Saturday, 24 July 2021

Wojtek the Bear - Heaven by the Back Door

Released: 16 July 2021
Label: Last Night From Glasgow
Listen and Buy Here

Scottish indie band - Wojtek the Bear, are back with a new album. It is a sublime listen, their sound brought to mind fellow Scots -  Trashcan Sinatras and Aztec Camera. 

It opens with 'Ferme La Bouche' which is upbeat with an anthemic, catchy chorus. There are hints of brass, which reminded me of one of my favourite 80s bands - The Pale Fountains.

The gloriously melodic 'One Things For Certain' is the standout here, with lovely strings, and slightly melancholic lyrics. 

Other highlights include 'Luck or Design' which is a sad breakup song but surprisingly upbeat. It has some heartbreaking lyrics - "I used to think you were a prize. Now your words cut like knives." 

'Heaven by the Back Door' is another highlight here, with sweeping harmonies. It has themes of religion, finding who you are e.t.c. 'Packing Parachutes' is a very emotional listen with strong emphasis on the beautiful strings, which are prominent on this album.

A wonderfully produced album, full of well-written songs. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Ali Horn - Balcony Boys

Released: 16 July 2021
Label: _
Listen and Buy Here

Ali Horn, from Liverpool, is a recent discovery for me. His debut album is a superb listen, with hints of Velvet Underground (particularly Lou Reed) and Echo and the Bunnymen.  

It opens with 'Sun it Rises' which is wonderfully atmospheric and laid-back. It has some really psychedelic lyrics - "Find a girl that makes you see explosions the sky, sit her down and tell her all the colours in your mind".

'Feels like Home' is more of a moody love song, full of longing. The hooks are superb and it even has a fantastic whistling solo. 'Managed Decline' recalls The Velvet Underground - Sweet Jane and is very Summery sounding. 

'Badman' is my favourite here and is more Folk. It is a very heartfelt break up song. 'La Brea Tar' is heartbreaking and deals with themes of depression and poverty. 'Balcony Boys' is slightly more electronic, with the 90s vibes of Spiritualized. 

It ends on 'End Credits' which is upbeat but with quirky and morbid lyrics. - "So sing a happy song, cos I know that it won't be long till we are lying there eternally."

A Superb debut album and highly recommended Summer listening.

Friday, 16 July 2021

Peter Hall - Two Twenty Two

Released: 12 July 2021
Label: The Beautiful Music
Listen and Buy Here

Peter Hall, from Nottingham UK, is back with a new single after last years wonderful EP. 'Two Twenty Two' is more sophisticated guitar pop of the highest standard.  

It is a superbly melodic ballad with sublime harmonies, recalling The Beach Boys and The Beatles. On the whole, it also drew to mind more modern bands Trashcan Sinatras and later Teenage Fanclub. 

The lyrics are wistful and full of melancholy - "Two minutes twenty-two, to fall in love with you. We span so fast and fell so quick." The big soaring chorus is instantly memorable. 

A timeless song and judging from this, the album will definitely be one to look out for. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Sometime Songs - Sometimes Songs EP

Released: 26 May 2021
Label: Wonderfulsound
Listen and Buy Here

Sometime Songs is a collaboration of artists on the superb Wonderfulsound label. To my knowledge, the music is by The Superimposers (brilliant Psych/Indie band on the label). Vocals are by Americana Artist - Angelina.  

'Shooting Stars' is one of those magical songs you don't hear too often today, which recalls Motown Soul of the early 60s. The production reminded me of 50s doo-wop as well, especially the backing harmonies.

Angelina's vocals are very unique and have vibes of Patti Smith. The vocals and music, although from completely different genres, compliment each other perfectly.

'Borderline' is more ambient and laid-back sounding. It again has that magical production.

A superb EP from a label where you are always guaranteed to find something different and unique. Highly recommended.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Mt Misery - Once Home, No Longer

Released: 25 June 2021
Label: Prefect Records
Listen and Buy Here

Mt. Misery, from Hartlepool UK, are a recent discovery for me. Their debut album is a sublime listen of lovely, well-written indie pop gems. 

It opens with 'The Dreaming Days are Over' which is wonderfully laid back with hints of Teenage Fanclub and Real Estate.

'Tell Me (What's on your Mind)' is my favourite here and a superb love song with Belle and Sebastian vibes. The lyrics are very heartfelt without being too twee.

Other highlights include 'Taken by the Tide' which is slightly more upbeat with a catchy chorus. The music is still very soft sounding and melodic. 'I Was Wrong' is a breakup song of the highest standard. It is immediately memorable, with heartbreaking lyrics.

It ends on 'The Thought of Losing You' which has some lovely harmonies and is reminiscent of The Velvet Underground - Sunday Morning. 

A superb album full of beautiful melodies and emotional lyrics. Highly recommended.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

The Shop Window - The State of Being Human

Released: 25 June 2021
Label: Spinout Nuggets
Listen and Buy Here

The Shop Window, from Maidstone UK, are back with their debut album. It is a hugely enjoyable listen, recalling the best of 90s indie. 

It opens with 'Mannequin Lies'. The sound is reminiscent of RIDE with some superb vocal harmonies. The chorus really soars and has that uplifting, euphoric feeling of Summer.

Other highlights include 'Out of Reach' which is anthemic indie at its finest. The song is so memorable, especially the chorus, with shimmering jangly guitars.

'Break Down Walls' is lovely and melodic, with very heartfelt lyrics, about barriers in a relationship. 'Evacuate' is superbly catchy and upbeat, with more emotional lyrics. There are hints of The Cure in here as well, especially in the guitar sound.

My favourite here is 'Sad Eyes' which is so moving and has themes of growing old and dementia. - " All you have now is the past, The future has gone beyond your grasp." It is never overly sad and negative and highlights the importance of remembering the good times. 

A beautiful folk instrumental - 'Jack's Lullaby', ends the album perfectly. It has magical, film soundtrack vibes. 

A highly recommended album full of anthemic songs which will stay with you.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Eggs on Mars - Brighter Now EP

Released: 25 June 2021
Label: Subjangle
Listen and Buy Here

Eggs on Mars, from Kansas City, are a new addition to the ever growing Subjangle label. They have had quite a few self-released albums and would say 'Mama Pancake' (2018) is well worth checking out too. The song 'Red Haired Darling' especially stood out. Their sound is wonderfully lo-fi, with hints of Velvet Underground and the 80s jangle of Flying Nun records (The Bats, The Chills e.t.c). 

The new EP opens with 'Fingers and Lips' which is lovely and melodic with strong pop hooks. There are hints of early Teenage Fanclub in here too. 'More' is very short and sweet with 60s vibes.

Other highlights include 'Brighter Now' which is very upbeat with simple melodies which stick in your mind. The production is quite basic with added electronic keyboard bits, giving it that bedroom pop/lo-fi charm. It ends on 'Handbills' which is still quirky and upbeat pop.

A highly recommended EP from a band well worth checking out, especially if you love more lo-fi jangle.

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Dany Laj and the Looks - Ten Easy Pieces

Released: 11 June 2021
Label: We Are Busy Bodies/Rum Bar
Listen and Buy Here

Dany Laj and the Looks, from Ontario, are a recent discovery for me. Their sound is a fun blend of Americana, 50s rock n roll and Power Pop, making their album a highly enjoyable listen.

It opens with 'Don't Keep Me Guessin'' which is really anthemic and upbeat. The male/female vocal harmonies are superb and its so uplifting it will have you singing along. It is the standout on the album and I could imagine it as a Summer music festival favourite.

Other highlights include 'Pick It Up' which is more brilliantly anthemic Power Pop and is infectiously catchy. It brought to mind Cheap Trick and Material Issue.

'In Other Words' is a slower ballad, still highly melodic and heartfelt. The production is quite stripped back and rough, giving it that retro feel. 'Who's Pickin On You' has more wonderful pop hooks. 'You and Me' sounds like a lost 50s/early 60s radio hit with more Country vibes.

A highly recommended album, especially if you love melodic and hook-laden Power Pop/Americana.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

John Myrtle - Myrtle Soup

Released: 18 June 2021
Label: Sad Club Records
Listen and Buy Here

London Songwriter John Myrtle is back with his debut album after a wonderful EP back in 2019. It is more 60s inspired jangle with so much charm and melody.

It opens with 'Get Her Off My Mind', which is the standout song here. His sound recalls early Kinks and there are some superb harmonies. It is sung so sweetly but without being too twee. 

Other highlights include 'Here I Go Again' which also has 60s vibes and brought to mind The Velvet Underground - Femme Fatale'How Can You Tell If You Love Her?' is more perfect pop which strongly reminded me of The Lovin' Spoonful - Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?.

'Spider on The Wall' is a lovely Syd Barrett-inspired song. The lyrics have a child-like simplicity and it is perfectly whimsical. The album ends on 'Remember Holly Park', which again has some beautiful harmonies and wistful lyrics.

A highly enjoyable listen and much recommended for fans of 60s guitar pop.

Sunday, 20 June 2021

The Catenary Wires - Birling Gap

Released: 18 June 2021
Label: Skep Wax Records/Shelflife Records
Listen and Buy Here

UK indie pop band - The Catenary Wires, are a new discovery for me. The group includes Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, who have played in the bands - Heavenly and Talulah Gosh. Their new album is wonderfully melodic with dreamy harmonies, separating them from other indie pop acts. 

It opens with 'Face on the Rail Line' which is superbly atmospheric and so beautiful it drew me in straight away. It has an ethereal quality which is hard to describe, you just have to listen to it really! Their overall sound brought to mind Saint Etienne, and the 80s indie of The Go-Betweens. 

Other highlights on the album include 'Always on my Mind' which is more upbeat and Summery. There are hints of The Beach Boys too. 'Mirror Ball' is a highly enjoyable love song, reminiscing about the 80s, with quirky lyrics - "Be Jason to my Kylie". 

'Canterbury Lanes' is more memorable indie pop with superb harmonies. The album ends on 'The Overview Effect' which is sweet guitar pop at its finest. It has vivid, wistful lyrics full of regret - "If we put the chances we had thrown away into a room, it would be the biggest room we ever knew".

A wonderful album, full of nostalgia, with melodic well-written songs. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

The Mariners - Tales from the Great Central Line - Volume One

Released: 11 June 2021
Label: _
Listen and Buy Here

The Mariners, from Nottingham UK, are back with their second album. It is more jangly 60s inspired guitar pop, which is great if you love that kind of thing. They may not be all that original but they have such charm that it is hard not to like it.   

It opens with '(That girl called) Mary Jane' which is sweet and upbeat. The simplicity is reminiscent of early Beatles and The Kinks. 'There Before Time' is more Psych sounding but it sounds a little too much like The Zombies - She's Not There.

My favourite on the album is 'Dear Genevieve' which reminded me of The Coral. It is a heartfelt love song from Father to Daughter. It is so sentimental but in a good way. 

Other highlights include 'Ooh La La' an upbeat song about poverty and unemployment, with some great storytelling. 'Jennifer' is catchy guitar pop at its finest which brought to mind The Beatles - I'm a Loser. 'Catch My Breath' is a lovely acoustic song about growing old, with some quirky lyrics. 

'Hey Mister' is  about the death of a valued member of the community. It is sweet with a child-like innocence which makes it even more sad.

A superb album and fans of 60s guitar pop will find a lot to love here. Highly recommended.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Colours Through The Air Summer Playlist

Its that time of year again so for a bit of fun, I have put together a Spotify Playlist of my favourite underappreciated Summer songs. These are not the ones you will hear played on the radio e.t.c. all the time. There is a mix of recent and some older ones.

Some old favourites are The Pale Fountains - Crazier (it just isn't Summer without that song) and The Velvet Underground - Who Loves The Sun (which I know is obvious but it had to be there!). Also The Zombies, Beach Boys and The Kinks.

More recent favourites include Nick Frater, Rosie Abbott, The Corner Laughers, Dunkie, The Vapour Trails, and many more. I also had to include my Dad's (Chris Fowler) song written during the lockdown and looking forward to the Summer. It is all superb guitar pop, so I hope you enjoy!

You can listen to the Spotify playlist, including more songs here

Friday, 28 May 2021

Kevin Robertson - Sundown's End

Released: 28 May 2021
Label: Subjangle/Futureman Records
Listen and Buy Here

Kevin Robertson, of Scottish band - The Vapour Trails, releases his first ever solo album. I had high expectations for this and it did not disappoint. As you would expect, it is another album of jangle pop perfection.   

It opens with 'Into The Black' which is ultra melodic and Summery. The gorgeous harmonies, of course, recall The Byrds and Teenage Fanclub.

Other highlights include 'Settle Down' which has fantastic pop hooks and a slightly more Country sound. The subtle banjo sounds really add to it too and at times it brought to mind The Traveling Wilburys. 

'See How We Love' is very heartfelt with some wonderful harmonies. It launches into the superb 'Telepathic Minds' which recalls the best of 60s Psych and is one of my favourite songs here.

'Loves Blue Yonder' is the standout of the album and is memorable guitar pop of the highest standard. It is one of those songs which sticks in your mind and has you singing along straight away. 

It ends on 'Yesterdays Reign' which has vibes of The Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows. A hugely enjoyable listen, particularly if you love 60s inspired guitar pop. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Daniel Wylie's Cosmic Rough Riders - Atoms and Energy

Released: 2 Jul 2021/Pre-order now
Label: Last Night From Glasgow
Buy Here

Daniel Wylie, of Cosmic Rough Riders, returns with a new album. I have been aware of his music since discovering the 'Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine' compilation years ago. It was as melodic and summery as the title suggested and filled with superb guitar pop songs.   

The new album is not quite as jangle poppy but has more Americana vibes too. It opens with 'The Bruises and the Blood' which is a dark song about domestic violence. It is heartbreaking and addresses the dilemma of someone listening in and unsure whether to intervene. The sound is reminiscent of R.E.M.

'Heavens Waiting Room' is a deep and wistful song, looking back on life and coming to terms with death. The guitar sound brought to mind Waterpistol era Shack, which can only be a good thing.

My favourite here is the gorgeous love song 'Our Love Will Never Die' which has vibes of Neil Young. It is wonderfully heartfelt, without being overly sentimental.

Other highlights include 'Ruth The Truth', a bittersweet country pop song with some great storytelling. 'Listen to the Sound of the Rain' is another favourite here. It is very atmospheric with 70s Americana vibes. 

It ends on 'Saddle Up The Horses', a Western themed song, with vivid lyrics, reminiscing of childhood. Again, it is beautifully atmospheric and a joy to listen to.

A wonderful album from a superb, yet relatively unheard, Songwriter. Highly recommended.

Monday, 17 May 2021

Jim McCulloch - When I Mean What I Say

Released: 21 May 2021
Label: Violette
Listen and Buy Here

Jim McCulloch, of The Soup Dragons and Snowgoose, releases his much anticipated debut solo album. It is a lovely acoustic sounding record with so much melody and charm.  

It opens with 'Blackstick Boogie', which is very laid-back with Jazz and Folk vibes. There are some beautiful harmonies and intricate harp playing. His sound is reminiscent of Pentangle and also has hints of Marina records band - The Pearlfishers.

'Chorus of Lists' is a standout song here, as it is very unique. It is an almost hypnotic rhyme/chant, with layered vocal harmonies e.t.c. which add to the emotion so effectively. 

Other highlights include 'Augmented Yet Diminished' which had 60s vibes of Burt Bacharach. 'Shining Bright' is an uplifting love song and includes the superb backing vocals of Rachel Jack. 'Open & Shut' is a sweet folk song, again driven by powerful vocal harmonies. 

My favourite here is 'Come Little Waves of Light' which is the perfect example of how the simplest of songs can be the most affecting. It is sung from the heart and has that warmth and timelessness of much loved hymns. 

It ends on title track - 'When I Mean What I Say' which is melancholic with wistful lyrics. The ending is quite ethereal and the perfect way to close the album.

A lovely record, full of well written songs, delivered with such emotion. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Electric Looking Glass - Somewhere Flowers Grow

Released: 30 Apr 2021
Label: We Are Busy Bodies
Listen and Buy Here

Electric Looking Glass, from LA, are a recent discovery for me. Their debut is a wonderful listen and a combination of 60s style Baroque Pop and Psych.   

It opens with 'Purple, Red, Green Blue and Yellow' which is as lovely and Psychedelic as the title suggests. It drew to mind The Zombies, with sweet melodies and Garage production.

'Find out Girl' demonstrates some skilled guitar work and harmonies. My favourite here is 'Rosie in the Rain' which sounds like it could actually be a lost radio hit. There are hints of The Kinks here too. 

Other highlights include 'Daffodil Tea Shoppe' which is full of Summery 60s charm, and instantly memorable. It goes into a superb Beatles-esque medley towards the end. 'Motor Car' really drew to mind one of my favourite bands - The Left Banke. 'If I Cross Your Mind' is another standout and melancholic but with great pop hooks.

A hugely enjoyable album, well worth checking out, especially for Baroque pop fans.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Lost Ships - Nostalgia EP

Released: 30 Apr 2021
Label: Subjangle
Listen and Buy Here

Lost Ships, from Portsmouth UK, are back with a new EP and it is more superb jangle with 90s vibes.   

It opens with the wonderfully anthemic 'Weight of the World' and it immediately drew to mind Teenage Fanclub's more upbeat earlier music.

'Shirley from Shirley' is more enjoyable indie pop and was reminiscent of more 80s jangle/C86. There is some great storytelling and describes a mundane day in the life of Shirley with some quirky lyrics. 

'Inside My Head' is my favourite here and is very catchy with more unique ideas and lyrics - 'In the takeaway of love, theres no refunds and no returns. All you see on your receipt is that your purchase is complete.'

'Come to Me' is more melodic and catchy indie pop of the highest standard. A hugely recommended EP full of memorable songs.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Cool Ghouls - At George's Zoo

Released: 12 Mar 2021
Label: Empty Cellar/Melodic Records
Listen and Buy Here

Cool Ghouls, from San Francisco, are back with a new album of superbly written guitar pop with 60s Psych vibes. There are many bands around influenced by The Byrds/Gene Clark and The Beach Boys, but I think this band are amongst the best in the genre. None of the songs here sound too close to a particular band or song.   

The album opens with 'Its Over' which has some great vocal harmonies and interesting melodies/arrangements. There are of course hints of Crosby, Stills and Nash. 'To You I'm Bound' is a feelgood anthem, which is Summery and uplifting on the coldest days. It has a superb saxophone solo which is unexpected for this music.

'Helpless Circumstance' is the standout track here. It is instantly memorable with strong hooks, and a great example of recent Psych pop.

Other highlights include the stripped-back acoustic ballad - 'How Free' which again has classic 60s vibes. Lyrically it is heartfelt and melancholic - 'In the evening we drink apple wine and you hold me, whisper like the pines. In the morning you open up your eyes, and disappear in the pale blue sky.' 

'Feel Like Getting High' is another favourite here, which is also melodic and uplifting with some quirky, yet dark lyrics.

An epic album full of great harmonies and enjoyable pop hooks. Highly recommended, especially if you like 60s Psych.

Monday, 29 March 2021

Tuns - Duly Noted

Released: 26 Mar 2021
Label: Murderecords
Listen and Buy Here

Canadian Power Pop band - Tuns are back with their second album. I have been aware of them since their debut in 2016 which is full of melodic guitar pop gems. The wonderfully catchy 'To Your Satisfaction' is a particular favourite. The band are actually a supergroup which consists of members of Sloan, The Inbreds and The Superfriendz.  

Their new album is more of the same, with plenty of memorable, well-written songs. It opens with 'In The Middle of the Way Home' and the sound, of course, recalls Sloan. It is a hugely enjoyable listen.

'My Memories' is the standout track here. One of those rare songs which instantly sticks with you on first listen. It bought to mind Weezer, back when they were at their best in the 90s.

Other highlights include the lovely, Beatles-inspired 'I'll Only Love You More'. It is unusual as it speeds up at the end and is like two songs in one. 'Double Down' has some great harmonies and is very upbeat and fun. 'Keeping Options Open' is a quirky observation of the world of dating. It ends on 'We're Living in it Now' which is a heartfelt love song of the highest standard. 

A superb album full of great melodies and enjoyable pop hooks. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Departure Lounge - Transmeridian

Released: 26 Mar 2021
Label: Violette Records
Buy Here

Departure Lounge, from Brighton UK/Tennessee USA,  are a new discovery for me. This is their first album in 19 years. It is also the first release in a while from the superb Violette Records (famous for releasing Michael Head's solo album in 2017).

The new album is an epic listen with a mixture of heartfelt indie songs and gorgeous instrumentals. It opens with a beautifully atmospheric piano track, before launching into the gloriously anthemic 'Australia'. It is a joyous and uplifting song with hints of Americana. The sound brought to mind Wilco and of course R.E.M (the album features the skilled guitar work of Peter Buck).

'Timber' is a lovely ballad, the emotion expressed in it reminded me of some of Badly Drawn Boy's earlier music.  

Other highlights here include 'Mercury in Retrograde' which is wonderfully melodic with vivid, wistful lyrics. - 'Can anybody hear what I'm thinking? Up to the surface and I'm already sinking'

'Mr. Friendly' is an upbeat and enjoyable indie song which you can sing along to. The Beatles inspired - 'Don't be Afraid' is a stripped back and very moving ballad. The sparse production, piano and vocals are greatly atmospheric and, like so much of the music here, could potentially be on a film soundtrack. 

It ends on 'So Long' which is a sweet, laid-back ballad. Again, it is a highly emotional listen.

A beautiful album and a wonderful return for this band. Highly recommended.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Dunkie - The Vanishing and Other Stories EP

Released: 19 Mar 2021
Label: Dirty Carrot Records
Listen and Buy Here

Dunkie, from Wales, return with a new EP, after 2019's epic album Working To Design. If you have not heard it, I'd strongly recommend checking it out. One of the best albums of that year and a unique masterpiece, full of wonderful songwriting and artwork. 

The thing I love about this band is their ability to create something so powerful and moving so effortlessly. On this new EP they continue to do that. It opens with 'The Vanishing' which is really haunting and beautiful. The melody has hints of New Order - True Faith. It has a huge soaring chorus which will blow you away.

'Shadows On The Sun' is more heartfelt indie, with memorable melodies. My favourite here is 'Choke', a re-working of a song from the Working To Design album. This version is quite stripped back and features the delicate vocals of Mali Davies. It offers a new fragility to song.  

'Deep Dark Heart' has more Folk/Country vibes and is a lovely duet. It is superbly orchestrated with violins, strings e.t.c. 

It ends on 'The Vanishing Shadow' (vocals by Lauren Cotes) which is very atmospheric. It wouldn't feel out of place on a film soundtrack, and is again very powerful. 

A superb EP, full of wonderfully produced and crafted songs. Highly recommended.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Jim McCulloch - Interview

Jim McCulloch is one of the best kept secrets of UK Songwriting. He has been involved with a number of superb acts including The Soup Dragons, Snowgoose and Green Peppers. His style of songwriting is wonderfully folky. Snowgoose - The Making of You was one of my favourite albums of last year.

On 21 May this year, he will be releasing his first ever solo album - When I Mean What I Say. It will be released on the superb Violette records, which was of course the home of Michael Head. I catch up with Jim and we talk about the new record and everything music related!

Q. Hi Jim, you are soon to release your long awaited solo album. How would you describe it?

A. Hi Julie - well - it's a very personal album - extremely autobiographical. But I hope that there's enough there of the Universal experience for everyone to identify with. It's definitely an internal journey of sorts.

Q. What can we expect to hear?

A. Sonically it's very stripped down. Some of the tracks are just me performing live acoustic guitar and singing. In saying that there's also bass and drums and classical harp on a few! I like to record very quickly and capture a specific performance rather than fine tuning and polishing off any rough edges. So there's that.

Q. Its wonderful to hear you are releasing the album on Mick Head's old label - Violette. How did you become involved with the label?

A. I've known Matt at Violette for a few years. I'm a total fanboy when it comes to Mick Head and always have been, and so any label that puts out Mick Head music is one that I'm going to take an interest in. Matt and I used to exchange mixtapes back when audio cassettes were still common currency, and that sense of a shared love of good music was always at the back of my mind when I was considering who to send the finished album to. In the end they were the only company I reached out to.

Q. You have been involved with a number of artists over the years. From The Soup Dragons (who had chart success in the early 90s) to Folk band Snowgoose with Anna Sheard. Have there been any particular highlights or favourites to work with?

A. That's a difficult question as we are covering a lot of ground here!! Every bunch of musicians I've worked with hold certain special memories… playing the Splash One club in Glasgow in the Soup Dragons when we supported Primal Scream… it was our first ever gig. I still treasure that with great affection. Most recently and just before lockdown 12 months ago performing as Snowgoose, Anna Sheard and I played a live BBC Television show called The Quay Sessions. That was intense and felt very special.

Q. How did you feel about The Soup Dragons change in style/sound from indie to the more commercial indie/dance crossover?

A. At the time in 1988, the band had reached a bit of a crossroads. We had been dropped by Sire Records and our drummer Ross Sinclair had decided to leave the band and go back to Art School to finish his degree. So we were drummer-less and needed to get on with things. So we demoed material using a new-fangled drum machine and Akai samplers… the technology just gradually became a part of our sound. Plus we were managed by a company called Big Life who had deep roots in Dance/DJ culture and so we had access to people like Coldcut who had mind-blowing record collections.. a real eye opener for young blokes from Glasgow. We were only 21/22 at the time.

Q. Did you get into music at a young age? What started your love of music?

A. Yeah - I started teaching myself to play guitar at around 13/14. I had been given an old battered family guitar and I saved up to buy a book of Beatles songs. I never really looked back from there. There was always music in the house. My mum was a Primary school teacher. We had a piano in the house and she was the go-to person in the area we lived to play Church organ at Weddings and Funerals. Plus of course we watched Top Of The Pops religiously every week…

Q. Is there a song you have written, or a project you are most proud of?

A. I wouldn't want to pick just one, but ok I will. I wrote this tune for Isobel Campbell when she was collaborating with Mark Lanegan called “We Die And See Beauty Reign”. It was on an album called Hawk... we used to open our live sets with it when we toured America and Europe. It's very simple but very intense!

Q. After many years of collaborations, playing in bands e.t.c. this is your first ever solo album. How come it took so long to come about?

A. Well - long story short… I went back to school! When I joined the Soup Dragons back in the day I had dropped out of College to become the buccaneering sonic adventurer I am now (!) . We kind of hit the ground running and I never looked back. But as years went by I wished I had finished my education and so 4 years ago decided to apply to Uni and ended up getting a couple of Music degrees. The album is the result of this as it was my Songwriting Masters dissertation/creative project.

Q. Was it different writing songs for yourself rather than for someone else to sing? Was there more freedom e.t.c.?

A. Yeah - it was a bit unnerving at first but the realisation eventually sinks in that all these creative decisions are yours and yours alone to make and you have no-one else to blame if things don't go as you intend!

Q. Who are you most inspired by? Do you have any favourite artists/songwriters?

A. Laura Nyro/ Carole King/Jacques Brel/A C Jobim/ Love/ Brian Wilson. The list could go on and is probably endless.

Q. Do you have any plans for new projects, gigs e.t.c. after the lockdown is over?

A. Absolutely - Anna and I want to put together some shows for Snowgoose as we didn't manage to play when our last album The Making Of You came out last year. I also want to play shows to promote this new solo album of mine whether by live stream or whatever. I'll just have to wait and see which way the wind blows.

Preorder (available soon) the new album When I Mean What I Say, here on Violette 
Release date: 21 May, 2021
Opening photo taken by Brian Sweeney. 

Friday, 12 March 2021

The Lodger - Cul-De-Sac of Love

Released: 12 Mar 2021
Label: Philophobia Music
Listen and Buy Here

The Lodger, from West Yorkshire UK, are a new discovery for me. They had a few albums in the 00s but somehow they passed me by. Judging from their new album, its hard to see why. 

Their sound is reminiscent of late 80s/90s indie pop with hints of The Lightning Seeds, Teenage Fanclub e.t.c. It opens with 'Black and White' a gorgeous love song, with superb harmonies and strong hooks. 'Dual Lives' has hints of electronic and again the hooks and melodies are memorable. There are also hints of New Order. It sounds like it could have been a radio hit any time 80s onwards.

My favourite here is 'Wasting My Time With You' a beautiful ballad. The harmonies are wonderful and it will have you listening to it on repeat. 

Other highlights here include 'Stop That Girl!' which also sounds like an indie disco classic. Again, it is very catchy. 'No, No, No' is more melodic jangle of the highest standard. 

It ends on 'My Poor Mind' which has more country vibes and melancholic lyrics - 'I feel I'm going backwards like a car that's in reverse. And I try so hard but I always make things worse.' 

A superb album and one of my favourites of the year so far. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Luca Nieri - Etrurian Shades

Released: 26 Feb 2021
Label: Wonderfulsound
Listen and Buy Here

Luca Nieri returns with his 5th album and this one is entirely made up of instrumentals. It is unusual for the type of music I typically review here but I strongly urge people to check it out. 

His previous album 'Always You' was my favourite album of 2020. I have known of Luca's music since 2018 and on hearing RW Hedges album 'The Hunters in the Snow' (which he co-wrote and produced) I was immediately hooked. It is still one of the most beautiful records I have ever heard. 

Luca Nieri has his own unique sound and is also a great producer, this is evident on the new album. It opens with a delicate piano/strings instrumental which has an eerie magic to it which would not sound out of place on a fantasy film soundtrack.

'Milo's Song' is very different and more Folk sounding, it is a lovely, relaxing listen. None of the songs here are too alike so it doesn't become repetitive like some instrumental music can.

My favourite here is 'A Soldier's Return' which vaguely has Western vibes and you can hear the Ennio Morricone influence. Title track 'Etrurian Shades' has an Autumnal feel to it, like much of Nieri's earlier work. 'Dead Tree Blues' reminded me more of Luca's old band The Monks Kitchen. It is quite folky and some of the guitar work brought to mind Bert Jansch. 

A beautiful album and perfect if you are looking for something a bit different to listen to. Highly recommended.


Tuesday, 2 March 2021

The Umbrella Puzzles - A Slowly Dawning Realization

Released: 26 Feb 2021
Label: Subjangle
Listen and Buy Here

The Umbrella Puzzles, is the work of Ryan Marquez of California, and this is their debut album after an EP in 2019. The sound is very lo-fi with hints of the Velvet Underground. 

I was a bit late in 'getting' this artist, but on hearing the opening track - 'Slip Through The Cracks', I was immediately hooked. It has that 60s chiming guitar sound and there are hints of The Byrds here too. It is super melodic with memorable hooks.

Other highlights here include 'Sinking Ground'  which has more 80s jangle vibes and brought to mind The Go-Betweens.  'Everyone Knows It' is more heartfelt indie pop goodness. 'A Stone's Throw Away' has more lovely melodies, it reminded me a bit of 80s band The Vaselines too with its simplicity.

It ends on 'A Slowly Dawning Realization' which is more laid back with vivid lyrics and again the hooks are strong.

A wonderful debut and a hugely enjoyable listen. Sadly cds sold out very quickly (its easy to see why!) but its still available to download. It is well worth keeping an eye on the Subjangle label too.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Tamar Berk - The Restless Dreams of Youth

Released: 26 Feb 2021
Label: _
Listen and Buy Here

Tamar Berk, from California, makes her solo debut and it is a wonderful listen, full of guitar pop gems.

Her sound is reminiscent of the  early 90s and brought to mind artists such as Juliana Hatfield and Liz Phair.

It opens with 'Skipping the Cracks' which is brilliantly upbeat with great pop hooks. The theme is looking on the bright side of a breakup.

'Shadow Clues' is a lot darker and heavy sounding, with suspense running throughout. There aren't many lyrics so it is kind of hypnotic, and about barriers in a relationship. 'A New Case' is a beautiful, piano driven ballad with some heartbreaking lyrics - "There's nothing I hate more than you seeing me this way. I'm nothing more than a lump of clay."

My favourite here is 'Better Off Meditating' which is more energetic guitar pop. It has a slight punk edge to it and a chorus you will be singing along to.

Other highlights include 'Heavy & Abusive' - a sad song about fear of saying the 'wrong thing' to a short tempered partner. 'Til I've Won', is a heartfelt love song with some beautiful melodies and superb vocals. 'In The Wild' is more hook filled, Summery pop. It ends on 'Suitcase & Gun', a slow song about trying to escape from somewhere, with vivid lyrics.

A fantastic debut and a hugely enjoyable listen. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

The Electric Stars - Velvet Elvis The Only Lover Left Alive

Released: 1 Feb 2021
Label: _
Listen Here
Buy Here

The Electric Stars are a Psych/Power Pop band from Manchester UK. I was first aware of them a couple of years ago. Their new album has plenty of variety and some very quirky lyrics, making for an interesting and enjoyable listen.

It opens with 'Velvet Elvis', a 9 minute epic. The sound has the 90s vibes of Primal Scream, and a psych/dance groove to it. There are some superb guitar solos. Lyrically it is about finding solace in music, away from the horrors of Politics e.t.c. 

'Electric Stardust' is more jangly and upbeat with 60s vibes. Lyrically it is reminiscing about growing up, being young and finding who you are. The chorus is wonderfully melodic and catchy.  

My favourite here is 'Sunshine', which has Psych vibes of The Rolling Stones. It is instantly memorable and very Summery as you would expect!

Other highlights include 'Suicide' which is a lot darker with intense and thought provoking lyrics. 'Loaded With Regrets' is an emotional listen - a heartfelt, vivid account of a breakup. 'We Love You' has a more 70s Punk edge to it, and great energy. 

A brilliant album, recommended to all fans of the guitar pop genre. 

Friday, 19 February 2021

The Gold Needles - Whats Tomorrow Ever Done For You?

Released: 19 Feb 2021
Label: Jem Records
Listen and Buy Here

Power Pop band - The Gold Needles, from Hull UK, have been on my radar a while. Their song 'Here She Goes Again' from the last album was one of my favourites of 2019.

The new album opens with 'What's Tomorrow Ever Done For You?' which brought to mind the jangly guitar pop of The Bluebells. The hooks are superb and it is instantly memorable.

'I Get The Pressure' has more 80s vibes and is upbeat and anthemic. There are a few covers on the album too, the first being 'Have You Ever Loved Somebody', by The Hollies. It is a great version and they add their own unique style to it.

Other highlights include 'Billy Liar' which is wonderfully catchy with a child-like charm. The band pay homage to The Beatles with a cover of 'If I Needed Someone'. It fits in with the album perfectly. 'The Story of My Life' sounds like a lost 80s radio hit. 

The album ends on a beautiful ballad 'Drown This Sorrow' which is heartfelt and melancholic. It shows there is more to the band than just upbeat anthemic pop. 

A brilliant album full of well-written guitar pop gems. Highly recommended.