album of the year list.

[][][][] (4/5)

~ Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Maneatlikepig: A Glorious Egg

If music is about cranking it up to eleven and not caring what the neighbours think, then Maneatlikepig is just what Doctor Feelgood ordered. Take three times a day and listen to loudly. They do their own thing and clearly enjoy it. Their rocking opener Freak em Out sets the tone with guitar hooks reminiscent of Dr Feelgood and the Hives.

There’s punk and rock and even some prog so all the boxes are ticked. These guys know their musical chops and there’s a nod to the Stooges on Kiss Me Baby. We take an interesting detour by Soaking My Mind all with it’s own Yardbirds guitar hook and the feel of those Nuggets compilations of classic UK 60’s garage psychedelia. By Pigdog and 5 Year Stretch we enter into Captain Beefheart and Cramps territory.
You can also hear Blue Cheer on Black Oil Blow and The Fall on English Town.

The band can play, with great drumming throughout, especially on Zephyrus.

Music in its purist form is about entertaining and Maneatpig do this with a tongue warbling in their cheek, even to the point of parodying Pink Floyd in the final track, Pig Fluid.

It’s not sophisticated or hip or filled with grace but what you do know is that they have a great record collection and they’re clearly enjoying themselves. The only downside is why it’s taken them so long to get this out? If they did it 10 years ago, they would be stars by now.

A Glorious Egg is available through all local records shops and the usual outlets but also can be bought for £7.99, that’s 8 quid in old money via their label website at


Review by Charlie Brown


W Finch: Asthill Grove

Coventry based songwriter Wes Finch has produced a small masterpiece with this record. It is fair to say that he has been helped in no small way by the 14 other musicians that have contributed their talents to it and especially the production skills of Paul Hartry. This record has warmth flowing through it.

Finch has a voice that is hard to place. There is a twang to his vocals, kind of like The Kooks Luke Pritchard doing a Ryan Adams impersonation, but unmistakably English. The voice suits perfectly the folk/pop that is Finch's stock and trade. Opening with the short and teasing Wooden Hill, we get a glimpse of delights to come. Air, Land & Sea is one of the most beautiful songs that I have heard in many a year. It builds and falls with faultless grace and had me reaching for the repeat button more than once.
Both Aint We The Lucky Ones? and Jack To Do arrive like long lost friends, open armed, smiling and comfortingly familiar. I say familiar as many of the tracks on here have the feeling that you have heard them before. It's not because they sound particularly like anyone else, but rather because they are instantly likable. This is an album that works from the first play. A special mention has to be given to The New Waltz where an anthemic version of Mickey Newbury's An American Trilogy is incorporated into the chorus. An unexpected surprise that works a treat.

This is a well crafted album from an obviously talented artist who deserves to be heard. Move over Ryan Adams & co, there's a new kid in town.

[][][][][] (5/5)

~ Sunday, 24 January 2010

Fordante: The Arrival

It's not often that we get to review a classical album. In fact this is the first. It is also refreshing to actually have a classical album of all new compositions rather than interpretations of well know works that seem to be the industry standard. Fordante are a quintet of musician, all with strong pedigrees, formed by composer and arranger Phil Mountford whose previous work includes television and film scores. Now, when many hear the word Classical they tune out and in many cases for good reason, but this album may just change that view.

Mountford takes his cue from many a great composer, Vivaldi and Karl Jenkins for example, and this may explain why much of the music has a familiar feel to it, but his writing also has elements of Latin, Middle Eastern and pop that makes this an accessible album for those who would not consider themselves a fan of this genre.

The playing throughout is passionate and uplifting. Great credit must go to Rebecca Dawkins, Shulah Oliver, Catherine Price
and Rebecca Rose for thier faultless performance and understanding of what Mountford is trying to achieve. Listening to this album it is obvious that Mountford has a background in composing for tv and film as many of the tracks feel like they could slot into an Agatha Christie period piece. You would not be surprised if the Latin flavoured Tango was to be heard in an episode of Hercule Poirot.

Not everything works though. Chase with its drum and bass style drum breaks makes for an uncomfortable bed fellow with the rest of the instrumentation. It really is a disastrous combination. This is the exception rather than the rule as Mountford proves he is capable of producing work of real beauty with
The stunning Italian Love and equally beautiful Lament. Both are touching and heartfelt piano based pieces that are brought to life by wonderful string arrangements and truly conveys the emotions of their titles.

This is an unexpectedly refreshing album that has broader appeal than its classical roots. While the overall sound of the album could not be described as original (as Mountford borrows to heavily from those who inspire him like John Williams and John Barry), it is still a wonderful piece of work.

[][][][] (4/5)

~ Saturday, 23 January 2010

Standard Fare: The Noyelle Beat

Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation are quickly becoming one of our favourite labels here at TMC towers. They seem to have a knack of finding quirky bands that have a penchant for making great music, and all from Sheffield! With a roster that includes Cats For Peru and Katsen, Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation are an indie label that are showing the majors how it is done. Their latest release comes from indie popsters Standard Fare and the band have produced an incredibly infectious and catchy album.

Their indie tunes have a pop heart that is instantly likable. With most of the vocal duties taken by bassist Emma Kupa, they bring to mind the spiky pop of Orange Juice or Altered Images. Her vocals have a slight nasal quality that is actually quite endearing, but it is when vocal duties are shared with guitarist Danny Howe that prove to be the highlights of the album. A Night With A Friend, Secret Little Sweetheart, Edges and Corners and Be Into Us feature the afore mentioned combination and the vocal interplay really lifts these songs to a new level.

Some of the songs on here, like Dancing and Fifteen, remind me of Vampire Weekend and lets face it, not a bad band to be compared to. This is a mighty fine album from a band that are sure to stay on my radar for the future, especially when they can write songs like I Know It's Hard. A song that is as near to total perfection as you can get. Buy this album. You won't regret it.

[][][][][ (4.5/5)

~ Friday, 22 January 2010

Alex Hall: Motion Picture

Hampshire singer songwriter Alex Hall's sound is rooted in the 60's, but that does not mean that it's not a refreshing sound. This download only single is a well crafted acoustic piece of pop that sounds like Paul Simon, The Beatles and The Kinks in equal measure while retaining its originality.

His performance is self assured, the vocals restrained with an undeniable warmth while the subdued drums drive the whole thing along with the guitars doing just enough to make their presence felt. Credit must go to the well crafted and amusing lyrics that tell the story of an imaginary film that plays out in Hall's head. This is a catchy little tune and well worth the 69p cost to download it. I like it very much.


Moonhill: One Eyed Jack

Listening to this album is a bit of a strange affair. It's folk and bluegrass with schizophrenia. This all instrumental album has some excellent playing on it, especially those instruments with strings on them, but there is something that just doesn't sit quite right. Tracks like Excessive, Five, and Bone Creek feature shredding. For those who are not in the know, shredding is guitar w**king of the metal variety. Some may say that Moonhill have invented a whole new genre, folk metal if you like, but ultimately it sound like someone is a Stevie Via fan and went to the wrong audition and ended up in a folk band.

As I said it is hard to knock the musicianship on display here and the songwriting is accomplished. I probably would have liked this album if it was not for the over zealous guitar heroics of Luke Bishop. It really is relentless as he lays waste to Celtic Medley, Uncle Sid and Big Bill. Enough.... seriously.

Moonhill say in their press blurb that 'They are genuinely impossible to pigeon hole' and describe their sound as 'totally unique'. Perhaps there is a reason for that. This is possibly the most irritating album I have ever heard.

[] (1/5)

~ Thursday, 21 January 2010

David King: Son of Strangely

This is the second album from the Scottish guitarist who describes his sound as smooth jazz. His first release, Strangely Familiar, was an excellent all instrumental album of classy jazz infused pop with guitar to the fore and strong hints of The Blue Nile about it. King has chosen to stick pretty much to that winning formula.

Again we are served up an all instrumental offering, but while the guitar is still right out there, King has brought the other instruments more into play. Piano and strings feature more prominently than before and the arrangements stray more into dance territory ala Miguel Migs
or Jay Denes giving it at times a chilled deep house vibe like on The Blues of House and Out of the Hemisphere.

The strength of what King does is in what he doesn't do. He doesn't try to show off. He doesn't try to jump from style to style. He knows what he is good at and sticks to it. Very good at it in fact.

While there is not a bad track here, there are some that quite simply stand out. The breezy Steely Dave makes nods towards Donald Fagan and co in its feel, but this is a classy original piece of summer infused pop that instantly transports you to some sun kissed beach. The salsa intro to Good Cop Bad Cop with its heavenly brass section gives way to a jazz infused chiller that even George Benson would be proud of before that stabbing brass re-emerges, but it is with the Tom Petty sounding Satisfied that he excels, ironically the only track on the album that King didn't write.

Is it as good as his debut? Well it is, just different. He takes more risks here and he gets away with most of them, but the electronic backings can at times feel clinical, but that is a minor niggle on a very accomplished album.

[][][][] (4/5)


The Hush Now: Contrails (single)

We reviewed The Hush Now last year with their single Wishing You A Happy Christmas and while it was a pleasant enough little ditty, it was marred by the weak vocal performance of front man Noel Kelly. We're pleased to say that Contrails is a much stronger song and a nice little taster of their forthcoming album Constellations.

Kelly's vocals are still the weakest part of this band, but he gets away with it this time as the song itself is a stormer. With shades of Dinosaur Jr, Weezer and Teenage Fanclub about it, this could certainly find them a bigger audience. It has indie anthem written all over it.

~ Wednesday, 20 January 2010

My Son The Hurricane: Check The Barometer (ep)

11 piece funk/blues/hip hop collective My Son The Hurricane are a strange beast. Imagine Fishbone jamming with De La Soul and you get close to what these guys are about. It's not particularly original and the lyric are pretty laughable, but the music has an infectiousness that comes through. Like they are having a hell of a lot of fun. This is music with a smile on. Sadly though, they have a weak point that is hard to ignore.

Of the four tracks on offer here it is Back Pocket that has its groove on. This is a sexy slab of funk with a slow groove that could easily fill a dance floor. The MC vocal style of Jacob Bergsma sit uncomfortably most of the time with the music behind it. Big Red works until Bergsma opens his mouth. The lyrics are truly atrocious and he sound like a parody of Vanilla Ice. When a bit of self restraint is applied by Bergsma, MSTH work, but unfortunately that doesn't happen much and it starts to irritate. Hard to see how this could work over a full album when the novelty quickly wears thin after a few plays of this ep.

~ Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Kria Brekkan: Uterus Water (7" single)

Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir (aka Kria Brekkan) is probably best known for her work with former band múm, but this Icelandic chanteuse has lent her talents to a diverse range of acts including Animal Collective and Slowblow. This limited edition 7" vinyl contains 3 tracks that are back to basics with 'recorded in a bedroom' production. Lead track Uterus Water has an ethereal feel to it, dark and chilling child like vocals are dissected with echoing guitar and running water, but it sounds like it belongs as a soundtrack to some avant guarde art flick. Basically... it is boring.

Place of You is the only track that actually sound like a proper song. It brings to mind the excellent Lisa O Piu and has a warmth and naivety that the other two track lack. Final track Ribbon Bow is nothing more than a collection of vocal chants that only serves to annoy. Is this music?

Valtýsdóttir is far more talented than this mis-judged limited edition release suggests.


Joensuu 1685: I'm On Fire/Perfect Grace (single)

This Finish trio have a sound that lies somewhere between with The Jesus and Mary Chain, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Stone Roses and Placebo. Shoe gazing is alive and well on this double a sided single.

You would be hard placed to recognise this cover of the Springsteen song as the reverb laden feedback interlaced with relentless driving beats give no clues until nearly 3 minutes in when the vocals kick in. I'm sure that fans of the boss will probably tut vigorously in sheer horror, but this really is a mighty fine and somewhat epic version of what is arguably one of Springsteen's finest moments.

The flip side Perfect Grace is slow, brooding and instantly likable. Again the reverb heavy guitar is perfectly matched with Mikko Joensuu lazy vocals. Joensuu 1685 really are a breath of fresh air.

~ Friday, 15 January 2010

Katsen: Basic Pleasure Unit (ep)

Katsen divide people. You either like the twee retro electronics and even more twee monotone vocals or you hate it. I have to admit I did like their debut album despite Donna Grimaldi's flat and uninspiring vocal performance, so it is good to see that with this ep we get a far more polished affair than the album.

The music has a happier vibe and Grimaldi's vocal have improved greatly. She is still an acquired taste, but there is definitely an improvement.
The ep kicks off with forthcoming single Where Nobody Can Find Us sounding like Depeche Mode circa their debut album Speak & Spell, but stand out track is reserved for the immensely enjoyable A Soulless Party where the other half of this duo, Christopher Blackburn, takes over vocal duties. Again it is hard to ignore the Depeche Mode comparisons, but make no mistake this is killer track.

As I said, Katsen will not be everyones cup of tea, but I do like them and with each release they are certainly improving. Their love of retro and kitch electro sounds remains. It's just that its became all grown up.

~ Thursday, 14 January 2010

Stylusboy: Fingerprint (ep)

With a moniker like Stylusboy you would expect the music on offer from Midlands based songwriter Steve Jones to be of the dance variety, but no, instead we find ourselves enveloped in the warm glow of an acoustic troubadour. The songs are as simple as they are strong, the voice as expressive as it is restrained.

The 6 self penned and recorded tracks on this ep shows Jones to be a songwriter in the mold of Boo Hewerdine or Roddy Frame. Open and Jigsaw are both stand out tracks, lovely breezy slices of folk pop with great vocal harmonies provided by Rachel Grisedale.
Jones does lose his way somewhat with the jazzy Stopclock, a track that is slightly too American sounding compared to his very English sounding vocal style. We can forgive this blip as he saves the best for last in the shape of the beguiling A Song For Noah. This track demonstrates exactly why he will be a name to watch. He excels at this style of music. With a bit of self discipline, Stylusboy could be a name to reckon with and we are certainly looking forward to hearing more in the future.


Collapse Under The Empire: Find A Place To Be Safe

There is some pretty good music coming out of Germany at the moment. No seriously. You may mock, but unlike the closeted and manufactured music scene here in the UK, our European brothers have a far more liberal attitude to music where they are less inclined to want to put a label on everything. Hailing from Hamburg, the duo of Matthew Jason and Chris Burda is a prime example of this. The post industrial rock (damn.... see, got to put a label on it), is dark and brooding with Gothic undertones (I just can't stop myself).

This is the second full album from the instrumental duo and shows a keen understanding of the cinematic grandeur of creating soundscape, but..... it is just crying out for a vocal. A Trent Reznor if you will to make the experience complete. On tracks like the epic Decay and Crawling you feel that they don't quite fulfil there potential, like Cinderella without the glass slippers.

There are some moment of sheer joy on here though. Intelligence and Far to the Past are both ambient soundtracks that beg to be played at excessive volume while driving late at night creating a different and relaxing mind set. The terrible band name aside, these guys have a lot going for them. The music is well written and produced, but just lacks the dynamics that a vocalist can bring to the mix. This is a good album and certainly worth checking out.

[][][][ (3.5/5)

~ Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Animal Collective: Campfire Songs

Originally released in 2003, this has had a timely re-issue for the band who are riding high with a plethora of rave reviews and music critics falling over themselves to lavish them with praise.

Recorded in one take outside on a porch using mini discs, the album has an obvious lo-fi vibe to it. Opener Queen In My Pictures has an hypnotic feel, but the inaudible vocals and lack of any coherent melody are in no way endearing. In fact the same can be said for the other 4 tracks contained on here. I'm sure it will appeal to the hardcore fan. It may even lure in the curious as a window into the past of the band, but spending your pennies on 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion album will be a far more rewarding experience.

[][] (2/5)