Music news

CES 2017

1st February 2017

 

 

An opportunity for manufacturers to unveil their plans for the coming year or show off the very best of their creations, the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is always a treat for audiophiles. Although not all of us are lucky enough to experience it firsthand, thanks to the joys of high-speed internet, we can share a glimpse of what went down at this year’s CES…

 



MOON by Simaudio

 

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Obviously aiming for domination in the global “My Monoblocs Are Bigger Than Yours” competition, Simaudio unveiled their greatest achievement to date: What Hi-Fi’s “Star of CES 2017”, the MOON 888 monobloc power amplifier. Named for its prodigious power output of 888 Watts (which is about 1.2 horsepower, for those interested), they apparently sound like nothing to have come before them, boasting unmatched clarity and detail reproduction thought unobtainable until now. These bad boys will be visiting Edinburgh very soon, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for that.

 



YG Acoustics

 

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If you were lucky enough to experience the Sonja 1.3 from YG Acoustics whilst they were in Edinburgh then you know how impressive these loudspeakers are. Beautifully detailed highs that you could listen to for hours, and a tremendous bass presence thanks to the added modules. Never one to rest on their laurels, YG Acoustics got the chance to show off their latest extension of the Sonja line: Sonja XV, an eXtreme Version commemorating 15 years of YG Acoustics. A total of four towers, with new drivers and a host of improvements making this iteration of Sonja the very best yet.

 



KEF

 

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Showcasing the brand new LS50 Wireless bookshelf speakers, the guys at KEF thought they’d try something new: Combining the LS50s with Amazon Echo, they created a system that sounds wonderful and is controlled by shouting at it. The perfect combo of wireless and hands-free control.



 

Nordost

 

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The main star of the show for these guys was their new Valhalla 2 USB 2.0 Cable. Totally designed from the ground up to reach their exacting standards, they promise that this new cable will “push sonic boundaries.” Not content to stay in their own room, Nordost cables and accessories were spotted throughout the show, proving to be a favourite of Simaudio, Hegel, VTL, and many more.

 



 

Totem Acoustics

 

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The Canadian speaker specialists, creators of the much loved Arro, revealed their most recent work: the Sky. A compact bookshelf speaker dedicated to pure, honest musical reproduction. They boast that it can be placed on any surface, and that it works brilliantly up against walls. A perfect solution for those with limited space who yearn for great sound.

A pair of Element Metal floorstanders were spotted being driven by two brand new Bret D’agostino M5 monoblocs. After his unfortunate demise in January, these were the last amplifiers that Bret designed. Quite the swansong.

 



 

ELAC

 

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Following on from the hype they generated with the Debut series, the engineers at ELAC decided to try and outdo themselves. Again. The result is the Adante range: a trio featuring a floorstander, the AF-61; a standmount, the AS-61; and a centre channel, the AC-61; all with brand new concentric midrange/tweeter, improved woofers, and a cabinet architecture that leaves nothing to be desired.

 



 

Tidal x MQA

 

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If you’ve not heard about MQA by now, it’s a super fancy file format that takes studio master recordings and encapsulates them to be streamed or downloaded, before being unpacked at the end and played through your hi-fi at quality levels thought unobtainable beforehand. You can learn all about it here at the MQA website.

By teaming up with Tidal, the CD-quality streaming service giant which you can read more about here, MQA can now be streamed straight to your home. The new service is called Tidal Masters, and already has over 1200 albums available (full list here).

MQA does require a compatible decoder to unlock the full experience, such as the Special Edition Meridian DSP speakers, Prime headphone amp, or Explorer 2 DAC.

 



 

Focal

 

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Aiming to create a masterpeice combining unbeatable sound quality and stunning (if somewhat bling) aesthetics, Focal took their reference Utopia headphones to master jewelers  Philippe and Mathieu  Tournaire. Priced at £100’000, and an extra £10’000. for the stand, we don’t imagine we’ll be seeing many people sporting these cans. However, if you can live without the glitz of 18-carat gold and 6.5 karats of diamonds, the original pair can be picked up for £3’900, and sound just as impressive as without all the jewels.

Devialet: The Lost Recordings.

15th December 2016

For an extremely limited time, Devialet are making available three exquisite live recordings from jazz legends Sarah Vaughan, Bill Evans, and Oscar Peterson that were thought to be lost forever. Recovered from the mists of time by skilled sound archaeologists, restored and remastered using Expert technologies and the Phoenix Mastering process for exceptional playback quality, pressed to 180g audiophile vinyl, and limited to 900 copies worldwide, these are truly something special.

Both the Sarah Vaughan and Oscar Peterson recordings are available as double LPs for £110, and Bill Evan’s single LP is priced at £80.

To get your hands on one of these limited cuts, please contact Billy.s@loud-clear.co.uk or ring us on 0131 555 3963 during our usual opening times; and to find out more about these special albums check out Devialet’s site.

Blossoms

3rd June 2016

Each week it’s on, we go through a ritual of checking out who’s on our pre-recorded version of the Jools Holland show and then spend much of it fast forwarding through the bits that we’re not that keen on. And recently, that’s been quite a lot (sorry Jools). However, occasionally it throws something interesting at us. And a couple of weeks ago, that something was up and coming Stockport band, Blossoms.

Relatively new (in terms of the music industry), they’ve already been bagged as support band by The Coral, The Charlatans and more recently, Kasabian. Along with their spot on Jools’ show (well done boys!) this should have gained them a whole new fanbase. They do a nice line in psychedelic indie pop and it’s shaping up to be the sound of the summer.

There are some EP’s already available but a number of the tracks on these will also make an appearance on their self titled debut album due out on 5th August. If you pre-order it here on CD or vinyl, it will arrive signed by the band and you will also be entered into a competition to win tickets to a special homecoming gig. In Stockport, obviously.

If you missed Jools, here‘s one of their songs from the show. They also made an appearance on the BBC’s introducing stage at SXSW earlier this year which you can view here.

Be warned though, these guys will totally bring out the indie kid in you!

 

Kiev

27th May 2016

We made another trip to The States recently, the main objective of which was to attend Levitation festival in Austin, Texas. Whilst perusing what else might be happening there around that time, we were stunned to discover that our very own Foals would be playing legendary venue Emo’s on the Friday night of the same weekend. After a quick check to make sure that we wouldn’t be missing anything monumental at the festival, we promptly purchased tickets. The listing said ‘with support from Kiev’. I had never heard of them so I made mental note to check them out.

I soon had both an EP and full debut album streaming in my office and the following days were filled with trying to digest the quality of the music they produce. It’s complex and melodic, sometimes a little bit jazzy and little bit crazy but it totally works. And I fell a little bit in love.

I was super excited when they took the stage at Emo’s and they completely blew us away with their musicianship, proving that they are even better live than their studio work suggests. I spoke with the drummer afterwards (when I made sure I got both pieces of vinyl and a t-shirt from their merch stall) and he said that they’d love to come to the UK. They even have Scottish people in their crew.

To find out how good they sound, visit here, here and here. And you can buy direct from the band here to give them a reason to visit us.

Big thanks and respect to everyone for making it a special night. The sound quality at Emo’s is possibly the best I’ve ever heard at a gig. Kiev were simply stunning and Foals sounded extra über with a cherry on top!

Sumer

16th March 2016

Sel Balamir of Amplifier loves a good joke. So, when he posted on Facebook that he was rocking out to a British band who sounded a bit like Tool, I thought ‘yeah right, no one else really sounds like Tool’. However, Sumer‘s debut album ‘The Animal You Are’ is a surprising mix of influences and manages to come as close as I’ve heard.

With three guitars (yes, three!) plus bass guitar and drums, they’re able to layer things up and then break them down again in a most pleasing way. Some of the tracks run into one another making it feel like a lovely organic journey and even the ones that are only a few minutes long are a real lesson in dynamics.

If I haven’t frightened you off with any of that, you can have a listen via their own website and Facebook pages and there’s a five song pro shot live set available on YouTube. And after that lot, don’t forget to head straight over to Bandcamp and buy their tunes (as a download or physical CD) and a t-shirt. The album artwork is worth that alone.

Thanks Uncle Sel!

Nothing But Thieves

27th November 2015

I literally tripped over these guys whilst browsing for something on a well known website, when they popped up on my home page because of other things I’d bought recently. I normally ignore those ‘recommendations’ but something caught my eye (namely the cover art) and I decided to investigate further. After a bit of reading, I soon had it streaming in my office…

I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first but was immediately and quite unexpectedly hearing Muse meets Radiohead. Now those are big shoes to be aspiring to fill but these boys somehow manage it, and all without losing their own identity. There’s plenty of melody and catchy riffs, not to mention Conor Mason’s vocal acrobatics (which may be Marmite for some people), and at least one of the slower tracks sees him giving Jeff Buckley a run for his money.

A few listens in and I have to say, it’s an accomplished record for such young guys. It’s obvious that they’ve got oodles of talent between them which translates into masses of potential, and it appears that they can do it LIVE too. Muse even chose them as support for their Rock in Roma show earlier this year where they played in front of 30,000 people.

Check out this Halloween performance of new single ‘Itch’ (one of their best songs, IMO) taken from their self titled debut. Out now so if you like this, you know what to do…

The Black Jesuses & Gods

24th March 2015

So, I’ve mentioned The Parlor Mob (only 3 times now) before. I may even have said that they weren’t all that great at communicating (maybe by today’s social media standards) what was happening in their world. Until you realise that they haven’t exactly been slacking. In between records/labels/jobs to finance what they’re doing, three members of The Mob have also been working on side projects…

First up is guitarist/keyboard player/singer David Rosen and Drummer Sam Bey, who’ve conjured up country-garage-rock duo The Black Jesuses and released their first full length album last year. They even put it out on vinyl. There’s plenty of Jack White/The White Stripes influence going on here and it’s a solid album from start to finish. There are some nice live clips available on their website here for a wee taster.

Drummer Sam is also keeping busy in second duo Gods, with (the multi-talented/producer/engineer and) second Mob guitarist Paul Ritchie. This is a more Psychedelic affair and listening to debut album ‘Endless Stunner’ has had me longing for summer as it’s the perfect soundtrack. Check out the link below to hear what I mean.

And finally, please remember that just because you can stream these albums via Bandcamp here and here, doesn’t mean that these guys don’t want/need paying for their hard work. You can even name your price. And whilst it’s evident that they love what they do so much that they’d probably do it for free, they’ve still gotta eat/pay bills like everyone else. So, wallets at the ready to show your appreciation. You can also help by spreading the word.

The Parlor Mob (3)

5th February 2015

I’m writing about The Parlor Mob for a third time here (If you missed it and you’re interested, you can read what I wrote here and here). I would really like some help with spreading the word about exactly how good these guys are. And how much they need our support.

As I suspected, they have now confirmed that they are financing third album, ‘Cry Wolf’ themselves. Here’s what they posted on their Facebook page yesterday

Thank you so much everyone who has pre-ordered Cry Wolf already… We’re overwhelmed and extremely appreciative.

Please continue to spread the word… This is our first independent release in a decade, and as we’ve always said, you guys and gals are more powerful than any machine.

To answer a few questions…
1) The February 17th release will be digital only. When you pre-order the album, it will automatically be emailed to you for download in the high quality format of your choosing on the 17th.

2) There 100% WILL be a vinyl version released, but it won’t be ready until the spring. Whether or not there will be a CD version remains to be seen.

3) The album is indeed 5 songs…. And it is indeed a full length. They’re long songs.

We’re going to continue to work hard on new music for you. If you haven’t already, listen to “Dead Man” at http://parlormob.com and visit https://theparlormob.bandcamp.com to pre-order Cry Wolf now.
Thank you so much.

So, please feel free to have a listen, then (hopefully) decide to pay the princely sum of $7 US dollars (or more if you would like to) and pass it onto anyone you think might be interested. Let’s get these guys back to doing what they do best.

Thanks for listening…

Gig Finder

22nd January 2015

So, new year, new name! Well, only if you happen to be the group started by Jason on the MeetUp website as a way of promoting gigs in and around the Edinburgh area. He decided that the Rocksteady name wasn’t quite right or saying what he wanted it to, so he’s renamed it Gig Finder.

Feel free to join up and he’ll try and suggest gigs that you might not otherwise hear about. Jason is even happy for you to make suggestions of your own that we might not know about (or try). So, time to get our collective heads (and ears) together and start enjoying live music in 2015 methinks…

Ben Howard (Live)

10th December 2014

I was lucky enough to be among the 2000 (or so) people that crammed themselves into Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, eager to spend a cold, wet Saturday night with Ben Howard and his amazing band. We’d had to wait a while since falling for his amazingly soulful sound but it was absolutely worth it.

The venue was perfect. Even Ben, mentioned how lovely it was. And the gig itself turned out to feel slightly like an out of body experience with the crowd alternating between mesmerised-into-silence and almost-taking-the-roof-off appreciation. There was however, a bit of banter between some songs with (an obviously having a good time) Ben. It turns out that he likes a drink!

Recent album, I Forgot Where We Were is quite a departure from his first and I get the impression that the new, slightly downbeat but incredibly intense songs might have left some fans of his previous work a little confused. Personally, I adore it and hearing it performed live was a real pleasure.

This show was recorded at The Bataclan, Paris on December 1st and it’s the closest thing I can offer you to the real thing. Prepare to be amazed at how good it sounds even when squeezed through the wonder of the interweb…

p.s. I must mention support band Hiss Golden Messenger who were surprisingly enjoyable and looked like they were having as good a time as the crowd!

The Pineapple Thief (Live)

28th November 2014

A number of years ago, I discovered these guys via a recommendation based on other music I was listening to at the time. And as I’m always looking for my next fix of new music, I decided to give them a try. I was surprised to find that they had already been around for a while (since 1999) and had a substantial back catalogue to choose from. Then came the booking of tickets to see them live at the Classic Grande in Glasgow back in 2011 and the discovery that they are also a superb live band.

Now, it’s your chance to see them live in Edinburgh! Fast becoming a regular haunt for seeing some great bands close to home, the Liquid Room  in Victoria Street will be host to The Pineapple Thief on their current ‘Magnolia’ album tour. You can read more about that and book your tickets (of which there are only a few left so book now to avoid disappointment) here.

It’s next Saturday, 6th December but please note the early start time of 6.30pm. The venue is also host to club nights after gigs but this time, it’s also to allow superb support band Winter in Eden to play an extended slot due to phenomenal demand. So don’t miss your opportunity for a great Saturday night of live music and to see these two great bands for the price of one ticket!

See you there…

Haken, Leprous & Maschine (Edinburgh-Live)

23rd October 2014

Hello People and apologies for the lull in communication recently. There have been a lot of non-music based activities going on in the background but we’re finally back in live music mode! So, with the clocks going back this weekend, you’ve got almost a full week to recover and then…

Join us at The Liquid Room, Victoria Street on Saturday 1st November for a whole variety of proggy goodness courtesy of Ridgeback Rock and Ridgeback Rock Scotland. Not two but three bands in Haken, Leprous and Maschine,  guaranteed to keep you warm on a (probably) cold, dark autumnal evening. And it’s not even a school night. What more could you ask for?! It’ll be a fine way to start the season as you mean to go on. More live music dates to be announced very soon.

You can still get tickets for this via Tickets Scotland but they’re going fast. If it sells out, don’t be too disappointed as you can always try the venue on the day. There may just be some returns available on the door.

p.s. The eagle-eyed amongst you will also get a sneak preview of that exciting date mentioned above via the ticket page…

 

Opeth (Live – 2)

16th October 2014

This week, I have mainly been having my mind blown (again) courtesy of Swedish medieval-jazzy-folk-prog-metallers Opeth. We made the journey down to Nottingham’s historic Rock City venue where we had opted to do a meet’n’greet with the band. Which was fun. And the show that followed was a rapturous two hour extravaganza that zig-zagged through almost every record from their back catalogue (please see photo of my beautifully signed and framed setlist) in what can only be described as a mind bending show of extreme talent.

Fast forward to Tuesday night and we did it all again in Glasgow (minus the meet’n’greet – we didn’t want to look like stalkers). Only this time the gig (and the crowd) was even better. Which I didn’t think was possible. I left on a high before realising that it would be a while before they return on the second leg of this tour. Roll on next year…

You can read my original post about them here and my first live review here.

And if you would like a taste of what all the fuss is about, you can try this short and sweet festival set from Rock Am Ring earlier this year here.

WARNING: This is best played loud but you may want to remove any children/pets from the immediate area first…

 

The Parlor Mob (2)

12th September 2014

When I first wrote about The Parlor Mob back in May 2012, nothing could’ve prepared me for what came next. There I was, waiting for them to announce their plans for more music or a world domination tour, but what I and all the other Mob fans actually got was…radio silence.

They had never been all that good at updating their facebook page or website but as time passed and it became apparent that they no longer had a label, my heart sank. It looked like the difficult nature of the music industry had claimed another casualty in their prime . So after a while, I came to terms with the fact that I would never have the privilege of seeing them perform live and would just have to make do with their two brilliant studio albums.

Then in June, out of the blue came the announcement. A new album called ‘Cry Wolf’ to be released in the fall along with a few US tour dates. It’s not clear what’s been going on and they may well be financing everything themselves, but it’s great to have them back! And we’ve already decided that if they don’t make it back to the UK any time soon, we’re going to them.

They have their own YouTube channel but the quality of the live clips varies wildly. One that I will recommend however is this one which, strangely enough is the title track of their upcoming album and was written around the time of their first but for some reason, didn’t make the cut. I can only presume it was deemed to be TOO EPIC for a debut. They were also ejected from a support slot on tour after a few dates with no apparent reason. The fans guess was that they had been too EXCESSIVELY AWESOME and made the headliner look bad. Ha!

Get The Mob mentality at http://www.parlormob.com

 

Royal Blood

29th August 2014

Like most people who have heard of/about them, I was anticipating something new and exciting from Royal Blood’s self-titled debut album. We caught the last part of their set on the NME tour earlier this year and were immediately impressed. Likewise when they appeared on Jools Holland. I just wasn’t sure if, as a two piece that their sound might be a little limited…

First off, I would like to publicly apologise to Mike and Ben for ever doubting them. They have riffs aplenty with hooks to reel you in, coupled with bags of attitude. It sometimes sounds so complex that you’d swear there was more than just two of them making that racket. And, it’s a solid album from start to finish so if you think you’ve heard the best of them via their singles/EP, then you might just be pleasantly surprised by the rest. I know I was.

Anyone missing The White Stripes or (early) Black Keys sound, and fans of Queens of the Stone Age etc should definitely check these guy out.

Here they are causing a bit of a rumpus at T In the Park a few weeks back with the help of an enthusiastic crowd…

Brighton Rocks at http://royalbloodband.com

 

Crown

15th July 2014

I’m so glad that we stumbled upon Crown at The Maverick Music Festival in San Antonio earlier this year (you can read that story here). Their own list of influences includes The Beatles, Led Zep, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, My Morning Jacket and Queens of The Stone Age, which you can hear (along with others) throughout their first proper full length album release entitled ‘Are These The Good Days’.

I would say, yes. As with most up and coming bands, these guys have had to fund almost everything themselves. From the cost of instruments (especially when your original ones have been stolen) to the rental of rehearsal space (plus recording time) and not forgetting touring (transport and accommodation etc) which can be prohibitively expensive in itself. And they’ve worked so hard to achieve this that none of them have been able to afford a trip to the barbers for quite some time (ha ha, only kidding guys)!

You can listen on Spotify now but please note that they share their name with a rapper(!) so best to look the album up by title (you should also check out their Thousand Men To Save The King EP while you’re there). Or refer to their Facebook page which is choc full of links and info including clips like this. And then please do lend them your support by buying their tunes.

You know you want to…

 

Interpol

1st July 2014

I’ve been infatuated with Interpol for a long time. Ever since I came home late from a gig, tuned into (now long defunct) music tv channel The Amp and stumbled upon the ever so slightly creepy video for hit single ‘Evil’. Playing in the background, I soon found myself drawn to it firstly by the music and then by what was happening on screen. After that, I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

I couldn’t believe I had never heard of them before as it was just my kinda stuff. However, comparisons have been made which I don’t really agree with (I’m not sure what other people hear sometimes) and I may never have found them based on those alone. But that video led to the purchase of sophomore album ‘Antics’, followed by investigation of debut ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ (which celebrated it’s 10th Anniversary in 2012). With the addition of 2007’s ‘Our Love to Admire and 2010’s triumphant self-titled ‘Interpol’, it’s a back catalogue to be proud of.

September 8th sees the release of album number 5 ‘El Pintor’ (that’s one for our spanish-speaking anagram fans) and they don’t sound like a band who are getting tired or running out of steam. I’ve already heard them play some new stuff live earlier this year as part of the NME tour and I’m happy to report, it sounds like classic Interpol. And that’s the thing about these guys. Even though they’ve definitely expanded on their sound over time, they never sound like they’re trying to be anyone other than Interpol.

Here they are playing a Friday evening set at Glastonbury and (probably) taking some people by surprise by a) how good they are and b) how many songs they actually recognise…

NYC’s Most Wanted at http://www.interpolnyc.com

Les-Fest

26th June 2014

There’s an amazing festival happening this weekend. No, not Glastonbury (although, that’s happening also apparently). I’m talking about Scotland’s very own premier rock and metal festival, Les-Fest 2014. Now in it’s third year, it has moved to the new and quite frankly beautiful location of Wiston Lodge, South Lanarkshire making it less than a hour away from Edinburgh, Glasgow and even Carlisle. With 52 acres of land, there’s enough space for the usual parking and camping but if you don’t fancy roughing it there’s the Lodge, Wooden Cabins and even some Tipis. But time is short so please go here for your options and how to book.

So, if you’re a fan of raucous rawk music and are looking for something other that a quiet weekend then Les-Fest might just be for you. It’s already won Best Musical Event of the Year back in 2012 at the Scottish New Music Awards but if you need any more convincing, there are plenty of reviews of previous years here. Still relatively young, it’s only going to get bigger year on year. And just imagine being able to tell your grandkids ‘I was there, back in the day…’

Glaston-who?! at http://www.les-fest.co.uk

A Liquid Landscape

17th June 2014

I had never heard of A Liquid Landscape before running into them when they supported Crippled Black Phoenix at the Liquid Rooms a couple of weeks ago. My first impression was ‘great name’. And they didn’t disappoint with their emotive live sound either.

Now that I’ve had time to digest their ‘Nightingale Express’ album, I have to say that I’ve really fallen for them. It’s a beautiful collection of songs that take you on a journey of discovery, hope and longing. This is not an itunes/ipod shuffle album people, and requires listening to in its entirety for the full experience. You’ll soon find yourself pressing repeat at the end…

The band have even been good enough to collaborate with film maker Lex Vesseur to produce a short film which captures the very essence of their sound and concept. You can view it here.

I’m hopeful that they will make it back to these shores again in the not too distant future. Now that I know the music, I would love the chance to hear it live again and I will let everyone know if/when that happens. Until then, please feel free to do some Facebook liking and purchasing of a physical/download copy of the album obviously.

Good bands like this deserve your support…

Check out the landscape at https://www.facebook.com/aliquidlandscape

 

White Denim & Crippled Black Phoenix.

20th May 2014

This week sees two outstanding bands gracing Edinburgh’s very own Liquid Rooms with their musical goodness.

On Thursday 22nd, you could choose to spend the evening with one of the finest four-piece guitar bands on the planet. Ladies and Gentlemen all the way from Austin, Texas (and also to be seen on Jools Holland this week) I give you White Denim. Now, I’ve already bigged these guys up here and here but if you need any more persuasion then please check out this recent set from Seattle’s KEXP radio station. Not requiring any excuse, I will also be attending their Newcastle date on Saturday, as one night with these guys just never seems quite enough.

Bank holiday Sunday 25th (hurrah!) sees the many members of Crippled Black Phoenix squeeze themselves onto the Liquid Rooms’ stage for a night of something between an apology and a fight. Musically, of course. CBP were the first band that I chose to write about here and this show should give you an idea of what they do. Expect to see some different faces though (due to their ever changing line-up), keeping the live experience fresh every time.

You can find links for buying tickets for both of these events on the Ridgeback Rock Scotland Facebook page, along with lots of other music based treats. And as it’s quite close to the actual gigs, if you can’t collect your tickets from the booking agent in time there is always the option to buy on the door. But please call first to check availability on 225 2564. See you there, hopefully…

 

Getting Involved…

16th May 2014

So as mentioned in my previous post, I think it’s about time us music lovers took action and helped to create the kind of live music scene that we want for Scotland. And there are some tools at our disposal to help achieve that.

First up is local networking site Meetup. This allows people to set up/become part of a locally based group with common interests who can then spread the word about upcoming events that might be of interest. Like live music, perhaps. So, I’d like to introduce you to Meetup Edinburgh’s Rocksteady. If you’re up for it, please sign up for this interactive group hosted by Jason. He’s done the ground work and is happy for members to make suggestions and post reviews etc. His outlook seems to be the more, the merrier. And why not.

Next, came by way of my encounter with Riverside just last month. When discussing my meet’n’greet with promoter Ridgeback Rock we bonded very quickly over music (or rather the lack of it). So much so, that by the end of the whole fantastic experience we realised that we had inadvertently joined their crew. So, meet Ridgeback Rock – Scotland where we’ll be posting recommended music and details of upcoming events. Please pop by our page and let us know if you like what we’re doing. And if you don’t, please be gentle as we’re still finding our feet.

Also, Loud & Clear will continue to host their own regular events. Details of which will be posted here and come by invitation via our mailing list which you can sign up for here (bottom right).

The only way we can make a difference is by getting enough people on board. So if you know of anyone who might be interested, please pass it on…

The Live Music Scene…

9th May 2014

Dear Music Lovers of Edinburgh (& beyond),

Those of you who’ve read my blog before (if you haven’t and you’re interested, you can view it here), may have noticed that I travel quite a lot for live music. This is not because I like travelling. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some good times on our road trips but we make these journeys mostly out of necessity. Why? Because the live music scene can be a tough gig. Over the last 2-3 years, more and more bands that we love aren’t even making it north of the border. And it’s not because they don’t want to. Scottish crowds are world re-knowned for their sheer up-for-it-ness.

The problem? Well, a combination of things. A lack of decent sized venues (not helped by the recent closure of Edinburgh’s Picture House, soon to be turned into just what we don’t need – a superpub), a cost effective way to promote/publicise your event (in a sea of other similar sized events) and MOST OF ALL, enough participants willing to spend their hard-earned cash (especially at the moment) on a night at your event.

Touring is one of the only ways that artists can make any money these days but it can be an expensive business and most are probably happy if they manage to break even. Often, paying the extra travel/accommodation/venue costs means that they can’t justify coming this far north. But with the help of like-minded people like you (if you’re still reading, I have to assume that you’re interested, right?!), the wonder of the web/social networking and not forgetting good old word-of-mouth, I think we could change that.

Stay tuned for some ways to get involved and hopefully help to breath some new life into an old (but worthwhile) friend…

Angie

Baroness

6th May 2014

Baroness came recommended by the Ancient VVisdom guys (I reviewed them here) when we met in Austin last year. For some reason, it took me a while to get round to checking them out. But I’m glad I did.

Things almost ended very badly when the band were involved in a nasty tour bus accident in England in 2012. There were serious injuries for several people and it did lead to two members quitting the band. Happily, after some rehabilitation time and the recruitment of some talented replacements, the band returned to touring and it appears that this close call (along with the new members) left them feeling re-charged.

As well as singing/playing rhythm guitar, John Dyer Baizley provides album artwork (not only for Baroness but for a number of other bands) and was the subject of a small exhibition at  2013’s SXSW festival, where he also played an acoustic set. This artwork has led to the albums becoming colour coded: Red, Blue and most recently Yellow & Green which I can’t praise highly enough. It’s more melodic that it’s predecessors but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have balls and more than a few head-shredding moments.

You can decide for yourself though with this full show courtesy of Germany’s legendary Rockpalast series.

Join the noble cause at http://baronessmusic.com

 

Tool & Failure (Live)

29th April 2014

So it was a biggy that sparked our last minute dash to the US of A. If you’ve seen my previous review of Tool (you can view it here) you’ll know that I was already champing at the bit for another album and therefore a tour, back in 2012! As you can imagine, I let out an audible involuntary noise when they announced a handful of US dates in January this year. But the final straw came when they added a few more which included Austin and Houston, both places that we’ve been to and know quite well. Cue a couple of speedy conversations which culminated in the booking of tickets for these two shows.

A bit crazy? Well, Tool are the kind of band that can do that to you. What they manage to achieve, is more than just amazing music and a pretty light show. It’s like a full on sensual assault when you’re in front of the two things combined. My other half had seen them once before, here in Scotland (jealous? moi?) but claimed that he couldn’t remember much about it. I thought he might be trying to spare my feelings but now I know why.

The show lasts just under two hours (I think) and there’s even a cheeky 10 minute intermission but I’m still only getting snippets coming back to me. I’ve christened it PTTD (Post Traumatic Tool Disorder). However, the flashbacks are really awesome. So with the news that a completed album may yet be some time away, it was worth every mile of the 6000 (or so) that we travelled.

Join the Collective at http://www.toolband.com

p.s. A big shout out for recently re-formed 1990’s support band ‘Failure’. I really liked their vibe (think Nirvana meets Amplifier) and have since been listening to their ‘Fantastic Planet’ album. It’s superb and I do hope that they’ll stick around and write some new material…

It’s a pass with flying colours at https://www.facebook.com/Failureband?ref=br_tf

The Maverick Music Festival (San Antonio)

22nd April 2014

So, we decided on a bit of a whim to organise another music based road trip to The States. It was mainly to see one band in particular (more of that to come in my next post) but also being able to attend The Maverick Music Festival was what nailed it in the end.

We’ve been to San Antonio before and really like it there. It’s got a nice vibe and a pretty river walk that runs right through the centre of town. So, we were pleasantly surprised to find that there were three stages in total, with one of them set on the riverbank and two of them being absolutely free. And yes, I do mean FREE. Passers by were able to take a seat on the grassy amphitheatre and enjoy the music. Which we duly did.

That was when we encountered Crown, who were just setting up on that stage. We noted that there was a lot of hair present so we stuck around. And they didn’t disappoint with their blend of bluesey-psych-rock (which you can sample here & here). Their full length debut album is imminent (but there are already some tracks/an ep etc available to play/download here) so if you like what they’re doing, please support them by buying their tunes.

Our day ended with The Black Angels which as you may know from previous posts, are an absolute favourite of mine. And it was an appropriately awesome performance to finish the day off with…

Feel like a king with https://www.facebook.com/crowntx

 

Riverside & Votum (Live)

15th April 2014

So, after a great trip Stateside (more of that to come soon) we came home feeling a little deflated but knew that we had a triple dose of delectable Polish rockers Riverside to help soften the blow. Then, a couple of days before it was all due to kick off, I opened an e-mail that I had to read twice before letting out a small fan-girl squeal. Now, this kind of thing never happens to me but someone (I’d like to whole-heartedly thank that person) hadn’t responded to the fact that they’d won a meet’n’greet with the band (competition run by PlanetMosh and promoter Ridgeback Rock) and I was next in line. Could things get any better?

Well, yes. The first date in Liverpool allowed us to re-aquaint our selves with the majesty of Riverside in a live setting. If you’ve never had the pleasure, please feel free to check them out here. Incidentally, the first track is the opener from their magnificent debut album ‘Out of Myself’ and a sign of things to come. If you like it, please remember to buy their entire back catalogue, not forgetting the ep’s and the live dvd that this is taken from. You won’t be disappointed.

As it turns out, not only are they super talented, but a really nice bunch of people too (a special mention for their hero of a sound engineer who seems able to squeeze out every last drop for the crowd no matter what’s thrown at him). So much so that after meeting them in Manchester, we got to do it all again when they visited Edinburgh later that same week. They also brought us Votum…

Now, Votum I had heard of but hadn’t got round to checking out properly so it was lovely to find out that they were in keeping with the down-to-earth-yet-extremely-talented theme. After three gigs, I had begun to recognise songs and noted that they were just as likely to serenade you with an acoustic guitar as melt your face off with some serious shredding and shouting. You can sample the beauty of their variety here & here

If you missed all of this, don’t worry as they had such a good reception that they have both vowed to be back with new albums. In the meantime, you know what to do…

http://www.riversideband.pl/en & http://www.votumband.pl/en

 

Editors, White Denim (& Syd Arthur)

26th November 2013

Well, my weekend turned out to be somewhat of a musical extravaganza. First up was a trip down to Leeds for my second helping of Editors this year and as they were at their usual dynamic-tour-de-force best, it made the journey well worthwhile. Here is a good example of how they continue to up their game each time I see them.

Sunday night was a shorter journey through to Glasgow for an evening with White Denim. I would like to point out that I would happily go to the ends of the earth for these guys. I kid you not. They are as good a live band as I’ve ever seen and last night’s affair can be summed up in two words. EXCESSIVELY AWESOME!

But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can try out their unique sound thanks to two top quality KCRW radio station sessions here and here. N.B. Please note that these come with a health warning and should be approached with caution!

p.s. White Denim also brought Syd Arthur (I reviewed them in July last year) with them as their support band and I am delighted to say that they were way better live than I had expected. You can check out a good example of them here.

p.p.s. As I am an absolute glutton for punishment, I will be attending another Editors gig on Tuesday. This time in Glasgow, at The Barras. Roll on Tuesday night!

 

Pearl Jam

12th November 2013

Who remembers grunge?! Pearl Jam do. Starting in the Seattle area of Washington State in The US, the movement was driven by bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. The scene was at its peak when Pearl Jam released their classic debut album back in ’91 and it’s easy to see how they got caught up in it. But if you listen to ‘Ten’ now, it’s quite apparent that they had a different sound right from the start. So much so that Kurt Cobain of Nirvana accused them of selling out to the mainstream at the time…

However, the less-grunge-more-classic-rock (sometimes with a country, jazz or punk twist) approach has served them well, with them the sole survivors of that era. And with 10th album ‘Lightning Bolt’, they’re not showing any signs of stopping. Or even slowing down. Quite to the contrary, they continue to serve up whole albums of varied and sometimes surprising music. And like the wine that frontman Eddie Vedder is partial to, they only appear to get better with age.

If you need to do some catching up, the ‘Pearl Jam Twenty’ documentary (available on dvd) should fill in any gaps but you can also visit here to see for yourself that 2013 was a good year.

Cheers! at http://pearljam.com

 

Franz Ferdinand

15th October 2013

So, Franz Ferdinand are back. Where have they been you say? From the ‘mugshots’ on the right you might assume ‘jail’?! But before their recent hiatus they were pretty much selling out huge venues all over the world. That’s right, although we love them here the music scene can be quite fickle and they had gathered such an army of fans (1.4 million likes on Facebook so far) not only in The States (well done boys!) but also in the far east (?!) that they were almost constantly on tour. No wonder they needed a holiday…

Now they’re all rested and back with that cheeky, infectious sound that has won people over time and time again. Many years ago, I witnessed them causing an outbreak of insanity in the crowd at T in the Park, in the middle of the day. And I couldn’t help but join in. So I’m delighted that I will be able to celebrate my birthday week with them at The Barras (hurrah!) next March. That’s gonna be a pretty sweet (and sweaty) birthday party.

Here they are treating LA’s KCRW radio station listeners to some early morning tomfoolery.

Come and dance with us (Michael) at http://www.franzferdinand.com

 

Drenge

8th October 2013

I thought Drenge sounded dreadful when I heard their album being advertised on TV a couple of months ago (the sound of their name didn’t help either). But when I saw them perform on the Jools Holland show recently, I was happy to admit how wrong I had been to judge them on a poorly put together ad. And I was impressed by how ballsy their live sound is.

I know, we’ve heard it all before from other garage-blues-rock pairings but these lads (they’re brothers) are doing it their own way and absolutely warrant investigation if you’ve ever been a fan of either The White Stripes or The Black Keys. Be warned, they can be quite punky and almost a little feral. Especially live. Just reading through the song titles on their self-titled debut should give you a general idea.

Here they are performing on that popular live music television programme (if you missed it).

Never judge a band by it’s ad at http://www.drenge.co.uk

p.s. They are also touring extensively if you fancy catching the live shred. With two dates in Scotland just passed (sorry!) they will be back again later this month (I will be there) and also in November…

 

Dead Meadow (Live)

1st October 2013

Dead Meadow have always boggled my mind. But having just spent the last two evenings with them at gigs in both Glasgow and Edinburgh, my ears have joined in as well now. Last night’s show at Sneaky Pete’s was phenomenal.

Here they are performing a psychedelic swamp blues number from their new record ‘Warble Womb’ (I did mention something about the mind boggling didn’t I).

Find your inner wacka at http://www.deadmeadow.com

p.s. Don’t be afraid to play air guitar along to this. And you will want to…

 

The Black Angels (Live)

17th September 2013

By the time you read this, I will already have (once again) travelled up and down the country just to see The Black Angels perform live. Twice. Possibly three times if I have the strength for it.

Please visit here for as good an explanation as I can give of why. My advice is to scroll down to the full performance at the bottom, turn the lights down and the volume up…

Heavenly = http://theblackangels.com

 

 

Foals

10th September 2013

It feels like Foals have been around forever. Cast your mind back and I’m sure you’ll recollect them bursting onto the music scene with super-catchy math-rock classics like ‘Cassius, it’s over!’ That was back in 2007 and since then, an unbelievable work ethic coupled with a steadfast musical integrity has seen them take on (and conquer) the rest of the world.

Earlier this year saw the release of album number three, ‘Holy Fire’ along with a substantial world tour. They’ve even managed to squeeze in a set at almost every festival known to man. And it’s in a live setting that they really come into their own. Capable of some beautifully heartfelt moments, they can easily switch into a surprising disco-bop mode and finish with a face-melting explosion. It’s quite something to behold and usually ends up in a full-on party vibe.

So, it’s reassuring to know that as they’re all still in their twenties, there’s probably plenty of shimmy-ing from guitarist, Jimmy Smith and crowd surfing by party-starting frontman Yannis yet to come…

Here they are in an intimate setting at KCRW studios in L.A. Yes, they’re even big in The States.

Go Foals! at http://www.foals.co.uk

Ancient VVisdom

3rd September 2013

I thought everything was bigger in Texas. So I was surprised by how small legendary venue The Mohawk in Austin was when we visited it earlier this year. The welcome however, was huge. It was late afternoon and when we spoke to order a drink, the barman (followed by the security guy) said ‘No way! We should’ve been in Scotland on tour right now!’ Cue the story of how a lack of finances had forced them (or rather, the headline band) to cancel the whole tour (on which they had a support slot) at the last minute followed by their insistence on buying us a drink, and a bonding session over a shared love of music.

So much so that when we left, we headed straight to Waterloo Records and bought cd and vinyl copies of their two albums to date, A Godlike Inferno and Deathlike. They’re hard to describe but think Alice in Chains ‘Jar of Flies’ era and you’re not far off. Or you could look in your local record shop’s ‘Diabolic Folk Metal’ section. If they have one. We’re hoping that our small contribution might help them to darken these shores again as we’d love to see them, hear them play live and buy them a drink.

In the meantime, here and here they are doing their thang.

Join The Opposition at http://www.ancientvvisdom.com

p.s. I know they look like a scary bunch, but they didn’t try to sacrifice me on the bar or anything…

 

Grim Tower

27th August 2013

You may have heard me mention Black Mountain once or twice, maybe even three times (but hey, who’s counting?!). Well, I can’t help it if Stephen McBean rocks my world with almost everything he touches. And not content with the behemoth that is his day job he’s also involved in a few side projects and collaborations to fill the gaps in between.

This time it’s the turn of Imaad Wasif, a singer-songwriter in his own right also known for writing and touring with (New York alt-rockers) the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to get on board. Both are Canadian born but living in LA, so it’s hardly surprising that their worlds eventually collided. The result is Grim Tower.

They hadn’t planned to, but after allowing it to rumble around for a couple of years they (thankfully) decided to let the rest of the world in on their debut collection of work which they have entitled ‘Anarchic Breezes’. And it contains some of the finest New Acoustic Death Folk you’re ever likely to hear.

Here they are playing an excellent example down in the ‘mythical forest’.

Let your love reign down at http://www.grimtowersongs.com

 

Editors (Live)

20th August 2013

Let me begin by clarifying one thing. Editors DO NOT sound like a Joy Division/Interpol tribute band. Those comparisons were made (via lazy journalism) early on in their career and regurgitated so often that they’ve struggled to escape from them since. There are similarities. Four blokes, a distinctive bass heavy guitar sound, a tall, skinny baritone-voiced frontman, the black & white photos…but then there’s the music.

When I bought debut album ‘The Back Room’ back in my indie-girl days, I fell in love with it almost immediately. So much so, that I was both excited and nervous at the prospect of hearing it live for the first time at The Garage, Glasgow back in 2005. It seems strange then that, even though I’ve probably seen them more times live than any other band, I still get that same feeling now when I’m on my way to see them.

During the recording of recent album, ‘The Weight Of Your Love’ there were rumours that they might be about to implode over that old ‘musical differences’ chestnut. In the end, they (sadly) lost one member but after some soul searching (and the addition of two new bods to the line-up), still managed to produce a collection of songs that couldn’t be by anyone other than them.

Here they are bringing some late afternoon euphoria to an up-for-it crowd at Glastonbury a few weeks ago.

Find a ton of Editors at http://www.editorsofficial.com

p.s. I’ll be getting my socks knocked off by these guys (again) on Saturday night at Edinburgh’s Picture House. And yes, EXCITED!

 

Ben Howard

13th August 2013

I first saw Ben Howard perform on a music chat show a few years back. Sitting on a stool with his guitar, all blue eyes and floppy hair, I assumed that he was the music industry’s latest boy band reject. But that notion was thrown straight back in my face as I quickly realised that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

London born but growing up in Devon around his parents record collection of John Martyn, Simon and Garfunkel and Van Morrison clearly had an impact. With an enormous amount of soul for someone so young, he pours a lot of it into both his vocal and guitar playing, reaching out and touching audiences almost universally. Even his own band members (an amazing bunch of multi-talented musicians themselves) regularly look quite pleased to be part of it. And, who can blame them…

Here they are creating some of that magic for all those that were close enough to experience this at Glastonbury a couple of months ago (including the young girl overcome with emotion at about 3 minutes 38 seconds in). You lucky people.

Keep your head up at http://www.benhowardmusic.co.uk

 

Suuns

6th August 2013

On the way to Austin Psych Fest (please see my last post), we decided to take a slight detour via Dallas. This was mainly because Black Mountain were playing a gig there a couple of nights beforehand and we decided that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them twice in quick succession. But as a bonus, we discovered it was to be a night of all Canadian craziness with both Suuns and The Besnard Lakes supporting.

I had always been quite intrigued by Suuns debut album ‘Zeroes QC’ but what I hadn’t banked on was that their newly released “Images du Futur’ would take them to a completely new level. This stuff is super catchy, highly addictive and can go round in your head for days. It also takes on a life of its own, live. Which was a real result seeing as we would be doing it all again within 48 hours.

Here they are getting into that infectious groove during a live SXSW set at a local bike shop (obviously).

And It’s good feeling good at http://secretlycanadian.com/artist.php?name=suuns

p.s. I had never really connected with The Besnards work before but I have to say that their studio albums don’t do them justice and they really are a superb live band.

p.p.s. Black Mountain were at their usual awesome best on both occasions. The only disappointment I felt was at the end of their set when they stopped playing. I hate that bit…

Austin Psych Fest

30th July 2013

Music festival season has taken me back to April this year when we made the trip over to Austin Psych Fest for the second year running. We hadn’t planned to, until we saw the first wave line-up announcement in December. With some great bands already listed (Black Mountain, Warpaint, B.R.M.C and of course, The Black Angels) along with a new outdoor location (58 acre Carson Creek Ranch), it would’ve been rude not to.

It’s quite a relaxed festival but with plenty to see and do, we took advantage of wandering between stages to soak up as much atmosphere (and music) as we could. We found ourselves especially fond of the river stage that sits on the banks of the Colorado. The photograph on the right should give you an idea as to why we spent a lot of time down there. The natural amphitheatre and stage are just out of shot to the left of this…

As well as the above list, I’d like to commend the following bands (in no particular order) – The Besnard Lakes, Om, The Cult of Dom Keller, Suuns, Wall of Death, Goat, Tinariwen, Night Beats, Golden Animals and The Warlocks.

Ah, the memories. Let’s see what news this December brings…

Psych! at http://www.austinpsychfest.com

Classic Album Sundays

25th May 2013

Check out this great documentary from City Radio, about Classic Album Sundays. Featuring our very own John Carroll from the Edinburgh store, and Allan Boyd and Andrew Pirie from the Glasgow store, it tells the story of how Classic Album Sundays were born and how they have caught on around the world.

https://soundcloud.com/cityradioglasgow/classic-album-sundays

Lunatic Soul

9th April 2013

I know that words like ‘genius’ tend to be over/misused these days (along with a whole load of others) but there are times when I think it’s warranted. And I don’t think it would be inappropriate to use it when describing a musician like Mariusz Duda. He is the bass playing frontman for Polish prog-rockers Riverside (please see my last post for details of them) and also apparently, a whole lot more.

Lunatic Soul is an outlet for his solo work and away from his day job, he appears to have plenty of ideas of his own. As well as enough talent to provide vocals and perform a high percentage of the instruments himself (along with some mixing, production and artistic direction obviously). Yes that’s right, we already know he can rock a bass guitar but he’s also quite at home with an acoustic guitar, keyboard/piano, drums and percussion. In fact, his albums are distinctive by the omission of an electric guitar but certainly don’t lack anything because of that. They are lush, organic and atmospheric.

This is evident in particular on the most recent release “Impressions” which is mostly instrumental. As I am quite partial to Mr Duda’s vocal, my own personal favourite is volume 2 but as a rule I would heartily recommend trying any/all of his work. He has a lot (probably too much for one person) to offer.

Check into the asoulum at http://lunaticsoul.com/en

Riverside

19th March 2013

Riverside were mentioned to me by a fellow fan of music (you know who you are) and although I had checked out their previous efforts, I hadn’t really connected with what they were doing. Until now. This music fan mentioned during an exchange of e-mails that he was spinning their new record (yes, the actual 12 inch black plastic version), and it was enough to make me fire it up for a quick listen. I soon found it on repeat for the next couple of days. And playing regularly after that.

I couldn’t agree more with a comment someone made regarding this album, saying that it was like ‘the same band but in a different mood’. And although it seems like a contradiction, they sound more mature and yet more playful at the same time. It’s a combination that really suits them.

Long-time fans of some bands can have a tendency to feel alienated due to even the smallest change in direction (Opeth anyone?) but I can’t help but think that if you don’t like it, then there’s usually a whole back catalogue (4 albums with extras, a couple of EP’s and a live DVD in this case) for you to go back to. That’s how they’ve earned the right to try something new. And also why it’s called ‘Progressive’ rock.

See you down by the river at http://riversideband.pl/en

p.s. Not that it matters but theses guys are (surprisingly) Polish.

p.p.s. I saw them in Glasgow on Saturday night on their first ever visit to Scotland. And they ROCKED IT!

 

 

Quest For Fire

12th March 2013

Forming from the remnants of other bands might be how Quest for Fire came by their ‘stoner rock’ tag. It’s a bit of a lazy generalisation and not all that accurate as far as I’m concerned. However, second album ‘Lights from Paradise’ could be labelled as stoned rock. With a psychedelic chaser and a side order of indie.

The band themselves say that it’s an homage to all their favourite music thrown into one big melting pot and if I didn’t know otherwise, I would almost swear that they were from the UK. Sure they can do the whole heavy guitar, big drums thing but they also excel on some of the lengthier, mellower pieces such as opening track “The Greatest Hits by God’ and central track ‘Confusion’s Home’ (which I was caught in a 10 minute swirling ball of when I saw them).

So I was sad to hear recently that they had decided to call it a day and played their last ever show on the 15th February on their home turf in Toronto, Canada. It does however, make me doubly delighted that we made the effort to see them at last year’s Austin Psych Fest and I wish them every success in their chosen future projects…

Quest for crazy Canadians at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Quest-for-Fire

 

I Am Kloot

5th March 2013

The Kloot might not ever rock your world. They’re more likely to buy you a pint and tell you a bad joke. But that’s the point. They sound like the kind of guys that you could easily spend a Saturday night down the pub with. That’s not to say that their music isn’t top quality stuff though.

Last album ‘Sky at Night’ got them some well deserved coverage via their 2010 Mercury prize nomination but by then they had already been plugging away at it since 1999, gathering a legion of fans along the way.

It’s all very well being catapulted to ‘next big thing’ status by the music industry, but there’s a lot more merit in doing it the hard way. Not to mention the work, experience and the ‘never getting too big for your boots’ lessons that it teaches you. It’s hard to imagine anything otherwise from these guys.

Latest album ‘Let It All In’ is no exception. Beautifully crafted and worded, you can tell it comes from the heart. And one with a great sense of humour too.

Mine’s a pint at http://iamkloot.com

Hexvessel

26th February 2013

You may not have heard of Hexvessel. Neither had I until I read about them recently in a back issue of Prog magazine, who made it sound interesting enough for me to give it a try. And I’m glad I did.

2011’s ‘Dawnbreaker’ was the solo effort of English born singer/songwriter Mat McNerney (aka Kvohst) and was a departure from his previous musical endeavours, which include bands from the death/black metal scene.

Second album offering ‘No Holier Temple’ sees him combine talents with seven other soul-mates (who he met when they played in the band at his wedding) to create a beautiful and surprising collection of folky-psychedelic-prog-rock.

Describing themselves as ‘Forest folk from Finland’, they look and sound just like that and have been so well hidden deep in the woods that I’m grateful to have found them at all…

Can’t see the woods for the trees at http://hexvessel.tumblr.com

 

Federale

19th February 2013

Whilst checking out the list of bands on the line-up for last year’s Austin Psych Fest, I stumbled upon Federale. After a quick listen and some online investigation, I became a little confused as what I was reading didn’t quite match up with what I was hearing and it wasn’t long before I figured out that there are two bands who share that name. One from Brooklyn, New York who have a classic funk-rock sound (check out ‘Not Your Vessel’) and the other Portland, Oregon-based band who specialise in writing the soundtrack to your favourite imaginary spaghetti western. Probably.

A diverse collective of musicians, (and as noted when I saw them at the festival) there can be as many as fourteen of them on stage at any one time creating a symphony whose talents include Native American flute, trumpet, keyboards, timpani, duelling drums, and the obligatory guitars along with soaring operatic vocals and a male voice choir who also whistle when required. Essentially, all the sounds that a good (bad or ugly) cowboy should hear in everyday life.

Lastest album ‘The Blood Flowed Like Wine’ expands on their previous work and includes additional vocals by Alex Maas of The Black Angels (who appeared unexpectedly on stage with them at PF and made my night) and KP Thomas of Spindrift. And it’s become the soundtrack to my very own favourite spaghetti western…

You can saddle up and sample some good quality live footage at http://federalepdx.com/videos

Biffy Clyro

12th February 2013

I first became aware of The Biff when a loved one gave me their first two albums to try, on the premise that I might agree to attend a gig with him. I wasn’t sure, even after several listens whether I liked them or not. I can probably put that down to the fact that I had never heard anything like it before but I agreed to the gig as I knew they had something. It was at the Carling Academy in Glasgow, which I thought was rather a large venue for such a little known band and I wasn’t surprised to see that it seemed relatively empty when they took to the stage.

I’ll never forget that night, because nothing could have prepared me for the atmosphere (and noise) created by the three blokes on stage and a small but bonkers crowd of fans. There was a lot of love in that room. At times, I could barley hear the band over the crowd’s sing-a-long and it’s way up there on my list of ‘best atmosphere at a gig’. I didn’t even know half the songs but I left there on a high and the rest of the world soon caught on with the release of their ‘Puzzle’ album not long after.

Fast forward and new album Opposites (their 6th) has just scored them their first number one. If you want a taste of what they do to people in a live setting, please head straight to their ‘Revelations’ Live At (and tearing up, I might add) Wembley DVD. I can’t think of another band who are not only home-grown but have worked so hard for their success and never compromised themselves. They deserve every bit of it.

All together now – ‘MON THE BIFF!!! at http://www.biffyclyro.com

Supergrass

18th December 2012

A lot of people will remember Supergrass as a bit of a ‘comedy’ band, which is partly true. They did have a great sense of humour. But have a closer look and listen to their back catalogue and you might be surprised by how much great stuff they wrote. A particular highlight for me was ‘Road to Rouen’, the title of which is a nod to both the area of France that it was recorded in and The Ramones album of a similar name.

It was born during a really difficult personal time for some of the band members. Brothers Gaz and Rob had just lost their mother and bad boy Danny’s personal life was being shredded by the media. The orchestral arrangements coupled with the slightly introspective vibe makes it sound like a more mature version of them. But very much still a Supergass record. And their best and most complete work as far as I’m concerned.

They were great live too, toured extensively and had a reputation for being great to work with. They’ve all embarked on solo/side projects since disbanding in 2010 but still have the beginnings of a 7th, as yet unfinished studio album lurking somewhere…

Visit http://www.supergrass.com if you want to hear them pumping on your stereo again.

Pure Reason Revolution

11th December 2012

It’s time for another ‘support band incident’. And probably one of the best. Because the headline band sucked (no names and I’m sorry, but you did) so it was a relief that we at least left with these guys ringing in our ears. All the more surprising because most of the time, we avoid getting to gigs too early due to having endured more than a few horrendous support slots. So when they arrived on stage, we weren’t all that interested. For about 30 seconds. Then I found my ears (closely followed by the rest of me) drawn towards the stage.

The band themselves have cited everyone from Pink Floyd to Porcupine Tree (who they later toured with) to Fleetwood Mac as influences and you can hear that all over their delightful debut ‘The Dark Third’. It’s a beautiful combination of floaty, atmospheric prog covered in folk-tinged vocal harmonies that occasionally bursts into a face melting riff explosion. It’s a shame that their progress was somewhat hindered by a few band member issues, which eventually led to a change of direction and subsequent albums never had quite the same charm for me. I’m sorry that they’ve split but I’ll never forget that first gig.

Here they are live and beautifully captured by Rockpalast at  http://www.wdr.de/tv/rockpalast/extra/videos/2008/1025/pure_reason_revolution.jsp

 

The Dead 60's

4th December 2012

I didn’t know that there was a big ska meets punk scene in Liverpool back in the early 2000’s. Maybe there wasn’t. But if there was, it was probably down to The Dead 60’s. Starting out in their teens, they changed their name twice and recorded a couple of EP’s, a session for John Peel and toured with some big names before announcing that they had split in 2003.

A few months later, they re-appeared as The Dead 60’s and began to tour again extensively with more big name bands, this time including the festival circuit. They won over a lot of people with their infectious, updated take on the genre, as demonstrated on their self titled debut. They even achieved some success in The States due to the popularity of single, (ironically) ‘Riot Radio’.

Before they disbanded in 2008, I was lucky enough to catch them at the Liquid Rooms as part of T On The Fringe in ’06. Now that was a fun gig. With a lot of silly dancing. And probably the most attitude and the best sound I’ve heard there. Ever.

Their own website is under maintenance but you can visit http://uk.myspace.com/thedead60s for more info.

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