January 17, 2010

Northern Portrait - Criminal art lovers

After two rather brilliant EPs (Fallen aristocracy and Napoleon sweetheart) in 2008, this was one of the albums I was looking forward to most in 2009. When I interviewed the band early last year, "sometime in May" was mentioned as the release date. Except, it was delayed. And delayed some more. And then it wasn't 2009 anymore.

But here it is, finally: a first contender for favourite album of 2010. The album almost feels like a golden oldie already: Crazy is on there, and quite some of the other songs have bee available on myspace or the Matinée website over the months. Add to that the overall timeless (but not dated) feel that's part of all of Northern Portrait's repertoire, and it's impossible to not love this album right from the start.

Buy this album
Northern Portrait myspace

Download (right click, save as)
1. Northern Portrait - New favourite moment
2. Northern Portrait - Crazy

January 16, 2010

January 13, 2010

Undercover poplover, part 20

"When this kiss is over, it will start again
It will not be any different, it will be exactly the same
It's hard to imagine that nothing at all
Could be so exciting, could be this much fun"

Download (Mediafire)
1. Belle & Sebastian - Comment te dire adieu
2. Ted Leo - Since U been gone
3. Voxtrot - Heaven

January 06, 2010

Interview: Slow Down Tallahassee

Slow Down Tallahassee are Nicola Coleman (vocals, harp, keyboards, bass), Claire Hill (vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass) and Richard Butterworth (guitar) from Sheffield. I heard first about them in 2007, when they released their debut single So much for love. In 2008 they confirmed their greatness with the fabulous album The beautiful light. A split single with Standard Fare last year made sure I'm now thoroughly looking forward to their soon to be released second album. Nicola and Richard talk about that album, and their music in general. Like the band say on their website: "Listen loudly, and your ears will love you."

Hello Slow Down Tallahassee! You're about to release your new album. What can we expect?

Nicola: Yes we finished recording our second album just before Xmas. It just needs mastering now, and then it's ready to go. And I suppose we need artwork too. I think it's an improvement on the first album. The arrangements are occasionally more complex and/or adventurous, and the vocal melodies are stronger I think. There are still a couple of 2 minute pop blasts included though. Lyrically Richard and I wanted to expand on the characters we wrote about in the first album. To finish telling their stories, because we found them so compelling. This album is shorter too. Only 12 songs this time.

When, how and why did the three (or four, if we still count Rachel Hedley who left the band after recording the first album) of you decide to start making music together?

Richard: Well, all four of us used to work together at The Leadmill nightcub in Sheffield years ago. So that's how we knew each other. Nicola, Claire, and myself formed a band with two other Leadmill pals that lasted 2 or 3 years called Wisconsin Death Trip. When that band ended we simply carried on because the songs kept coming and we asked Rachel to join.

On your previous album and singles you made fuzzy rock 'n roll, with often grim lyrics, but somehow managed to keep that fresh pop feel in even your darkest songs. Which makes the strange mix of influences you mention on your myspace actually quite accurate: from Britney Spears to Leonard Cohen, and from Madonna to The Breeders. How did you arrive at this sound?

Nicola: Britney, Leonard Cohen, Madonna and The Breeders are just some of the many artists that have inspired and entertained us along the way. We didn't specifically choose to combine 'dark' lyrics with pop music. It just happened that way. The lyrics need to be the way they are because we don't want to be dishonest.

You also mention Henry Darger on your website as one of the inspirations for your music. One of his stories is The story of the Vivian Girls, which obviously brings another current rock 'n roll band to mind. On the other end of music, I know someone like Sufjan Stevens also mentions him as an influence. Are there any bands that you feel an affinity with, in sound or presentation? Do you feel part of some sort of scene or community?

Richard: I really really like Telepathe. Even though they make electronic dancey type music it sounds very organic and honest and emotional. And I find that inspiring so I suppose I'm influenced in that way. Sheffield has a vibrant music scene. Claire is in two other brilliant bands called The Nature Set and The Bon Bon Club. So she probably feels more connected with the scene than Nicola and myself. There's another band in Sheffield called Party Horse who we like a lot.

How did that great split single with Standard Fare come about? I'm never sure how these things work… is it just the label that combines the two bands on one release, or do you have a say in that? Will we find these songs on your new album as well?

Nicola: The split single was Thee SPC's idea. They just asked us if we were okay with it. And we were! Angel of Death and Tricks will both appear on the next album.

How are your songs usually born? If I understood this correctly, it's the two of you who write the lyrics, which often seem to be extremely personal. Isn't it strange for Claire to sing them?

Richard: Nicola or I will bring the skeleton of a song to rehearsal and we build on it until it's finished. The lyrics are important but we're not that precious about them so it's easy to give them to Claire to sing. We trust her by now.

What do you do in your lives when you're not busy with Slow Down Tallahassee?

Nicola: When we are not busy with Slow Down Tallahassee we are busy busting our asses working in our crappy jobs, doing the school run, trying not to slip on the ice, smoking, day-dreaming, gawping at STUFF on the internet, sleeping, etc.

What's coming up in 2010? A big mainstream breakthrough? Lots of touring?

Nicola: 2010 will see the release of our next album which we will promote to the best of our ability. Sadly I doubt we will ever infiltrate the mainstream. But this is probably for the best. The mainstream is Florence and the Machine and Little Boots and Bat for Lashes. They're not our peers. They fucking suck. Maybe its better to exist under the radar, where there's more freedom.

Thank you, Slow Down Tallahassee!

Slow Down Tallahassee myspace
Thee SPC

Download (right click, save as)
1. Slow Down Tallahassee - The beautiful light
2. Slow Down Tallahassee - Limbs

January 05, 2010

The Garlands / The Sugarplums split 7"

After months of anticipation and over a year after Atomic Beat Records' last release, here it finally is: The Garlands / The Sugarplums split.

The Garlands is Christin Wolderth and Roger Gunnarsson (Nixon, Free Loan Investments) from Sweden. The Sugarplums are three boys (Luke Spicknall, Alex Jones and Skatterbrain's Matthew Edwards) and one girl (Rachel Shallue) from Baltimore, USA.

Needless to say this is exciting news. 300 numbered copies, so be fast! I won't be surprised if this one is going to go quick.

Buy the 7" here
The Garlands myspace
The Sugarplums myspace