Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christ-mix!

Every year I trawl the intermess looking for a decent funk and soul Christmas mix and here's this year's for you courtesy of Cookin Soul. It' good. Have yourself a Merry Christmas and we'll hook up again in 2015...unless I OD on gin and tonic, turkey and a belly busting variety of meats, cheeses and confectionery that is...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Some tracks of 2014...

Sticking two fingers up at all those boring Top 10s of the year here's my Top 11. Frankly I could probably have done a Top 100 but life's too short for that, right? Enjoy. 

Thee AHs – Spooky Love

Babe – Tilt

Temples – Mesmerise

Miss Halliwell – Allegedly Gory

Lack of Afro – Recipe for Love

Joanna Gruesome – Psychic Espionage

Joan As Policewoman – Holy City

Kate Tempest – Circles

July Talk – Summer Dress

Tune Yards - Water Fountain 

St. Vincent - Digital Witness

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Free Monkey for all readers...

Heading up my "Good Grief Why Aren't This Band Famous?" list is The Miserable Rich (who may or may not still exist, I think the jury's out at the moment), a lush chamber pop collective from Brighton fronted by the angel voiced James de Malplaquet. Anyway, they've just released a live album and, in the spirit of Christmas, a free download of a rather nifty mix of an old track of theirs called Monkey. While I'm in a giving mood check out some of their other stuff. Seriously good. You're welcome...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Shoe(gaze) Year!

Boy With Wings - Untitled (Live) from Boy With Wings on Vimeo.

New Year's Eve...oh lordy the pressure to have (cue overexcited voice) "the best night EVAH!" hangs palpably in the air along with the thick aroma of cheap fragrances, stale cigarette smoke and vomit (plus other bodily excretions too disgusting to mention at this time of day dear reader).

There never seems to be that much going on in Birmingham sadly, which is distinctly at odds with its newly unveiled status as one of the top 10 cities in the WORLD according to the good folk at Rough Guide (Ha! Take That Blandchester). This year the people behind the Fierce Festival are putting on a bit of a bash though featuring a live performance from Boy With Wings, a new name to me but one of those all too rare bands that instantly seem to have 'it', fusing as they do a little shoegaze, a little indiepop and a little electronica all of which wrap around the kind of  effortlessly cool lyrics (merde, they even have a song written in French) that so much of modern pop's lacking these days. You can check out and indeed checkout (by buying the ruddy thing) their album right here on a name your price basis and snaffle a ticket to the Fierce NYE 2015 Party over here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Take My Hand (the theme from Toast Of London!) - Matt Berry

Musicians who do comedy or comedians who do music, they're not normally easy bedfellows are they eh? Somehow Matt Berry manages to straddle the two worlds rather well as demonstrated on the rather melancholic theme tune to the hilarious Toast Of London. If you've not seen it yet here's a few classic moments...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Happy Bloody Christmas!

If you're a little broke this December but still want to help your fellow man/woman in a spurt of festive goodwill then why not pop along to a local Blood Donor centre and give 'em a pint? It's pretty quick and painless and you never know when you or someone you give a toss about might need some. They're always a little low on donations around Christmas time as most of us are too busy drinking our own body weight in Egg Nog so if you've ever considered it now's probably as good a time as any. This afternoon I'm off to donate pint number 50 (blimey how did that happen?) which qualifies me for a gold badge and Knighthood...probably. If nothing else though this all gives me another excuse to pop up the rather fabulous Dance In My Blood by the much missed (by me at least) Men Women and Children. Bloody marvellous.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Saint Saviour / Bill Ryder-Jones @ The Hare and Hounds, Monday 8th December 2014

With some deservedly impressive reviews rolling in for her latest album, In The Seams, there’s a better turn out for tonight’s gig at the Hairy Hounds than there was back in 2012 when Saint Saviour last played here. At that time she was seriously considering packing touring in altogether as, in common with a sadly growing number of artists, she was pretty much doing everything herself which is undoubtedly (a) pretty ruddy time consuming and (b) soul destroying if the turnout’s a little, ahem, slim.

First up though someone else who seems to have been through the musical wringer a bit over the years, Bill Ryder-Jones, former guitarist of The Coral who stopped touring with them for a while citing a “stress related illness” (nasty) before quitting the band for good. I’ve always been stuffed full of admiration for anyone who can get up on stage and do their thing but getting back on the road after going through that must surely take balls the size of Saturn.

Musically both Bill and Becky (aka Saint Saviour) are coming from a similar place right now, intimate, low key and deeply personal. Ryder-Jones (who also produced Becky’s latest album), wrapped up in a hoody and scarf and audibly carrying the remains of a cold with him, this evening played a selection of self penned tracks ranging from Hanging Boy, which has just the merest echo of his twang-tastic days with The Coral through to the more Sweet Babboo-ish There’s a Wall Between Us and on to The Lemon Trees which, despite the cold, nudged him more towards crooner territory (it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see him morphing into an edgier, more urban Richard Hawley). 

As he warms up, metaphorically and literally, the scarf and hoody come off and newer songs lift the pace with Catherine (Bill’s love letter to the streets of Liverpool) in particular showcasing his, up until that point, understated guitar skills a little more.

Time for Saint Saviour then. As already mentioned (hey, if a thing’s worth saying once it’s worth saying a dozen times) In The Seams is clearly a tremendously personal album, much of which seems to be looking back wistfully at her childhood/early adult years and whilst she’s perfectly capable of belting out a tune, as she’s more than proved in the past, much of tonight’s set is delivered in more of a whisper than a scream which, moth to a flame-like, irresistibly draws you in. Opening number this evening, I Remember, is a particularly fragile creature and quite frankly it couldn’t have been more intimate if she’d crept into bed with you and sang gently into your ear in the wee small hours. Pausing between tracks to paint a little picture about each one (not literally, although how cool would that be...we could get Rolf Harris in...what’s that? Oh...good point...) she waxes lyrical on the rugged beauty of Craster in her native Northumberland and reminisces about her schoolgirl crushes and desire to “rescue” the mournful looking indie boys that stared out at her every week from the pages of NME and Melody Maker. I was always more of a Marc Almond kind of boy. With a couple of female backing vocalists and some pre-recorded strings (I imagine that the budget doesn’t stretch to lugging an orchestra around with you sadly), along with Ryder-Jones on guitar (he also adds an almost skeletal vocal to some tracks) it’s an often haunting and mournful sound and you’re driven by an almost overwhelming desire to just climb up on stage and give her a big old hug, especially after Nobody Died (imagine Kate Bush meeting Karen Carpenter on a windswept Northumbrian beach in winter), Becky’s attempt at giving herself a “kick up the arse” when she’s feeling particularly low which, given the tone of many of these songs, is a hell of a lot of the time.

There’s optimism buried in there though, perhaps most notably on Let It Go, tonight’s soar away highlight (despite the best efforts of a trio of individuals at the front who chatted through it...either respect the artists performing or stay at home watching X Factor, okay?). 

With echoes of Anthony and the Johnsons’ majestic Hope There’s Someone and Shakespeare’s Sister’s Stay With Me it’s arguably one of the best things she’s ever done and, in a fairer world, she’d be singing it to thousands of gently swaying pilgrims in the Albert Hall. Ending with an old song, Reasons, she finally unleashes the full extraordinary power of that voice and then she’s gone, ghost-like into the night (oh, alright then...she came back and signed albums and chatted to fans and stuff but that doesn’t sound so dramatic does it eh?).

Saint Saviour, a truly special talent. Go see her. You’ll feel blessed.

PS: Driving home after the gig there was a Nick Drake CD playing in the car, another artist who sadly received far too little acclaim at the time but who has now almost been raised to the level of a saint. It may be a clumsy parallel to draw but it’s easy to see Saint Saviour being similarly revered in 40 years time too. Let’s hope it’s not that long eh? 

Monday, December 08, 2014

King and Queen of Sorry – King and Queen of Sorry

Formed in 2012 King and Queen of Sorry (they’re a five piece so maybe there’s a Duke, Duchess and Prince of Sorry in there somewhere too?) do a fine line in Folk and Americana tinged acoustic pop, the results of which you can hear on their debut album also handily titled King and Queen of Sorry. Pick of the tracks include the rather fabulous boogie bluesy Sure Know Something - shades of the mighty Fleetwood Mac in their 70s prime in there - and the timely (this being the anniversary of World War I and all that) tale of a soldier fighting overseas in Open Door. 

King and Queen of Sorry is out now

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Bourgeois Four..."bigger than Jesus"!

To celebrate the glorious return of The Bourgeois Four as announced exclusively (well sort of...) here on The Hearing Aid a couple of weeks ago two of the four, that's a whole 50% of the band...I always knew that Maths 'O' level would come in handy one day...took time out to answer some 'probing' questions. Who needs Paxman eh?  

First of all welcome back. You split a few years ago just when it seemed (to me at least) that you were getting somewhere. What happened?  

Tristan: Andy and I caught “Tom Cruise Syndrome”. We had a crisis of confidence and I, almost literally, pushed Andy over the edge…right off the stage, during our last gig. So we couldn’t make music anymore…for a while.

Andy: For one reason or another the creative process stopped, songs were being written but not finished. Rather than communicate my frustrations to the band, I had a paddy and quit. It’s only now that I realise that 90% of mine and Tristan’s conversations just consist of Alan Partridge quotes.

So why the comeback and why now?

Tristan: It’s just the next chapter. We’ve written a stack of new tunes. We got together, it got our blood pumping again, so we HAD to do it. It’s our gift to the world. And why make the world wait? has to be now.

Andy: Don’t look a gifthorse in the mouth, World. We’re leading you to water. Drink.

Wise words, speaking of which please describe the band’s sound in 5 words...or less.

Tristan: B-Punk. That’s “Bourgeois-Punk”.

Which ‘local’ (Brum/Midlands) bands do you rate right now?  

Tristan: Greg Bird and Flamingo Flame.

Andy: Elephantine blew me away live, as did God Damn. I love Calories, Sunshine Frisbee Lazerbeam and Sunset Cinema Club gigs always make me totes emoshe. Miss Halliwell always stir something within my innards.

Ahhhh, yes, the mighty Miss Halliwell. Good choice. Any advice for any new bands out there just starting out?

Tristan: Have a good time, all the time.

Andy: I was hoping that they could give us some advice.

Favourite venue in Brum to play and to visit as a humble punter?

Tristan: The Ship Ashore, probably.

Andy: The Tipu Sultan Bullshit Balti House

If you could get away with it what would be on your dream rider?

Tristan: Babycham…and Frazzles.

Andy: Steve Rider. He’s reeeaaal dreamy.

Climb into the Tardis with that dodgy swearing Scottish bloke and fast forward 5 years...what do you hope the band’s achieved by then?

Tristan: We’ll be bigger than Maroon 5 by then. Or at least the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Andy: We’re already bigger than Jesus. There’s four of us, there was only one of him. Fact.

And I'm pretty sure he never played The Actress and Bishop neither. Pah! Next year it’s the election and it strikes me that you might just have a view on politics and politicians. Thoughts?

Andy: I don’t think we’ve ever intentionally set out to be political – Maybe the supposedly ironic name would make people think that we’re on some kind of class warpath, but we’re hardly Billy Bragg. We’re not even Melvyn Bragg…not sure what I’m trying to say there.

However, Celebrity Body Crisis (out now on Speech Fewapy) does touch upon the inane, sensationalist nature of a lot of mainstream news. Tris and I are stupidly obsessed with The Day Today, and looking at today’s front page headlines, it’s almost as if Chris Morris is writing them. I saw one recently that read: ‘I’ll let giant snake eat me live on telly’ which made me titter for hours. 

But, the things that are served up as “news” are quite worrying. How are you supposed to make informed decisions if all you are fed are photos of how shit David Milliband is at eating fucking sandwiches?

In this aspect, I’m pleased to see Russell Brand using his profile to stir up public debate on issues that are a little more important than what’s happening to Bobby fucking Davro in a jungle or whoever.
However, I vehemently disagree with his stance on not voting – I think that’s really dangerous and irresponsible of him. The people that benefit from voter apathy are the Nasty Nigels of this world and that’s a slippery slope to Nazi-geddon. Voting should be made compulsory and the media should be held more closely to account about the balance of air time it gives to parties. The Green Party have been done over on this and, to me at least, they seem like they have the most intellectually sound policies. Wouldn’t it be great though to see someone as good at generating headlines as NF, leading the Greens?

But no, we don’t have anything to say about politics.

Tristan: Vote NCDMV.

Is there a question you wished I’d asked? If so what is it and what’s the answer (yes...this is a complete cop out but at least I’m honest about it eh?)

Q: Which tunes shaped the band’s’ sound? A: These.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Saint Saviour...In The Seams out on tour

There are a few really special voices out there that float my boat and one of them, Saint Saviour, is out on tour right now promoting her truly beautiful brand new album In The Seams. Previously lead vocalist for Groove Armada she's now moved into more reflective territory, swapping the butt moving beats for soul stirring lyrics and delicate string arrangements.

Somewhat amazingly she's still playing pretty intimate venues, which certainly suits the music, but surely it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world wakes up to her...surely...

Support comes from the similarly under appreciated Bill Ryder Jones, former lead vocalist for Scally jangle poppers The Coral.

You can catch 'em both at The Hare and Hounds on Monday December 8th, tickets from our good chums Birmingham Promoters.

PS: Not sure if she's doing any stuff from her previous album Union (also highly recommended) or any of her back catalogue but here are another couple of Saint Saviour classics. Anyone tell me why Woman Scorned wasn't a number one? Answers on Simon Cowell's severed scrotum please.