Sunday, 29 December 2019

Flying Fish Cove

Each year I make a compilation, rather loosely claiming to be 20 great new acts, or more accurately the ones that have excited me most. And each year I leave out something that really, if I paid more care to compiling the songs, should have been included. No matter, it's just a bit of fun. But never have I made such an egregious error to exclude a new band of the promise and excitement and excellence of Flying Fish Cove.

What can I say? Apart from sorry, of course, I can say that At Moonset is one of 2019's finest albums. It combines The Unicorns' melodic madness, Elephant 6 exuberance, Magnetic Fields' resigned tenderness and Heavenly's joyfulness in romantic despair. I love how they dip into My Bloody Valentine on Dangerous Words - this is a pop band who experiment. That keyboard sound is an omnichord, you know.

They're catchy and kooky enough to hook into the next Alvvays support slot and on the strength of their album and ep my money's on 2020 seeing them on everyone's best of lists.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

2019 in 20 songs by 20 new acts

I'm not sure exactly what happened in 2019, but here we are. There's so much going on it's impossible to impose any sort of order on the year in music. So much exciting music from Gothenburg, for example, but genre boundaries are their least concern.

The UK's DIY scene is thriving again, but there's no link between Breakup Haircut (tough and tuneful) and Pynch (mutant disco). And there wasn't room for Black Country, New Road (the sound of Slint) although if anyone gets big next year, it'll surely be them.

Australia is disproportionately over-represented, but again I can't really see a scene.

The sequencing lacks a little cohesion simply because of the variety and adventure on offer. And, yes, that is an 11-minute song at track 3. Born Stoned is the best song from one of the year's best albums. And I know Possible Humans didn't, like a couple of other acts, debut this year, but this year is when I loved what they did and bought them for the first time.

I'll send a download to a few friends, one of whom always buys a few things (hi Paul!). Which is sort of the point, as JJ Ulius of the mighty Skiftande Enheter points out:

The money I have made from selling these records is definitely not a huge sum but enough to actually create new creative opportunities that would not exist otherwise.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Skiftande Enheter - Snubblar genom drömmar

JJ Ulius is the most diverse and prolific musician in Gothenburg's world-beating scene. You'll know last year's debut solo single (tipsy Teardrop Explodes psych punk) and you really need to hear Monokultur's album this year (motorik dub meets early 80s electronic ambience). His main band, Skiftande Enheter, were the least interesting project - smash and grab punk, nothing to add. Until the release of Snubblar genom drömmar.

Somehow, for whatever reason, Ulius has discovered Felt's Forever Breathes The Lonely Word. Swirling keyboards and guitars that sound like pins popping in your head. What the flipping flip? Let my research team spring into action.

"Skiftande Enheter started out as a punk band, not the noisiest kind but still noisy enough to scare away the most sensitive ears. Our new record IS noisy but its not really punk anymore, more like pop or new wave or postpunk or something like that. It is probably a bit more accessible too...I have my personal favourites, like the title track ”Snubblar genom drömmar (stumbling through dreams)” In my ears it sounds a bit like a felt song from the ”Forever breaths the lonely word”-era, done our way. Another favourite is ”Min hand i din (My hand in yours)” that has some of the feeling of the most velvet-worshipping Beat Happening-songs."

Such self-awareness. If every musician was as spot on about what they'd recorded we'd never need reviews. And if magazines did their best of lists at the end of the year they'd have space for this album somewhere near the top.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Ducks Unlimited - Get Bleak

"Maybe you should fuck off entirely." Who said romance was dead? Twilit keyboards and irresistible ping pong guitar lines - miserable melodrama and giant pop hooks - summon up one side of Factory Records' ethic, a bit of New Order and a lot of The Wake. That sound later adopted by The Field Mice. There's even some Strange Idols Felt in there - tribal drums twinned with ultra-styled guitar.

This is a seriously good ep. Before you can say 'are you scared to get bleak', all four captivating songs strongly suggest that in 2020 Ducks Unlimited will be the indiepop window to watch. Expect button badge sales to soar. And this pay-off line sung at your local disco: "if you're ever in the mood to dissociate baby, give me a call".

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

East Village interview

"We do what we want, take it or leave it. I'd rather be poor than bend over in the record company's office." Most people left it, more fool them. This is the only East Village fanzine interview I remember, from Scotland's Do It For Fun, late 1989.

People eventually caught up. No doubt still more will when Slumberland release Hotrod Hotel on vinyl in January. They were my favourite band for a while. 30 years have done nothing to diminish my love for these songs.

There was a TV interview as well:
"We wanted to start a group with three singer songwriters in it - that's the main idea behind it."

Friday, 29 November 2019

Pure Moods - Upward Spiral

Teenage angst so hard to beat, right? Pure Moods’ Adam Modric might be out of his teens, but this low-slung Melbourne jangle has bedroom pop, romantic desolation and low-level isolation written all over it.

Hardly surprising, because Upward Spiral is a collection of home recordings from 2016 to 2019. They’re drowsy slacker rock, laid-back lazy hums and instantly charming. Fans of early Real Estate and The Twerps need to take notice right now.

No expense was spent on these recordings - oh shut up at the back, no one’s putting a monetary value on heartbreak - and even if the whole mopefest checks out in less than 20 minutes it’s because its work is done.

Upward Spiral is released by Tear Jerk Records, who put out one of last year’s great albums, Oh Boy by Massage. Like that, this is pressed in a run of 100 copies, so step to it.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Golden Age Of Pop by The Hit Parade

Julian Henry declared last year: “I’m about to go on a spree of releasing 7” singles of songs as I write them, which is how I started off back in 1984.” Following a high-level board meeting at The Hit Parade’s label JSH Records, they realised they had too much pop and the only solution was to release an album.

You’ll be familiar with Henry channelling the young Paul Weller (A Town Called Malice to be precise) on Joey’s Girl, and the highwire drama of Oh Honey I. Those 7” cuts are aperitifs to the fusillade of failure that The Hit Parade wrestle with on The Golden Age Of Pop.

The most immediate choices for that now mythical 7” spree are Burden Of Your Beauty (infectious beat pop with double-tracked harmonies), Come And Visit Leeds (Motown’s hit factory plug in Rickenbacker guitars to soundtrack mascara running in tears) and I’m Recovering From You (The Hit Parade dip their hip to Brazilian rhythms while claiming “I’m only 56 years young”).

Then there’s How Can I Tell, in which the amps are turned up to 11 and the drums pounded in what’s surely a successful bid to add a song to the indie disco canon.

Too much pop, indeed. But proving that The Hit Parade’s appeal reaches beyond the teen market, the flinty folk of The Last Boat On The Dock hymns a whimsical ballad. Phew! So many riches.

The Golden Age Of Pop is out now. The vinyl edition comes with a colour comic, Tales From Planet Pop, charting The Hit Parade’s lack of chart success.