Tuesday 29 December 2020

3 ace tracks from 12"s

Sotto Voce "Trapped Overtones" (Redstone Press/The Modern Institute

Not Unloved is a sucker for electronic music built on brittle, metallic sounds that could have been made by tiny machines hitting icicles with toffee hammers and"Trapped Overtones" is certainly one of this year's finest examples. Sotto Voce is the duo of visual artists Luke Fowler (also of the  tremendous ecstatic disco group AMOR) and Victoria Morton (formerly of the continually shifting collective Muscles of Joy and who has played live with AMOR) and, on "Trapped Overtones", Turner Prize winner Charlotte Prodger. As a boomkat would say: highest possible recommendation!

Vague Imaginaires "Mais Qu'est-ce que?" (12th Isle)

There's a fair chance that "Mais Qu'est-ce que?" was the piece of music that racked up the largest number of plays Chez Not Unloved in 2020 as it could be trusted to be left on a loop as it was guaranteed never to disappoint or grow tiresome. It sounds like it was composed and played whilst on holiday by a really good-natured robot. Gentle perfection from a French producer - Denis Morin of Grenoble - on one of Scotland's most consistently fascinating labels.

Noémi Büchi "Tap01" (Light of Other Days)

Swiss artist Noémi Büchi sure knows how to make a winning clatter. Across its two minutes,"Tap01" goes from being content to play nice to throwing a tantrum before going for a lie down in a darkened room. The whole "Matiere" 12" is a joy and should be purchased forthwith!

Monday 28 December 2020

Stirling "One Percenter" (Chunklet)

Some of 2020's most joyful noise was to be found across the 5 songs on Stirling's blasting archival (the recordings date from the mid-90s) e.p. on Chunklet. Check out the primo, full force scorch of lead track "One Percenter" :

Imagine seeing that performed live in a sweaty basement! Stirling take a flamethrower to yr favourite trash wax, gleefully melting it into new, nastier shapes like some dream The Gories/The Jesus & Mary Chain wrecking squad. Pete Wilkins (drums/vocals) is better known as the drummer for The Wolfhounds whereas Sam Knee (guitar/vocals) went on to publish a clutch of great books including the seminal "A Scene In Between – Tripping through the fashions of UK indie music 1980-1988". Stirling's third and final member, John Hannon (guitar/harmonica/vocals), has made a bunch of great records under the name Liberez and has brilliantly mastered all three of  the 7"s released so far on Not Unloved Records. Hats off to Henry Chunklet for lobbing this 7" stinkbomb into yr local record shop before running off, no doubt grinning like a loon.

Sunday 27 December 2020

Not Unloved's favourites of 2020

With no gigs to eat up the evenings and 9 months of working from home, in theory, 2020 afforded plenty of time to really get to grips with all the new records as they appeared. Only, that didn't happen to the extent I'd hoped. Instead, I became embroiled in The Great Lockdownload of 2020 (thanks to J for naming it thus!) in which I belatedly tried to make use of the all the wee download coupons I hadn't got round to using over the last, er, decade. Having hundreds of new lps on my laptop meant that I rediscovered (and in some cases discovered - oops!) loads of records that I should have played much more when they were current. Also, unexpectedly, I found myself becoming fixated on a succession of individual songs. Some of them were singles *, a bunch of them were album tracks (such as this and this) but most of them were 60s garage and soul tunes (and the odd tune that combined both) that I happened upon via sales lists, mixes, streamed DJ sets, radio shows etc. etc.. Having said all that, it was still very difficult to whittle down 2020's releases into 15 albums and singles but here goes:


Sault "UNTITLED (Black Is)" / "UNTITLED (Rise)" (Forever Living Originals)
Cindy "Free Advice" (Mt St Mtn)
The Reds, Pinks and Purples "You Might Be Happy Someday" (Tough Love)
David Boulter "Yarmouth" (Clay Pipe)
Sweeping Promises "Hunger For A Way Out" (Feel It)
Jetstream Pony "s/t" (Shelflife/Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten)
Tara Clerkin Trio "s/t" (Laura Lies In)
Phew "Vertigo KO" (Disciples)
Loopsel "The Spiral" (Förlag För Fri Musik)
Naked Roommate "Do The Duvet" (Upset The Rhythm)
Robin Saville "Build A Diorama" (Morr Music)
Cleo Sol "Rose In The Dark" (Forever Living Originals)
Bill Callahan "Gold Record" (Drag City)
Smokescreens "A Strange Dream" (Slumberland)


The Go! Team "Cookie Scene" (Memphis Industries)
Typical Girls "Typical Girls EP" (Happiest Place)
The Cool Greenhouse "Alexa!" (Melodic)
Dojo Cuts "Rome" (Colemine)
The William Loveday Intention "My Love For You" (Damaged Goods)
The Tubs "I Don't Know How It Works" (Prefect)
Love, Burns "Gate and the Ghost" (Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten)
Romero "Honey" (Cool Death)
Stirling "5 Song e.p." (Chunklet)
Neutrals"Personal Computing"  * (Slumberland)
The Tibbs "Damaged Heart" (Record Kicks)
The Reds, Pinks and Purples "I Should Have Helped You" (Il Dischi del Barone)
The Notwist feat. Saya from Tenniscoats "Ship" (Morr Music)
Lewsberg "Through The Garden" (self-released)
Ribbon Stage "My Favorite Shrine" (K)


Jonathan Richman "I, Jonathan" (Craft)


"Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987" (Captured Tracks)

Archival 7":

The Pastels "Advice To The Graduate" (Domino)

* The song I missed in 2019 that I became obsessed with in 2020 (thanks to a Levanna Maclean dance video):

** "Personal Computing" wins a special award for having my fave opening lines of the year:

"I sniff the pages of computer magazines
I get excited by the obsolete machines"

Thursday 24 December 2020

The Tibbs "Damaged Heart" (Record Kicks)

There has been a lot of lovely low(rider) tempo contemporary soul music released in 2020 on a bunch of fine imprints such as Big Crown, Colemine and Penrose. Of those that found their way into Not Unloved's wee box o' soul, the impeccably sung "Rome" by Dojo Cuts (Colemine) takes the garlands. For whatever reason, however, I didn't buy or even hear half as many soul 45s that could fire up the dancing feet. One notable exception was "Damaged Heart" by Dutch group The Tibbs on Record Kicks. If mp3s wore out like cassettes, my download of"Damaged Heart" would have dropouts galore. There's something so addictive about its shimmy and flow. Elsa Bekman's powerful, yet never over-cooked vocal performance is a real joy, too. I say this a lot but if I ever play records out again, this 7" will be among the first on the decks.


Tuesday 15 December 2020

Morningwhim "Maybe"

Javi of the mighty fine Spanish label Pretty Olivia Records caused a bit of a stir at Not Unloved headquarters recently. It's fairly safe to say that without his Twitter post, Japanese group Morningwhim's pretty but purposeful "Wandering"  would have passed me by completely. I'm so glad it didn't as it's one of the finest indiepop tunes of the post-Sarah Records variety to alight on these ears in recent times. It graces the b-side of their "Most of the Sun Shines" single (Fastcut Records, Japan). Buying records from Japan is always pricey but, happily, it was available for a decent price - unfortunately, its price has since gone up - from a UK distro. Cheers for the tip, Javi!

Friday 11 December 2020

2 ace 7"s: Typical Girls & The Cool Greenhouse

Compiling lists of records of the year in November is a fool's errand as, invariably, each December records come outta nowhere to crash the list. Among 2020's late blooms are a couple of tremendous 7"s:

Typical Girls "Typical Girls EP" (Happiest Place)

Gothenburg, Sweden's Typical Girls serve up 3 tracks (including an effervescent cover of The Troggs' "Girl Like You" that features a keyboard that, somewhat fantastically, sounds not unlike a steel drum) that are so bright the NHS should prescribe this 45 as a remedy for Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers. There's the odd hint of Korallreven's Balearic bliss to "Tension" which is so unashamedly pretty and TUNEFUL that it had me yearning to listen to groups like They Go Boom!! for the first time in what seems like an eternity.

The Cool Greenhouse "Alexa" (Melodic)

Before the world changed and breathing the same air as others seemed marginally less risky, Not Unloved caught The Cool Greenhouse live revue at London's New River Studios. They were every bit as cocky and strident as hoped. When they carved a groove and stayed in it they were immense. Their drummer was amazing that night. "Alexa" has some of the most gloriously wise-ass lyrics in ages e.g. "Alexa: Email my credit card details to my contacts list and write me an undeniably clever final line. Thanks.". Smart, cheeky, but never wacky, The Cool Greenhouse are a real tonic.


Sunday 6 December 2020

Les Ombres "Whatcha Gonna Do"

Not Unloved grew up under the misapprehension that no great pop music originated outside the UK or US. In fact, the first time I went to the fondly remembered West Nicolson Street branch of Avalanche Records in Edinburgh in the early-90s on the hunt for Shop Assistants or Popguns records, I scoffed internally when I saw the 'New Zealand bands' section. I mean, what kinda dunce would waste valuable time listening to groups with names like Able Tasmans or Tall Dwarfs? (Yeah, I know.) It's been fun over the years discovering just how wrong I was back then. Lately, a bunch of great 7"s of Belgian origin have entered Not Unloved's orbit, the first of which was 1964's "Whatcha Gonna Do" by the surprisingly dapper teenage beat sensations Les Ombres. It's up there with the peerless "Can't See For Looking" by The Bobcats or Gary and The Hornets' dazzling take on "Baby, It's You" in the soft-voiced doomed teenage romance stakes.

The Courettes "Want You! Like A Cigarette" (Damaged Goods)

Like everyone else who has spent much of their allotted span in one gig venue or another having their ears whacked repeatedly with mallets of pure sound, Not Unloved is missing the thrill of live music. In recent years very few groups have made more of an impression based solely on seeing them live than the Brazilian/Danish duo The Courettes. Their August, 2018 show in a tiny upstairs room in Leith (Edinburgh, Scotland) was a riot of pure charisma, actual POP hooks and the kind of noise that shakes you by your lapels and tells you that life's gonna be alright. Flipping through the stack of 45s that Not Unloved has purchased this year (yeah...it's list-making time again!), few have been more enjoyably moreish than last summer's "Want You! Like A Cigarette" . For a fair chunk of 2020 brief, uncomplicated pop songs were all that made sense and provided some kinda continuity with what's gone before.

Communicant "She Moves The Sky" (Hypnotic Bridge)

Hypnotic Bridge has had a really fine 2020 - it's reassuring to know that some folks have - and the recent Communicant 7" does nothing to take the gloss off it. "She Moves The Sky" is that rare thing: a modern psych tune that is hyper aware of its many antecedents and incorporates a host of familiar tropes and techniques but somehow doesn't come off as an exercise in past-aping but as a piece of music that needs to exist in its festooned-in-period-specific-adornments form. It has real oomph and dynamic range; the more you ramp up the volume, the better it gets, too.

Shadow Show "What Again Is Real?" (Hypnotic Bridge)

Buying import 7"s in 2020 is a gulp-inducing, wallet-emptying experience so Not Unloved has to choose wisely. A single play of Shadow Show's recent Hypnotic Bridge-released 45, however, was enough to have me shuffling the pack and diverting funds in their direction. The Detroit group have a keen ear for a killer guitar sound and a catchy melody with the result that Shindig! magazine just named it their #2 single of the year. A well deserved feather in their Paisley-patterned cap!

WUT "White Walls"

It's getting harder and harder to navigate the dizzying array of options on bandcamp Fridays so it's handy when trusted individuals shine a light on the good stuff that might otherwise have got lost in the deluge. Last Friday's much appreciated tip came from the crew behind the excellent Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend's Too Stupid To Know About radio show. Canada's WUT released their "Now" tape on Valentine's Day 2020 and on first listen it's packed with elemental indiepop/rock that clatters and rattles like yr K Records faves of yore. Pleasingly, WUT have something to say and on "White Walls" document an increasingly common phenomenon:

it was an artist centre, now its a coffee shop
it was a music venue, now its a coffee shop

Don't get me wrong, Not Unloved uses and endorses coffee shops (especially the independents!) but it would be nice if other businesses and organisations could flourish, too.