Saturday 28 May 2011

For Abel - Greater Inventions

For a nation with a tradition of making classic guitar pop, old Grande-Bretagne has been a bit tough on boys in bands over recent years. Floppy fringed frontmen have been crushed under the Hummer's of hip-hop royalty; drummers distracted by the gleam of glow-sticks; base players blindsided by bootylicious R&B banshees - It’s all a far cry from the days of the Britpop boom when, somehow, even Menswear managed to gate crash the charts!

While the mainstream looks the other way though, the aspirations of kids in rehearsal rooms haven’t changed and if Boethius’s wheel is about to creek round once more and offer fame and fortune to fledgling four pieces, then Glasgow’s For Abel want to be pushing in right at the front of the queue.

The lads from the city that planted the seed for Creation Records and where Postcard called home, have come up with a debut album, Greater Inventions, that is 10 instalments of vintage indie guitar pop you feel both labels would have approved of. It’s not original, on paper it doesn’t even sound that exciting, but crucially it works because it’s packed with the kind of simple melodies and crisp guitar licks that you would have to try really hard to dislike.

There’s no getting away from it, at times its reference points are blatant. ‘Sway’ merges Shed Seven’s ‘Bully Boy’ with ‘Tomorrow’ by James while debut single ‘Yorkshire’ shares much with well known tracks by The Loft and The Wonder Stuff. Whether this is by accident or design only the band will know, but in truth it doesn’t really matter because in both cases homage is payed lovingly.

The root of this sense of familiarity comes from the singer Robert Armstrong. While his vocals have most in common with Neil Hannan, there are times on the record where he does a passable impression of Liam Fray of The Courteeners, Tim Booth and on occasion Martin Rossiter – indeed on tracks such as 'Broken Hands' and the rousing 'First Killing' there’s a healthy hint of Gene to be heard in all the bands' delivery.

Inevitably a record that so boldly has its influences on display won’t be for everyone. If you’re looking for innovation then this isn’t the album for you. Not every LP has to break new ground however, and if a whistle stop tour of the best bits of what C86 through to Britpop had to offer sounds appealing, then it's unlikely you'll be disappointed by what For Abel have served up.

A great invention? No. A worthwhile revision? Without question.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Friendly Fires - Pala

The St Albans trio return and they're having us round to get down to some Pala games!

The dreaded second album, graveyard to many a ‘next big thing’. Behind the crumbling headstone inscribed with the words ‘Kula Shaker’ and mere meters from the decaying bones of ‘The Vines’ sits another plot, gaping wide and awaiting the latest tortured soul who will shuffle through the gates and be laid to rest a top his vintage Les Paul - ‘take off your rock star shades boys, the sun doesn’t shine here!’

It’s not difficult to work out why so many hopefuls stumble at the second hurdle. Having had as long as they so desire to craft and prep a debut release, they’re suddenly thrust into a world of time limits and expectation. Self doubt tells you that anyone can get lucky once but if you want a real legacy you need to deliver again, and this time the ears of the world will be listening intently - the pressure is on....

......except in this instance apparently it’s not. Pressure? What pressure!! It would seem that any graves Friendly Fires cross paths with are going to be cheerfully danced upon!

Two and half years on from their first LP, the two Ed’s and Jack have returned with brand new record Pala and any worries of paralysis by second album syndrome can be dispelled straight away. Rather than being constrained by the critical and commercial success of their eponymous debut, Friendly Fires have embraced the opportunities being ‘hot’ afforded them and comeback with the shackles off, liberated and vindicated. Not that this should come as a surprise, anyone who witnessed their exuberant live performances, read their genuinely funny mailing list updates or watched the excitable video blogs they sent from Latin America, could see that this was a band having a blast, and that wave of positivity and spirit of adventure was bound to roll on into their new material.

Indeed a prior pointer to how their sound and mentality was evolving came in the form of 2009’s stand alone single ‘Kiss Of Life’, with its samba rhythms and sunny disposition, and ‘Pala’ picks up where that track left off, with vibrancy and fun very much the order of the day - the boys are having a party and we’re all invited,

This new emphasis is clear before you even press play on the stereo. While the debut LP and its subsequent singles made little impression with their grey and black artwork, Pala proudly struts its feathers, resplendent in bold primary colours. Ultimately though that means little without the tunes to back it up, so what of them?

WARNING : This video contains flashing images (that's strobe lights, not naked men in raincoats)

Live Those Days Tonight’ kicks things off and is a perfect opener. Infused with the spirit of acid house it lays down what this album is all about, namely supersizing the sound of the first record with cacophonous drums and a series of euphoric, hands in the air chorus', while the tracks repeated refrain of: ‘don’t hold back’, appears to be part instruction, part statement of intent - and it sounds great! Hot on its heels comes the fantastic ‘Blue Cassette’, a song every bit as dream fuelled and romantic as the band’s early single ‘Paris’. Utilising the same psychadelic swirl that catapulted The Chemical Brothers up the charts it's evocative and anthemic in equal portions.

Elsewhere ‘Hawaiian Air’ and ‘Hurting’ seem to come as a pair, each initially doing a plausible impression of a long lost level from Sonic 2. The former (with it somewhat bizarre lyrics) boasts a soaring chorus, that is brilliantly huge, while the latter comes over like J.Dilla remixing Wham! live on Pigeon Street – yes really! In the middle of the album the title track provides a welcome change of pace with its hypnotic melody, while later the tropical stylings and big beats of 'Show Me Lights' mark it out as a probable future single

The overriding feeling with this album however is that it’s not the individual tracks that shine, but more the piece as a whole – its triumph is in the production. Having crafted the majority of their debut with little outside assistance, the lads this time opted to team up fully with lauded producer Paul Epworth (who they’d previously worked with on ‘Jump In The Pool' and the single version of ‘Skeleton Boy’). Between them they’ve come up with a fuller sound that feels fresh and contemporary and one which at points perhaps covers up for limitations in the basic song structure.
With that in mind It should be pointed out that this isn’t a record without flaws. Lyrically it’s not particularly memorable and on first impression the second half of the album seems to be a little weaker than what has gone before. Final track ‘Helpless’ is an odd choice to round things off - when you might expect the LP to go out in an explosion of enthusiasm and fireworks it instead slips away in fairly low key fashion (although if you buy Pala via I.Tunes it closes with a bonus track, the band’s cracking cover of Depeche Mode’s Strangelove). In addition, with much more prominent pop sensibilities than its predecessor, at times the album wobbles as it tip toes along a tightrope that could see it fall into the realms of cheesy 80’s pop. Thankfully on most occasions it manages to maintain the right balance.
Despite those frailties this is still a really engaging and interesting body of music, an LP that can comfortably hold its head up amongst its contemporaries. Admittedly this may not be a record that will stop you dead in your tracks or have you declaring the second coming of your saviours, but you get the impression that for the band this album was one that never had any intention of pitching for 'cool' status or reaffirming indie credibility. Instead Friendly Fires have made the record they want, one that has its heart in the clubs of Ibiza and on the beaches of Rio. Pala wants to be a refreshing burst of unadulterated fun that will soundtrack your summer, and you know what, it's made a pretty fine attempt, so turn it up extra loud, leave your inhibitions at the door, get your groove on, and most importantly - don't hold back!

Pala is available for streaming at the Friendly Fires website here, where you can also pick up a free download of 'Blue Casette'

Thursday 5 May 2011

Five For Free #8

This week's top 5 best free tunes.

1) The People's Temple - Sons Of Stone

Michigan natives The People's Temple specialise in fashioning 60s pychedelia and garage Nuggets of the variety that an on form Tame Impala do so well. Taken from their wikipedia page: "The People's Temple have cited Arthur Lee, Spacemen 3, 13th Floor Elevators, Velvet Underground, Rolling Stones, Joy Division and Link Wray as main influences."
That list alone should be reason enough to lend them your ears. The fact that they use those influences to generate such an awesome sound is a second reason.  Their debut album is out now on Hozac Records. The mesmerizing title track is yours for free.

Sons of Stone by HOZAC RECORDS

Free download: Sons Of Stone

The People's Temple on Myspace

Buy the album.

2) Regina - Jos et sä soita

Specializing in sun-kissed, bouncy indie-pop, Finnish trio Regina deserve to be the soundtrack to everyone's summer. In English the title means 'If You Don't Call Me', given my non-existent knowledge of the Finnish language I'd require a translator to decipher the rest of the lyrics. With a song this lovely is doesn't matter what the words are. Just lie back and enjoy. Regina's new album is due out later in the year.

Regina - Jos et sä soita by Universalfi

Free download: Jos et sä soita

Regina on Myspace

3) Beth Jeans Houghton - Dodecahedron

It's been 3 years since the first EP from Newcastle lass Beth Jeans Houghton. In that time she's been steadily building up a fanbase and media interest. There seems to be a calculated move not to rush headlong into a whirlwind of promotion, and taking her time over matters looks like it's about to pay off. Having been awarded record of the week on Radio 2 (!) 18 months ago, the singer songwriter is now signed to Mute who will be putting out her debut full-lenght later this year. 'Dodecahedron' is an early sample of the album, and it's quite sublime.

Beth Jeans Houghton - Dodecahedron by Mute UK

Beth Jeans Houghton on Myspace

4) Eleanor Friedberger - My Mistakes

Having spent a decade as The Fiery Furnaces alongside her brother Matthew (who is planning to release 8 solo albums in 2011!), Eleanor Friedberger is taking the opportuninty for a solo outing herself. 'My Mistakes' is a tale of regret counterbalanced by a meaty-yet-poppy backing, giving the impression of a slightly lighter Heartless Bastards. Going it alone has served her well here, let's hope for more of the same on her album Last Summer when it arrives with us in July.

Eleanor Friedberger - "My Mistakes" by One Thirty BPM

The Fiery Furnaces on Myspace

Pre-order the album.

5) Gold-Bears - Record Store

Georgia's Gold Bears have been described as 'twee punk' and 'crash pop'. Both descriptions are bang on. They have uplifting, melodic guitar pop tunes, and they dive into them head first, fizzing with energy and excitement. You might have become sick of songs about record stores over the past month or two, but this hectic slice of fuzzy fun is worthy of attention. Debut album Are You Falling In Love? is released internationally on May 17th.

  Gold-Bears - Record Store by Pretty Much Amazing

Gold Bears on Myspace

Pre-order the album.

The Sound Of Confusion on Myspace

The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook

Sunday 1 May 2011

Tracks Out This Week

5 fine new tunes released this week.

My Morning Jacket - Holding On To Black Metal

Back with their 6th album at the end of the month, it looks like a slight change of direction for the Kentucky collective. Circuital is due on the 31st and is predeeded by a new single - 'Holding On To Black Metal' - out this week. The slightly psychedelic alt. country sound of old has been replaced by a more soulful vibe and it's the best thing they've done for some time. The single is available to download on iTunes. For another taster of the new album, head to their website for a freebee.


My Morning Jacket's website

Pre-order the album.

Strange Talk - Eskimo Boy

While the UK charts are clogged up with the excrement of reality TV shows and 'shocking' US pop stars such as Katy Perry and Lady Gaga (OMG!!! She's SO controversial!! lol), it's been increasingly to down under that we've looked for decent pop music. Whether it be New Zealand's The Naked & Famous, or Aussis like Gypsy & The Cat, Empire Of The Sun and The Holidays. Strange Talk hail from Melbourne and make great, sunny synth-pop tunes. Their debut EP is out this week in the UK, expect more press soon.

Strange Talk - Eskimo Boy by troysnoise

Strange Talk on Myspace

Buy the EP.

Cass McCombs - The Lonely Doll

Californian singer/songwriter Cass McCombs has been on the recieving end of many gushing reviews over the years (John Peel was a big fan) and the trend has continued with his new LP Wit's End, which hit the UK and Europe at the beginning of April and is out in the US this week. New single 'The Lonely Doll' is full of the kind of tender emotion and strumming that can be so tedious. McCombs, as usual, has nailed it. Hit the download arrow on the stream below and grab it for free.

Cass McCombs - The Lonely Doll by DominoRecordCo

Cass McCombs' website

Buy the album.

The Heartbreaks - Jealous, Don't You Know

Originally a limited 7" single for Record Stores Day, The Heartbreaks latest is now available for download. The Morcambe lads specialise in grand, cinematic British guitar tunes and have a great line in massive choruses. Overblown in a good way, their album looks set to be full of mini symphonies and they could turn out to be the surprise stars of 2011 - if the public starts buying anything involving guitars again (Biffy, Foos and Kings Of Leon don't count).

The Heartbreaks on Myspace

Buy the single.


Nico's Bike - Sharkbait

Rules can be broken for OROTW - so I've picked this summery, Glaswegian indie-pop track which was out at the start of April (it's a limited download so get in quick). Info on Nico's Bike is hard to come by and they don't seem to have a website, but there's nothing wrong with a bit of mystique. In fact it's a refreshing change! The tune does the talking. It's contagious, timeless (that time being a mixture of C86 jangle, early 90s alt. rock and 60s pop) and like all great pop tunes it has a wonderful, uplifting chorus. This enigmatic bunch could be worth keeping an eye on. (A quick note - the stream is quite quiet so crank up the volume)


The Sound Of Confusion on Myspace

The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook

Found Of Confusion # 4

‘Owwwww my stomach’

I’ve over indulged badly readers. Once again my eyes were too big for my belly and I tackled a tiger economy’s GDP equivalent in pancakes, hot cross buns and those new Malteser bunnies that looked so appealing for the first ten or so.

Cadbury’s Crème Eggs – how do you eat yours?’...

.... by the absolute bucket load thanks for asking. It’s been all I could do just to roll my stomach off the sofa and change the songs on the stereo, and when I did these are the tunes that masked my groans – April’s Found of Confusion's. Pass the bucket please....


I don’t know if Kev has scrapped his stupid band name of the week feature, but if it’s still running we have a likely contender in the shape of the duotastic (I made that up) sounding DIMBLEBY AND CAPPER. Despite the cumbersome - Question Time host dressed in market knock off Italian sportswear – name, Dee and Cee (as seems to be the preferred abbreviation) is predominantly the fruits of just one ladies fertile imagination, 23 year old London resident Laura Bettinson. Although she’s almost certainly aspiring to chart success, March’s ‘Let You Go’ single and its excellent flip side* ‘Raise It Right’are not your standard sugar coated pop compositions; they may have started out fluffy and nice, but these songs have had their heads turned by what’s on offer in the shady parts of tune town. A brooding off kilter vibe, akin to that favoured by M.I.A, is prominent in both tracks and could have been oppressive if it wasn’t for the sneaky upbeat choruses she slips in. A recent live performance complete with theatrical stage antics and eccentric costumes begs the question, is she aiming to be Britain’s version of Lady Gaga? Frankly as long as she continues crafting great singles who cares!

*can you flip an MP3?

Lazy TV executives who are too spineless or incompetent to make a decision, like to air pilot episodes of shows to gauge whether or not the public will approve of the concept. Well if this PILOTS debut production is anything to go by,  put down your doughnut and get this commissioned now fatty! ‘White Knuckle Tight Grip’ was released back in February and sounds fantastic with its funky guitars and harmonies that pop up at random intervals, all polished up nicely via some glossy production. With the 80’s love in showing little sign of letting up, these north east lads appear to have drawn inspiration from their regions most prominent musical export – and they should be applauded for cherry picking the best bits The Police had to offer, while sidelining any trace of the oddball singer who based his whole persona on a garish stripy jumper. Sharing the same schizophrenic approach to song structure as flourishing contemporises like Vampire Weekend and Everything Everything (but on this evidence doing it better), the prospects of future success for this quartet look more than healthy – well as long as one of the band doesn’t suddenly change his name to ‘Wasp’

Moving from those who frequent the air (Pilots – get it, clever yeah? No?) to those who prefer to stay on the tarmac, revving up next for your consideration are San Diego’s RANGE ROVER. Normally a band name like that would be an open goal for me to wheel out a clutch of car based puns, but I decided that in these blogs I should steer clear of that sort of thing as I’m aware it can drive people nuts. I don’t intend to brake that promise so I’ll resist the temptation, (having exhausted my material anyway) but if you spot any accidental ones feel free to boot me off your screen.

Despite these Californian teens still finding their feet artistically, their recent free download ‘There’s Nothing For Me Here’ has gained them much positive attention across blog land. The base track adopts the same brand of otherworldly electronica so successfully championed by the brilliant Memory Tapes and Millionyoung, while the vocals come over like a monastic chant, shrouded in echo and distortion. Further recordings ‘Soda’ and ‘Mind’ are available for no cost at their Bandcamp page and if Range Rover can piece together a long player even half as good as the aforementioned Mr M Tapes they’ll be a must for any ITunes library.

Now we all know that nothing good has ever been called GILBERT! That bloke from Holyoaks who’s always singing Blue Moon and proudly wearing his City colours gave it a good go - until it was revealed he’s a real life admirer of Trafford Green And Yellow Scarves! Loveable Old Gil from The Simpsons can’t hold down a job for two minutes and that giant from The Inbetweeners, funny though he is, unashamedly wears a tweed jacket and v-neck sweater.... together!! Freaks the lot of them!

Someone however has emerged, who seems to want to buck this loser trend. December 2010 saw the release of ‘Wahoola!’, the 2nd album from Gilbert – a creative outlet for current Engineers drummer Matthew Linley. While on occasion the record veers off into ‘aaagh where the hell did that scary men’s choir appear from’ territory, when Linley gets it right, my does he get it right! Maude Wilde has been brought on board to lend seraphic vocals to Linely’s beguiling orchestrations and the resulting musical marriage has worked a treat. ‘Where are you’ twinkles while ‘Red Leaves Floating On The Water’ is as tranquil and pretty as the title would suggest. If you only intend to treat your ears once this year then let them have 5 uninterrupted minutes alone with the really beautiful ‘Snow Snow Snow Snow Snow’, it’s got layers of loveliness up its sleeve.

04 Red Leaves Floating On the Water by Foundofconfusion


That’s all for this month but, provided I don’t pop and splatter chocolate all over the wall, I’ll be back at the start of June to share the next selection. In the meantime why not discuss your favourite Easter eggs below... or if you’re really bored the songs.

The Sound Of Confusion Facebook Page
The Sound Of Confusion on MySpace

If you want to hear an extra track from each of the artists, or require further links, you can find them at The Found Of Confusion blog page.

See ya!