Tracks Monkeys With Lasers


Xtra Mile Showcase @ Borderline – 25/05
December 7, 2010, 8:53 pm
Filed under: gigs | Tags: , , , , ,

This show had what was for me a fantastic lineup with The Xcerts, Straight Lines and Crazy Arm all playing who are all bands I’m a big fan of (and had all seen live previously). In addition, one of Xtra Mile’s latest signing, Fighting Fiction, were also due to play so I was intruiged to see what they had to offer.

As it turned out, it wasn’t to be a full band performance from Fighting Fiction but just an acoustic set from the lead singer, Jacob. This was a little disappointing but it was still a good set and made me want to hear more of their stuff. Their EP and newest single are up on Spotify and are well worth a listen.

Next up were Crazy Arm. I really like the record these guys put out last year but when I saw them supporting Frank Turner at the Roundhouse, I was left slightly underwhelmed with their live performance. Sadly, this show did little to change that.

Their songs are very strong but live it was just a little sloppy at times. Every now and again the timing seemed to be slightly off between the band and, for me at least, this was quite noticeable and really spoilt their performance. It’s a bit of a shame as I really do like the album but that’s twice that I’ve been disappointed with them live. Third time lucky?

After that, it was time for Straight Lines to take to the stage. I’d seen these guys only a few months previously as well when they headlined at the Camden Enterprise which was a show I really enjoyed. Here, they put on a good show again but with it not being a crowd there to seem them specifically, it wasn’t as good as before.

That said, I did enjoy their set and they even played one or two new songs from what I remember. Good band, good album and good fun live too.

Finally, it was the main act of the night in The Xcerts. I’d been lucky to catch these guys almost a year ago at Lexapalooza at the Gaff. Back then, there was only a handful of people still around to see them but they really managed to impress me. Since then, their first album had grown on me even more so I was looking forward to seeing how they’d progressed.

As it turned out, they’d come out massively since I’d seen them last. They seemed completely at ease on stage and weren’t afraid to try out something different with their tracks with a different version of ‘Home Versus Home’ working really well.

With their latest album being prepared for release around the time of this show, they showcased a few new tracks, including their latest single ‘Slackerpop’. Not many people seemed to know the track but I enjoyed it and it points to a slightly different sound on the new album from their first.

It can be a bit odd when a band plays new songs live when nobody recognises them. The band seemed to recognise this though so played the new tracks early on, leaving the rest of the set to the material everyone there knew and these sounded great. ‘Crisis In The Slow Lane’ was a particular highlight to me with the now near-capacity crowd singing along to the chorus; quite a difference from the show at the Gaff.

To finish the night, Murray came back out on stage by himself and played the beautiful ‘Aberdeen 1987’. Sadly a lot of the crowd seemed to be chatting amongst themselves at this point but the song was brilliant regardless with the crowd again singing the chorus. Murray may have forgotten the words at one point but this didn’t spoil a thing.

Altogether, it was a great night with three bands I really like playing as well as a new one for me to check out. The Xcerts were the clear standout act of the night though and I only hope these guys can continue to get better and better.

The Xcerts – Aberdeen 1987 (live)



Top 20 Albums of 2009

Here we are; the not-at-all prestigious list of the best albums of the year as decided by me.

It’s been a good year for music in my opinion and I’ve listened to well over 50 albums of varying quality this year so trimming it down to 20 was no easy feat and plenty of bands only just missed the cut (sorry Cymbals Eat Guitars, Crocodiles, The Strange Boys, We Were Promised Jetpacks etc) but 20 is more than enough for y’all.

I do find these things quite hard to do though asI find it hard to compare an album I’ve been listening to for 6 months to one I only heard for the first time a couple of weeks ago. As such, this top 20 is how I felt on the day of compiling the list (it has in fact changed a fair few times since it was first put together) and there are probably some albums that should be in there that I haven’t heard at all.

As it’s the season of giving and all that (“it’s better to give than to receive” as my university so eloquently puts it) I’ve even put together a couple of podcasts featuring some of my favourite tracks off the albums listed here plus a few extra songs for good measure. Add to that my nervous ramblings and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a listen. I’ve put these at the top of the post so you can download and listen to them without giving away the list if you’re that way inclined. Just click on the links below and download them from megaupload.

Best of 2009 Podcast Part 1: Albums 20-11

Download here

Best of 2009 Podcast Part 2: Albums 10-1

Download here

Apologies for the second one being a fair bit bigger and having some terrible editing at the end but the podcasting software crashed during the final songs so I had to hash the files together. It’s worth downloading though, honest!

And so on to the list!

20 – The Anomalies: Free Soup Social

Podcast track: Oldskool

A fun little album that never seems to take itself too seriously, MC Goldseal, Mouthmaster Murf, Lo and DJ Mayhem have made a cracking little indie hip-hop album.

19 – Fuck Buttons: Tarot Sport

Podcast track: Surf Solar

The first of the ‘electronica’ type bands to make the list, this album gets off to a flyer with the sublime Surf Solar, which is well up there for one of the best tracks of the year. Sadly, I feel the rest of the album doesn’t match this level which is a great shame and which is why I can only put it at 19. A few more listens, and a bit more time, and I will undoubtedly believe it should be higher.

18 – Animal Collective: Brother Sport

Podcast track: Brother Sport

An album that was a real slow burner for me with regards to liking it, I’ve finally come round to the album having originally dismissed it. This is partly after listening to it a lot more after seeing them live and also finding that I much prefered it through speakers to earphones for some reason. This is the only album of theirs I own and the sort of ‘wall of sound’ approach of the album has grown on me massively.

17 – Noah & The Whale: The First Days of Spring

Podcast track: Blue Skies

I never listened to their first album so came into this one fresh. A rather melancholy album, not surprising seeing as it’s almost entirely about the singer’s breakup with his (then) girlfriend Laura Marling, but this doesn’t stop it being a beautiful album. The highlight is easily the track ‘Blue Skies but the track ‘Love of an Orchestra’ sandwiched between two instrumental tracks is brilliantly grandiose and pompous.

16 – Maybeshewill – Sing The Word Hope In Four-Part Harmony

Podcast track: Co-Conspirators

Following on from the immense ‘Not For Want Of Trying’ last year, MSW return with more of the same big post rock tracks with film audio clips interspersed over the top. Sadly it doesn’t quite hit the same heights as the last album and feels a little short at only 9 tracks (2 of which had been previously released as well) but it’s still well worth a punt.

15 – worriedaboutsatan – arrivals

Podcast track: you’re in my thoughts

A band that seemingly hates capital letters, they have produced a neat little ambient electronica album that has really grown on me over the last few months. Annoyingly, they’ve played in London twice recently but have been on dates I couldn’t make. They are, however, on tour in March with Her Name Is Calla and I will almost definitely be in attendance for that show.

14 – Passion Pit – Manners

Podcast track: Sleepyhead

A band that I only got into recently (a bit slow, I know) after a friend’s recommendation. A pretty solid and enjoyable album of which the highlight is obviously ‘Moths Wings’. Up until then, the album isn’t bad but that track takes it up a fair few notches. Only a couple of tracks come close to that song, with ‘Sleepyhead’ being one of my other favourites.

13 – The Joy Formidable – A Balloon Called Moaning

Podcast track: Austere

A good debut album by this band from the valleys, their indie pop sound reminded me of Metric quite a lot. The album is quite short at only 9 tracks but there’s enough variety in there to maintain interest with uptempo songs like ‘Austere’ and the acoustic track ‘9669’ being a couple of the highlights for me.

12 – NOFX – Coaster

Podcast track: We Called It America

Despite all the other stuff in this list, I’m still a little punk rocker at heart and NOFX were on of the bands of my teens. Coaster is possibly my favourite album of theirs since ‘Pump Up The Valuum’ and it seems that they’re well in their comfort zone now (in a good way) with some great tracks here. The normal NOFX humour and drug/booze chat remains but some more serious songwriting is also present in tracks like ‘My Orphan Year’.

11 – Tubelord – Our First American Friends

Podcast track: Propeller

FINALLY Tubelord got round to making a full record and it was worth the wait. The album contains a load of their material which is found in bits and pieces across EPs and singles, such as ‘I Am Azerrad’ and ‘Night Of The Pencils’ but also contains plenty of new material with a different sound, such as the synthy ‘Stacey’s Left Arm’ and the acoustic ‘Cows To The East, Cities To The West’, to give the album another layer that previous releases may have lacked.

10 – Metric – Fantasies

Podcast track: Help I’m Alive

I’d not heard a lot of these guys’ back catalogue before this album but I much prefer this album to some of their previous ones; the songwriting seems much better as is the production (but without being ‘overproduced’). There are some fantastic tracks with my highlights being the album opener, which is on the podcast, and ‘Gimme Sympathy’ which also sounded great live too.

9 – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart -s/t

Podcast track: Young Adult Friction

Another shameless indie pop album in the top 20 of mine, I first heard the album early on in the year and it was constantly getting plays on my ipod. That’s tailed off a little bit but I still never tire of hearing this album because of its dreamy, upbeat nature. Even songs with lyrics like “you’re my sister, this love is fucking right” seem to be happy, bouncy tracks. A little disappointing when I saw them live but this album has been featuring in many an end of year list for good reason.

8 – Slow Club – Yeah So

Podcast track: Giving Up On Love

A band I really do want to catch live, Slow Club’s debut album is an interesting mix of indie tunes, such as the one on the podcast, and acoustic tracks which, themselves, range from upbeat to slow and melodic. The contrast between the vocals from both of the band members gives their songs an extra feel. The album does lose its way a little bit in the second half when the tempo drops a little too much but this is all redeemed with the excellent album closer ‘Our Most Brilliant Friends’.

7 – There Will Be Fireworks – s/t

Podcast track: Says Aye

One of the most complete albums of the year for me, There Will Be Fireworks’ debut contains a number of great individual tracks such as ‘We Sleep Through The Bombs’ and ‘We Were A Roman Candle’. What gives this indie/post rock Scottish band’s album the edge though is how effortlessly the tracks roll into one another with the triplet of ‘Guising’, ‘Off With Their Hands’  and ‘I Like The Lights’ going together seamlessly and complementing each other brilliantly.

6 – Dananananaykroyd – Hey Everyone

Podcast track: Black Wax

Seemingly making up their own genre with what the dub ‘fight pop’, Danana take the sound of bands like Los Campesinos and then give it their own ‘edgier’ sound and this ends up producing a great sound. The band maintain a sense of fun about their music while not ending up too poppy. Another band I need to see live as tracks like ‘Black Wax’, ‘Infinity Milk’ and ‘Hey James’ would probably sound nothing less than amazing.

5 – The Xcerts – In The Cold Wind We Smile

Podcast track: Cool Ethan

An odd album this one; it doesn’t seem to do anything amazing or anything amazingly different but what it does do is great. I first got wind of these guys live at Lexapalooza earlier in the year after they were given one of the top spots. Another Scottish band on the list, these guys released their first album earlier this year through Xtra Mile and it’s full of great tracks that cover a number of bases with acoustic tracks, big anthems and fast paced indie tracks. Definitely an album to check out and I really hope these guys do well.

4 – Dan Deacon – Bromst

Podcast track: Get Older

Not necessarily the type of music I would listen to, I got hold of a copy of Bromst after hearing a number of people go on about it and how, even 6 months ago or more, that this was a contender for album of the year. After listening to it, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it and it’s difficult to describe the sound with element of electronica with synths and everything thrown in there but then vocals, pianos, keyboards, strings and brass layers on various tracks produce this weird album. But it all works together splendidly to give one of my favourite albums of 2009.

3 – Frank Turner – Poetry Of The Deed

Podcast track: Sons Of Liberty

The third album from Frank sees a bigger shift in sound than he had made between his previous albums as the full band sound takes prominence over the solo acoustic one. Initially I was unsure as to whether I’d like this and for the first few listens the step he’d taken may have been too big for me. Now, however, the album is close to surpassing ‘Love, Ire & Song’ as my favourite album of his. The full band tracks like ‘Like Fast, Die Old’ and ‘Poetry Of The Deed’ sound great with the normal singalong and ‘angst’ of normal FT tracks present. Some of the acoustic numbers drag a little bit and it’s not until the end of the album with ‘Our Lasy Of The Campfire’ and ‘Journey Of The Magi’ that the best tracks come into play.

2- And So I Watch You From Afar – s/t

Podcast track: TheseRIOTSareJUSTtheBEGINNING

One of the earliest releases of the year to make the list, ASIWYFA have produced an absolutely stunning post rock album which encapsulates their live sound brilliantly. The album opener ‘Set Guitars To Kill’ acts to simply blow you away with its real in-your-face loudness. The sound isn’t all about volume though with the guys all being great musicians and the fact that slower, more melodic tunes like ‘The Voiceless’ holding their own against the big tracks like ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Break It’. I said in the 2008 top albums, where their EP ranked highly, that their album was one to look forward to and I wasn’t wrong.

1 – The Antlers – Hospice

Podcast tracks: Kettering, Sylvia

Not an album that I listen to as widely as others in this list perhaps but this album more than deserves top spot out of all of this year’s releases. An album about a man working in a hospital who falls in love with a patient suffering from bone cancer and slowly losing her may not sound like the foundations for a great piece of music but the album follows this story beautifully. The lyrics themselves read like a mini novel if you read the album sleeve and are quite haunting as they are but when sung with Silberman’s falsetto vocals over the top, along with the wonderful guitars and keyboards, it makes for what can only be described as a beautiful album.



Podcast #18

Yo La Tengo – Here To Fall
Tubelord – I Am Azerrad
The Xcerts – Nightschool
Errors – Mr Milk
Jim Lockey – The Boat Song
Oxygen Thief – There Can Only Be One
The Gaslight Anthem – Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
Polar Bear Club – Living Saints
NOFX – All Of Me
Rise Against – Ready To Fall
Frightened Rabbit – Fast Blood
There Will Be Fireworks – We Were A Roman Candle
Snuff – Nick Motown
Less Than Jake – Faction
Future Of The Left – Lapsed Catholics

Download from here.



Lexapalooza All-Dayer @ The Gaff – 20/06

Held in the bizarre little venue of The Gaff on Holloway Road, this all day event was put on in the name of Breast Cancer Research. I got there bright and early and lasted the full 11 hours (at the expense of the hearing in my left ear which has just about recovered) and had a fantastic time thanks to the array of different acts playing. I managed to get photos of all the acts and audio of a number of them, the latter mainly from the acoustic stage which I possibly enjoyed more.

The venue itself seems like it may well be host to a slightly heavier sound than the majority of Lexapalooza offered with skeletons hung about the place, fake cobwebs and (perhaps most telling of all) a plethora of event posters for bands with names that would make your mother blush. Anyhoo, the day itself (featuring mini reviews due to numbers);

Chris TT & The Hoodrats

For me, a good choice to open with thanks to the fact that there was some good banter with the crowd (and Evan, the organiser). The little material I had heard by Chris TT in the past was his solo stuff so it was a bit different to hear him play with a band. That didn’t hold him back though and he rattled through his set with a good mix of tunes.

“Where Were You?”

Dave Hughes


The first artist on the acoustic stage, he played a pretty solid set. Some nice tunes and good vocals so a good start for the ‘other’ stage.

Spectrum 7

Veterans of Lexapalooza, having played the previous year, they stepped in at the last minute to cover for another band. I was a bit worried that this may have meant they weren’t going to be that good but was pleasently surprised. With some clever 65daysofstatic-esque laptop work (and some problems with the laptop, just like 65dos as well) with good guitar work and vocals over the top, they were a nice surprise for me.

Superman Revenge Squad

One of only a few artists I’d heard of beforehand (and the only one I’d seen live before), I was looking forward to his set. For me, the sound levels weren’t quite right for his set which spoilt it slightly but I still enjoyed his set and the new material which I hadn’t heard. Always forget how good a guitarist he actually is as it comes across much better live than on the record for me.

“Get Yourself Into The Arms Of Drunken People”

Jedethan

Another surprise package, Jedethan played an unusual style of music in being rather heavy but still easy to dance along to. Good banter between the band and the crowd made it even more enjoyable and getting some of the guys involved with putting on the even on stage to ‘play’ and ‘sing’ was a really cool touch. Evan is a natural frontman in my opinion!

Oxygen Thief

Possibly my surprise act of the day, I thoroughly enjoyed this set. Playing his acoustic like he thought he was playing in a punk band, the mix of the acoustic guitar and the sound he was making was brilliant. His own songs were brilliant and the crowd loved the cover of the Spandau Ballet ‘Gold’. And it’s always nice to know that you were a better crowd than Swindon..

“Too Many Trees”

Blind Havoc

Fair to say that these weren’t my thing. Hung around for a fair bit of their set though and it’s easy to say they’re good at what they do, even if it wasn’t for me.

Jim Lockey

The fourth artist on the acoustic stage, he was another artist that I enjoyed; nice guitar work, good vocals and well written lyrics. Very good singer/songwriter. Special shout out to the bloke in the background of the pic..

“Caskets And Bibles”

Armed Response Unit

Another band that weren’t my thing but they had a good tight sound and I did like some of their tunes.

Ben Marwood

The final artist on the acoustic stage and yet another singer/songwriter I liked. He was, technically, a pretty good guitarist and had some really well written songs which flitted between angry and emotive quite nicely.

“Claire”

David Cronenberg’s Wife

I’m not quite sure what to make off this band.. that may have been due to the alcohol by this point but who’s to say.. Anyhoo, they were a pretty safe band who had some ‘nice’ songs and I neither liked or disliked them really.

Psychofiend

These guys were a Misfits tribute band and I quite enjoyed them having listened to some of the Misfits stuff back in the day. They played a solid set and did loads of the classics so no complaintes from me.

Popes Of Chillitown

The only ska band of the night, I had a great time listening and skanking along to this band. A nice summery sound which suited the day well, the crowd seemed to really enjoy their set. Some good interaction with the group of us dancing down the front as well so we enjoyed them playing and I think they enjoyed us dancing to them.

The Blessed & The Cursed

Another band that weren’t my thang sadly but I did enjoy the energy of the set and some of their tunes.

The Xcerts

I’d heard some of these guys’ stuff earlier in the week and was quite looking forward to them. Catchy songs and good energy from the indie band; nice finish with the singer playing the drum in the crowd on the final song.

“Nightschool”

The Justice Force 5

Now, it’s fair to say I was a bit unsure what to expect from these guys thank to their somewhat dubious choice of clothing (the effects of costumes are always slightly lost when you have to setup your own gear as well..) It was also obvious from the costumes that they weren’t going to be taking themselves too seriously. But in the end they were a great band to finish the night off with; some (almost annoyingly) catchy songs and guitar riffs couple with the ‘fun factor’ meant that I really enjoyed the set and had muchos fun dancing along.

Unknown track

So altogether it was a fantastic day/night and I hope, ultimately, a successful one for Breast Cancer Research. Congratualtions to all involved!!

NB For those that hadn’t noticed, there’s a new ‘widget’ down the side of the blog using socialvibe. In short, please click on the link and do whatever gubbins it asks and the sponsor will then donate a small amount to my chosen charity; Stand Up To Cancer. Only takes a minute!




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