Thursday, 22 December 2011

Free Christmas Records

So this is Christmas? And what have done? Only gone and diluted an already over populated internet of endless tunes by endless numbers of bands with a whole new range of Christmas ‘free downloads’. It’s not like bands aren’t giving stuff away for free ANYWAY is it? But at Christmas it seems the nice thing to do.

I haven’t been able to blink on Twitter this year without someone else popping up offering me a new vaguely xmas themed EP or track, some hastily put together acoustic reinterpretation of a old carol or weird remoulding of a ‘modern classic’. But some have been great. So I made a list, like any good boy should at Christmas. All the ones below are free too, so don’t worry about breaking the bank. Just enjoy. As a side note, one that isn’t free, but I have enjoyed all the same is the great ‘Oh! What a Not So Silent Night Before Christmas’ by Aidan Moffat. Brilliant.

St Gregory Orange

Wakefield electro DOOM merchants get in the festive spirit by releasing a free 4 track EP. Ok, so officially it’s a re-release as these tracks were given away individually as MP3’s last year. But hey, you probably missed that right? And it’s not especially festive. But the songs here have featured heavily in their live set for the past year or so, meaning they are well worth getting hold of. Fans of their debut album ‘Things We Said In Bedrooms’ may be surprised by the directness here and this could well be an indication for their long awaited follow up, due in March.

The Birthday Kiss

The Birthday Kiss played their debut gig at Long Division back in June. How they get away with that? Well there’s some previous pedigree here; Sarah from The Research and Ben from The Lodger. Which should give you a fair indication of what to expect; some bloody good pop music. A title of ‘Sentimental Christmas Time’ completes the picture really; it’s a lovely piece of gentle, swinging songwriting, with Sarah’s sweet croon coming over like Mimi from Low, which is ace. Actually, whilst I think, if you’ve not heard the Low Christmas album, you should check that out too.

Napoleon IIIrd

As well as featuring on the Rhubarb Bomb xmas EP (see below), everyone’s favourite…erm… gosh, what the hell is he? Whatever, NapIIIrd has busted out a real banging Christmas tune here. It’s kind of ‘Deck The Halls’ as you know it, but not half as boring as that sounds. It’s huge! Rhubarb Bomb utterly adores Napoleon IIIrd, so I demand you go listen to this now.

Joyzine advent calendar

Wow. Now this is good. I came across this due to Rob Dee’s generous face hiding behind ‘22’ on the advent calendar. This charitble man has allowed download of SEVEN Philophobia Music tracks by several different bands. If his beard wasn’t so ginger I’d suspect he was Santa Clause. But further exploration of the calendar has revealed a whole heap of other festive treats by labels and artists equally obscure and fantastic. I’m not gonna spoil it; seeing what’s behind those doors is all the fun.

The Passing Fancy

Jolly Wakefield Folkster The Passing Fancy will find any excuse for a celebration. This year he released his Valentines single, but way back in 2008 he released ‘Christmas Time At Wrenthorpe Club’, an ode to his tradition of ending up down the local WMC, by way of various drunken disasters on Wakefield’s legendary drinking challenge; The Westgate Run. The physical copy long ran out, but this amusing, silly and entertaining tale can be downloaded for free from his Bandcamp.

Rhubarb Bomb

Hey look! Yes, we got into the Christmas spirit this year too, albeit rather begrudgingly. WAY back in 2007, under more cheery stewardship, Rhubarb Bomb released a 4 track EP, free within its pages. And it was brilliant. An absolutely top set of tracks from legendary, but now departed, Wakefield bands The Research and The Old House, plus two from the still going strong Mi Mye and Napoleon IIIrd. Surely it’s worth it alone for a track called ‘For Christmas I Got Pityriasis Rosea’?


Fellow Zine people PYT, this year newly relocated to Sheffield have released a Christmas treat in the form of a two track EP from Advances in Mathmatics, called Sad Xmas Present EP. Nicely described as the ‘first twee Post Rock band’ the EP is a pair instrumental pieces that weave beautiful paths without resorting to tons of distortion, just smart and organic harmonics, giving off a warm feeling like the atypical open log fire.

The Wind Up Birds

Finally! A simple ode to the poor buggers who have to work over Christmas. I get sick to death of the Facebook updates and Twitter tweets from mid December saying ‘Finished for Christmas!’. Though that’s coz too many of my friends are teachers I guess. The Wind Up Birds, in typically dour mood, but with pleasingly funny lyrics tell the other side of this story in a swaggering, rambunctious style, fitting of the circular grind of another dull Christmas party. It’s free, but if you choose to pay for the track it’ll all go to Barnardo’s.

Zoey Van Goey

I think regular readers will know we’re quite the fans of Glasgow’s Zoey Van Goey at Rhubarb Bomb. We had them down on Bonfire Night for an amazing gig and they’ll be back for Long Division in 2012. That short November tour was based around the release of a remix EP of tracks from their second album (which is popping up on A LOT of end of year lists). As they’ve now given all the physical copies away, the whole thing is now up on their bandcamp. For nothing! It’s not Christmassey. Not even slightly. But it’s bloody good. And haven’t you had enough of sleigh bells yet? I have. Wake me up when all the free Easter themed downloads arrive.

Dean Freeman

Monday, 19 December 2011

Imp - 'Sewerpop! How The Castle Was Stormed' Review

Philophobia Music

Imp are one of the oddest bands in Wakefield. I don’t think they’ll mind me saying that. Despite having seen them numerous times over the past… God, maybe 5 years, I still don’t ‘get’ them. By which I don’t mean I don’t like them, I mean simply don’t understand how they ‘are’.

Live, they are the ultimate expression of the runaway freight train; it MUST fall off the rails right? Any minute now, I’m sure of it. I don’t know how they write songs, they just seem to filter them into existence, each member playing their version of some half remembered childhood nursey rhyme. Or a vicious argument conducted in 5 different languages. The brilliance - and the reason most people cant take their eyes off them - is that it simply works, the perfect wall of reason at the centre of the storm.

Following on from last year’s ‘Just Destroyer’, which was a bit of a direction change, yet a positive one, ‘Sewerpop!’ sees Imp get their pop back. I thought that’d just be the PHOP hype machine churning me a line, but it’s spot on. ‘Just Destroyer’s instrumentals are gone and we are left with a sharp, urgent kaleidoscope of fractious battle to ponder over. The wandering guitar lines find their separate shapes, head out on explorative drives in country but make it back in time for the chorus. Drums and Organ hold it all together really, smart rhythms and lines. The vocals sound better than ever, the sweetly shouted hooks the horse in the glue that ties this band together.

‘The Timings All Wrong’ opens with some odd seaside soundscaping. Suggests they’ve gone real prog on us. But it’s just a warm up. The free flowing tempo and odd beats here break you in to the wandering dynamics across the record. ‘Back From Battle’ and ‘Sharkbay Nevermore’ are the beating core of this quick trip into Imp’s world. Generally, it’s a less riff-tastic record than the last, but better for it; instead a warm glow, a concise widescreen account, a smiling room, a lost letter found.

As with the music, it’s hard to tell what is going on with the lyrics, the ideas, the themes (if there are any) seem to wash over, leaving more of an impression than a firm idea. I think that is what Imp excel at. They are a pop band; the dirtiest most disturbed pop band, that tie the oblique and the half-seen, the half caught conversation and the swamping drunken declaration in a direct and sumptuous package. They don’t do it by stepping into our world, taking a look around and spewing out a reply; it is purely on their terms. You must go to them and step inside their minds. I cant recommend that, admittedly terrifying prospect, highly enough. Sewerpop! Is the best thing they’ve done thus far, though I’ve still honestly no idea ‘what’ it is they’ve done, let alone ‘how’.

Dean Freeman

Friday, 16 December 2011

Post War Glamour Girls - Suburban Barbarian Review

Post War Glamour Girls
Suburban Barbarian
Sturdy Records

Suburban Barbarian, the second single from the Post War Glamour Girls is available now; but the question is, do witty vocals and shimmery, twanging guitars do the trick? Of course, the answer is yes; this has the feel of having been crafted over many a late night singalong and who could complain about that!

The mix of male and female vocals adds to the rich, slowly building air of menace as the track reaches its crescendo and the mood they conjured up in my head is of a scene from Rebel Without A Cause if it had been set in Yorkshire- all leather jackets, girls with dyed black bobs, lipstick stained cigarette ends and spilt coffee in a greasy spoon caff, but that might just be me…

The band is only just a year old but Leeds based Sturdy records have already seen the act receive praise for their first offering, a double-A side single ‘Ode To Harry Dean / Spitting Pearls’ released in October. They’ve got one live show left this year, at the Head of Steam in Newcastle on the 17th of December, so if you can’t make it there, get over to and have a listen for yourself.

Matthew Rhodie

Hymms - Cardinal Sins / Contrary Values Review

Hymms - Cardinal Sins / Contrary Values

Another day, another duo! I was lucky enough to see Hymns live in the Bowery during the Tramlines Festival in Sheffield- heard of it? Small town near Rotherham? No?- this summer and they impressed with their range then as they do now on their double album Cardinal Sins / Contrary Values which builds a sense that any one of these tracks could be on the advert for the impending apocalypse. If, of course, you believe the Mayans!

Samuel Manville and Peter Reisner craft vocals, guitar and drums into an engaging garage rock meets classical meets some sort of cinematic soundtrack, but it works here, maybe more than in the flesh if I’m totally honest. The production is smooth and accents the strengths of each track without allowing one element to dominate, the guitars soar from delicate to brash and Hymns always manage to squeeze more out of it than you might reasonably expect two blokes from the midlands to manage. Worth a listen and another chance live.

Matthew Rhodie

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Do's 'Quick Fix' Review

The Do’s
Quick Fix
Self released

This year, it seems that some of the most interesting bands I’ve seen live have been two-piece outfits who manage to create walls of sound from a drum kit, a guitar and a couple of voices.

The Do’s are one such combo, consisting of Elliot Oldroyd on guitar/vocals with Matthew O’Leary on drums/vocals they manage to create an interesting mix of light and shade. Quick Fix sees them open with a grunge dynamic that then relaxes into a confident slice of fuzzy guitar-driven riffing which is all good clean fun. Leave This All Behind comes in like McLusky passed them the rulebook for killer intros and never fails to please.

Between the insistent rhythm and understated vocals this Wakefield duo hit the mark and for a first outing, this free download, available from: left me hoping to stumble into a boozer on a cold winter night and catch them live. You can do just that on the 11th December at the Inns of Court and on 23rd December at The Hop.

Matthew Rhodie