Saturday, 30 November 2013
A very happy Saturday to you, and if it hasn't been happy, then cheer yourself up with the fact that it will soon be Monday again and you can sink further into your pit of despair. I bet that's cheered you up no end.
What can I offer you today?
Joe Allan. That's what. Over on the Twitters I usually put out a weekly clarion call for bands/singers to get in touch with me and send me their shizz to review. If it's good, I'll do it. If It isn't, I send them away with a flea in their ear, a U grade and a note to tell their Mum they must try harder (I sometimes take bribes though...so if you want to get round me with money/cake/declarations of undying love...you can only try)
Anyway, Joe was one of the many folks who contacted me this week and you'll be pleased to know he passed muster with an A*. So today, I'm going to introduce you to him and also tell you why you need his music in your life.
He was kind enough to send me a demo of his new song "September", so please afore we go any further, have a watch/listen to his track:
JOE ALLAN - SEPTEMBER
If you want to listen to the music without the video, visit his Soundcloud page via Tumblr:
I was actually going to start this paragraph by saying "I'm incredibly excited by this young man", then I thought it sounded a bit odd, not to mention wrong, but now I've typed it out and made us all blush anyway, so what the hell. But Joe's music is lush and he's genuinely a really nice chap.
"September" is such a wistful, piece - the music lulls you, but the lyrics definitely have edge to them. You cannot possibly ignore (or not love) a song which opens with the line "Fuck you, everybody" - when you hear it, it's a little bit of a jolt, given that the guitars have such a gentle feel to them and the overall sound is very dreamlike. Joe, in the description for the video says he will make a less half-hearted version for his new EP when it comes out. I think that kind of does his own work a wee disservice. This is a lovely track, with a great promise to it and it is perfectly pitched.
I have to admit a real soft spot for the video - the music is set to various video clips from the USA in the 1960s. It actually felt as though it accompanied the song really well - and reminded me of my own family, some of whom were out there at that time. It made me think of the photos they sent home to us here that I loved flicking through as a kid in the 1980s. So yeah, nostalgia, expletives and lovely music - all things that make thegeneral go boom.
If you like what you hear then why not consider having a listen/watch of this too:
JOE ALLAN - OCTOBER (LIVE)
This is such a well nuanced song, it's sweetly stirring and has such a tenderness to it, made all the more markedly pronounced by a beautiful guitar pick (thegeneral appreciates that, being a semi-professional rubbish guitar bore). It's seven minutes that feels like is passes in less than half the time - and, in the nicest possible way, it will haunt you afterwards - it will stay in your mind and you'll want to keep listening again. Joe's vocals have an ethereal quality to them and his words are wise beyond his years. All in all, it's truly magical stuff.
His debut EP is hopefully going to be out sometime in the new year - tentatively called "The City Ate My Brains", when it's out, I'll give it a thorough going over and make sure to let you all know about it. For now, take these two tracks and love them.
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
Hey and away we go on this tuneful Tuesday evening - and what a day it has been. I still have no proper chocolate and at tea time I realised there was no cake either. No cake? Unthinkable. So I obviously needed something to take my mind off my troubles. Here it is anyway.
I start with a small apology as I'd meant to do this post last week, but time ran away with me and I didn't get chance - better late than never and I hope you'll agree when you read (and listen, because if you don't listen, I'll find where you live and tell everyone what you REALLY keep in that tea caddy in your shed) that it was worth the wait.
So yes. Ahem.
I've long been a champion of all the new and emerging acts from the North East. At the moment, it really is the best place to be if you want to listen to really fresh, engaging music made my keen-as-mustard folks with genuine talent. Quite a few of the bands I've featured on this blog since its inception last year have been from there and although I'm from the North West myself, I feel a genuine affinity and affection for the great music being produced over t'wall.
Therefore I was quite excited when I heard that Hit The North (East) were getting together with one of my favourite wee record labels Tiny Lights Recordings to create The Tiny Lights Top 20 Records of the Year awards type thing. Tiny Lights have had some bloody fucking brilliant acts this year - in a few weeks time I'll be doing my own review of the year and there'll be lots of mentions of them again, so brace yourself, prepare for the emergency stop and don't forget to bang on the dashboard.
You can see the complete run down of the top 20 here - it includes some favourites of mine, By Toutatis, Lionhall and BLANK MAPS (sobsobsob RIP etc)
However, the focus of tonight's long, rambling meander (cos God knows this is making the Domesday Book look like a pamphlet on condoms) is going to feature the winners- Tissue Culture
Oh Tissue Culture. On their Facebook page they describe themselves as "shouty, stroppy, bairns" and it's funny, but it really does them a total injustice. The last while gone by I've been giving their EP "Saint Waleric" some serious whelley on the auld gramaphone and I've really grown to love it a great deal. Before we go any further, I'd like you to take a look at one of the tracks off it - "Satellites"
Now you've done that, you must go to their bandcamp page and take a look at their EP in full
It really is so very beguiling. It's discordant harmony played out to a backdrop of scuzzy guitars and there is a painful beauty to each of the tracks. The seven minute opener "Bleak Northern Beaches" is a push-me-pull-you kind of song - on first listen it might scare you a bit, but give it a few listens and you realise just how much depth it has. Satellites speaks for itself, but songs like "Safe, Safe, Safe" are real emotional rollercoasters. All of the tracks on here are aching paeans, filled with pathos and real intensity.
So whilst everyone on the list was a winner in their own right, Tissue Culture grabbed the top spot for the sheer forcefulness and heart stopping gorgeousity of their sound (yeah, I just made a word up, no, there's fuck all you can do about it...). They are a band that simply warrant investigating and are deserving of a friendly ear. thegeneral really does hope they come back in 2014 with something else. In the meantime we've got Saint Waleric and their EP of 2011, "Cling To The Nostalgia" (and not mastalgia as I just typed...that's something totally different for another blog)
Tiny Lights might say they're DIY as fuck but their acts are a shining example of everything that is fuckawesome about the North East music scene. Once you've checked out Tissue Culture, you might want to have a look at what else they have to offer:
I say this a lot, but you genuinely won't regret it. Now then...about that stuff you're hiding in the tea caddy at the back of the shed...?
Monday, 25 November 2013
Goodness. We've almost made it through Monday and not killed anyone. I'd say that was pretty good going, though it was touch and go at 2.30pm when it was discovered the only chocolate left in the box was "the one that dare not speak its name" (I'll leave it up to you to guess, but I'm still shuddering now - didn't stop me forcing it down, like...) Anyway. That aside it's a brand new week and that can only mean one thing. A brand new band and a brand new blog post.
Today is another incredibly special one. 'Cos today I want to introduce you to a band called Emperor The Stag. thegeneral has been extremely lucky (not to mention verryy excited) to receive a preview copy of the band's new album which isn't actually due out until FEBRUARY 2014!! But yeah, I'm obviously so hip n cool that they sent it to me, so be totally jealous and all that.
What can it offer you? Oh, just about everything. It's lovely. It truly is. First of all, I'd like to direct you to one of the preview tracks on the YouTubes. It's called "Leaves" and you can watch/listen here:
EMPEROR THE STAG - LEAVES
It's immediately catchy, both the guitar sounds and the vocals are incredibly pure. One of the main things that stuck in my mind hearing singer Nick Webb's voice was, in a way, how he reminded me of Jaime Harding from 90s indie darlings Marion. He has that same, raw, emotional energy that really reaches out to you. When he lets go, there is so much power there that it feels like it might take you off your feet. It's visible in all the songs and he seems to really know how to 'play' each track, matching his voice according to how gentle or hard edged the music is.
Of course, it shouldn't be about comparisons, these songs speak for themselves and are unique and individual in their own way - and on first and second play through this seems to be another album on which there isn't a duff track.
Stand out songs for thegeneral are the abovementioned "Leaves", "Swan" and "RAD" which is a lovely, gently lulling six minute piece of perfection - beautifully understated in many ways, a wonderfully catchy guitar hook is matched with delicate bass and drums, and again, a pure vocal that is a real delight, swooping and soaring to..well...I was going to say a climax, but fuck it, that sounds a bit wrong. You know what I mean anyway...(perhaps that afternoon chocolate was a bad idea...)
It's immediately followed by a complete change of pace, with the punchy, edgy, chippy "Venice", providing a nice contrast - most outstanding here is the thumping, driving drum rhythm that drives the whole thing along - giving it a sort of military feel.
All in all, this is outstanding and February can't come quick enough, because this is one album that any self respecting indie fan needs to have in their collection. If you'd like to know more about Emperor The Stag (and you bloody well should...) then have a look at their bandcamp page:
And check out last year's "Speedwell Drive EP" which has also been high up on thegeneral's playlist for a little while now. When February comes, don't hesitate - make "Fantasy To Bleak" one of your first Spring music purchases. You won't regret it.
Thursday, 21 November 2013
It's with a really heavy heart thegeneral makes this post. In fact I almost feel like laying on a funeral tea and donning a mourning veil to write it (I look proper good in black though, so y'know, it's got it's compensations and all that).
You know how much I love and champion Blank Maps. Their last release, "Lucky Dip" has been without doubt one of my most played and obsessed over tracks of the year. Therefore I was wearing a massively sad face yesterday when I found out that the band were playing their last ever gig and as of today, are no more.
They're going out on a real high though and "Thousands" is their last, perfect release as a band - out today and available from their bandcamp page here:
So you've got to listen to it, support them for one last time and then buy. They leave behind them a really brilliant back catalogue of music which is so deserving of your time and attention and it would be criminal for you to ignore their brilliant sound just because they've shuffled off this musical coil.
Both tracks on "Thousands" offer ambient, trippy delicacy. They're alive, wide open and full of spacy charm. They are songs to lie back and dream to. You could actually dream that they WEREN'T BREAKING MY HEART BY SPLITTING UP. But that's not going to happen. I know that now. I've calmly accepted it and just have to try and move on.
Hopefully we haven't heard the last from Thom, Ben, David and Jake - hopefully in their own ways they'll come back and do something else. In the meantime, they've left us with a unique sound to treasure. So treasure it you must. Thanks for everything Blank Maps, it's been a blast hearing you and getting to know your music. You babes xox.
Monday, 18 November 2013
Are you nodding off after a really stressful day and feeling sorry for yourself? It is the start of the working week after all and literally aeons till the next weekend. Sometimes what you need is a shot of adrenalin. One so lethal it kicks you right hard in your turn-ups. Mind you, if you're wearing turn-ups, this blog really isn't the best place for you I don't think...
Anyway, what can thegeneral offer you? A right nice bit of musical filth, that's what - and it comes courtesy of Super Adventure Club.
Now this is a curious one to tell you about, because Super Adventure Club are more or less no more, more or less - and this album - their third, is a kind of last dirty weekend away, before they disappear off into the ether.
So first things first, you need to know where to get it from:
Click the link above and visit the Armellodie Records bandcamp page and have a little listen to the noisy, raucous preview track to get you in t'mood. They are GREAT. It's intricate, its loud, it's feisty, it's everything that a math rock-heavy metal-pop hybrid should be. It feels a little like the young, cocky, upstart offspring of Dick Dale has been let loose in the studio and told to run total riot and not give a shit about the consequences. If you like your music with more than a little bite then this is the album you need to be pre-ordering. If you want gentle whimsy, you'd better look somewhere else.
It's a shame they're not sticking around, but if you get the chance explore their back catalogue too - which you can find by simply following the link above. There are some real gems on their previous albums and they're a band well worth exploring and getting to know. You might not have heard them here first, but you'd be a fool to ignore them now.
Sunday, 17 November 2013
It's Sunday night. A time for reflecting on everything you haven't achieved over the weekend and wondering if sitting next to the window looking wistfully out like someone in an art-house movie will ever make things right. (Answer: No, but you'll look proper intelligent and a little bit sexy and anyone who walks past with their dog will think "Oh, she looks intelligent and sexy...". Possibly).
So, what can we see the weekend out with? You can see it out with this stunning new song from the frankly mesmeric By Toutatis. It is called "You Need To Know When It's Time To Leave" and it is the perfect thing to curl up with on a Sunday evening when the world is swirling inside your head and you're wondering what it's all about.
You can listen to it and download here:
The first thing you'll notice is the ever so slightly music hall opening it has. A delightful little piano melody which suggests times-gone-by instantly. The song has a wonderfully aged feel to it, it's got one foot firmly in the past and that, gentle readers, is a beautiful thing. The vocals have more than a hint of Jacques Brel to them - huskily baritone, deeply rousing and very moving indeed. It conjures up images of a singer, leaning on the piano, or sitting close by, cigarette decorously in hand, pearls of smoke rising and falling in the air and a sepia atmosphere, quiet - hushed and reverential as the song plays out. The joy here is in the simplicity of the instrumentation. It's both uncomplicated and unfussy, yet filled with such tenderness and longing. It is three minutes of utterly heartbreaking perfection. There is no other way to describe it. thegeneral is in love.
"Tell all the people you can't bear to face, you need to know when it's time to leave".
If you have loved this and would like to hear more from this shamefully under-rated outfit, then please please please go to the Tiny Lights Recordings bandcamp page and look up their latest album "The Songs We Sang To Death"
It is a masterclass in beautifully understated elegance. You will not regret it. Give By Toutatis your support. A truly wonderful act.
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
See this is what happens isn't it? You wait ages for a blog post about CUD and then three come along at once. Anyroadup, here goes with this one.
I was lucky enough to get tickets to go and see them play their Manchester date on Saturday 9th November 2013. It hath verily been a long time since thegeneral let her hair down. So long in fact that I actually remember the lone violin player, the crowds of people trying to escape and the panic that the running buffet on the Titanic might run out of mini pasties (it didn't, but they weren't half damp).
It was therefore with a great sense of excitement that I sat at my dressing table applying ALL THE EYELINER IN THE WORLD, before slipping into my little indie frock and Hey Boots to make the journey into the entertainment capital of the world. Oswaldtwistle. No. No, that was another night out entirely. No, I really was on my way to Manchester. Getting old you see. Getting forgetful. Who are you again...?
The Ruby Lounge is a really nice, homely and friendly venue - warm and inviting, with a great atmosphere and a welcoming feel. After a quick scoot round the stage to get the above shot ^^ a little light reclining was partaken of on the comfy leather sofas whilst waiting for the evening to kick off properly.
At 9.30pm sharp (bit racily late for thegeneral, it has to be said...) CUD arrived on stage and struck up with one of my favourites - the brilliantly charming and sweet "Hey Boots". They must have known I was wearing my knee highs that night. Oh baby, etc. It really kicked everything off in great style and the gig sped by at a rate of knots. The whole set list was brilliant, but the stand out tracks were "Not Exactly DLERC", "Rich and Strange", "Purple Love Balloon", "Robinson Crusoe" and the wonderfully dirty "Neurotica". Special mention though has to go to the new single "Louise/Mexico" which you can read about here and then go and buy...please...go buy it! When they came back on and played "Slack Time" it was a proper punch the air and shout out moment, just thrilling.
I don't think I stopped dancing the whole time, it was impossible not to move and be moved by the brilliant sounds and the obvious joy in seeing the band really enjoying what they were doing. They haven't lost it one bit - and to be honest, put a lot of other, younger upstarts to shame.
The whole evening was like reliving my teenage years all over again - remembering how the music made me feel (...somewhat lusty it has to be said, I'll spare your blushes...) but the main thing I'll take away from the night was how good natured it was. How lovely the crowd were, what a friendly atmosphere it was and how the fans were up on stage dancing with the band and it just felt right. Someone on Twitter commented that it was the first time they'd seen an over 40's Mosh Pit, but bloody hell they were showing the rest of us how it should be done.
So, exhausted, but incredibly happy - it was time to leave and wend my weary way home, head and heart singing, body buzzing and fizzing with energy and a feeling that I'd witnessed something very special indeed.
Please come back to Manchester soon. This time it wasn't too circumspect to expect your special effects to effect. They did. Magic.
Sunday, 10 November 2013
Well, we're almost at the end of the weekend and M***ay is looming like an overbearing fishwife with a frying pan and no inhibitions. What can we listen to to lull ourselves into the new working week?
How about this?
A lovely new collaboration between lyricist Richard Earls and composer Thierry Audousset, called "Older, Wiser, Harder". thegeneral was very happy to receive this little EP taster to listen to earlier on in the week - and I am reliably informed that this Anglo/Gallic collaboration will be released this month.
It's a really nice mix of thoughtful and stirring lyrics, combined with lush piano/guitar and each little piece is a like a vignette - a snapshot or moment, capturing a mood or theme, so it seems to me anyway.
Afore we go any further, clicketh ye on the linky below so you can sample the music for yourself:
For me, the standout track is the one which you'll find starts at about 1.40 in. The beautifully melodic piano combines with an opening lyric "Expressionless, that's what I've learned to be..." and is quite haunting in both it's simplicity and the emotion of the words.
There is a really good combination of styles and influences on here - with the potential for there to be something for everyone. There is a rawness to Earl's vocal performance, which is set off by the tightly constructed and intricate music. This is a collection of songs with maturity and experience behind them. Definitely worth a listen - thegeneral recommends this highly...
Tuesday, 5 November 2013
I bet you weren't expecting another entry so soon, were you? (As the bishop said to the actress) However, here we are again. It's Tuesday and thegeneral is in a little bit of a lather over another wonderful release that came to her inbox this very morning. Never refuse an entry in your inbox, by the way, as refusal often offends.
So today I'm going to introduce you to a really exciting group that hail from Wicklow, called Wiltz. thegeneral became aware of them late last year, when they released a rather stonking split sided single with another excellent act called Facing (from Dublin if memory serves) which you can download and listen to here:
It is very well worth a little listen.
Today sees the release of the band's full album, called, heartwarmingly, The Nostalgia Tapes. Before we go any further, here's where to get it from:
It's a great, great listen. Simple as that. First and foremost it's from one of the most exciting new genres of music around at the moment, maths-pop/rock. If you're like me and you find beautifully intricate guitars that seem to sing to each other, interwoven with lulling bass and melodies that sound so complex - but seem to get stuck in your head straight away, then you'll love this.
This is an album of instrumentals, which can sometimes put people off, but please don't be. There's a really nice mix of styles and sounds on here to keep you interested and engaged, from really rocky rhythms to gently ambling pieces which feel calming and have a nicely chilled out feel. Sometimes, the tracks effortlessly combine the two - swinging back and forth between alive and dreamlike. The contrast between fast and slow pacing within the tracks is nicely played out too and there isn't a single piece on here that doesn't grab you.
Standout tracks are, for thegeneral "C" and "Not Bad For Doin-a-deh", the latter being brilliantly chippy and engaging and incredibly catchy.
Please give Wiltz a listen, go to their bandcamp page and download their album - give generously, they deserve it.
Monday, 4 November 2013
Welcome to a new working week (I'm not going to say the word Monda...shit...I just did...) anyway, here we all are and thegeneral has something really rather lovely to lull you into a dreamlike state. No, not a metric fudgetonne of drugs, but this brand new EP from Charlie Big Time.
Now then, my interest was piqued when this sweet set of songs arrived in my inbox for review (not a euphemism), not least because this band are from my neck of the woods in Lancashire - but because it genuinely wasn't what I was expecting to hear.
I think I wrongly assumed their name implied that they would be some kind of hulkingly heavy guitar band, but what I actually got was something much more ethereal, something much more lullingly gentle and beguiling and readers, it has captivated me.
Hands up if you remember shoegazing? That's three of you accounted for. This little collection of songs is a gently reminiscent nudge towards that, but with an eminently more poppy, indie feel and offers a very accessible take on a genre that some indie-kids found challenging.
The vocals are spacily intermingled with whispy, dreamy chords - the guitar melodies are never over played or over stated and the lyrics - sometimes determinedly edgy mix perfectly with the music. Stand out tracks are the opener "A Sunday Afternoon Well Spent" and penultimate track ""Pitiful, Delightful and Alarming".
The EP is available to buy on the extremely hipncool Seattle based Jigsaw Records:
Or you can get it for digital download from the Jigsaw Records bandcamp page:
You can also have a look at the band's website and their previous releases here:
And thegeneral highly recommends you do. Not just because they're a local band, but because they're really rather lovely and deserve some more fans. Charlie Big Time, you heard them here - now run with them, run like the wind my child.
Friday, 1 November 2013
Friday. Named after the God of Thankfuckits. Welcome to the weekend and welcome to a decidedly excited edition of thegeneral.
Long, long ago, in far away galaxy (Lancashire) there lived an impressionable teenager who was desperate for something new and exciting to listen to. This impressionable teenager was watching The Chart Show, one Saturday morning in the very early 1990s (remember The Chart Show? A load of bands you'd never heard of with some really bad graphics and ad breaks thrown in) and came across a band called CUD and their 1992 hit "Rich and Strange".
Well, that was it. thegeneral was blown away, hooked, in lust/love, bowled over, captivated and much more besides. This is one of the many reasons why - have a listen to 1994's "Neurotica":
Moving back to 1992, though - pocket money was saved up and not long after, spent on a brand spanking new copy of the band's album "Asquarius" and to be frank, it was played and played and played until one day the cassette deck spat it out and said "There are OTHER bands you know. What about a nice bit of Dire Straits or some Status Quo?" to which thegeneral replied "You have no taste, you're a talking tape player..." before going to Currys to buy a new HiFi.
thegeneral then spent some time exploring the band's other stuff, their back catalogue and finding out as much about them as possible and it was a very happy voyage through some truly wonderful music. Leggy Mambo, anybody? (That's not an offer...it's one of their records...). Even the covers of classic songs they did offered a very unique and quirky take on music that other bands at the time would have avoided at all costs. Case in point. YOU SEXY THING:
Of course, times change, bands come and go and as with everything good things come to an end...
Last year thegeneral was excited to find that the band were reforming and touring. A blog post was written by me, here - blast-from-past-cud. Worth a read...
Even more joy, when just this last week thegeneral discovered that not only were they touring again, but there was a bloody bloody bloody new single coming out - yes, a bloody bloody bloody new single! You can watch it here:
"Louise" is just lovely. It's three and a bit minutes of joy and happiness - such a really nice, pure yet sexy sound. Carl's vocals were always richer than the average, perfectly pitched and luscious, and they haven't lost it one bit, if this song is anything to go by. It brought back so many happy memories of first getting into the band, discovering their sound and realising there weren't many acts that they could be compared to.
The single is out on 11th November and you can order from here: cud.greedbag.com/ so please do, as it will be money well spent (and if people buy it and like it, they might stick around and record some more...)
In the meantime it is so nice to see CUD back. So nice. Long may they stick around to show the others how it is done.