CD Reviews: Simon Connor, Ten Kens, Broken Records, Rose Kemp

We’ve had a bunch of CD’s kicking around Indie Cred HQ that we’ve been meaning to review. I’m going to do a quick run through on some of them. The Ledge will follow this up with a couple of more detailed ones, hopefully this week.

Seaside Surprise – Simon Connor

First up we have the four-track Seaside Surprise EP by local Manc singer-songwriter Simon Connor. We saw Simon back in February opening for Light Syndicate and found him very enjoyable and very good with a looping pedal. On this EP, however, he’s recruited help from some local bands including The Beep Seals, Light Syndicate and Cats in Paris as backing musicians. This is singer-songerwiter music so it’s earnest, melancholic and fairly acoustic. It’s also far too intelligent to just tick the usual guy-with-an-acoustic-guitar boxes. Connor is heartfelt and drawn to minor keys, but he also paints interesting, mournful landscapes with his lyrics and he has a good ear for arrangements – knowing when to stick to sparse guitar and when to use noise and sound to re-inforce what he’s singing about. I’m very much against using violins to suggest gravitas, but the violins here work really well to help build a mood of longing and melancholy on both “Open Fire” and “Brittle Branches”. Connor isn’t a one-trick pony though, there’s even a pop moment in the form of “Seaside Surprise” which sounds like it would have been on American college radio around 1997. This is a great introduction which holds a lot of promise. Seaside Surprise is currently on sale in Piccadilly Records on Oldham Street and Manchester and will be available for purchase on iTunes from 8th September.

Simon Connor – Brittle Branches

Gig EP – Broken Records

Last time we saw the Twilight Sad, I bought a copy of Broken Records Gig EP. It gives a teaser of things to come on their debut record and sums up what we took away from their live performance. They operate in that manic, Scottish territory occupied by Sons and Daughters but are more folky and less predictable. Opening track “If the News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch It” makes me think of The Waterboys at times. They have a bit of the chaotic atmosphere that comes from a Broken Social Scene live performance but they sound distinctly Scottish at the same time, making good use of a violin and an accordian to drag the sound back towards European folk which also aligns quite nicely with the sorts of tunes being written by the Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit, without, perhaps, those bands’ nods to post rock.

Broken Records – If the News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch It

Ten Kens – Ten Kens (FatCat, 2008)

A band that do draw firmly on their Toronto roots to great effect is Ten Kens on their debut album called Ten Kens. Making great use of reverb and twangy guitar with deliberately obscured vocals, they manage to be somewhere in between the great noisy, rock and roll anthemic chaos and anticipation produced by Broken Social Scene and a more earthy, organic alt-country mood, although they also swap the twangy guitar at times for hardcore-influenced riffs and shouting. This is a band that I suspect are going to be fantastic on a stage as they certainly make a great rousing, emotional cacophany of noise which still manages to be melodic and occasionally soft and thoughtful. The album is out on 15th of September on FatCat and is worth checking out.

Ten Kens – Downcome Home

Unholy Majesty – Rose Kemp (One Little Indian, 2008)

Entirely at the other end of every spectrum is Rose Kemp with Unholy Majesty. This is not the sort of record that usually makes its way onto CD players at Indie Credential HQ, but mainly because we don’t tend to go for gothic female singer-songwriters that write lyrics such as “With the rope from your car / Just for you / Yeah, knotted and bruised / With my hair done all nice / Just for you / Yeah bloated and blue / With the rats at my shoe / Just for you / Yeah, gnawed and chewed”. Having said that, this is actually pretty good at doing what it aims to do. Rose Kemp sounds suitably tortured, vocally somewhere in between the woman out of Evanescence and Siouxie Sioux. At times she even invokes PJ Harvey, at PJ’s more snarly, crazed moments from her early records.  This ticks the goth boxes it intends to tick, going back and forth between melodramatic quiet, emotionally tortured moments and noise, screaming moments full of guitar feedback and angst. Needless to say, the delivery of the above lyric sounds a lot better than the lyric reads in the liner notes. While I can’t say this CD is going to get much regular listening here, there are a lot of people who wear a lot of black and velvet and rarely go out in the sun who are going to absolutely love this. Unholy Majesty by Rose Kemp is out on 1st September on One Little Indian.

Rose Kemp – Bitter and Sweet

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