Sunday 28 February 2016

Faults - The Second Hand Marching Band

I first blogged about The Second Hand Marching Band back in 2009. Just the fact that they existed was kind of incredible and remarkable, their numbers could reach a couple of dozen at times - not easy to manage! They combined to produce a loving, ramshackle, heartfelt Celtic Soul/folk sound that warmed the heart.

The band are still going strong and have just released, Faults, a 9-track album with Icelandic band Benni Hemm Hemm. The Second Hand Marching Band are fiercely independent and the album is a 100% DIY project from recording, to releasing, to the forthcoming shows in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London on the 17th to 19th March.

I've had the pleasure of listening to Faults for a couple of weeks now. In the house, walking around Glasgow in the Spring sunshine....and the rain. I would normally have written a blog after a couple of listens, but February has been a rather manic month - hence I haven't been writing many blogs.

This has worked in favour of Faults as i've had a chance to live with it and listen to it in different moods and in various places.

There are some moments that remind me of the first time I saw The Second Hand Marching Band and  when I was instantly charmed by how seriously they were taking things, but also by how much fun they were having in producing such an incredible sound.

Opener Cling On To Those You Love is fragile brilliance, building from nothing to a soulful mantra that turns (or threatens to turn) a little psychedelic - I can imagine this being stretched out at the live shows.

In A Serious Way captures everything that is special about the band - at times it sounds like there is one person playing an acoustic guitar in a hallway, at others all kinds of instruments come crashing in together to create something uplifting and glorious.

At 1 minute and 10 seconds into Shipcracks there is a spine tingling French Horn, a tinkle of glockenspiel and a picked banjo that just sounds incredibly beautiful. It falls back to an accordion and raw vocals.

I have found new lands all the world around, all around
Sails out, turn this wheel around and make a sound
And leave this gold above the ground, we'll be here again

When we're old

Then that glorious rush and well of sound returns to take the song to conclusion - it is my favourite song and moment on the album. Stunning. I have always pressed rewind/back after listening to this song in order to enjoy it again.

The warmth The Second Hand Marching Band can create is pretty special, Skeletons sounds like a rough and raw improvised jam, with a little french horn (?) working some magic over lovely melodies.

Retaliate is the penultimate track, vocals are intertwined, the acoustic guitar is played with soul and tender care. It sounds like an ancient hymn, celtic cousins coming together in revolution.

Fight back, it's time to fight back
Now we'll retaliate, retaliate
Please be a part of this, please be a part of this

The closing instrumental to Retaliate is soulful and uplifting, you heart may well melt.

There are 9 songs to explore - the project was first muted 7-years ago, Glasgow, Cumbernauld, Fife, Reykjavik, Edinburgh, 800-miles, 16 instruments and 8 singers later - Faults.

You can order the album HERE

Friday 19 February 2016

In Search Of Harperfield - Emma Pollok

Emma Pollok's 3rd album opens with Cannot Keep A Secret and it sets the tone for a remarkable journey through 11 songs that are imaginative, emotive, fun and ambitious. Pollok is in fine form (career high?) throughout - lyrically clever and bold, melodically playful and soulful in voice.

Will you dip your toes gently in the water, send the ripples home.....

Don't Make Me Wait has a sense of urgency with choppy, punky guitar chords backed by strings and pounding drums with Emma searching for a flashlight, just to get through the night

The opening instrumental to Clemency is absolutely beautiful, the combination of piano and strings sound glorious. Pollok's voice is more than a match and she has the ability to vary her vocals across the album to suit the songs and music. One of my faves.

Intermission is anything but, Pollok dives in deep following another lovely instrumental intro

I clutch to my chest
This man I know best
With words only spoken
When put to the test

Hold close to my heart
Will not be apart
From this woman who made me
She's stronger than that

Later on she sings; I'm not asking for permission, I'm calling this an intermission

The album is rich in content - lyrically and musically, one that you can return to and continue to explore. Intermission is a remarkably honest and soulful song, probably my favourite on the album.

Parks And Recreation is a great fuzzy indie guitar pop song with Emma talking about wishing she knew the names of the trees, naming all the leaves and worrying about leaves falling on her. The lyrics are playful and imaginative, there are handclaps and the guitars sound fantastic.

Pollok's thoughts, fears, ideas and imagination are pouring out of her on the album and on Vacant Stare she sings I'm just looking for someone to tell the truth to. She is telling anyone who listens to this album.

There are some truly beautiful moments throughout the album, the content inspires loving melodies and music. Dark Skies is playful and tender.

I like to keep my fairytales on shelves
My Goldilocks doesn't need explaining
Why can't it be just as simple as it looks?
Don't need a sermon to balance these books

The album closes with the gorgeous Old Ghosts. There is a sense of calmness to the song, the playing, production and vocals. Pollok's voice sounds rich, soulful, clear and true.

In Search Of Harperfield is beautiful on first listen, richly rewarding when you return to it - and you will want to return and delve into the lyrics and the melodies and enjoy the gorgeous strings, the stunning piano, the fuzzy guitars and Pollok singing her heart out.

An early contender for the 2016 Scottish Album of the Year.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Tim Peaks - Podcast

Everything Flows Podcast #5

Electric Fields - Tim Peaks diner line-up

Tim Burgess has curated a wonderfully eclectic line-up for his Tim Peaks diner at Electric Fields. It is going to be like a festival in a festival with the incredible talent he has discovered and is promoting.

I have just discovered the vast majority of these artists for the first time and I've been blown away by what I have listened to so far. Enjoy this special PODCAST 

Come Home Baby - The Charlatans
Angharad - Yucatan
Rattlesnakes - Blueprint Blue
Spanish Artist - Documenta
Vagabond - TeenCanteen
Disappear - Horsebeach
Quiet Handed - Hot Vestry
Rocky 99 - Riding the Low
White - Tim Burgess

Mark W Georgsson is also playing but his album, recorded with Rod Jones from Idlewild, is currently being mastered. However you can listen to an unmastered Faces and Places HERE

Loads of other fun things going on, fuelled by quality coffee, including a DJ set by me!

Electric Fields - Tim Peaks line-up

Electric Fields is going for it this year, moving up to 2-days, announcing Primal Scream as a headliner and creating a real buzz with its initial line-up. There is a lot more to come!

There are only 5,000 tickets available so be sure to get yours NOW if you are thinking about it.

I am absolutely thrilled to bring you the line-up for Tim Peaks - the diner/tent/stage curated by Tim Burgess from The Charlatans. Tim has his own coffee and has been serving it at festivals since 2012 in his own diner with loads of great acts and DJ's. Guests at previous Tim Peaks have included Edwyn Collins and Roddy Frame (see Tim's interview below), Sleaford Mods, BMX Bandits, The View, Nick Heyward and Suzanne Vega.

Tim always has his finger on the pulse and enjoys discovering up and coming bands/artists and giving them a boost. The eclectic line-up he has curated for Electric Fields is going to be like a festival within a festival with loads of fun things going on as well.

I'll see you there if you are going. As well as the bands I am looking forward to some much needed northern soul dance lessons and I'll also be DJ-ing. And the Bowie disco is going to be amazing!

I caught up with all the bands playing Tim Peaks at Electric Fields for a few quick questions. Read on and enjoy links and videos from all the bands playing. There is loads to explore.

We start with the curator, Mr Tim Burgess

1. Do you have any releases coming out this year?
Well, funny you should ask! I have a new book coming out. Telling Stories was my first, so this one is called Tim Book Two. I enjoyed writing the first one and Faber & Faber asked if I wanted to write another. Telling Stories was kind of about everything that has ever happened to me and I couldn't just write about the three years since that came out. I'd always loved record shops and collecting vinyl so I asked some friends to recommend an album that I'd go out and find it in a record shop. I ended up getting recommendations from Johnny Marr, Iggy Pop & Bill Drummond and I was on tour with The Charlatans so I tracked down record shops from Istanbul to San Francisco 

2. What is your favourite festival memory?
At the very first Tim Peaks, I asked Edwyn Collins if he'd like to come along and maybe do some drawing. He was still recovering from his illness so he wasn't really playing or singing at the time. He brought Roddy Frame along and they performed a set together. They asked me to join them on a version of A Girl Like You. It was a magical moment. Edwyn's laugh is one of my favourite sounds

3. What song/band would you recommend from another band  playing Tim Peaks?
It's a tough one for me as I love all of the bands and am really excited about seeing them all. I'm going to pick the last song that I listened to by one of the bands that was playing - which was about 15 minutes ago. So my choice is Disappear by Horsebeach 

4. How do you take your coffee? 
Soy latte - if there's no soy milk, black Americano. Can I have a biscuit too please?

Dilwyn from Yucatan
How I'd describe them in a tweet - Think Sigur Ros, think shimmering strings, soaring choirs and  chiming, ethereal lullabies. Think of melodies building in layers - beautiful

1. How much of a boost is it to have Tim recognising and promoting your music?
It's been really great to know that Tim and the gang like what we do. We've had the chance to play some great events. But more than anything else it's important for us that people like what we do and think it has value. That's even more when it's one of our heroes. 

2. Do you have any releases coming out this year?
We are working on recording an album this year but at the moment we are not sure when it will be out. We may put something out this year but don't have solid plans. We had an album out last year called UWCH GOPA'R MYNYDD.

3. What is your favourite festival memory?
Playing Festival Number 6 last year was great. We played at a tower in Portmeirion and the crowd really got into it. And that made us get into it and have fun. It was special.

4. What song/band would you recommend for anyone visiting Tim Peaks? 
I really like Idle Hands by Documenta. VIDEO

5. How do you take your coffee?
In the mouth

Carla from TeenCanteen
How I'd describe them in a tweet - Gorgeous harmonies, hooks and choruses that will stay with you, clever lyrics full of sugar and honey at one moment and then bittersweet the next.

1. How much of a boost is it to have Tim recognising and promoting your music? 
It's wonderful! I think it's so important that established musicians promote and cultivate a community of grassroots, up and coming and/or unsigned bands. It's a snowball effect for everyone involved - as one of the bands playing Tim Peaks at Electric Fields we are now getting to know other bands performing and sharing our music with each other which is really special to be part of. You don't feel like 'just another band on the bill', you feel part of a collective. It's not one band being promoted - it's a whole heap of us - and in some way that feels even better.

2. Do you have any releases coming out this year? 
We've just finished recording our debut album which we completed through Pledgemusic. Hopefully it'll be released this year when we find a home for it. In the meantime we'll be organising another limited edition single.

3. What is your favourite festival memory? 
Without a shadow of a doubt, seeing The Polyphonic Spree at T in The Park 2003 in scorching sunshine and feeling so happy I thought my heart was going to burst.

4. What song/band would you recommend for anyone visiting Tim Peaks? 
I really can't wait to see Documenta play. The arrangements and production on their songs is just so gorgeously lush and warm. Sunsoaked sonically. I can't wait to see how that will translate to a live experience. Particularly love their song 'TV (Girl on Fire)'. Reminds me of early Pastels and I love the melody played on the cello (is it a cello?). It's really beautiful.

5. How do you take your coffee? 
With hot milk and honey.

Chris from Riding The Low
How I'd describe them in a tweet - Lofi rock, capable of chiming guitar pop and then raise your hands in the air anthems.

1. How much of a boost is it to have Tim recognising and promoting your music?
Since we first met Tim, he has been such a friend to us. We have had a number of opportunities to play at a variety of places arranged/curated by Tim/Nick and their circles of events people and promoters. It has certainly had a positive impact on how many people know about and like Riding The Low!

2. Do you have any releases coming out this year?
Our second album, Here To Help The Neighbourhood, arrives late spring/early summer this year. It's a great record with some really cool songs on it - we can't wait to share it with everyone!

3. What is your favourite festival memory?
The tent filling up at Forgotten Fields last year. It was quite quiet leading up to us going on and we were really worried that people would miss us play with so much else going on, but it was packed with such a great buzz! Can't beat that!

4. What song/band would you recommend for anyone visiting Tim Peaks? 
Hot Vestry are great, we've done a few things with them.

5. How do you take your coffee?
Simple. As it should be!

Blueprint Blue
How I'd describe them in a tweet - Fuzzy, scuzzy, cool melodies to fall in love with. No messing - raw and pure. All kinds of velvet-y goodness.

1. How much of a boost is it to have Tim recognising and promoting your music?
It's great to have Tim pushing our music. His opinion is very well respected and he's always been a champion of new bands. We're really excited that he's given us a chance to get our songs some exposure and to play in front of a whole new audience outside of London. Thanks Tim! 

2. Do you have any releases coming out this year?
We recorded our debut album last December with James Hoare of Ultimate Painting, so yes, hopefully that will come out this year.

3. What is your favourite festival memory?
It would  have to be seeing Neil Young at Hyde park two summers ago. There was a huge gang of us and we got a great spot right at the front. A highlight of the set was Down By The River and an acoustic version of Only Love Can Break Your Heart

4. What song/band would you recommend for anyone visiting Tim Peaks? 
We are excited to see Yucatan. They had a great concept of streaming their album for a week from the top of Mt Snowdon! Pretty cool. I'm choosing the song Angharad because it's our bass player Huw's sisters name. 

5. How do you take your coffee?
I quite like crap black coffee but if I'm somewhere fancy it's nice to have a Cortado. 

Blueprint Blue don't have anything on YouTube at present but check them on soundcloud 

Joe from Documenta
How I'd describe them in a tweet - Creating a sound and a world of their own, one that you'll want to discover and enjoy getting lost in.

1. How much of a boost is it to have Tim recognising and promoting your music?
It's fantastic, outside of being blown away by Tim digging our music, he has let so many other folks know about us. Tim asked us to support The Charlatans when they played Belfast at the Cathedral Quarter Festival last year and it was quite an experience playing to 1500 people!

2. Do you have any releases coming out this year?
Not this year, we just released our second record (Drone Pop #1) last November on Touch Sensitive Records but we have started work on our next record. Hopefully we can get all recording and mixing done as soon as possible and have a new album within the next 16 months.

3. What is your favourite festival memory?
Easy, dancing on stage with The Stooges at Electric Picnic in 2007. Paul from the band got to sing the "C'mon" in No Fun while Iggy held the mic.

4. What song/band would you recommend for anyone visiting Tim Peaks? 
It's a cracking line up all quality acts, so that's a bit tough but I'm really enjoying Teen Canteen, Sister is class.

5. How do you take your coffee?

How I'd describe them in a tweet - Melodic, reverby, dreamy gorgeousness.

1. How much of a boost is it to have Tim recognising and promoting your music? 
It's awesome of course! It's so great to have Tim spreading our music around and inviting us to play at places like the Tim Peaks stage. We've had the chance to get to know loads of the other bands playing and the whole thing feels way friendlier than just another big line up. 

2. Do you have any releases coming out this year? 
There will be a single or two surfacing later this year but I'll be getting started on the third LP in time for release next year.

3. What is your favourite festival memory? 
When we played Midi Festival last year, hung out in an opera house and our guitarist Tom was nearly taken out by an egg, thrown from apartments above.

4. What song/band would you recommend for anyone visiting Tim Peaks? 
I'm particularly looking forward to checking out two bands, TeenCanteen and Hot Vestry. Both great bands. Right now i'd recommend Honey from TeenCanteen.

5. How do you take your coffee?
Black Americano. Brown sugar. In my face.

Hot Vestry
How I'd describe them in a tweet - New Order meets LCD Soundsystem at an post club party at 5am to create something to keep the party going.

1. How much of a boost is it to have Tim recognising and promoting your music?

When someone like Tim, who has been in the music game for a long time reaches out to you - (Normally through Twitter, might we add, in front of his 100,000 followers) It can be the perfect platform for any musician trying to reach to greater heights.

Of course, being backed by an musician who is widely renowned as an icon of the Brit Pop Manchester scene isn't always brilliant. But fortunately for us, Tim is on another level. Tim himself is constantly listening to all sorts of music (As you can see from his Twitter) and is pushing himself as both an artist & a pioneer. He is always getting involved in all sorts of various projects. For example, he was an ambassador for Independent Venue Week earlier in 2016, but has also sung on the last Grumbling Fur album released in 2014. Tim does what he wants when he wants.

The Charlatans themselves have released one of their greatest albums in 2015, and have sold out venues around the world on their current album cycle. They are still clearly relevant. That's why it's special to be backed by someone like Tim. He's both at the past & the present, exactly how a real artist should be.

We aren't just backed by Tim & the Tim Peaks gang, we released our debut release on his label O Genesis, which is ran by Mr. Burgess, Nik Colk Void from Factory Floor, Tim Peaks Diner head honcho Nick Fraser, and super producer Jim Spencer. They're like the avengers, but with superior hair.

The most memorable moment of Tim Burgess promoting Hot Vestry would have to be when he wore a HV T-Shirt at The Charlatan's Brixton Academy show. We supported them in Liverpool at the 02 Academy the night before, and Tim told us he wanted to wear a T-Shirt at the Brixton Academy show. We had forgotten to bring the Merchandise with us to the Liverpool show, so we had to drive all the way back to Macclesfield, pick up the T-Shirt, and drive to The Big Mushroom studios (The Charlatan's recording home) in Northwich. Tim was leaving for London at 5am, and in the end we dropped it off around 4am. A successful night for all involved, but was sadly hampered by the fact Harry had to work at McDonalds at 6:45am.

2. Do you have any releases coming out this year?

We do indeed. Sooner than you think.

3. What is your favourite festival memory?

We played a festival in Sussex called Forgotten Fields last year with The Horrors, Super Furry Animals, Public Service Broadcasting and Basement Jaxx, which stands out as a favourite festival memory.

We managed to befriend The Horrors at the festival, and spent most of the night backstage with them. We knew them vaguely already, but that night we reached the point of phone number swapping. Now that was a moment for the Hot Vestry history books.

We gave Faris a shit tonne of HV merchandise, which he took home to London. We never actually knew if he did take if home, or just dumped it in a bush somewhere along the M25. The next time we saw them was when they supported New Order for two nights at Brixton Academy in November. We opened for New Order on the same tour, but we were in mainland Europe & Glasgow, so our AAA passes enabled us to still get into the shows for free, and more importantly backstage. It turns out Faris did keep all the T Shirts, EP's, and Fanzines we gave him.

4. What song/band would you recommend for anyone visiting Tim Peaks? 
Documenta - Love Is A Ghost

The most beautiful Drone Pop in the world...

5. How do you take your coffee?

Lattes at the moment, but the new Toffee Lattes from McDonalds are the perfect cure for these long numbing February days up in Manchester.  A small plug for McDonalds there, considering Harry & Joe from the band work at the branch in Macclesfield... We are on the verge of getting fired for touring too much, so maybe, just maybe they'll keep us now.

Check Hot Vestry playing Tim Peaks

Mark W Georgsson
How I'd describe Mark in a tweet - West Coast Americana via Glasgow, stopping off at Iceland en route. Tender, melodic country soul to fall for.

1. How much of a boost is it to have Tim recognising and promoting your music?
It's a massive boost. Tim is so well respected and the fact he takes time out to listen to, watch and promote new bands and artists is amazing.

2. Do you have any releases coming out this year?
Well, I've just recently finished recording my debut album with Rod Jones (Idlewild) producing. It was recorded between between Edinburgh and Reykjavik with a bunch of friends and talented musicians to help me record it.

3. What is your favourite festival memory?
Probably when I played the T Break Stage at T In The Park in 2013 with my previous band The Velveteen Saints. We were asked to headline the stage on the Saturday night, which is a big deal for any up and coming band in Scotland. I remember that we were on at the same time as Beady Eye and Rihanna and still managed to pack out the tent.

4. What song/band would you recommend for anyone visiting Tim Peaks? 
I would recommend catching Hot Vestry and Teen Canteen. Two great live bands.

5. How do you take your coffee?
Double espresso.

Mark has only just finished recording and has nothing on YouTube yet, but check the beautiful Faces and Places on his SOUNDCLOUD.

Friday 5 February 2016

Everything Flows Podcast 4

Everything Flows Podcast #4

The Chemical Brothers at their best with Beck, a lysergic lullaby remix of The Charlatans by Brian Jonestown Massacre, heartfelt emotion by the BMX Bandits, sublime songwriting and performance by Edwyn Collins, raw soul from the summer of love, a classic from the Hacienda and art school guitar pop by White. LISTEN HERE.

Wide Open - The Chemical Brothers featuring Beck
So (Brian Jonestown Massacre remix) - The Charlatans
The Unforgiven - BMX Bandits
Make Me Feel Again - Edwyn Collins
I Wanna Testify - The Parliaments
Rhythm Is A Mystery - K-Klass
Living Fiction - White

Previous Everything Flows Podcasts

Podcast #1 featuring Teenage Fanclub, David Bowie, Dr Cosmos Tape Lab, Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson, JR Green, The Undertones

Podcast #2 featuring The Troggs, Happy Meals, Rose McDowall, The Frank Popp Ensemble, Fun Boy Three, Jo Mango and The Pictish Trail, Miaoux Miaoux, Yo La Tengo

Podcast #3 featuring Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Marlena Shaw, Natalie Prass, November Lights, Molly Nilsson

Monday 1 February 2016

All Along The Watchtower

Cover of the month #9

All Along The Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix

Most, if not all, of my blogs on cover versions to date talk about artists transforming a song - Jimi Hendrix takes on Dylan's All Along The Watchtower and takes it to another planet. Hendrix guitar playing is trailblazing. Mitch Mitchell more than matches Hendrix' guitar with his ferocious drumming. Noel Redding usually underpinned everything, but Hendrix plays bass on this recording. Online info seems to indicate Redding walked out of the recording as it was all done rather spontaneously with Hendrix shouting chord changes. Brian Jones from the Stones plays percussion. 

Dylan's version came out in 1967 with Hendrix following swiftly a mere 6-months later. Hendrix peppered his career with covers; Hey Joe being the obvious one, but he also covered The Beatles Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band on the day the album was released, shredded Wild Thing and famously interrupted a live TV performance of Hey Joe by saying 'We'd like to stop playing this rubbish and dedicate a song to Cream....' and taking off on an instrumental tribute of Sunshine Of Your Love to the band who were breaking up.

Hendrix is on fire, the breakdown at 2-minutes in and subsequent guitar solo with Hendrix yelping 'hey' goes on for a spellbinding 50-seconds before Hendrix brings it all back in.

Dylan has said of Hendrix' version: 'It overwhelmed me, really. He has such a talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn't think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using.'

Hendrix's version remains pretty true to the vocal melody (although he gives it more urgency and just sounds typically Hendrix cool) and acoustic rhythm, but his electric guitar just takes it to another dimension. The needle practically leaps of the record, it sounds vital, there is so much going on, yet like Dylan says in his quote above, Hendrix finds space and he also finds a real groove.