Archive for December, 2006

The Ledge’s Top 20 Albums of 2006

  • 20. Oh You’re So Silent Jens – Jens Lekman

    A compilation of singles and odds and sods it may be but there’s barely a bad song on this. “Maple Leaves” is so good it’s on there twice.

  • 19. Let’s Get Out Of This Country – Camera Obscura

    While Belle & Sebastian failed to impress me enough with the summery pop of The Life Pursuit, Camera Obscura were going from strength to strength, mixing up their twee pop with a devilish country twang and a hearty slice of Spectorish Wall Of Sound.

  • 18. Fox Confessor Brings The Flood – Neko Case

    This is Neko back on seriously good form, lending her powerful lungs to her best set of songs since Furnace Room Lullaby.

  • 17. The Loon – Tapes ‘n Tapes

    Arriving on a wave of hype from the US bloggerati, the Tapes almost lived up to it with their debut which mixed the quiet/loud dynamism of the Pixies with the lo fi melodicism of early Pavement but managed to sound nothing like either of those bands.

  • 16. Mr Beast – Mogwai

    Mogwai expanded their palette with strident piano riffs joining ear-melting guitar noise to produce their most varied and possibly their best effort to date.

  • 15. Everything All The Time – Band Of Horses

    Any band likened to The Shins and My Morning Jacket is going to get my attention and Band Of Horses more than lived up to expectations with an assured, expansive debut that occasionally promised to fill the void left by Arcade Fire’s Funeral.

  • 14. Bitter Tea – The Fiery Furnaces

    Recorded at the same time as the much maligned Rehearsing My Choir, the weird and wonderful Bitter Tea was the fullest realisation to date of Matt Friedberger’s kaleidoscopic pop vision.

  • 13. I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass – Yo La Tengo

    Bookended by a couple of classic tracks that easily stretched past the 10 minute mark, this album took us on a journey that touched on all points of the Yo La Tengo story so far and as such may well be their definitive album.

  • 12. The Trials Of Van Occupanther – Midlake

    As someone who was brought up listening to the likes of The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young, thanks to my parents’ love of seventies soft rock, this album was a nostalgic pleasure, and not even a guilty one.

  • 11. Cansei De Ser Sexy – CSS

    I’m not a great fan of dance music but CSS’s sleazy marriage of seventies disco with bubblegum pop won me over almost immediately with its nagging hooks and downright filthy lyrics.

  • 10. Voices Of Animals And Men – The Young Knives

    This album really surprised me with its razor sharp wit and even sharper melodies. From the brilliant opener “Part Timer” on it rarely lets up and by the time “She’s Attracted To” kicks in you know you’re listening to a true British indie classic.

  • 9. Give Me A Wall – ¡Forward, Russia!

    The best British album of the year was a dense, sweaty and complex beast that almost captured the power of ¡Forward, Russia!’s live show and showed great promise for the future.

  • 8. Return To Cookie Mountain – TV On The Radio

    This album is a welter of contradictions: sparse yet cluttered, soulful yet vitriolic, warm yet isolating. It’s difficult to pin down but it works on so many levels and its mix of shoegazey guitars, experimental loops and beats and the multi-layered vocals of Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone made for a compelling listen.

  • 7. Damaged – Lambchop

    No great change of direction for Lambchop on this one but Kurt Wagner was on top form as he vented his spleen after a tough year for his health and relationships. Their best since the great Nixon.

  • 6. He Poos Clouds – Final Fantasy

    Owen Pallet’s mix of twee indie pop with ornate mini-symphonies was an odd sounding concoction on first listen but soon revealed itself to be a baroque masterpiece that improves on every listen.

  • 5. Rather Ripped – Sonic Youth

    A couple of years ago Sonic Nurse was an unexpected major return to form for Sonic Youth. Rather Ripped is even better; chock full of great pop tunes and brilliant guitars. Gets minus points for the inclusion of two vastly inferior “bonus tracks” inexplicably tacked onto the end of the CD version.

  • 4. Boys & Girls In America – The Hold Steady

    The Hold Steady’s breakthrough album possessed more melodies than their previous efforts at the expense, perhaps, of a little integrity and some killer guitar riffs. But was still a rollicking success, a blue collar rock record dealing with drugs, parties, religion and doomed relationships; the usual Hold Steady fare but with a more user friendly sheen.

  • 3. The Crane Wife – The Decemberists

    The Decemberists’ major label debut surprised with the inclusion of a couple of three part concept songs and some worrying proggy leanings but was still stuffed full of delicious melody and more potential singles than you can shake a stick at.

  • 2. Ys – Joanna Newsom

    After seeing Newsom play these songs at ATP back in May it was obvious that this was going to be a special album. While the involvement of Van Dyke Parks, Steve Albini and Jim O’Rourke certainly enhanced the album’s potential, it was Newsom’s beautifully poetic lyrics, dramatic storytelling and winding melodies that stole the show.

  • 1. Destroyer’s Rubies – Destroyer

    I admit that I was barely aware of Destroyer at this time last year but after picking up Rubies for free on eMusic I immediately became a worshipper at the church of Bejar. From the warm, fuzzy guitars of the constantly shifting nine minute eponymous opener to the closing “Sick Priest Learns To Last Forever”, which recalls Neil Young in his pomp, this was an album of melodic wonder, suffused with Dan Bejar’s impenetrable yet brilliant lyrical bent.

Posted by The Ledge on 31st December 2006 at 11:34 am | comments (2)
File under Lists.

Justhipper’s Top 20 Albums of 2006

It’s that time of year again folks when everybody’s making lists and I realise that I’ve barely listened to the stuff we bought this year because I’m still getting caught up with all the stuff I didn’t get a chance to get into properly last year. So it’s an odd list this, possibly, and there’s a few that probably should have made it if I’d been able to wrestle them out of The Ledge’s car a bit sooner than last week. But here goes:

  • 20) The Organ, Grab That Gun

    A fantastic, energetic collection of pop tracks from the now defunct all-girl band. This is brimming with slightly retro synth sounds, it’s full of attitude and I was singing along by the second listen.

  • 19) Grizzly Bear, Yellow House

    This is one I’m only really starting to love. It’s soaring and soft at the same time, like folky shoegazing with melodies.

  • 18) Joanna Newsom, Ys

    This should be higher but for the fact I’ve really not listened to it closely enough. The initial impression is brilliant, I’m sure once I actually know what she’s singing about it will sound even better. But harps, meandering lyrics about princesses, meteors and medieval quests, that unique voice and orchestras, what’s not to love?

  • 17) Jarvis Cocker, Jarvis

    Boy how I’ve missed Jarvis. I may be the only one who thought his non-album track, “Running the World” was pretty poor, but this is Jarvis at his best with the wry, observational humour and descriptions of the minutiae of life all to a pretty catchy melody.

  • 16) Micah P. Hinson, The Opera Circuit

    This album makes the list solely on his amazing, textured voice – not that the twangy, simple country tunes are anything to scoff at. It is simply a lovely record.

  • 15) Mojave 3, Puzzles Like You

    The last Mojave 3 album I bought was the first one, which was soft, melancholic and sounded like Slowdive gone acoustic. This record came as quite a shock when I first heard it, as it’s all twee, upbeat melody, but it works. It works in a Rogue Wave or Belle & Sebastian sort of way. It is wonderful, giddy pop.

  • 14) My Latest Novel, Wolves

    This is a challenging, unusual and intense record that captivated me from the moment I saw this band on stage opening for Low. It veers between droning and experimental post-rock and light, summery seaside pop, sometimes all in the same song.

  • 13) CSS, Cansei der Sei Sexy

    Comical and sexually provocative lyrics, driving rhythms and sleazy, retro synths: this is one of the worst albums ever for getting highly inappropriate bits of songs stuck in your head, but you cannot help dancing to it.

  • 12) Midlake, The Trials of Van Occupanther

    Externally a pretty, soft, folky affair that hints at Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac, lyrically it’s a complex affair about relationships, marriage and American life on the prarie.

  • 11) Destroyer, Destroyer’s Rubies

    I’d love to meet the person who has some idea of what Dan Bejar is on about when he writes lyrics. This should not be catchy and compelling because it meanders so much, but it’s hard not to get drawn in. When it hints at Luke Haines and the Auteurs it is at its pop apex, but it’s the other, even stranger bits that make the album.

  • 10) The Young Knives, Voices of Animals and Men

    This is punchy and frenetic and exactly what intelligent guitar music should sound like in 2006. This album makes the top ten on the back of “You were screaming at your mum and I was punching your dad!” as a catchy refrain but the rest of the CD is ace too!

  • 9) Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas

    This so should not work. Airy, wispy, gothy female vocals and gnarled, deep, countrified male vocals on songs about love, loss and human flaws. The two singers contrast beautifully and the album is absolutely stunning.

  • 8) Tapes n Tapes, The Loon

    What manic, swirling, lunatic guitar melodies on this! “Inisitor” is about the most onomatopoeic song title in ages as it is about the most insistent thing I’ve heard in years. Initially reminding me of Sons & Daughters, Tapes have far more depth to their songwriting, as they can not only knock out tracks that make you want to jump around like a maniac, they can also do the ballads.

  • 7) Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit

    I loved Dear Catastrophe Waitress and after a disappointing gig the week before this album came out I was convinced that they’d never top it. But the album is actually a blinder, and almost experimental for B&S as there’s some unusual sounding stuff on there. Every song is memorable and Stuart Murdoch seems never to run out of tales of art school dropouts and quirky middle class white collar heroes.

  • 6) ¡Forward Russia!, Give Me a Wall

    Never has the post-punk revival sounded so grand as with Give Me a Wall. It’s yelping, angsty and full of intellect while still managing to be catchy too. The perfect album for headbanging in the car on the way to work, so you can work out your misery and aggression on something other than your boss.

  • 5) The Hold Steady, Boys & Girls in America

    With one of the most unusual and irritating voices in indie rock, Craig Finn has crafted a classic record about teen ennui and drug taking which is like a snapshot of the film Kids. It is both comical and disturbing and will have your brain working overtime painting mental pictures of these short stories about youth.

  • 4) The Hidden Cameras, Awoo

    You play a Hidden Cameras album once and it’s like you’ve known it your whole life. This is pop music as pop music should be: thoughtful, lilting and full of lyrical double-takes.

  • 3) Guillemots, Through the Windowpane

    I cannot possibly listen to the Guillemots and walk away without a smile. Full of epic moments and daft sentimentality, this is possibly the most sincere thing you’re likely to hear for a good long while. It’s bold, tender and wholly life-affirming.

  • 2) Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

    After the slightly disappointing Blacklisted, Neko returns with an absolute belter of an album. Full of strange animal references, this is the sort of thing Neko does best – show off that amazing voice with a range of country songs and an old gospel cover thrown in for good measure. It’s about love and life and you can hear every emotion in her voice as she sings.

  • 1) The Decemberists, The Crane Wife

    This is like The Decemberists concentrated. It’s like super-hyper-Meloy-in-a-tin on an album based around two long tales and full of rock and roll sounds to complement the usual acoustic, folky pop goodness. They’re experimenting with new sounds a bit but even where they veer towards prog rock it somehow works. Catchy and compelling from start to finish.

What comes next may be more accurate about my recent listening. Yes, in no particular order and in what is far from an exhaustive list, I now bring you the Top Ten Albums I Have Been Playing Instead of Albums that Came Out in 2006:

  • Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska
  • David Bowie, Hunky Dory
  • Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
  • Neko Case & Her Boyfriends, Furnace Room Lullaby
  • The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow
  • The Decemberists, Picaresque
  • The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema
  • Rogue Wave, Descended Like Vultures
  • Stars, Set Yourself on Fire
  • The Hidden Cameras, Mississauga Goddamn

And there you have it. A year’s worth of CDs. Looking forward to next year’s lists of things I haven’t had time to play.

Posted by JustHipper on 31st December 2006 at 10:51 am | comments (6)
File under Lists.

JustHipper’s Top 10 Gigs of 2006

We’ve seen some amazing gigs this year and this was a really difficult list to compile. It’s worth the near-misses of Richard Hawley, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Death Cab For Cutie getting a mention as well. But here’s my top 10:

10) Calexico – Liverpool Academy, November 3
9) Tapes n Tapes – Liverpool Korova, August 31
8) My Morning Jacket – Manchester Academy 2, August 23
7) The Hidden Cameras – Manchester Night & Day, September 30
6) Guillemots – Leeds Cockpit, April 1 and Manchester Academy 3, May 24
5) Forward Russia – Night & Day, February 15
4) Low and My Latest Novel – Manchester Academy 2, March 28
3) Morrissey, Leeds Town Hall, April 20 and GMex, Manchester, December 23
2) Broken Social Scene – Manchester Academy 2, February 14
1) Nick Cave – Bridgewater Hall, February 6

Having been to five festivals this summer, and in an effort not to have the top 10 gigs full of festival sets, here’s my top 15 festival appearances from the bands I saw at All Tomorrow’s Parties, Weekend 2, T in the Park, Summer Sundae Weekender, D-Percussion and V. I really tried to keep it to 10 and simply couldn’t. To be fair, numbers 6-15 are pretty interchangeable as they were all brilliant. I can’t wait til 2007 and hopefully another 5 amazing festivals!

15) Guillemots – T in the Park
14) Brakes – T in the Park
13) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – T in the Park
12) Boy Least Likely To – Summer Sundae
11) Rufus Wainwright – V Festival
10) Animal Collective – T in the Park
9) Forward Russia – Summer Sundae Weekender
8) Beck, V Festival – Day 2 was the day I never quite got around to reviewing. It was not the best day of festival bands ever, but Beck really redeemed things. He came on stage with a puppet show of the band that was projected live onto the screens doing everything the band was doing. When he went off before the encore, the puppets had their own video showed to the crowd of them trashing Radiohead’s dressing room. It was inspired and pure brilliance. Radiohead would have got a mention as well except we only watched 30 minutes of their set as we had to get home so we would be awake enough to work the next day.
7) Joanna Newsom – All Tomorrow’s Parties
6) Broken Social Scene – All Tomorrow’s Parties
5) Elbow – Summer Sundae Weekender
4) Eels – T in the Park
3) The Shins – All Tomorrow’s Parties
2) The Decemberists – All Tomorrow’s Parties
1) Belle & Sebastian – Summer Sundae

The Ledge’s Top 10 Gigs of 2006

I went to a total of 59 gigs in 2006 and three festivals (if you count the three hours I spent at D:percussion). Of those 59 gigs, here’s my top ten:

  1. Broken Social Scene – Manchester Academy 2, 14th February
  2. Nick Cave – Bridgewater Hall, 6th February
  3. Calexico/Iron And Wine – Manchester Academy, 21st April
  4. My Morning Jacket – Manchester Academy 2, 23rd August
  5. Lambchop – Liverpool Royal Philharmonic, 24th October
  6. Calexico – Liverpool Academy, 3rd November
  7. Mogwai – Manchester Academy, 24th September
  8. Morrissey – G-Mex, 22nd December / The Lowry Centre, 18th April
  9. Final Fantasy – The Circle Club, 13th May
  10. Tapes ‘n Tapes – Liverpool Korova, 31st August

And my top five festival sets were:

  1. The New Pornographers at ATP
  2. Belle & Sebastian at Summer Sundae
  3. The Decemberists at ATP
  4. Dinosaur Jr at ATP
  5. ¡Forward Russia! at Summer Sundae
Posted by The Ledge on 30th December 2006 at 5:28 pm | comments (1)
File under Lists.

Gig Review: Morrissey, G-Mex, 22nd December 2006

It’s sacrilege in our household to say that you’re not particularly looking forward to seeing Morrissey but that’s exactly how I felt last Friday. The gigs earlier in the year were fine but they were in intimate venues whereas Manchester’s G-Mex holds thousands and I usually can’t stand arena gigs. Having not been to a gig at G-Mex since Björk in 1993 I had forgotten about the grandeur of the venue and the great sense of history that you feel once inside. I was far less impressed by the festival style refreshments on offer with the dreadful Carling bar offering barely any choice at £3 a drink.

Kirsteen Young was a curious choice to open for Moz, but then so are most of his support acts. There was just Kirsteen behind a keyboard and a lone drummer on the huge stage. She had a great voice and we spent most of her set trying to decide who she sounded like. Siouxsie Sioux and Kate Bush were popular comparisons early on but I settled with Tori Amos fronting Muse such was the proggy electro feel of most of the songs. She played for far too long in my opinion and most of the crowd lost interest a few songs in.

Of course, I was wrong to ever doubt Morrissey. With the late Tom Bell looking sternly on from the huge backdrop, a large wooden cross on a hill in the desolate landscape behind him, Morrissey and the band launched into a brief, squally version of “Panic”, not my favourite Smiths song ever but a glorious opener. This was followed by a brilliant “First Of The Gang To Die”, surely the best song of Mozzer’s recent renaissance, and a couple of songs later an anthemic “You Have Killed Me”, which is now a bona fide Moz classic and a song that filled all four corners of the old Central Station. This thrilling opening salvo was followed by oldie “Disappointed” and the excellent newie “Ganglord” and soon after that Mozzer reminded up that twenty years ago he had stood on the same stage “wearing the same shirt and trousers fronting a music hall act that you’ve probably forgotten” before launching into a blistering “William, It Was Really Nothing”. He alluded to the venue’s history again a little later, telling us that it was where Edward Evans was “scooped up” by Ian Brady and dedicating “Everyday Is Like Sunday” to Evans, the final victim of the Moors Murderers. This was followed by what was, for me, the highlight of the evening: a stunning full band version of “I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty” during which Morrissey’s voice soared to new heights and the band matched him every step of the way.

After that things went a little flat with the crowd strangely muted for such a big occasion. “The National Front Disco” was trotted out and passed by without incident, “Life Is A Pigsty” brooded with menace but “How Soon Is Now”, which has been a staple in his set for years now, should really be given a breather as he’ll never get close to the original no matter how hard he tries. The encore of my favourite Smiths song ever, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”, was not quite as great as I’d hoped with strident horns replacing Johnny Marr’s subtle guitar work in the coda but it was great to hear Moz singing it again nonetheless, while “Don’t Make Fun Of Daddy’s Voice” was a curious, if energetic, set closer. 2006 wasn’t a vintage year for gigs by any means but Morrissey’s performance was a triumph and the perfect way to end the year.

Posted by The Ledge on 30th December 2006 at 2:07 pm | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: CSS & 1990s, Manchester Academy 2, 11th December 2006

I’ve been holding back my top 20 gigs of the year list with the expectation that this one would be up there. The CSS live show has got quite a reputation and we unfortunately missed their Roadhouse gig a couple of months ago due to the fact that, well, we weren’t quite up to speed on them back then.

Shakes were first on. Two guys hunched over laptops and analogue synths, twiddling knobs, pressing buttons, pounding on electronic percussion as bass and drum programs throbbed from the speakers. What is this? Rave? Dance? Big Beat? 1991? Bored me then and bores me now. That New Rave scene can keep ’em.

1990s @ Manchester Academy 21990s didn’t bore me but they’re a fairly ordinary band playing occasionally entertaining indie rock ‘n’ roll. The bluesy opener “Cult Status” was very good but probably as good as it got, although the recent single “You’re Supposed To Be My Friend” ran it pretty close. They’re an entertaining band to watch, however, as they so obviously enjoy playing live. Gap-toothed singer/guitarist Jackie McKeown looks so old skool indie that he could be Steve Lamacq’s almost-identical twin (1990s is exactly the sort of band that I imagine that Lamacq would be in were he in a band). Drummer Michael McGaughrin is full of energy and has is own exuberant style while bass player Jamie McMorrow’s facial expression continuously flicked from broad, dumb smile to an expression of deathly seriousness and back again as if he keeps suddenly realising that he’s actually in a band and he should be trying to look cool. They got a great reception from the crowd, though when this tour was announced a few months ago their profile was pretty much on a par with CSS and it was, to all intents and purposes, a co-headline tour. Since the tour was rearranged and this gig was upgraded from the Academy 3 to 2 CSS have gone into orbit and they are the band that (almost) everyone has come to see.

It wasn’t until CSS came on stage that I realised that the place was full of schoolkids, many of them with their parents in tow, though why these people would bring their 14-year-old daughter to see a band most of whose songs are fairly sexually explicit I don’t know. This made me feel very old, as old as some of those parents, which I probably am, and as old as I’ve ever felt at a gig before.

CSS @ Manchester Academy 2So, the kids, predictably, squealed with delight when CSS hit the stage and squealed some more when Lovefoxxx started handing out pieces of A4 paper she’d taken from the dressing room doors, paper that had things like “shower” and “1990s” printed on them. The kids fought over the A4 paper. To make matters worse the gig was being filmed by a bunch of guys who looked just a little bit too pleased with themselves and their rather natty cameras. The camera crew constantly egged the crowd on to clap and cheer some more and the kids duly obliged. They opened with “CSS Suxx” which transformed into the excellent Sonic Youth-meets-electropop of “Alala” and it all sounded very good, and very loud. While Lovefoxxx worked the crowd from the front of the stage, and band svengali Adriano kept a watchful eye from behind his drum kit, the other four girls donned guitars and seemed to be having a great amount of fun, which made for quite a pleasing sight.

Lovefoxxx, however, was the centre of all attention with her occasional, and disappointingly tame, forays into the crowd and her cute dance moves that all the kids can copy in the playground. They played practically all of the album and little else, which was as much as I’d expect. “Fuck Off Is Not The Only Thing” and “This Month, Day 10” were particularly good and things got better when Adriano emerged from behind his kit to play bass on a pumping “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above” and the R ‘n’ B guitar groove on the brilliant “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex”. As enjoyable as it all was I have to say that I felt completely emotionally detached from the proceedings, as if I’d missed the boat with the Roadhouse gig and it was now too late, the NME generation having cottoned on and taken them to their hearts.

When they left the stage I really wasn’t looking forward to an encore, they didn’t really need to do one, but they did and in doing so undid much of their earlier good work with an appalling cover of “Pretend We’re Dead” that made L7’s version sound good. We left disappointed and with JustHipper in full-on rant mode after she’d spent the entire gig fending of a 14-year-old girl twice her height who was trying to oust her from her place against the barrier at the far left of the stage, well away from the mosh pit, while the girl’s parents looked on.

Posted by The Ledge on 29th December 2006 at 5:53 pm | comments (3)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Brakes, Roadhouse, Manchester, December 3, 2006

It’s been rather hectic here at Indie Cred so we’re behind – again – and I’ll be lucky if I can remember enough about this gig to write this, but I’m going to try.

Tiny Dancers At Manchester RoadhouseWe went down to see Brakes yet again (what’s that, 5 times for me this year now?) at the Roadhouse. It’s the first sold out gig I’ve seen them play so we were expecting a bit more craziness than previously. It was, indeed, packed out when we arrived, in time for openers Tiny Dancers, a band I kept reading about but had yet to hear. I had this weird idea in my head that Tiny Dancers were punky glam rockers with a female lead singer. I’m not sure why. Their stage setup somewhat confirmed this, with loads of plastic foliage, weird framed pictures and televisions all over the stage. They were, however, a bunch of hairy male hippies who played a rather bland sort of country rock. There were a couple of reasonable songs at the start, and they released balloons into the crowd, but I’d not go back to see them again. It was a little bit too Allman Brothers for me. I’m finding it very very strange the number of British bands who seem to want to be southern Americans. Being a southern American myself, I really really really don’t see the appeal. I suppose one could call them competent at what they were doing. They could play and sing and stuff, but it was dead boring.

Brakes at Manchester RoadhouseBrakes, on the other hand, are never boring. Having just released a fab new album, The Beatific Visions, they were on fine form in front a strangely subdued crowd. They whizzed through most of both albums, the short punky tracks off the first album such as “Cheney,” “Heard About Your Band,” and “All Night Disco Party” went down well with us in particular, and the new stuff, while a bit more, what music journalists like to call “mature” but what I’d say is just more toned-down, proved just as great in a live setting. They pretty much played like they always do, which is to say they were frantic and energetic and didn’t stop for breath. “Hold Me in the River” and “Porcuipine or Pinapple” received a lot of cheers, and I was pleased especially to hear my personal favourite, “NY Pie” as it was brilliant. I’m really liking their musical progression, into a sort of quirky country band. They don’t try to sound American and use the twang to great effect while still sounding incredibly British and somewhat punk rock. They also still know how to write wickedly biting comic lyrics. Not much more to be said really. It was a good gig, much like the other four.

Posted by JustHipper on 28th December 2006 at 5:45 pm | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Danielson, The Klondyke Club, Levenshulme, 29th November 2006

Danielson @ The Klondyke Club, Levenshulme, ManchesterWhile JustHipper and Bricking Chick were at the Apollo being thoroughly, and predictably, bored by Dirty Pretty Things I made my way back over to The Klondyke Club in Levenshulme for the second of three gigs there collectively promoted by Hey! Manchester, Pineapple Folk and Popart vs Industry. After the excellent Espers gig the week before, this time it was Danielson, a band I knew little about apart from that their album Ships is a big favourite among US bloggers in 2006 and that it contains a rather good, and quirky, song called “Did I Step On Your Trumpet”.

Everything managed to kick off on time this week and I missed the first band, The Magic Arm, but arrived just in time for The Search Map, a local band who we almost went to see at the Night & Day earlier in the year. It’s a shame that we missed that gig because The Search Map are a hugely promising band. Mixing elements of post rock and electronica with a some savvy indie pop they have been compared to iLiKETRAiNS and Hope Of The States. They have a lighter touch and are more romantic than both of these bands, however, and reminded me of The Field Mice, a band whose experimental mix of twee indie pop and electronica went unheralded in the late eighties/early nineties. Their live show might need a little work, especially the singer’s vocals, but they’re only just starting out and their gentle guitar arpeggios and occasional blissed out crescendos were a joy.

Los Campesinos! are another band I’d heard of but never really heard. Shame on me, then, because they were a blast: a Cardiff septet playing unabashed, gleeful indie pop of the highest order. The epic “You Me Dancing” was the highlight of a set that had a charmingly ramshackle lo fi vibe and included plenty of excellent indie boy/girl vocals that reminded me of Bis and early Delgados. Definitely a band to watch out for in 2007.

I had no real idea of what to expect from Danielson but had heard stories of 9ft tall costumes and entire families on stage. So I was a little surprised to see only four guys making up the band for this tour, albeit dressed in matching blue uniforms complete with name tags and hearts sewn onto sleeves, though Commander-in-chief Daniel was wearing drummer David’s and vice versa after Daniel’s was apparently stolen before the previous gig and David lent him his which Daniel then got all sweaty during said gig and David refused to wear for this gig because Daniel hadn’t got it cleaned and so David wore Daniel’s new uniform which had been flown over from the States especially (in first class à la Bono’s hat, no doubt). Or something like that. I did, however, expect to be entertained and they more than delivered on that front.

The songs were packed with dense melodies, quickfire chord progressions and sudden changes of pace and it was easy to see why they are popular with those US bloggers this year as there were constant reminders of the likes of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, Wolf Parade and Pavement, though Danielson were putting out records long before the first two of those bands. Central to everything was Daniel Smith whose high-pitched whine of a voice frequently sounded like Black Francis on heat yet never became tiresome thanks to the varied nature of the songs. He was a personable host, chatting between songs, asking for requests (but rarely playing them) and polling the audience as to whether they would like a clap-a-long, sing-a-long or even snap-a-long song. He even made sure we rehearsed the sing-a-longs before they played them, pointing out to us every nuance of melody and lyric. That sort of thing can sometimes backfire with an apathetic audience but the small crowd were certainly up for it with almost everybody joining in. The two stand out tracks of the night were “Trumpet” and “Two Sitting Ducks” while “Ship The Majestic Suffix” and “Time That Bald Sexton” certainly lived up to their great titles. They ended with another sing-a-long, and a request, “Cutest Lil’ Dragon” and most of the crowd were still there ten minutes later, buying CDs and t-shirts and chatting to the band. I dutifully bought my copy of Ships and it is a great album, though it’s probably too late for it to force its way into any end of year lists.

Posted by The Ledge on 12th December 2006 at 10:18 pm | comments (14)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Dirty Pretty Things, Manchester Apollo, November 29, 2006

I was a fan of The Libertines back in the day. Not one of those “Pete is god. This is the greatest band ever,” sort of Libs fan, but of the nature that I can appreciate good, original songwriting that sounds a lot like The Clash. The Ledge and I even went down to London to see them play at Brixton Academy, a gig which began with Chas n’ Dave and ended with Pete having a strop on stage when he thought Carl looked at him sort of funny during “Can’t Stand Me Now” and promptly attempted to destroy the stage before being chased off it by the band’s own security and re-emerging about 10 minutes later bleeding from what appeared to be a knife or razor cut down his chest. Lovely. Yet the band were captivating on stage.

So, I did feel that as I think Dirty Pretty Things have released a decent album which pretty much sounds like the Libertines that I should go see them at least once. I really shouldn’t have bothered. While The Ledge was off enjoying Danielson and while Arab Strap were gracing Manchester with their idiosyncrasies for the final time, Dirty Pretty Things were putting on one of the most boring and uninspiring shows I’ve seen in ages.

It started ok, we got down to the Apollo in time to catch the tail end of Hot Club de Paris who I think are great. Sadly, the DPT fans disagreed and they were booed and bottled. That should have been an indication of things to come. Then Larrikin Love rocked up on stage and we walked off to the bar. I heard a bit of Larrikin Love, they weren’t as bad as I expected, but it was pretty much another young group trying to emulate their heroes – Pete n’ Carl.

Finally, DPT. Now, we’d had a lovely time in the crowd before the gig. People were very friendly, we’d been chatting to some lads who had offered to pick me up so I could see the gig. Strangely enough, however, I was stood behind some small females and could actually see the stage, even from halfway back at the Apollo. Shortly after the band came on, Bricking Chick bolted for the front and the lads behind me disappeared. As the band did a set-by-numbers off their album, barely looking up from their instruments, ignoring each other and the crowd, and I listened to the chattering around me (every time I go to the Apollo….) I stood and debated whether or not I should move forward to try and get some atmosphere or stay where I could see. I opted to stay put, mainly because I wasn’t in the mood for a mosh pit. I was treated to some 18-year-old idiot girl who thought she was in the mosh pit, banged into me about five times and then screamed at me for being in her way. Apparently I was meant to apologise for standing with my hands in my pockets because when she slammed into my elbow and nearly knocked me over it hurt. I wasn’t even trying. If I had been trying it would have hurt a lot more. She got told to “**** off” and spent the rest of the gig jumping up and down and glowering at me. I think she was maybe out on day release from the institution for the first time in a few years.

In any case, that was the highlight of the set. The band disappeared and then re-emerged to play a cover of “In the City” by the Jam which sounded more like the original than the original sounds before finishing off with two Libs songs, something I can’t remember the name of from the first album and then “I Get Along.” Strangely, the crowd didn’t even seem to realise they were Libs songs. Either that or they actually thought they were watching the Libs. I was relieved when they finished because it meant I could find Bricking Chick and go get a drink. When I did find her, outside the venue in the midst of all the bootleg t-shirts, the first thing she said to me was “That was shite. I need beer to erase the memory of its shiteness” and we sloped off to Matt & Phreds where, shockingly, the nameless jazz-bar-by-numbers band was actually more inspiring than Dirty Pretty Things. Still, you live and you learn. I learned that even though Carl Barat may look pretty, he puts on a robotic live performance.

Video: “In the City” – The Jam

Video: “Deadwood” – Dirty Pretty Things

Video: “Don’t Look Back Into the Sun” – The Libertines

Posted by JustHipper on 5th December 2006 at 9:35 pm | comments (2)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.

Gig Review: Espers, The Klondyke Club, Levenshulme, 21st November 2006

The guys at Hey! Manchester certainly know how to serve up something a little different at their occasional gig promotions. After Final Fantasy in the mysterious environs of the Circle Club in the city centre back in May their next three gigs, all within a week of each other, took place at the Klondyke Club in Levenshulme, a working mens club complete with bowling green, snooker tables and bemused old timers, situated at the end of a small cul-de-sac. The first of these gigs was Philadelphia folkies Espers and we decided to venture to the other side of town despite only having a vague idea of what they sounded like, which is sometimes the best way to go.

Things were running late and opener Ed Cottam didn’t take to the stage until after 9pm. Ed’s MySpace page lists Nick Cave and Scott Walker as influences and this was certainly evident in the excellent opening track which featured a sparse arrangement of Ed’s acoustic guitar and piano from someone who looked suspiciously like Nephew’s keyboard player, with violin and cello entering the fray to great effect for the chorus. When a drummer and bass player appeared seemingly from nowhere (they must have been hiding under the bay windows at the back of he stage) for the second track onwards things got a little poppier but never really reached the heights of the opener. It was a promising set, nonetheless, and Ed has got a fine croon on him. He’s playing at Big Hands tomorrow night (Tuesday 5th December) with The Answering Machine and The Search Map. We might well be there.

Starless & Bible Black were up next and they played their laid back folk pop to an attentive, enthusiastic crowd, many of whom, including us, had chosen to sit on the floor around the front of the low stage. It was a varied and refreshing set with Hélène Gautier’s sumptuous vocals floating hazily over a largely acoustic backing augmented by some rather excellent electronica to add to the ambience. I’m a sucker for just about anything sung in French but unfortunately the only song sung in Gautier’s mother tongue was a rather limp rock ‘n’ roll number and was the only disappointment in what was otherwise an enlightening performance.

Having lost most of the feeling in my legs and buttocks through sitting down I decided to stand at the back for Edith Frost, who played alone, just her and her guitar. Though there was much chatter from the crowd as she started her first song, “Emergency”, this quickly died down and once again the audience listened intently to what was another very strong set. She reminded me very much of Kristin Hersh, though significantly less unhinged, and the second track she played, a country song whose title eluded me, was an absolute gem.

It was left to Espers to round off a great night and they more than justified their headlining slot with their woozy folk stylings. It took me a couple of songs to get into it, my initial impressions being that Meg Baird’s high pitched vocals strayed too close to traditional English folk for my liking. But it wasn’t long before I came to my senses as the other integral aspects of the Espers’ sound unfolded before us: the beautiful, intertwining guitar work of Baird and Brooke Sietinsons, Helena Espvall’s graceful cello, and Greg Weeks’ psychedelic guitar noodling, providing a stark contrast yet fitting in perfectly. The gangling Weeks was genuinely appreciative of the respect that the audience gave the band as barely a whisper could be heard during even the quietest of passages, but then the only people in the room not captivated by their mesmerising performance were the two young lads sat at the front of the stage, sleeping like babies. By the time the gig had ended at just gone midnight it was way, way past their bedtime.

Posted by The Ledge on 4th December 2006 at 7:32 pm | comments (3)
File under Gig Reviews,Reviews.