Liverpool Sound City – Clubs

I’m running out of days to preview the great acts that are going to be playing Liverpool Sound City this year (the brilliant Kagoule are getting Radio One airplay this week so their stock is rising) – but it’d be wrong to get on my train tomorrow from Leicester having not mentioned THE Leicester based band that are on the bill.

I have to make a terrible confession. Although Clubs have been making considerable noise around these parts, I’ve yet to catch one of their live shows. Friends who have touched upon their considerable power tell me that I’m a fool for doing so.

Subscribing to the google game of awkward searches discussed when I profiled Movie, I’m aware of previous incarnations of Clubs. I understand the sound is different now with an increased pop sensibility replacing the more angular guitars of Panda Youth but even a casual gig goer could have seen that in lead singer, CJ Pandit, here’s a band that would turn heads.

They seem to delight in projecting a mysterious presence. Other acts listed to play this weekend provide complicated press releases detailing what their Grandparents like for breakfast (mostly porridge) whereas Clubs simply say ‘Progressive: Patience Is A Virtue.’ And their Soundcloud account isn’t cluttered with remixes or tracks released 5 years ago that give no indication of what we’re about to see. Instead, we just get this one track, Bleed. ‘Heavy pop’, they describe it as and they’re not wrong. It’s a fine tune with which to beckon in these longer daylight hours. It pop peppered with pollen. Full of muggy, fuzzy warmth, it could provide us with this Summer’s soundtrack… And there’s more to come.



Clubs play ‘Sound Food And Drink’ at half past 6 on Saturday evening. If this is your first opportunity to see them, take it. 

Liverpool Sound City – The May Birds

This year has flown. It doesn’t feel like it’s been twelve months since I was last in Liverpool praising the vibrancy and charm of the people and the place. I threatened to move there then though I did have a lot to drink. 

Thursday is the 1st of May. Increasingly, spring will give way to summer and we’ll immerse ourselves fully into festival season. How appropriate that on the first day of the month, in the city of the Liver Bird, we’ll be able to watch The May Birds.

An all girl quartet specialising in lush, tender and beautiful folk, it might be hard for some to get beyond the fact that these are probably posh birds of privilege. I don’t know this for a fact but I’d be most surprised if Alice, Eleanore, Camilla and Charlotte struggled to afford their music lessons when they went to school. 

I’d best stop such generalisations though before I make them angry (birds). And actually, I’d rather take the classy sway of The May Birds over the calculated ‘working class’ swagger of the likes of Jake Bugg. 

It’s hard not to smile at the twee friendship that’s on offer during ‘Leah’s Song’. This is a long distance love song, a tune about getting older and wiser. There’s a calm confidence about the way it builds. Beautiful harmonies sing out over acoustic strums before the sound is layered with antique keys, marching drums, burgeoning banjo and commanding cello. It’s a song that makes you want to hug a passer by or to cuddle your enemies. 

It’s feelgood music and just what your Doctor ordered to transition towards warmer, longer days.


 The May Birds are playing at the Moon Museum on Thursday night at 20.15. The Moon Museum is a new Sound City venue but it’s apparently sponsored by Wychwood breweries and doing a fine range of Real Ales. What’s not to like about that? 

Liverpool Sound City – Le Prince Miiaou

To preview the under the radar things that interest me at this years Liverpool Sound City is ultimately a futile exercise. There are 360 acts playing next weekend and not enough time for me to even scratch the surface. I’ve written pieces about ‘Erotic Market‘ and ‘Rah Rah‘ but was also aware that there’s still much in the schedule that I’d not listened to. 

So tonight, I’ve played a random Facebook game. I asked friends who were still awake to give me a letter of the alphabet and a number between one and 20. I didn’t reveal why I wanted this. My friend, James, gave me L7. I’m glad he didn’t give me U2. I looked at the list of acts playing Liverpool Sound City that began with the letter ‘L’ – and then counted down 7. 

Today’s preview act is Le Prince Miiaou. Like Erotic Market, this is an act that hails from France. But, that’s where similarity stops.

 Le Prince Miiaou is Maud-Élisa Mandeau. The alter ego was randomly plucked from a book of book of Persian legends. Last year, she released her fourth album, Where is the Queen?. It was written and recorded in rural Charente, in south-west France. It’s an album that I want to like but one that doesn’t have enough hooks to keep me returning.

I doubt it’s where she wants to be but to my ears, ‘Where Is The Queen?’ touches on that space occupied by an 80’s era Fleetwood Mac. You sense that this is an act desperate to add more guitars but conceding to the trends of the day and mixing in a more synthesized, fuzzy sound. It’s a lightweight P.J. Harvey and a more interesting Haim. There are contrasts at play between loud and quiet, rock and dance, spoken French and sung English, cluttered fuzziness and clean air. And, without doubt, this is a popular space to inhabit at the moment.

If you’re walking past ‘Nation’ on Saturday night and want to take a chance on Le Prince Miiaou then I certainly wouldn’t hold it against you. It could even provide one of those moments. The video below demands attention if you like cats, skewed romance and an off-kilter view of the world.


Stop That Train

Another showcase night which means more talk about local Leicester acts. 

Stop That Train are a band that I’ve seen develop over a couple of years. Indeed, when I first saw them they were called ‘Blue Sky Goodbye’. A trio, they indulge in a ska pop thing that this city has done so well over the years. Rumours abound that the excellent ‘By The Rivers’ are going to be headlining a stage at Glastonbury this year. Stop That Train are made in a similar mould.

When I first saw Stop That Train, it was clear that they had the tunes and musical prowess. It wasn’t clear if they had the stage presence. Lead singer, Geno, has a charm but sometimes, in the past, he’s struggled to project this across a crowded room. Instead, we’ve got an awkward intensity that could be broken with a smile and a wink. 

This shuffling concentration was less evident last night. Geno is coming into his own on the stage. The rhythm section,Harry and Josh, support with impressive swagger. It was obvious that this band of friends were having fun last night and such spirit captivates. 

With album ‘Turn Left On Brazil Street’ recently released and a growing base of fans, I suspect that the future is a bright one for Stop That Train. Nobody wants to get off quite yet. This stock keeps rolling. 


Liverpool Sound City – Rah Rah

My review from last nights Micah P. Hinson gig for eGigs is half-complete. It was an odd, shambolic, strangely compelling show and I’ve been agonising over content. Sonic Breakfast gives me a temporary reprieve from that.

Another Liverpool Sound City preview today as it draws ever closer. Indeed, in a weeks time, delegates will no doubt be heading to breakfast, nursing their hangovers, convinced that they’ve just seen the next big thing. 

Saskatchewan’s best, Rah Rah are already quite a big thing in their native Canada. Back in 2009, they were awarded ‘Best Alternative New Artist’ and ‘Best New Canadiana Artist’ by I-tunes there. I’ll be completely honest that this genre, ‘Canadiana’, is a new one on me but I guess it’s one we can file Neil Young under. Since 2009, Rah Rah have simply developed this initial promise. Last year’s album, ‘The Poet’s Dead’, confidently strides across a variety of styles whilst never straying far from tuneful, lyrical, country pop ensemble. It’s like a more accessible, less awkward Broken Social Scene. I’ll probably be hated by many for saying that this is no bad thing. 

I understand that Rah Rah’s live show is something else. The six members of the band show off their talents by swapping instruments mid song. They take turns with percussive instruments, climb on their amp stacks and bounce from whatever fixture and fitting will take them. They’ve been known to sprinkle audience members with confetti. It all sounds like an interactive, immersive experience – the sort of show that Arcade Fire will be trying to pull from their bag in a couple of months from a Somerset field. 

 You get two chances to catch Rah Rah over the Sound City weekend. They’re playing Korova on the Friday night (which apparently isn’t the iconic venue from yesteryear but a place that has simply adopted the name) and groundbreaking, no alcohol bar, The Brink on Saturday at midnight. Which one of those two do you think I’m more likely to be at? 


Micah P. Hinson – Nottingham

It’s fair to say that I’m looking forward to this evening. Micah P. Hinson is coming to Nottingham and I’m going to be reviewing the show. This’ll be the first time that I’ve seen a Micah gig in eight years. That time has flown. 

There’s no doubt that he’s a complicated character. And music needs more of those. 

Back in 2011, a serious van crash in Spain left Micah needing a period of serious rehabilitation. 

“When the emergency crew got to us, they were looking at us as if we were fucking dead people. They said they’d seen less heavy accidents with more people die. So yeah, after that they took me to a hospital, gave me an x-ray and I had no broken bones, but my left arm wouldn’t work at all, and my right arm worked about 28%, maybe less.” commented Micah in a recent, revealing interview here.

It wasn’t as if Micah was renowned for his impeccable health prior to this accident. Back problems have beset him for years which have resulted in a fair amount of cancelled shows. Bankruptcy, drink and drug dependency (reformed) and a complicated upbringing all compound the sense that this is a man we’re privileged to be seeing live tonight. It’s sometimes hard to believe that Micah is still in his early 30’s given the dramas he’s lived through.

You can bet your bottom dollar that tonight won’t be an exercise in self pity though. The new album, ‘Micah P. Hinson and the nothing’ sounds beautiful and triumphant, melancholic but spirited, adventurous and timeless. Many of the tracks on it have been live favourites for years. 

I wonder if any of them were played eight years ago. That time has indeed flown.



Liverpool Sound City – Erotic Market

A week today, I’ll be heading to Liverpool for Sound City. I went last year and had an absolute ball. It was my first festival of an epic summer in which I reviewed eighteen for eFestivals. This summer won’t be quite as crazy but it’s still going to be busy.

 There are hundreds of bands that play over the Sound City weekend (Thursday to Saturday). It’s pure bliss for a new music fanatic to have such quantity and quality across 25 venues in one city – though agonising to deal with the clashes. Many of these acts harbour ambitions to be the next big thing – and some will actually break through. Picking which ones is a task that I’m not going to indulge in – my ears aren’t tuned that way – but you could stick a pin in the donkey’s arse (or a map of Liverpool) and quality would bounce back at you from whatever of the city venues you found yourself in.

In the build up to next Thursday, I plan to write about a few of the acts who have caught my eye – this won’t be your Kodaline, Clean Bandit, Hold Steady or Jagwar Ma’s who, whilst exciting live, are more known than most. This’ll be the acts that really might have otherwise passed you by. It won’t be a daily feature – for I’ve also got a Micah P Hinson gig to preview and another Leicester showcase to feature – it’s more of a finger into the bag of sherbet.

Erotic Market are the first act to be playing at Nation on Thursday evening. They take to the stage at 8PM. I’m not a Liverpool local but I understand that Nation is a club, a big warehouse like shed that’s home to the ‘Cream’ nightclubbing brand. It’s a new venue for Liverpool Sound City.

Erotic Market are a French duo formed in May 2012 by Marine Pellegrini and Lucas Garnier. Both musicians for more than 10 years, they perfected their skills in contemporary jazz bands and a first joint venture, N’Relax.

A few weeks ago, I was sent a preview of their forthcoming album, ‘Blahblahrians’.  It’s a chewy meat of a record. You’ve got to masticate away at the gristle to get to the tenderness. I’m not entirely sure that I’m there yet. The obvious comparison to draw is to M.I.A. but to do so potentially limits the scope of this record. On first listen, one song merges into another with little respite – but, on further investigation, the subtleties, intelligence and humour start to come to the fore. With titles like ‘retro retardo’, ‘I want to be some booty’, ‘Clitacasm’ and ‘Weird arabic stuff’, it’s worth perservering with. I’ve got no doubt that these are tunes that take on a whole new angle when played live – which is why Erotic Market are high on my schedule.

 Still need convincing?  I’ll end with a couple of extracts from their press release. Surely something is lost in translation here? Or perhaps it’s not? 

Grasping Erotic Market music is like that strange, penetrating dream of unknown music which is, each time, neither quite the same one nor a different one. It’s like saying again that beauty is always strange and is the magnificent essence of genuineness. It’s the odd, elusive feeling of remembering those tunes without knowing them at all, recognizing the vigorous rock garage music, the bright triturations of electro, the groove of hiphop…’

‘Erotic Market is a go fast. A racing car that designs its own routes, spinning past illogical scenery, between sensual, suggestive eroticism and a clearcut, flashy market. A space where we can feel in turn fully within and without this world. An allegory of contemporary life that often tosses us from the one to the other end.’ 

 I prefer to call it a chewy meat. 

Si Clancy – That’s All

A couple of weeks ago now, I went along to a session organised by BBC Introducing in the East Midlands. I wrote a bit about it here. At the event, I bumped into Si Clancy. We’d talked briefly before at a party before Christmas. But, I was incredibly drunk at that party and I doubt that our conversation made much sense. 

Before Christmas, Si was talking enthusiastically about his album/EP that he’d spent a considerable amount of time and money recording. It was clear that this was a project that was a labour of love, something that Si simply had to do. Evidently, once released this was going to have quality stamped all over it – recorded at Yellowbean (a studio that I’m told is the best in the East Midlands and one that can compete with those in London), produced by Jez Burns (the best local producer if you’re looking for attention to detail), partly orchestrated by the wonderful Martha Bean and then mastered at Abbey Road, this was a project unlikely to fail.

At the BBC introducing event, Si gave me a copy of ‘That’s All’ in advance of the official launch this Thursday at the Musician. I’ve been listening to it on and off in my car on the drive to work ever since.

There’s six polished, exceptionally well-produced tracks on ‘That’s All’. I’m not sure whether six tracks makes this an EP or an album but I guess such detail doesn’t matter. At his core, Si Clancy is a singer songwriter that will appeal to those women (and men probably) who listen to Radio 2. He has a voice that I’d place somewhere between James Blunt’s and Passenger and a songwriting style that takes a leaf or two out of Tom Baxter’s songbook. What sets this apart from many singer/songwriters on the scene at the moment are the string arrangements  and orchestration within. Starting gently, each song adds layers onto layers, detail onto simple starts which makes for an engaging listen. The exquisite voice of Martha Bean adds texture and depth to the tracks completing a beautiful concoction.

These songs mainly focus on loss. Si is in a place of anguish and he wants us to know about it. Whether it’s alone in his  bedroom, lights out and making calls to a partner who’s not answering (as he is in the EP opener ‘What would you know’) or repeating patterns of behaviour that he knows are ultimately futile (in ‘Old Abandoned Feeling’), here’s a man on the edge of making some life changing decisions if he could just muster the confidence to do so. It’s only in stand out track, ‘Breathe In, Breathe Out’, that Si grabs the bull by the horns, takes a deep breath and says that the ‘doubt is no longer going to kill him’. He mans up and throws his troubles away. Martha sings like an angel which can only help that decision making process.

Already getting considerable airplay from Dean Jackson at BBC Introducing, Si has created something here which will have a mass appeal. The indie kids, rock chicks and dance fanatics are likely to walk on by but those who are able to appreciate the beauty of things will surely stay a while and spend time testing all that’s ‘That’s All’.



If you’re Leicester based, you could do worse than take a trip down to the Musician for the launch on Thursday. For a fiver, you not only get Si but also Martha Bean, Joel Evans, Adam Dunmore, Thomas William Shephard and a new acoustic group called ‘Thawn’. 



Vienna Ditto – Feeling Good

Let’s continue with the theme of posting songs from bands with cities in their name! A few days ago (before Eurovision got in the way), I wrote about the wonderful ‘Oxford Drama‘ from Poland. And for today’s treat with your toast, I’m giving you the lowdown on Vienna Ditto, a duo from Reading, London and possibly Oxford.


Vienna Ditto first came onto my radar a few months back when a PR company sent me a link to an earlier EP. If Sonic Breakfast had been running then, I would have probably featured them. I was drawn to the theatre in their music and the sound bites in their reviews. Like the B-52’s with added smokey grunge or a more chaotic, punked up Portishead, the duo of Hatty Taylor and Nigel Firth were producing a type of mutant madness that refused to be pinned down. A dabble with Psychedelic lounge blues gave way to a Motown murder ballad. I am probably making up genres.

Their new single, Feeling Good is up for release on June 9th. After a four day Easter break, this is an aural equivalent of a lock-in that should help to keep the party going until the next bank holiday. It’s a real wild child of a number, suggestively encouraging us to slip into a sexy stupor and to stay there until the summer ends.

It’s backed by the intriguingly titled ‘Opium Boys’. I bet that’s got an addictive chorus with an injection of fuzz. The CD is completed by a further 4 tracks – covers of Vienna Ditto’s favourite ’19th century gospel bangers’. I can’t wait to hear what they might sound like.


Coming up tomorrow – the new track by Bristol Ballet…. 



Eurovision – The Final Countdown

Flashback – I am sat in a school assembly. The Deputy Head spins a record and encourages us all to sing along to the words. The words are projected on an overhead projector. We all know the tune. It’s mass karaoke before karaoke was widely known about. ‘A little loving, a little giving, a little peace‘, we all sing as we attempt to emulate Nicole from Germany and her winning Eurovision entry. 

The borders and the countries have changed in the 58 years that Eurovision has been running – but the message from Nicole shouts out stronger than ever. It’s just such a shame that, by and large, the lyrical content for songs in this years Eurovision is so dire (Iceland’s entry is at least naively different). 

I’m reminded of that game you sometimes see on fridges at parties and wonder if there is an Eurovision equivalent. A box of metallic phrases and words that can be rearranged into any order and stuck to your fridge in an effort to help struggling songwriters come up with their lyrics for their songs. In 2014’s bag of words,we have lots of ‘hearts’, ‘tons of ‘time’, a few ‘storms’ and a supply of ‘worlds’ and ‘universes’. Painting by numbers.

 The Easter weekend is nearly over. It’s almost time to head back to work at which point ‘normal’ service will resume for this blog. I’ll cover the local, the national and international that’s caught my ear. I hope that this Eurovision diversion hasn’t been too painful. Just another ten to go.


28. Netherlands – The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm

The Dutch go all Country on us and give us a song that wouldn’t sound out of place if Bob Harris played it. I don’t know how many ‘highways’ there are in Holland but this is driving along one of them complete with slide guitar. I like the fact it sounds unique amongst the Europop but the tank runs out of petrol before we get to Copenhagen and we need to hitch a lift. By which i mean, it’s pretty boring.


29. Norway – Carl Espen – Silent Storm

See what I mean about the use of the word ‘storm’? This is a rock/pop ballad and it’s duller than Dutch dishwater. Carl tells us that he has a ‘silent storm inside‘ him. I reminded of the phrase ‘silent, but deadly’ and can only suggest that he changes his diet before arriving in Denmark if he wants to impress Ruth Lorenzo.


30. Poland – Donatan & Cleo – My Slowianie

Starting like something out of  ‘Hairspray’ and then heading into M.I.A. territory, these Polish girls at least sound excited about representing their country. It all goes a bit tap dance on a merry go round in a fairground in the strange middle section before the girls come back and translate what they were saying in the first verse. Interesting so doubt it’ll win.


31. Portugal – Suzy – Quero Ser Tua

Portugal take us back to the 80’s and give us something akin to ‘Tarzan Boy’ quality, happy pop. This is the sort of tune that’ll get played this summer in beach resorts – the sort of beach resort that I never want to go to.


32. Romania – Paula Seling and OVI – Miracle

I played this tune to my 17 year old son, Ollie. He thinks it sounds like a winner, not because he likes it but because it’s the sort of song that’ll pick up votes. Mark his words. “I got a feeling and I want to believe it’s magical“, sings either Paula Seling or OVI. I can assure you that it’s not and in my opinion, it’ll take a miracle for you to win. 


33. Russia – Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine

The Tolmachevy Sisters from Russia are “telling all the world to show some love”. I guess this is only if it’s of the heterosexual variety eh Putin? The most interesting thing about this will be to see which countries vote for it and which are about to be invaded. I’m sure that the Tolmachevy sisters are lovely as well. 


34. Sweden – Sanna Nielsen – Undo

Sanna’s songwriters have clearly been playing the fridge game as we get both ‘silent’ and ‘storm’ in the first line of the song. Sanna then proceeds to ‘undo’ all of Abba’s great work from forty years ago with a dull piano ballad. Sweden could offer so much more to this. 


35. Slovenia – Tinkara – Round And Round

Bonus points for the use of assorted whistles and pipes over the standard Euro dance track. “I’m going to show you how to breathe“, offers Tinkara generously. “Thanks Tinkara – and once you’re done with that, I’ll show you how to sing an interesting song?” I reply.


36. San Marino – Valentina Monetta – Maybe (Forse)

Way back when I started this preview,I noted that Austria’s entry sounded like a song that should accompany Sean Connery era James Bond films. This is from that ilk but should accompany George Lazenby era James Bond films. ‘Maybe’ it’ll do well. ‘Probably’ it won’t.


37. Ukraine – Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick Tock

Wahey – we’re there. I can’t begin to tell you how happy this makes me feel. In this one, Mariya entertains us by seeing how many words she can rhyme with ‘Tock’. I’ve got a couple more for Mariya. Crock of cock. Seriously though, I hope that this is a good year for the Ukraine. A little peace.


It’s harder to pick two songs today. Let’s go home along the Dutch Country roads and then perk ourselves up with Donatan and Cleo from Poland. This video of the tune gives a different edit to the song they’ll be performing on the night.