Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Exilent adventures


IDM producer Tim Exile's new album, Listening Tree, has a bark worse than its bite.
Because although Tim Exile, real name Tim Shaw, clearly has all the necessary beats and bleeps at his disposal to bear a brilliant fruit, the album teeters on the edge of being fantastic without actually taking the plunge.
Exile originally plied his trade as a drum and bass artist, and there's evidence of this at work at points throughout Listening Tree - it's no coincidence that when he lets a beat ride, such as on When Every Day's A Number, he's at his most compelling.
And the DJ, also a trained violinist, is up there with the best when squeezing every last drop from his tracks, rather than simply looping and layering.
But listening to this it's clear that he needs to get back to his roots - because there are too many tracks like Pay Tomorrow and the dire Bad Dust on Listening Tree which are just dead wood.

Monday, March 30, 2009

World wide Woolley

SHEPSHED popstar Bruce Woolley of the Radio Science Orchestra has launched a new solo website.
The former Buggles' new site can be found here.

Fighting With Wire on fire


DERRY rockers Fighting With Wire released their debut album earlier this month to little fanfare - so allow me to blow their trumpets a little now.
Because Man Vs. Monster is an incendiary alternative rock LP that deserves to fire up as many people as I can encourage to listen to it.
Sounding like an angry young Foo Fighters or Biffy Clyro, the group bash their way through fiery track after fiery track of top notch no-nonsense rock.
It's not big - such as U2 - and it's not clever - like The Decemberists, say - but for me, this is the most enjoyable album of the year to date.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sewage in outlets


ONE of the most irritating things about music journalism is genres.
When I was a hard rockin' teen growing up, the world was easily divided into pop, rock, dance and hip hop - with jazz, classical, opera, folk and other sad grown up musics hiding in the shadows.
Now ridiculous genres like whizzgrind and twazzmodica spring into being every other NME.
They're more trouble than their worth - I've had arguments, actual arguments, over what does and does not constitute math rock.
I say this because oxymoronic Londoners The Rank Deluxe release their debut album You Decide on Monday, showcasing a style they describe as "sewage".
They can say what they like I suppose - it's their business.
The sound of You Decide is actually a mess of punk, indie rock and reggae - a kind of soiled ska - which, as their two-toned moniker suggests, has good and bad points.
Certain tracks, such as frisky little opener Doll Queue, come ripping out of the speakers with all the ferocity of the group's renowned live shows.
However others, like Stereotypes, simply don't translate from the stage to the studio so well.
Ultimately it's not all that deluxe, but not that rank either - but is it any good?
You decide.

Cook half-baked


AS I pointed out in my recent review of Kelly Clarkson's All I Ever Wanted, I simply do not know what we're going to do with all these American Idols.
David Cook, winner of series seven of the show, releases yet another slick collection of inoffensive pop tracks, this time in an AOR style, on Monday.
And I just can't summon up the strength to find any way to appreciate his self-titled album on any level.
I am apathetic to the driving Nickelback-lite guitar anthems on show.
I am disinterested in his honey-dipped gravel tones, or the fact that credible artists including Our Lady Peace's Raine Maida have lined up to help out on David Cook.
I don't even flinch when told he had released an album prior to winning the reality TV show.
He may be infinitely better than wet blankets like Leon Jackson - who the UK actually voted for - but as Jackson is already waiting in the dole queue in the UK less than two years after winning The X-Factor, then why should we let Cook and co into the charts.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ashdowne on the up


DESPITE only taking their first tentative steps into the big leagues with debut A Warning To The Curious - which was recorded before the band were lined up by a record company - Ashdowne clearly don't lack ambition.
Recorded in a custom-built studio by the Mountsorrel and Leicester-based group, to say they like their songs big is like saying Shane MacGowan is partial to a drink.
The tracks on A Warning To The Curious lace their epic driving soft rock with strings, horns, pianos and even World War II news bulletins to stirring effect.
In fact, although this is the first offering from Ashdowne, perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay them is that A Warning To The Curious really sounds like the work of seasoned pros.
● Curious? You can already get the album as a digital download ahead of its release on Monday.

Not my stop


EACH and every track on Metro Station's self-titled debut makes me feel old.
Very old.
The whippersnappers have concocted an Iglu & Hartly-style synth pop act that instead reworks the pop punk and emo outpourings of bands like Blink 182 and Panic! At The Disco.
With puppy dog eyes and asymmetrical lip piercings, the group sing about first loves and teenage kicks over slick, simple electronica.
It's a surefire hit, and both Shake It and Seventeen Forever have chart-topper all over them - but I just can't empathise with a band that sing lyrics like "whoa-e oh-e oh oh, I wish we were older".

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Xcellent effort


UP-AND-coming rock trio The Xcerts's debut album should mark the band's passage into the charts.
Because the band, although raw and rough around the edges, play some enjoyably raucous indie that comes across as a dishevelled collection of extracts of established acts like Idlewild and Snow Patrol.
The Scot rockers don't play anything particularly ground-breaking on In The Cold Wind We Smile - but that's nothing to frown about.
A trusted formula done well, The Xcerts are one well worth gleaning for your collection.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hed Kandi sweetener

QUORN-born popstar Lynsey Shaw has lent her local vocal talents to a new dance track.
The track Read 4 More, by Disco International, will be showcased on the Hed Kandi Spring Mix album, which will be released in April.
The work heralds a new direction for Lynsey as a solo star, as well as her continuing work with her girl group Electric Dolls.
For more information on Lynsey, or to hear the track, click here.

Rabbiting on


WHEN Frightened Rabbit's breakthrough album The Midnight Organ Fight was released last year, I must admit it passed me by a bit.
I did enjoy the album on the few spins I gave it, but it never took hold - so I was glad that this acoustic album, Liver! Lung! FR!, gave me the opportunity to revisit it.
And in the live setting of The Captain's Rest in Glasgow, the Selkirk rockers are given room for their compositions to breath, and take on an epic quality.
With the same Scottish drawl that serves Roddy Woomble so well on his folky forays over some cleverly crafted indie rock nuggets, this album is a compelling listen - dare I say it, even more so than the original.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Eight more for Download

NEW acts have been lined up for Download this year.
The latest editions to the Castle Donington festival are Opeth, Meshuggah, Dir En Grey, Five Finger Death Punch, You Me At Six, Steadlur, Lawnmower Deth and former Guns 'n' Roses bassist Duff McKagan's new band Loaded.


CASTLE Donington band Late of The Pier are the talk of music festival South By South West this year, after getting into a punch-up onstage.
After a disagreement between the band and the venue over when to finish their set, the sound was allegedly cut mid-song - leading to a fracas between venue staff and security and the band and entourage.
However after the incident, the band went on to finish their set to cheers from the crowd.
Singer Sam Eastgate told NME: "I saw red. The venue were fighting us, literally."

Bjorn, John and Peter's out


HAILING from the spiritual home of pop, Sweden, you'd expect established tunesmiths Peter, Bjorn And John's latest to be a chart-troubler.
But Living Thing, the group's fifth studio album, is too busy creating in a world of '80s influence - in minutes I had picked out echoes of acts including Erasure, Paul Simon, Depeche Mode and Phil Collins.
Now this fusion of old and new has so far received pretty good reviews across the board, but for me it's too clever for its own good.
Sure, their best known track, 2006's Young Folks, had chin-stroking undertones, but was it was so successful because basically it was a simple pleasure.
If they're not going to provide us with a few more tracks like that, as far as I'm concerned they can go whistle.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cop a load of Triceratops

AHEAD of their label debut in May, Leeds two-piece Castrovalva have been kind enough to offer a taster of their self-titled release.
Click here to grab a copy of Triceratops, and revel in their joyous noise.

Official, the Secrets out


IT'S hush hush, but for those in the know Official Secrets Act have been one to keep under surveillance.
Not that you'd know it from the shoddy turn-out when they played in Loughborough recently - although then again, it's only a secret worth keeping if people want to hear it.
Because their debut album, Understanding Electricity, is a bit of a shock following the hype.
A competent but uninspiring collection of indie rock tracks, the Leeds-based band should expect to remain under cover - or is that undiscovered - for a little longer.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blatta the competition


CONFUZED 90s, a new series of EPs from Hell Yeah, sees '90s dance tracks revisited by contemporary artists.
For their first offering, Italian fidget house duo Blatta And Inesha take the reins, reworking tracks by Ramirez.
Now not knowingly having heard the originals - as I was either not paying attention and/or was incapable of paying attention had I perchance been in a club in the 1990s while they were playing - it's hard to compare.
But what I can vouch for is the four twisted tracks, El Ritmo Barbaro, Orgasmico, La Musika Tremenda and particularly Un Minuto Para Evacuar, sound fresher with every throb and thump, are are still well worthy of soundtracking a messy night of clubbing.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Rakes drop a Klanger


WHERE The Rakes used to be drunken, raucous, randy, cheeky, laddy fun-boys, they now seem to be a little hungover - coming across now as grumpy alternative version of The Feeling.
In fact discontentment has been something of a watchword of the Londoners of late - with them splitting up and "doing their own thing" in the interim since Ten New Messages, and then abandoning their hometown for Berlin to record their latest LP, Klang.
But for all this restlessness, the formula hasn't really changed - the tunes are still clinical driving angular indie jerkers, overlaid with the same living-for-the-weekend observations.
True, they still know how to pen a blistering indie track - for example the superb That's The Reason.
However the twinkle in their eye they once had whilst doing it seems to have gone.

Friday, March 20, 2009

One to remember from The Decemberists


THE Decemberists' supurb fifth studio album, The Hazards Of Love, is released on Monday - and there's no harm in falling head over heels for it.
However don't expect an album in the usual sense - this is not simply a collection of tracks, but a glorious whole.
Like a blind relay team, all the songs run into one another, with repeating musical themes as the album, a subtle undulating mix of folk, indie and rock, tells the tale of Margaret and her unconventional woodland lovelife.
Of course, there are still standout tracks - such as The Rake's Song and The Wanting Comes In Waves - but these potential singles are not singled out, but incorporated seamlessly.
An album that gives more and more away on every listen, the only hazard with The Hazards Of Love is that other albums may seem a little trifling by comparison.

Therapy? Yes


IT MAY not be Troublegum, but Therapy?'s latest album is definitely one to get your teeth into.
Twenty years into their career, their tenth album, Crooked Timber, comes roaring out of the speaker with brilliant barrages of sound such as Enjoy The Struggle and the title track that don't sound the least bit jaded.
I love that the group have rediscovered their Northern Irish drawl, and although tracks like the ten-minute Magic Mountain may not be playing to their strengths, for the most part the band sound invigorated here.
On this form, you'd be mad not to enjoy Therapy?.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Young Knives in town next week

TOP rock band Young Knives are set for a 'homecoming' gig at Loughborough University next week.
The band, who hail from nearby Ashby-de-la-Zouch, have an affinity with Loughborough, and even wrote a song called Loughborough Suicide, featuring the Carillon Tower in Queen's Park.
You can see the band, supported by The Heroes and Penfold Gate, at the Students' Union on March 24.
Tickets, at £10, are available from www.lufbra.net.

Pause for a Grizzly Bear download

TO CELEBRATE their forthcoming album, Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear have put out a tasty teaser track.
Click here to grab an mp3 of Cheerleader, and excite yourself suitably for the album's release in May.

A shower of shows in April

LOUGHBOROUGH Town Hall has three live acts gracing its stage next month.
On April 16, '60s icon Gerry Marsden, of Gerry And the Pacemakers fame, is performing Gerry Cross The Mersey at the Market Place venue.
The following day jazz singer Stacey Kent will be in town, and then on April 29 blues band The Manfreds come to Loughborough as part of their Let 'Em Roll tour.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

And lo, it was Zane

RADIO One DJ and MTV2 VJ Zane Lowe is DJing at Loughborough Students' Union.
The Kiwi, also one third of hip hop group Breaks Co-op, is taking to the decks at the NUS-only FND night on Friday, March 20.



LEEDS-based band Grammatics' sound is a hard one to label.
On the group's eponymous debut they dash between post rock, pop and classical influences, with as many radio-friendly hooks as colon-emptying riffs - though at a push you'd drop them in the same bracket as angular indie rockers such as Field Music or The Futureheads.
It's a complicated mix - but one that sounds meticulous in execution instead of messy, always eschewing a basic verse chorus formulas.
Engaging and original - if there's any justice, 2009 will be a Grammatical era.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dozen new acts for Download

TWELVE new acts had been added to the fast-growing Download bill.
Taking to the Castle Donington festival's stages this summer will be former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell, groove metallers Down, nu metal band Papa Roach, the reformed Skin, classic rockers Journey, stalwarts Tesla, goths Lacuna Coil and bluesmen Buck Cherry, as well as Clutch, Architects, Karma To Burn and Parkway Drive.

Cosmic Gate crash


GERMAN trance duo Cosmic Gate, best known for the 2001 hit Fire Wire, are aiming to make a space for themselves in the charts with their latest LP.
Sign Of The Times is a more subtle approach from Claus Terhoeven and Stefan Bossems, a hour and twenty minutes of sturdy, polished trance tracks.
It's less hard-edged than previous works, and although never quite wandering into fully mainstream euphoric territory, the cheese factor does get cranked up when female vocalists come in.
It may not be out of this world, but nevertheless Sign Of The Times cements Cosmic Gate's place as leaders in their field.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blooms bust

TOP Loughborough band The Voom Blooms, who had been championed by Radio 1, NME, MTV and Rolling Stone and twice toured America, play their final gig on Thursday, March 26.
Sad news for fans, although in the run-up to the group's swansong, a selection of tracks are being made available to download from their myspace site.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Classic twenty eight - Try Vitriol


THE long-running rumour of a new My Vitriol release on the horizon is again circulating - so what better time to return to the group's debut, their only album.
2001's Finelines, the album which triggered the nu gaze movement that spawned acts such as Amusement Parks On Fire and Silversun Pickups, is a grungey, overdriven corker of a collection.
Unusually ambitious for a debut release, the group wrapped up assured singles such as Always and Grounded in a speaker-busting level of feedback and interspersed them with interesting instrumentals and a welter of unexpected twists and turns mid-song.
And of course, the acid test, My Vitriol's Finelines still sounds as fine today as it ever did.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Faithfull companians


FROM her rug-clad beginnings as a sweet young thing, through her personal battles with addiction to the present day, Marianne Faithfull has been known as much for her personal life as her art.
However her latest offering, the double album of cover versions Easy Come Easy Go she describes as "a revelation and a joy" to make, is all about the music.
Welcoming a stellar line-up of Faithfull companions including Nick Cave, Cat Power, Jarvis Cocker, Sean Lennon, Rufus Wainwright and Keith Richards, it's clear that she means business.
And although the slightly self-indulgent 18 track-long listing requires dedication to get through, to hear an established talent make assorted tracks by artists ranging from Dolly Parton to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club into a coherent work of her own is a joy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Many happy returns

HAPPY birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear Isaac Ashe's Sound Advice, happy birthday to me!
Today this blog is one year old. Wowsers!
And I've not even had so much as an e-card from any of you, you miserable lot.
Luckily, I got you all something - a free mp3.
Click here to download the countrified Private Idaho, by up-and-coming Bath-based band Kill It Kid.
Many happy returns.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shuttle's first launchpad


NINJA Tune newcomer Shuttle's first EP The Tunnel blasts off on Sunday.
A wide-eyed slice of enthusiastically throbbing synths and dubstep drums growing into a thumper of a beat, the title track shows off what is sure to become an astronomical talent in Shuttle, real name Etan Groundswell.
Only backed with the rumbling Rotton Guts, featuring Canadian rapper Cadance Weapon, then the rumbling Rotton Guts without Canadian rapper Cadance Weapon and a hefty High Rankin remix of the title track, the EP is a tad short.
But despite this, especially given the recent successes of artists like Burial, any dark, compelling dubstep of the quality of Shuttle's is sure to command the space it deserves.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Balky Mule kicks ass


THE Balky Mule, as the name implies, does not function as expected.
For Australian one-man band Sam Jones doesn't burden himself with a standard guitar, bass and drums set-up.
His off-the-wall indie guitar work on The Length Of The Rail is almost skeletal in its sparseness for the best part - which begins charming and quirky, but ends up as a bit frustrating.
Because when the meat of actually strumming is put on the bones of tracks - such as on Wireless, Instead or previous Sound Advice freebie Range - it proves that The Balky Mule can carry a tune and indeed kick ass.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Read all about it! Pete Doherty in album shocker!


IN A typically unkempt fashion, Grace/Wastelands sees grubby tabloid-baiter Pete Doherty stumbling through another batch of his creations, this time without his Babyshambles band.
All the usual hallmarks of the former Libertine are here - bedraggled guitar work, references to Albion etc - but tellingly the cover bears the name Peter, not Pete.
Because Grace/Wastelands, far from being staid, is probably his most focused work since his split with Carl Barat & co.
There's a lot of Last Shadow Puppets-style Bond theme influence, such as the string-soaked Broken Love Story and A Little Death Around The Eyes, which is co-written by Barat, and some sturdy efforts such as Palace Of Bone and 1939 Returning.
In fact, this LP is a timely reminder that despite Pete's supermodel splits and court appearances, Peter's still a credible musician.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Classic twenty seven - All-Stars on Dark Side Of The Moon


THEY say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - making the Easy Star All-Stars the biggest musical toadies since Paul McCartney's Frog Chorus.
Their debut album was this full-length cover of Pink Floyd's classic Dark Side Of The Moon, their second album was Radiodread, a cover of Radiohead's OK Computer, and their next album will be a complete cover of The Beatles's Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
However these are all done with a twist - their versions are reggaefied.
Dub Side Of The Moon sees the group, made up of artists signed to New York's Easy Star Records, breathe new life into an album most people have played to death, using raggae, dub, dancehall and a splash of jungle.
It's a musical joke that probably shouldn't work but it does - let Dub Side Of The Moon eclipse your expectations.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Mary quite contrary


IRISH stalwart singer songwriter Mary Coughlan wrote her latest album, The House Of Ill Repute, to exorcise her demons after the break-up of a 13-year relationship.
And as a result there are some of her trademark scarred outpourings - after all her 25-year career has taken in being penniless, homeless and alcohol dependent.
Luckily it's not all maudlin - in fact some of the demon-exorcising is quite fun, such as Bad.
A lot of the LP is more cabaret than her typical jazz, with Mary coming across as a sort of female cross between Shane Macgowan and a Parisien brothel madame.
It seems that Mary triumphs in the face of adversity - let's just hope something really, really bad happens to her before she puts out the next album.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Their ship has Starsailed


KNOCK, knock!
Who's there?
Starsailor who?
That's showbusiness!
Former shining lights of the indie scene Starsailor return on Monday with their fourth album, their first in four years.
Sadly the Wigan-based band's comeback LP, All The Plans, sounds dull and uninspired.
Before the band positively swelled with emotion, but despite the input of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood this album sounds like a lacklustre collection of Oasis and Keane b-sides they found lying around in the studio.

Friday, March 06, 2009

More carrot than stick from XRabit


TEXAN rappers DMG$, or to give them their racing name, Damaged Good$, are the rap equivolent of cock rock.
Cock hop, if you will.
To say their minds are in the gutter throughout Hello World, their collaborative LP with London-based German producer XRabit, would be an understatement - their minds are either grinding on the dancefloor or at it in a hotel room.
Thunderkats sums up the approach, needlessly sexing up cult cartoon Thundercats with unpredictable results.
Over some joyfully wonky beats, the pick being the single Ferris Bueller, on Hello World the pair come across as a randier version of Andre 3000 - and it's a great introduction to them and their flow.
Here's hoping they stick around.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

All I Never Wanted


MY ALL-time favourite Kelly Clarkson moment was when, in 2004, she took part in the one-off World Idol competition, competing against winners of Pop Idol shows from around the world.
Instead of easily walking away with the competition - as she clearly had expected to do - she was beaten by the Norwegian Idol, who looked like more like Middle Earth Idol than World Idol material.
Her face looked like a slapped backside.
You'd have expected that Clarkson might have learnt from this experience, trying to stand out in a crowded field - but her new album, All I Ever Wanted, sees her trying to do just that.
The slick, driving power pop music isn't completely without merit, but it's just not as engaging as Katy Perry, as edgy as Pink, as cute as Miley Cyrus, it's not really anything.
And anyway, we've got enough on our plate in the UK trying to find work for all the Leon Jacksons and Chico Slimanis we churn out year on year, without American Idols coming over here as well.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A lovely pair


CALL My Name is the tasty fruit of the cosmopolitan collaboration of Paris-based West African Daby Toure and London-based American Skip "Little Axe" McDonald.
Bearing the hallmarks of their shared African heritage most strongly, this free and easy collection takes influences ranging from rock, funk, blues, afro-pop and reggae at points throughout the track-listing.
Sounding every bit the enjoyable, pressure-free jamming that it is, tracks like the brooding Past Time and the atmospheric, rocky Time Has Come show that together this pair could easily match the recent successes of Afrocentric artists like Amadou Et Mariam.
Call My Name left me calling for a full-length outing.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Faith some more

DOWNLOAD organisers have announced that Faith No More are to headline this year's festival.
A statement from Faith No More confirmed that they are “still young and strong enough to deliver a kickass set, with enthusiasm to not only revisit our past but possibly add something to the present.
"And so with this we've decided to hold our collective breaths and jump off this cliff.... BACK, GOD FORBID, INTO THE MONKEY CAGE!!!”

Zombie Colin lacks zeal


FORMER frontman of The Zombies, Colin Blunstone's latest LP, The Ghost Of You And Me, has been a whopping 13 years in the making.
To put that into perspective, that's as long as it took Guns 'N' Roses to put out Chinese Democracy.
For fans it must have seemed it would never arrive - even as the finishing touches were being put to the album last December, the mixing desk exploded, putting the release date back to March.
Sadly nothing that exciting seems to have been captured on the record itself - instead, over time his music has turned to slush.
Outdated ballads with a 1980s soft rock sheen prevail, making the LP sound like a collection of Sting b-sides.
Limp and needlessly nostalgic, The Ghost Of You And Me is unlikely to resurrect this Zombie.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Why, it's Annie Lennox


DIVA Annie Lennox is still up there with the best of them.
Anyone who saw last year's Jools Holland Hootenany will testify to that - as Annie stole the show with her rendition of Why, and that's on a show which featured young upstarts Duffy, Adele and Lily Allen.
And as you would expect, a Collection of her solo efforts is a high quality compilation.
However I have two grumbles with this release.
Firstly, the album is in chronological order, which means that the album starts with classics such as Little Bird and Walking On Broken Glass, and ends with the relative unknowns of Pattern Of My Life and Shining Light.
On listening, you can't but feel the album charts the decline of a superstar.
The other gripe is that despite being titled The Annie Lennox Collection, this is only half of the story, and should only really be filed alongside The Best Of The Eurythmics in the CD rack.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Nikka draw


AS YOU would expect from the daughter of Don Costa, a man frequently behind the production desk for legends such as Sammy Davis Jnr and Frank Sinatra, Nikka Costa's work is characteristically slick.
Mixing funky, soulful stompers with bluesy ballads, her seventh album Pebble To A Pearl is the sound of someone who knows their way around a studio going about their business.
Ms Costa possesses a fist of a voice, at times remiscent of Anastacia, and these tracks are a great vehicle for it, especially when the funk factor is wound up, such as on the title track.
Slick and soulful, Pebble To A Pearl is a bit of a gem.

Some folk at Town Hall

FOLK fans should note that an all star musical line-up of Norma Waterson, Martin Carthy and Chris Parkinson are performing at Loughborough Town Hall on March 11.
Click here for more information.

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