Monday 30 December 2013

Most enjoyed lps 0f 2013

What a year 2013 was for lps!  For a chap with my predilections, the release of a new Pastels record was always going to be the main event and so it transpired.  From the songs which peppered their live shows over the years, I knew with some surety that "Slow Summits" was not going to disappoint, a sense that was only heightened when Annabel Wright's gorgeous sleeve art was revealed early in the year.  And "Slow Summits" is something special: refined, reflective and detailed.  For a while I listened to little else besides.  In Glasgow, it felt as if everyone got wise to the brilliance of Ela Orleans at almost exactly the same time. Her terrific double-lp "Tumult In Clouds" (currently out of print but soon to be re-pressed on her own Parental Guidance Records) was actually released in mid-December 2012 but only came to my attention via a Monorail Records tweet in early 2013 so I've decided to make it eligible for my list.  From the list below, it would appear that Not Unloved had treble in mind with The Mantles, Dick Diver, Ginnels, The Prophet Hens and many more releasing exquisite, jangly guitar saturated lps.  2014 can't possibly be better can it?  We'll see...

  1. The Pastels “Slow Summits” (Domino)
  2. Amor de Dias “House At Sea” (Merge)
  3. Mazzy Star “Seasons of Your Day” (Rhymes of an Hour)
  4. Ela Orleans “Tumult In Clouds” (Clan Destine)
  5. Golden Grrrls “s/t” (Night School / Slumberland)
  6. Veronica Falls “Waiting For Something To Happen” (Bella Union / Slumberland)
  7. The Rosy Crucifixion / The Wharves “split” (Soft Power)
  8. The Mantles “Long Enough To Leave” (Slumberland)
  9. Dream Boys “s/t” (Art Fag)
  10. My Bloody Valentine “mbv” (mbv)
  11. Jacco Gardner “Cabinet of Curiosities” (Trouble In Mind)
  12. Dick Diver “Calendar Days“ (Chapter Music)
  13. Ginnels “Plumes” (Tenorio Cotobade)
  14. The Focus Group “The Elektrik Karousel” (Ghost Box)
  15. Joanna Gruesome “Weird Sister” (Fortuna Pop / Slumberland)
  16. The Prophet Hens “Popular People Do Popular People” (Fishrider)
  17. Counter Intuits “s/t” (Pyramid Scheme)
  18. The Liminanas “Costa Blanca” (Trouble In Mind)
  19. Parquet Courts “Light Up Gold” (What’s Your Rupture?)
  20. Reiko Kudo “Mikan” (Hiyotan)
(Click the titles to hear a song!)

Saturday 21 December 2013

All The Time In The World

Volume 8 of Sequel Records' "Here Come The Girls" cd series contained two flawless dancers.  The first was Petula Clark's finest, most soulful moment, "Fancy Dancin' Man".  The second was this effortless swinger by The Paper Dolls:

Clapping along to "All The Time In The World" was actually made mandatory by an Act of Parliament in 1968.  In the 16 years since I bought the cd (from Glasgow's dearly departed John Smith's record department) it never once occurred to me to look for it on vinyl.  Then, a week or two back, a rather lovely looking (allegedly unplayed!) picture sleeve 7" with it on the b-side cropped up among a French ebay seller's items:

Strangely, nobody else bid on it so it was mine.  If I ever play records in a shambollic manner to an uninterested throng again, it'll be the first 45 in my box.

Friday 20 December 2013

Midnight Hour

Wilson Pickett's classic version may be much more widely known but there's something about Michael and The Messengers' sprightlier, more youthful version that keeps me coming back to it.  Wisely, The Messengers didn't just try to replicate Pickett's version - how could they ever have won at that game?.  By quickening the tempo, replacing the horns with keyboards and rattling a tambourine for the entire 2min 32sec duration they upped the pop factor. It must have packed the dancefloors at high school record hops the length and breadth of Milwaukee!

Thursday 19 December 2013

Most enjoyed singles of 2013

New singles:

  1. The Pastels “Check My Heart” (Domino)
  2. Girls One and The Grease Guns “Driving Without Headlights (Once Again)” (Squirrel)
  3. Veronica Falls “Teenage” (Bella Union)
  4. Marnie “The Hunter” (Soft Power)
  5. The Thanes “She’s Coming Back To Me” (State)
  6. The Fireworks “Runaround” (Shelflife)
  7. Joanna Gruesome "Sugarcrush" (Fortuna  Pop)
  8. The Mentalettes “Fine Fine Fine” (Copase Disques)
  9. Kids On A Crime Spree “Creep The Creeps” (Slumberland)
  10. Veronica Falls “Broken Toy” (Bella Union)
  11. Alpaca Sports “Telephone” (Duffelcoat)
  12. Pups "Month Long Sleep" (Where It's At Is Where You Are Singles Club)
  13. Bubblegum Lemonade “Have You Seen Faith?" (Matinee)
  14. Heathers "Teenage Clothes" (Death Party)
  15. Listening Center with Pye Corner Audio “Study Series 08: Projections” (Ghost Box)
  16. The See See “Featherman” (Great Pop Supplement)
  17. English Singles "Ordinary Girls" (Slumberland)
  18. Jacco Gardner "The End of August" (Trouble In Mind)
  19. The Jellies "The Conversation" (Emotional Rescue)
  20. Mad Nanna "I Wanna See You" (Soft Abuse)

Denise and Company "Boy, What'll You Do Then?" (Big Beat)

Should've been the A-side:

Sauna Youth "Oh Joel" (Static Shock) / Slushy "Pocket" (Randy Records)

Digital single that should've been on vinyl:

The Creeping Ivies "What Would Joey Ramone Do?"

What a year for the 7" single!

P.S. All titles above are links.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

The Sultanas "You're The One"

The Sultanas' "You're The One" 7" (2005-ish, Boom Boom Records) found its way into my collection through a variant of the usual process. I didn't fall for its Headcoatees-like charms through reading about it on a blog or being recommended it by a friend.  Instead, less prosaically, I chanced upon it whilst sifting, YouTube to hand, through a discogs "seller's other items" list looking for something/anything cheap that would be nice to get postage-free when buying another record from abroad.  Whatever the route it took to my attention, there's no mistaking the fact that "You're The One" is superior Girls In The Garage fare that sounds better with each play and with each upwards turn of the volume knob.  A quick Google didn't turn up much information about The Sultanas save for the fact that one member was subsequently in Sub Pop's The Duchess and The Duke (who toured with The Vaselines, if I'm not mistaken).  There don't appear to be any more records to track down which is a real shame as I'd love to have more crunchy Sultanas vinyl to knock me back into shape whenever I need it! 

Friday 13 December 2013

The Garlands' Christmas single

When they're done right, Christmas singles are unbeatable!  So far this winter, Swedish group The Garlands (Snowflakes Christmas Singles Club) has delivered the most luxurious, most wholesome, most heart-swelling Christmas song to find it's way into Not Unloved's seasonal record box.  It's as beautifully arranged and confidently played a slice of (winter) sunshine pop as I've heard all year.  That they've covered the heavenly Margo Guryan's "I Don't Intend To Spend Christmas Without You" on the flip-side is simply the cranberry sauce on the top.  Their lp for Shelflife was a blast and their cover of Wham's "Freedom" from their Cosy Den cd-r a few years back was a mix-cd staple at the time so it's no surprise that they've produced such a divine Christmas record.   

While I'm on the subject of Christmas records, from the snippets available online, Norman Blake's other group, The New Mendicants, has a rather fine festive 7" on the way.  It's due for release on December the 23rd.  Hopefully, copies will find their way into Monorail in time for Christmas!

Sunday 17 November 2013

Angry Dog Recording Sessions, Wellington, September 1991 - June 1992

There hasn't been a group from New Zealand that I like more than The Garbage and the Flowers so it's exciting that this exists and has been made freely available:


Friday 15 November 2013


Confessions of and accusations of lying have been flying around these parts today.  It's like the House of Commons! A recent trip to the wonderful, if over-stuffed (there are piles of records heaped on top of the racks and boxes and boxes of lps at your feet while you browse) Wah Wah Records yielded a copy of Groovie Records' 2011 compilation of the output of Swedish mid-80s garage revivalists The Crimson Shadows.  "Even I Tell Lies" is the finest example of frenetic, organ-led garage I've heard since The Chesterfield Kings' "She Told Me Lies" knocked me clean off my feet a couple of years ago.  Alternating the two at volume is a sure-fire way to whip yourself up into a frenzy of hand-claps and high-kicks!  

The first appearance of the tambourine and harmonies is one of those indescribably brilliant pop moments.  Sure it's been done time and time again but, when it's done that well, it's a genuine thrill.  I've always preferred my cavemen to have a refined side, too.

Years ago I proclaimed to a friend that only The Seeds could do keyboard-riddled pop/garage well.  I'm happy to report that I was completely wrong.  Only an ignorant fool would make such a pompous, needlessly definitive statement!

Thursday 14 November 2013

If You Want Me You Can Find Me

Few mid-60s garage tracks are as rhythmically odd or as weirdly atmospheric as the clumsily named Lawson & 4 More's hovering "If You Want Me You Can Find Me".  It positively drips with aloof cool.  Anton Newcombe and The Brian Jonestown Massacre would kill to release something so unconventional yet still rooted in prime Stones pop.  Big Beat have made it available again on the b-side of the more conventionally scalding "Smart Bird".  At 10 quid it's not cheap but an original would no doubt have me living on baked beans and tap water for a month or two so it's a price I'm willing to pay.  Thanks once again to Record Turnover for the recent public service announcement.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

The Thanes "She's Coming Back To Me" (State)

Just a few weeks ago I was looking at the picture of the young Lenny Helsing in Sam Knee's "A Scene In Between" (Cicada) envying his ace garage band 'do and then he goes and releases the ALIVE, in-the-moment blast of The Thanes"She's Coming Back To Me" (State Records) and now I'm envying him all over again.  Just listen to that burst of scrambled, post-McGuinn jazziness at around 1 minute and 27 seconds and tell me that it doesn't make you want to punch the air with sheer delight; so unexpected, so wild, so vital.  The Thanes have cut hit after hit in their two and a bit decades and "She's Coming Back To Me" ranks alongside the best of them.  For some reason the riff reminds me of the start of the Crossroads theme which is no bad thing - it just adds period colour.  I hope The Thanes play somewhere in the Central Belt (of Scotland) real soon so that I can go a little bit loopy - inside, of course - nobody really wants to see a middle-aged man pogoing about like a loon! - when they play it.

Monday 28 October 2013

Performer [Uncredited] – Lou Reed

Me (aged 16): Dad, do you hear a woman on this?
Dad: No, why?
Me: I heard there was a Lou Reed on it.

I was listening to the 7" of "This Is Your Land" by Simple Minds - then at their most hideously pompous - I'd just bought in the local John Menzies after having heard it on the radio.  Not the coolest route into the sometimes astonishing work of Lou Reed but it was my route.  Coincidentally, I was just talking about that 7" earlier today - just hours before I heard that he had passed away - when I confessed that it currently resides in my lowest-of-the-low 7" box: a cut-down Rice Crispies packet alongside the 25p Ned's Atomic Dustbin single etc..  It's the only record I have to feature Lou Reed to have met such an ignominous fate; all The Velvet Underground records I own are totally treasured, especially the Sundazed Records singles boxset which is, of course, nigh on untouchable.  I choose to overlook the headless guitars and the Simple Minds collaborations and think of him as the young man who sang this:

Thanks, Lou.

Friday 18 October 2013

The Wharves/The Rosy Crucifixion split LP (Soft Power)

A couple of weeks ago I heard a test pressing of the forthcoming split record by The Rosy Crucifixion and The Wharves (Soft Power Records).  I was played it at skull wrecking volume in a suburban living room and it sounded completely glorious.  As with Palms (see yesterday's posting), The Rosy Crucifixion are from Glasgow and contributed memorably to the Some Songs Side-By-Side box. Like Palms, witnessing their live show is a must.  Emily is a brilliant, brilliant guitarist who, despite her mastery, knows the value of a cleansing dose of feedback - check the intro to the deliciously snarly "Hot In Your Head":

Their The Gun Club/Thee Oh Sees informed garage rock has a pleasing bounce to it.  It's hard not to curl your top lip as you nod along to "Lose Yourself" (a live favourite) or strut around all sassy to "Sinners".  There's not a whisper of a weak track and their side ends with the skewed, leopard skin jacket stomp of "Night of the Wailers", a song that in a fair world would be hastening brothel-creepered feet to limbo lounge dance-floors up and down the land:

The Wharves are from London and I've only seen them once (the night Andy Murray won Wimbledon so I was in decidedly good cheer!) and they were exceptional.  I admired their ability to meld influences as mutually exclusive as, say, Pentangle, Black Sabbath and classic harmony-driven girl-group pop into a sort of pagan post-punk that, well, worked.  It felt brave and, much as I love straight-up, empty-headed garage rock or winsome, jangling pop, it was encouraging to hear a group forging a new sound.  If it alienates the hispters all well and good.  Who needs those duds anyway?  While they're sucking their cheeks in I'll have pupils the size of saucers from the sheer wired-ness of "Unhand Me" and the groovy, metallic sway of "Woodchip".  I can't think of any other group past or present who sound like The Wharves.  All credit to Soft Power for backing them.

Stream the whole record at the Soft Power Records bandcamp page then wait excitedly for it to be released on vinyl on 25th November!

Thursday 17 October 2013

Moscow Olympics "Reprise"

Whenever Moscow Olympics emerge with a new record, it's invariably worth making a point of seeking it out and their new single "Reprise" (Beko), is no exception.  It's the best example of that hazy, sun-bleached mix of prime Sarah Records/Factory Records I've heard since Korallreven's heart-stopping "The Truest Faith":

Groups like Beach Fossils, who mine similar sources, may have a slightly higher profile but Moscow Olympics do it best.  There's a certain wrongness - possibly the over-eagerness of the beats? - to "Reprise" that stops it from being too precious and makes it all the more enjoyable.  I'll never tire of records like this; never be the one to cry "derivative!" - they're too pretty for that.     

Brits: Pebble Records has copies for a sensible price.

Palms "Wolf" (Watts of Goodwill/Re:peater)

Palms have long been one of my favourite Glasgow groups. Whenever they play, I try to be there as their PJ Harvey by way of Babes In Toyland brand of creeping ferocity is always exhilarating, always welcome. Until now, their recorded output has been modest: a split cassette with Aggi Doom and some wonderful tracks on the lush Some Songs Side-By-Side box. Thankfully, the astute Watts of Goodwill Records and RE:PEATER Records - both of whom do sterling work in documenting Glasgow's current vibrant music scene - just added to that slim list by releasing their debut 7”, “Wolf”. As expected, it’s another catchy but ominous smash.  It’s not quite as wild as, say, “Blood” from the box but it still has considerable bite.  There's an unmixed demo of it here. "Ghosts I've Known" on the flip is a menacing creeper (there's a live version here) with a great rusty guitar sound that churns you up inside.  Fabulous!

At present, I don't believe"Wolf" has distribution so your options for getting a copy are:

1. In person from Monorail Records in Glasgow
2. In person or via mailorder from Rough Trade (London)
3. Direct from Watts of Goodwill (6 pounds post paid in the UK) 

The recent launch gig at Mono for "Wolf" was a tremendous affair.  The sound was clear and trebly and the group played with a triumphant glint in their eyes.  It was on a Friday night and it felt like everyone was in a good mood and willing Palms to do well so it was so great that they did.  It was a timely reminder that Sinead is a wonderfully versatile singer who can go from sweet to snarling in an instant.  It was a reminder, too, that their outrageously good drummer, Julia, has the most animated, charismatic hairdo in the whole of Glasgow!

Saturday 5 October 2013

Fuzz Filled Dreams

There aren't many folks around with a better handle on what makes a truly great garage tune than Kris from Record Turnover.  When he recommended this yesterday I knew to get on it straight away:

Holy smokes what a shredder!!!  The keyboard player is called Gravel.  That's all you need to know.  This group has Neanderthal blood coursing through its veins!  I just received the 'Order Update' email from No Hit Records to say that my copy has been released into the wilds of the postal system.  When it arrives there's gonna be frenzied tearing and the fevered turning up of the volume knob.  Until then, I'll have to make do with hearing it this afternoon when Kris DJs at the Double Sight Weekender (Mchuills, 5pm, FREE!).  "Fuzz Field Dreams" just scorched my brain and I'll never be the same.  Such savage thrills!

Friday 4 October 2013

The Easybeats "Land of Make Believe"

Initial copies of Veronica Falls' majestic "Waithing For Something To Happen" sold through Monorail came with a cd-r compiled, I think, by James Hoare from the group.  It was almost entirely great but the song which pinned itself to my heart was The Easybeats' "Land of Make Believe".  The Easybeats are one of those 60s acts who I've always vaguely liked but never truly loved.  Sure, I get a little frisson when Brian Matthew plays "Friday On My Mind" on Sounds of the Sixties  and I've danced cheerfully to a few of their other songs over the years but nothing has come close to hitting me as hard as "Land of Make Believe" has.  Its intro and first 2 lines are so plaintive and brilliant:

In the land of make believe you are all mine
In the land of make believe I'm doin' fine

The melody is to die for, too.  Some of the details in the production shouldn't work but do such as the rippling piano, for instance; ordinarily I'd hate that.  The Italian 7" of "The Land of Make Believe" I bought recently features a slightly different arrangement with some dramatic strings added that slightly diminish the impact of the chugging guitar bit towards the end (~2mins 12secs) for me.  It's still a topper but the (album?) version on James Hoare's compilation is somehow the more romantic and hence better version.

A Scene In Between Launch at Mono this Monday

(click to enlarge!)


I wonder who the 'special guests' could be...

Update 06/10/2013: The 'special guests' are:


Monday 23 September 2013

Mad Nanna / Mole House

Maybe surprisingly, a 2-piece, all-guitar version of Melbourne, Australia's Mad Nanna showed up last week in Glasgow.  Their tipsy juice-enhanced after hours show in the Volcanic Tongue shop was something strangely special that will live long in the memory.  Mad Nanna make endearingly ramshackle records in what sounds like a dusty 70s mid-western American basement.  What they produce is, on first listen, rudimentary but somehow manages to be much more compelling than that might suggest so stands up well to repeated listens.  "I Wanna See You", their latest single for Soft Abuse Records, is a case in point.  The bulk of the slightly gruffly sung lyrics are just the song's title repeated and the guitar repeats a simple surging figure over and over with few variations.   The drums, too, are delightfully clattery but elementary.  As a whole, though, it's totally cohesive and inexplicably addictive like a lot of the more esoteric records I've heard on, say, Gulcher or Columbus Discount.  An essential purchase!

Also, out of Melbourne and with an equally compelling new single are Mole House.  As with Mad Nanna, they don't think it necessary to over-complicate their music preferring instead to leave space for feeling in their grooves.  "Come Around" features one of the best lazily unwinding guitar solos to charm these ears in a while.  It's great music to listen to when your eyelids are heavy and you just want to sing along with something soulful whose notes you can conceivably hit.  There's simple joy to be had in the act of waywardly singing such a stoned, dreamy tune.

Sunday 22 September 2013

The History Of

As a born evangelist (ok, music bore), I totally embraced the self-compiled tape as a means for spreading the good word about whichever groups I was keen on for most of the 90s.  I really did churn them out!  I received some absolute belters, too.  Lots of those I received through the indiepoplist's (R.I.P) monthly tape swap were incredible.  Having said that, I seldom bought pre-recorded tapes - they never had the allure of vinyl or the convenience of cds - so for me tapes are almost entirely associated with active construction.  I'm sure that's a large part of the reason why I loved Good Press gallery's "The History Of" exhibition/installation so much.  Timed nicely to coincide with the recent Cassette Store Day*, it's a hands-on installation.  You can read about and listen to a selection of tapes "compiled and created by a selection of artists, musicians, record labels and other practitioners who have an invested interest in music" on deliciously antiquated tape recorders and then, if it takes your fancy, pay 2 quid per tape and duplicate you own copy of those which piqued your interest on a high-speed duplicating machine.  You get to fold the little (pre-scored - great attention to detail!) inlay cards, too.  I chose to duplicate cassettes compiled by Monorail's Dep Downie (a history of Mike Watt in 20 bands/projects), illustrator/lecturer/publisher Marc Baines (a history of the fabulous Vesuvius Records which he co-ran in the 90s and which, in its time, produced some beautifully packaged cassettes) and Portland, Oregon's excellent M'Lady's Records.  "The History Of" runs until October 6th and if you ever excitedly made a mixtape to change a friend's life, you'll love it. Who knows, you might find yourself rushing home, retrieving those dusty shoeboxes full of tapes from the loft and looking back fondly on your own history of making tapes.  Well done to the Good Press team for such a brilliantly conceived and wonderfully executed installation.

* Sure some folks scoffed about CSD but I had a great time at Monorail listening to Cheer's gentle guitar atmospherics with good friends and buying "Summer Rain" by The Pastels and a tape of album demos on Suplex Cassettes by The Proper Ornaments.

Sunday 8 September 2013

A Scene In Between

Ever since since Sam Knee of the excellent Leaders of Men blog put out the call for contributions to a proposed photo book on the fashions of the 80s independent pop groups, I've been keen to see if it actually came to fruition and, if so, just what unseen images he was able to turn up.  Excitingly, A Scene In Between has become a reality and will be published via Cicada Books next month (October 2013).  Thrillingly, it has turned out wonderfully.  Mind you, the signs were good.  First, a couple of pictures of Sarah RecordsThe Sea Urchins looking precocious but stylish surfaced on the blog.  They were an unexpected delight and confirmed that the book wouldn't just focus on the big groups of era such as The Smiths or Orange Juice but would also devote space to some of the less well known but no less brilliant acts.  Then uploaded the fantastic cover image, above.  The skinny guy in drainpipes and needle-toed boots (who I now know to be Robert Hampson of Loop) could have crawled, blinking under his enviably thick mop from the Pebbles Trash Box and was the very epitome of 60s punk cool.  Having now seen a finished copy in PDF form, those old feelings of historical jealousy that I've written about before have resurfaced.  How I would love to have been precocious enough, hip enough and had money enough (I certainly didn't have any of that in the 80s!) to have been going to gigs and buying records and fanzines in that period. The classic pictures of The Pastels, The Clouds, Meat Whiplash (!)Primal Scream, The Vaselines etc. simply hammer home the point that something great was going on just 25 miles up the road while I was still kicking a football around at the local estate of an evening.  There are so many great pictures to pore over.  A big favourite is the shot of Southend-on-Sea indie scenester Velda Pond in her room looking every inch the beehived, prospective 60s pop starlet as Johnny Rotten stares out from her wall.  Another is the endearing one of Felt's Philip King clad in a thick-striped top writing thoughtfully on a notepad while a teddy bear - also, sweetly, in stripes - looks off into the distance, seemingly pondering the words being penned.  As a Pastels obsessive, the photos from Stephen Pastel's archive are manna from heaven, particularly the live image of the group with Jill and Rose from Strawberry Switchblade on backing vocals.  Dave Conway's early My Bloody Valentine pictures showcase a group whose haircuts could give The Gruesomes a run for their money (see, too, The Wylde Things).  Conway, along with Stephen Pastel, Amelia Fletcher and outfitter Lloyd Johnson are interviewed.  I'm saving these for when I have the physical book in my hands.  They're bound to give even more colour to the period.  I know I'm biased as I fit squarely into this book's target market but if the thought of a book that, as Sam Knee puts it in his intro, "sets out to excavate the sartorial treasures of this UK indie youth scenery spanning; Postcard via Whaam! and Creation records, C86, garage punk, shoegaze and the multifarious micro sub-scenes that sprouted in between" raises your pulse even a tiny amount, then A Scene In Between must be considered  a mandatory purchase.  Sensibly, it'll be retailing at the modest 15 pound mark and there's talk of a launch shindig at Mono some time in October.  I really hope it happens as I'd love to congratulate Sam Knee in person for having the vision, drive and above all the love for his subject to turn a great idea into a beautiful artefact.  Let's hope now that the Sarah Records book and documentary and the Sound of Young Scotland documentary currently in the works turn out so well.

Friday 23 August 2013


Where It's At Is Where You Are's 2013 7" series has yielded another smash in PUPS' "Month Long Sleep".  I'm aware that I really love it as I do everything faster when it plays.  The downside of this is that I've just eaten too many chocolate (plain - I am a grown up!) digestives .  The upside of it, however, is that I walked home in double-quick time as I listened to mp3s of it on repeat last night.  PUPS are Katie, Rose and Caitlin.  Rose is Rose Melberg.  That's thee Rose Melberg who hasn't appeared on a bad record in her best-part-of-two-decade long involvement in music.  As with Tiger Trap, Rose doesn't sing all the songs and, as with Tiger Trap, the other singers in PUPS are great in their own right, adding a little more spikiness and bite to the proceedings.  PUPS are from Vancouver, Canada and continue that city's fine line of nippy, zippy pop groups that includes Cub and Gaze.  PUPS' debut 45 is everything I need a single in summer 2013 to be: it's vigorous, it's breezy and it's completely unpretentious.  Way to go WIAIWYA!

Monday 12 August 2013

The New Era "We Ain't Got Time"

"A hey, hey, hey"
perfect, perfect emotive jangle

The above sequence, give or take a few taps, occurs about 1 minute and 40 seconds into The New Era's unsurpassable (sounds rash but I mean it!) "We Ain't Got Time".  It's one of those moments that catches the ear and stops the heart for an instant with its inexplicable brilliance.

The final 30 seconds convert aching into beauty in the most intense, moving way, too.  Based on the raft of Michigan garage compilations released over the years, the state was awash with the most incredible groups in the 1960s.  I've long held that even in that fertile scene The Sheffields' 45s for the almost mythical Fenton Records and select other local labels were nigh on untouchable so it was no surprise to learn that various Sheffields were responsible for "We Ain't Got Time".  Tonight, I'll lie awake in bed imagining the thrill of casually happening on a dusty copy in a second hand store in some unlikely town for an affordable price.  Sure it won't happen now that shop owners can easily check what collectors are willing to pay for such stupendous records nowadays but I can dream, can't I?  I'll also clutch the sole Fenton release I own - the aforementioned Sheffields' "Fool Minus A Heart" (b/w a supreme take on Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind") - just a little closer to my heart for its having been brought into being by the geniuses responsible for "We Ain't Got Time".  Increasingly, when I think of 60s pop, there's The Hollies' "Bus Stop" and there's "We Ain't Got Time" and then there's the rest.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Ginnels "Plumes"

Ginnels' music is instantly loveable.  A friend kindly passed on a copy of their "Plumes" lp on the new Madrid-based Tenorio Cotobade label and it took, say, a minute of  opening track"Don't Mean It" for me to be fairly sure that I was going to be cheered by what was to follow.  There's a freshness and sprightliness to much of "Plumes".  Songs like "Europe's Soil" and "Great Fall" rattle along apace and could easily do so for hours without becoming tiresome.  The guitar on "Stink It Out" sparkles breathlessly like an Another Sunny Day 45 played at 78 and "Wake Up Normal" provides a glimpse into how Beach Fossils might sound after a bracing dip in the Atlantic instead of a lazy day stretched out on Brighton Beach.  "Plumes" cherry picks tracks from the group's 3 previous releases and illustrates the range of their music; as well as the teen janglers there are Sentridoh/Daniel Johnston-style home-fi acoustics (see "Friends Are Dead" for an example of the latter) and fuzzed-up slacker anthems.  It's a great mix.  Over the next few days I'll have a closer listen to the lyrics - I suspect that they're worth spending the time to absorb - and over the next few months I'll keep a keen eye out for what Tenorio Cotobade does next.

First, September Girls barged their way grinning into my affections, then The #1s dared me not to love them and now I've fallen for Ginnels - Southern Irish music would appear to be in a great state at the moment.

There's a typically astute assessment of "Plumes" on the excellent The Finest Kiss blog here.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Winter Bear

Hozac, like Captured Tracks lost me a while ago with their sheer volume of releases.  I guess they just followed the arc of many a small label before them that got a bit popular and then through enthusiasm and/or the need to make a living, proceeded to release a quantity of records that only the most devoted could cope with.  Hopefully, though, if either label releases something exciting, I'll still hear about it and Hozac's recent 7" by Winter Bear - the new group from Erin Dorbin, formerly of the excellent Cave Weddings - certainly counts as exciting.  Like Baby Shakes and Stolen Hearts before them, Winter Bear's all-treble take on girl gang power pop scratches the Nikki and The Corvettes itch and is exactly what 7" vinyl and cheap stereos were made for.  Bust open a Doctor Pepper, unwrap a Bazooka Joe and bounce around to "Jump In The Fire".  It's what yr bedroom floor was made for!

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Anjo Gabriel

Today's highight? Easy. It was hearing Dom La Nena's "Anjo Gabriel" for the first time.

It's all about the voice and the simple, beautiful piano line.  I've Gideon Coe to thank for hearing it and I've The Pastels to thank for being tuned-in to his show when it aired through their tweeting that Swell Maps were being played on it 'right now!' earlier in the evening.  If I'm being 100% honest, I'd rather that Dom La Nena's was the sole voice so that it was hers which was heard last but that's a minor gripe and won't prevent me from thinking of the song fondly and wanting to hear it again and again.  I bet if she teamed up with Francois and The Atlas Mountains the results would be sublime.

Sunday 4 August 2013

Parasol Music: Imaginary Pants / Sourpatch

There's a certain style of music that I'll forever think of as 'Parasol music' after the now sadly defunct Illinois-based mail-order (the label and its sub-labels remain) from whom I bought a fair amount of it.  If I remember correctly, a place-holder in the Rough Trade shop just off London's Portobello Road dubbed it 'US Small Label Pop'.  That was always my favourite section, royally stuffed with poly bag/wraparound sleeve 45s on labels like Harriet, Bus Stop, Slumberland, K etc., each one a promise of a few minutes of wide-eyed thrills created in a spirit of unashamed exuberance.  To me, Rose Melberg was the undoubted queen of this scene and one of the most endearing songs she recorded was "The Love We Could Have Had"; a fuzz-dosed duet with Dustin Reske of the unutterably brilliant Rocketship (for his birthday, if my memory's reliable) :

Later, it featured on Rose's first lp "Portola" but originally it graced a split 7" on Double Agent Records which arrived at my parent's house in a box from, yup, Parasol.  Roll on more than a decade and a half and Rose is in girl/boy duet action again, this time with the group Imaginary Pants:

What kicks!  What with the prohibitively high postage costs from the US, I probably wouldn't have bought it direct from Rok Lok Records but Andy Malcolm (thanks, Andy!) imported a few for his strictly no capital letters distro so I was able to get a copy at a decidedly reasonable £3.50 + p&p.

In a similar vein, the recent release from San Jose, California's Sourpatch (as part of Where It's At Is Where You Are's latest 7" single series) has energy and zip to spare and would've prompted untold joy had it arrived in a Parasol parcel in '98 alongside records from Gaze, Pencil Tin (I noticed Pebble Records was selling their cd at Indietracks this year) or Tiger Trap. In the 90s this type of  music seemed like the antidote to the lumpen dross that clogged-up the 'indie' singles racks in chainstores and I loved it all the more for that.  I suspect I'll always have room in my heart for young people making an unself-conscious, joyful noise.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Marnie "The Hunter"

Imagine if you started a record label and named it after a song or group or whatever that you loved more than anything.  Next, imagine how excited you would be to have the opportunity to release a record by the artist/group in question.  If it were me, I'd be dancing on the ceiling!  I suspect that the kids behind Soft Power Records are pogoing 24-7 in disbelief at releasing the debut solo 7" by Helen Marnie from Ladytron whose song "Soft Power" gave their label its name.  Of course, these things can go slightly awry.  I'm sure Alan McGee was infeasibly chuffed to release a single by The Creation ("Creation" had the catalogue number CRE200 but is nowhere to be seen on YouTube) but the record itself was an amiable plodder that didn't match their 60s recordings for pop art brilliance.  Luckily for Soft Power, the Marnie single is a belter.  Had it been released in another era, teenagers would have heard it on Saturday morning TV, dashed to Woolworth's to exchange their pocket money for it before sprinting home to obsess over its dreamy melody, singing along till they were hoarse.  It's "With Every Heartbeat" brilliant.  It's "Hunting High and Low" brilliant.  It could single-handedly rekindle my interest in heartfelt machine-age pop music.  There are only 500 copies of the 7" vinyl - 200 clear for pledgers/300 black for non-pledgers - so some urgency in buying is required!

Soft Power's previous vinyl release was this entirely successful foray into cute, disco-ready pop:

In the year of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and the (welcome!) festival ubiquity of Nile Rodgers and his current incarnation of Chic, it should have been a smash.  The sound of young Dublin is liquid and effortlessly funky!  I'm glad Soft Power isn't afraid of pure, chart-friendly pop.

"I am controlled by your love"

Back when I was feeling my way around the vast world of soul music from the 60s, I bought a fair number of second hand or cheap Goldmine Soul Supply cds.  Their quality (and sometimes the quality of their mastering) was variable but through them I came to some real treasures which I still adore to this day.  Helene Smith's crisp, hot-stepping "Thrills and Chills"  (from "Way With The Girls: 30 Northern Soul Girl Group Classics") is one of the very best of them.  Until Saturday, however, I'd never heard any other songs she recorded.  Her 5 contributions, one of which is a slightly better mastered version of"Thrills and Chills", to Numero Group's "Eccentric Soul: The Deep City Label" are all of such quality that I feel a bit negligent/silly for not seeking them out before now.  Of the 'new' songs,  the majestically sung"I Am Controlled By Your Love" is the one which has clung on the tightest with its slightly creepy lyrics telling a tale of a pretty unhealthy relationship:

My heart can’t beat, baby
Unless you tell it to
My eyes can’t see, baby
Unless you tell them to
There are things I should do
But I know it’s just no use
Cos I’m controlled by your love
I’m controlled by your love
Oh, yes I am
Mmmm, hmmm

Now I can’t breathe, baby
Unless you tell me to
And I can’t speak, baby
Unless you tell me to
It sounds strange, this I know
But it’s really, really so
Cos I’m controlled by your love
I’m controlled by your love
Oh, yes I am
Mmmm, hmmm

Anything I say or do
Means nothing to me
I’m controlled by your love
And that’s plain to see
But I’m proud to be controlled
Proud to be controlled by your love
Mmmm, hmmm

My heart can’t beat, baby
Unless you tell it to
My eyes can’t see, baby
Unless you tell them to
It sounds strange, this I know
But it’s really, really so
Cos I’m controlled by your love
I’m controlled by your love
Oh, yes I am

What an arresting intro!  How exciting to learn that Helene Smith's career in music should be remembered for more than just her Northern Soul classic even if she does, bizarrely, add a 't' to the end of each 'unless' - it really is eccentric soul, I guess!  As with Numero Group's recent Dynamic Label overview, the Deep City round-up is strong from first to last.  Ordinarily, a work as luminous and dramatic as Betty Wright's "Paralyzed" would be a certain stand-out on a soul compilation.  On Eccentric Soul 007, however, it's just one in a procession of heart-stopping moments.

Update: More of Helene's recordings appear on Eccentric Soul: The Outskirts Of Deep City.  Why didn't I investigate these records before now?

Sunday 21 July 2013

Los Cripis (Argentina) in Glasgow

Everett True's at times cranky, at times over-ecstatic Collapse Board site is always worth a visit; it always sparks a discussion at they very least.  Last November his 'Song of the Day' was by Los Cripis.  In many ways they're the archetypal Everett True group: predominantly female, musically ragged but sweet-voiced and with an irreverent spark.  Excitingly, their European tour is rolling through Glasgow this Wednesday when they play Stereo with Seconds.  By all accounts Seconds are well worth seeing, too, with Joan Sweeney from Aggi Doom/The Royal We etc. whipping the songs into shape like some Scottish Siouxsie Sioux.  Unfortunately, I don't have any Los Cripis vinyl - hopefully they'll have some for sale (they have a tour 7"!) at their show - so I'll probably set the right mood by blasting those precociously peppy Emily's Sassy Lime records from the mid-90s.  Which, of course, means this MASTERPIECE of high school pop will be played on repeat.  Heady days!

Monday 1 July 2013

3 yellow 7"s

Imagine being the soul loving Numero Group employee who happened upon the The Young Souls' "Quit Waiting For Tomorrow To Come" and "Puppet On A String" lurking on tapes from a dusty box marked 'unreleased'.  Their heart must've been thumping like a Tour de France cyclist's midway through a mountain stage climb!  Both songs are sung so elegantly and their arrangements so classy and uncluttered that I'll be endlessly flipping the 7" on which they now appear in a vain attempt to figure out which one I love more.

Over the last few years I've become seriously enamoured with the guitar playing of Rachel Aggs.  With Sacred Paws and before that with Trash Kit (amongst others!), she's carved a series of guitar lines into my memory and prompted many an awkward dance move.  Her latest group, SHOPPING, is set to do likewise with both sides of their recent 7" for Milk Records benefiting from particularly incisive, dancefloor-honed examples of her craft.  Roll back the carpet and jerk it out like yr at some Thatcher-era youth club disco and the awkward kid by the stereo just sullenly slammed in his new Bush Tetras cassette!

When Ghost Box finally started releasing 7" vinyl via their Study Series I was delighted and jumped on the first few.  Somehow, though, after maybe 4 or 5 releases, they quietly stopped finding their way into my record bags.  There was no real reason for this.  The quality didn't drop noticeably and they continued to look great thanks to Julian House's consistently brilliant graphic designs.  With the release of the ninth volume - Listening Center's "Titoli" - I'm happy to be  back in the Study Series fold once more.  Comparisons with Birmingham's slightly overlooked but sorely missed Plone are accurate.  There's a similar sense of wonder spiked with just a little melancholy to that group's bakelite mini-symphonies.  It's ideal music for this half-summer, really.  Time now to look back and see what I missed when my ears were turned elsewhere, I think.

Sunday 2 June 2013

The Tonettes "I Gotta Know"

The latest instalment of Numero Group's Eccentric Soul series, The Dynamic Label, is, from start to finish, brilliant.  There are numerous show-stealers among its 21 tracks but the real diamond is The Tonettes' "I Gotta Know".  Pitched somewhere between The Cookies and The Supremes, it's as glowing a slice of girl group soul as I've heard in quite a while.  How I wish I had it on 7"!  John Manship currently has a copy rated at E+/E+ for 150 quid.  Even if I emptied my 'Monorail Money' piggy bank, I would still be about 145 quid short so I'll have to make do with having it on the compilation which, as hardships go, is pretty easy to bear.  Thanks, Numero Group - you've put some pep in my step a fair few times this spring!

Friday 31 May 2013

Sleepy City

Unexpectedly, I feel the need to use Not Unloved to profess love for another version of a song by The Rolling Stones.  After being seduced by Jimmy C and The Chelsea Five's sober take on "Play With Fire", The Parting Gifts' rendition of "(Walkin' Thru The) Sleepy City"* has been quickening my pulse of late:

Having never heard the original - no surprise given that I'd never heard "Metamorphosis" or, from the track-listing, anything from it - I made the customary visit to YouTube:

Again, I prefer the cover.  It's not that I'm anti-Stones, it's just that this song suits being a chirpy girl group number more than a languid, slightly off, pop-psych number.  There's something of Petula Clark backed by The Move to The Parting Gifts version - a fine concept in my book!

* From their 2010 Norton Records split with The Great Gaylord and The Condo Fucks

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Slow Summits

When The Pastels released "Illumination" 16 years ago, I bought mine from the record department of John Smith & Son's bookshop on Byres Road.  It seemed like the right thing to do as Stephen Pastel worked there.  History repeated itself last Friday when I bought their new lp, "Slow Summits", from Monorail Music and Stephen once again handed me my lp and cd - both formats, I guess, because I am, as The Guardian recently put it, a "(gently) pathologically devoted fan".  Sure, I could have got it slightly cheaper online but in 2013, more than ever before, I'm choosy about where I spend my money.  Luckily, I live in Glasgow so can still choose to buy from an independent record shop.

It's such a thrill to hold the new lp and gaze upon Annabel Wright's glorious artwork. A month or so ago, I was sent a link via which I could download "Slow Summits", I clicked on it immediately and greedily watched the zip archive transferring.  I flirted with the idea of not listening to it right away so that I could experience it for the first time on vinyl but the thought of a cache of new Pastels recordings gathering metaphorical dust on my laptop was too much so I unzipped it, burned it to cd and dug right in; I never was that freakish kid who somehow hadn't scoffed everything in their selection box by Queen's speech time on Christmas day.  Having witnessed many of The Pastels' more recent concerts, a few songs were familiar ("Secret Music", "Slow Summits", "Wrong Light" and "Come To The Dance") but enhanced by luminous little details in their arrangements; some contributed by collaborators such as Tenniscoats and members of To Rococo Rot.  Other tracks, like "Summer Rain" with its restrained freakout ending and the subtly orchestrated, disarmingly pretty "Kicking Leaves", were wholly new and rubber-stamped my developing belief that "Slow Summits" was something special.

So many groups who start out with energy and a spark get old and gravitate all too quickly towards making more conventional rock records.  The Pastels have always been too astute, too unconventional and too genuinely in love with music from less championed corners (as proved by their marvellous Insane Energy Drop mix which accompanied my copies) to wander down that cul-de-sac to mundanity.  Instead, as time's gone on, they've increasingly accentuated the elegant and the thoughtful over the trashy and the nonchalant.  I'm glad that the release of the new Pastels lp has felt like an event.  That it has been so well received and that it has prompted some really memorable writing - most notably Richard King's wonderful piece - has been heartening to see.  On a personal level, it's a much needed reminder that life in 2013 has so much more to offer than Personal Development Plans, shattered windows, failed MOTs and the like and that sometimes the people you admire don't let you down.  Recently, things have been hectic and the need to simplify and do less has become urgent.  Purposefully making the the time to listen to "Slow Summits" without the distractions of the television or the laptop logged-on to Twitter has provided some much needed calm.  I guess, it's just nice to have something truly beautiful on which to focus.  The Pastels are still the best group I've ever heard.

The Pastels discuss "Slow Summits" with Sushil K. Dade aka The Future Pilot.

Thursday 16 May 2013

The Hangover Lounge's 5th Birthday

Glasgow's a great, great city.  Culturally, it's vibrant to an almost insane degree.  It's hard to keep up with everything that's going on so you miss more than you see.  What it doesn't have, however, is The Hangover Lounge.  You have to go to London for that.  The weekend after next (May, 26th) it celebrates it's 5th birthday with a gig at its regular home, The Lexington, featuring 3 special groups:

My love for Birdie knows no bounds.  Debsey Wykes possesses one of the finest pop voices ever to be etched into vinyl.  I was lucky enough to see Birdie a little over a year ago (thanks, again, to The Hangover Lounge team) so I know what I'll be missing by not being to see them next week.  Amor de Dias and Hacia Dos Veranos have created two of the loveliest, classiest lps of the year so far and both will keep things thoughtful and sophisticated.  With this show to look forward to and the memory of Robert Forster's appearance at their recent celebration of the life and work of his fellow Go-BetweenGrant McLennan, The Hangover Lounge Organising Committee must be sporting smiles as wide as 70s flares.  If at all possible, be there on the 26th.  There's not even the remotest chance that you'll regret it!