Dan Amor – Sister Anne

Let’s head on over to North Wales and relax with this charming dose of romantic wistfulness from Dan Amor, the opening track from his album ‘Rainhill Trials’. That album was released as a digital download a couple of months ago but I’m led to believe things are building up towards a physical release in May. 

On ‘Rainhill Trials’, Dan sings in both Welsh and English. My knowledge of the Welsh language is limited (some would say my knowledge of English is similarly hampered) but it doesn’t affect the yearnful, nostalgic impact that these songs create. “Sister Anne” could be a distant relation of Eleanor Rigby and she might live in the same village as Grocer Jack. 

With poetry as stirring as,  ‘The beaten up old gate in red cracked paint / distant lights that flicker out to sea / windswept promenades, adorning old postcards / Birdsong, braying dogs and bumblebees’, this is a song that the Lilac Time could have recorded. 

 

 

 For those who are having an extra croissant this morning, here’s the digital download of ‘Rainhill Trials’. Don’t you just love Dan Amor? 

 

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Band Of Skulls – Nottingham Rock City

I was asked to review Band Of Skulls at Nottingham Rock City for a new website, East Midlands Music. I know that the Band Of Skulls have been around for a good, few years now but they’ve managed to largely pass me by in that time. 

In my opinion, they’re not doing anything that’s earth-shattering but it’s clear that through steady, hard graft and gradual strides they are making an impact. 2000 Trees are no slouches in their festival bookings and I suspect that the fact that they’ve booked Band Of Skulls as a headliner this year is significant. Like Biffy Clyro (and to a degree Foals), here’s a British Rock band ready to gig at a higher level. 

In this age of instant celebrity, one hit wonders and fleeting fame, I guess that such endeavour should be rewarded. 

My review of last nights gig can be found here

Their new album, ‘Himalayan’ comes out on Monday and, just in case you’ve got an appetite for this stuff, here’s the driving lead-single from that release. 

 

Tapestry

The weekend started well. Another band showcase night down at the Leicester Musician. Four varied acts all at the top of their craft and an appreciative, wise audience flexible enough to hop across genres.

Late additions, The Matchstick Men, did their cause no harm at all when they opened the night with their Springsteen-influenced sound. The Della Grants showed their consummate experience with a powerful,polished set of bar-room blues and Ash Mammal showed why just two weeks earlier their brand of twee punk (drawing influences from Marc Bolan) had the young (and old) flocking to their sell out show at the Y Theatre. All bands to watch on this local scene. 

But this post is about the final band of the night, Tapestry. I simply was not prepared for the show they delivered. 

There’s nothing wrong with a band that wear their influences on their sleeves but when that translates into yet more Arctic Monkey/Kasabian/Oasis wannabees I can very quickly lose the will to live. Tapestry set up on stage and there’s not a guitar in sight. Instead, here we have saxophone, drums and a bewildering array of keyboards, korgs and drum machines. The stage is a messy tardis.

Alex, Elliott and Taylor proceed to bang drums, to press keys, to bewilder with their technology. Amidst it all we get the sweetest of soul voices, bursts of sax jazz, mash-ups that fry and a charm that belies their teenage years. It’s not a rock n’roll set but it inhabits that uncertain space between band and DJ. It’s thoroughly modern, thoroughly now and I can’t wait to see them again soon.

They’ve got an EP out. Here’s a soundcloud sampler.. 

Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams

Timber Timbre have a new album coming out on Monday. It’s their third on the Toronto based ‘Arts and Crafts’ label and their fifth overall. I need to explore this back catalogue.

In the run up to that release, our senses have been sultrily teased by the title track from the album, ‘Hot Dreams’. It’s a laid back track that demands attention from the opening line. It reminds me of Richard Hawley at his best, minus the Sheffield twang.

I can’t decide if it’s sinister, sexy or both – but it is a track to easily fall in love with. 

“I want to follow through”, pines singer Taylor Kirk and those of us with puerile minds are perhaps distracted, wondering if the unfortunate double-meaning in this lyric is intended. But that’s soon forgotten when the languid saxophone solo takes to the fore and we’re led out to the dance floor for a slow, smooching,embrace.

The accompanying video should come with a health warning – perhaps not one to watch on a train journey. 

 

Laurel – To The Hills

I try to be a creature of habit. Every Sunday morning, I’ll get up and do battle with my pile of ironing. I then put a load of washing on and ultimately add to the pile… 

Whilst ironing, I blast random, new tunes through my speakers. There are times when I have to stop ironing because a track knocks me sideways – such was my experience this Sunday with Laurel’s new track, ‘To The Hills’.

I’d been lukewarm to Laurel Arnell-Cullen in previous releases. Whilst others lavished praise on the 19 year old Hampshire Saint, I could only hear another fine mess. Admittedly, previous release ‘Fire Breather’ almost warmed my cockles but I couldn’t shake the certainty that there was something being manufactured here. My cynicism has diminished.

Those looking for lazy comparisons have suggested that there’s more than a dose of Lana Del Ray about Laurel. I’ll grudgingly give them that. But what really grabbed me on Sunday was the 60’s girl group elements of this track. Over the top of a pretty neat orchestral arrangement, Laurel almost sounds like she’s walking on the sand with the Shangri-La’s. 

It’s not perfect. If I was being completely uncharitable, I’d say that the lyrics are an exercise in nonsense. But perhaps this 40 something man is missing the point. The accompanying video, beautifully shot and full of atmosphere, is also ambiguous in intent… 

But it’s better than a pile of ironing.. 

Alice Boman – What?

Today, I’ve been thinking about Sweden (a bit). About how I’m often charmed, touched, moved and grabbed by somewhat obscure Swedish pop. 

And then by chance I heard this new track, ‘What’ by Alice Boman. She’s from Malmo.

 

 

Boman is listed to play the Green Man festival this year and I don’t doubt that it’ll be one haunting set. Last year, she released her first EP ‘Skisser’ (Sketches). That’s a beautiful and intimate collection of tunes but it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re surreptitiously opening somebody’s private journal when you’re listening. Boman’s voice floats over the top of a piano that’s given a ghostly, distance in the mix. 

‘What’ is the lead track from her second EP to be released in June. Indications suggest that it’s going to evoke the same tone as ‘Skisser’.

‘Do you ever think about me like I think about you?’ wonders Boman and I’m charmed, touched, moved and grabbed again. 

Constellations – The Moulettes

I can’t quite remember how many times now that I’ve seen The Moulettes live. It might be three. It might even be four. I’m something of a sucker for folk with a twist, intelligent orchestral folk, dark folk and vivid harmonies. 

The last time I saw The Moulettes live was in October in Whitby. It was a mid-afternoon at the cracking Musicport festival and I was a bit hungover from the night before. I reviewed the festival for eFestivals here. I could have said so much more about their performance on that day. It was definitely a highlight. 

Today, I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of the Moulettes new album. Constellations, their third album, is not being officially released until early June. I’ve found time, whilst at work, to grab a couple of cheeky listens and I’m impressed by what I’ve heard. There’s a lot going on it and a host of guest contributions (Blaine Harrison from The Mystery Jets, Arthur Brown and The Unthanks in particular). In good time, I plan to review it in more detail but suffice to say, my initial reflection is that Constellations could be a record to transport The Moulettes into another orbit. Their star will be in the ascendancy this summer. (I am now entertaining myself with more cosmology related puns – my life is sad).

Here’s the lead track from the album. Doesn’t it shine bright?