What a year it has been for the Audio Extravaganza. The last 14 shows have appeared in the Mixcloud Global Indie Charts and now hit the Indie, Indie Pop and Indie Rock Charts. Who says people don't listen to new music?
With reaching the end of year, it is time for the Best of 2019. Normally these are compiled in two volumes, but this year we are going for a Double Episode, so my favourite 40 songs of the year are here for your listening pleasure.
This is not a chart, these are the 40 faves. Track 1 has no greater preference than Track 40. The only qualifying requirement is that the song must have been played on a Volume of the IDHAS Audio Extravaganza during 2019.
This has been compiled in the normal way the mixes are. It was originally compiled as two volumes, so you can have a natural break if you are so inclined after Track 20. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to listen to these. New Music deserves to be heard.
If you use the mixcloud player at the bottom of this page, each song title is shown as it plays.
Thanks as always to Jim Moody for his technical excellence. You can listen to the previous IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on Mixcloud here.
Here's Volume 88's playlist :
01 Project Ghost Outfit - Hang On
02 The Brothers Steve - Beat Generation Poet Turned Assassin
03 Ben Vogel - Cassidy
04 The Bobbleheads - Anne Murray
05 Nick Frater - What Does Good Look Like
06 Fangclub - Nightmare
07 Bryan Estepa - No Ordinary
08 Norman - Hell You Are
09 The Junior League - Have Faith In Yourself
10 Andy Bopp - In The Interest Of Time Pt 1
11 Sundial Symphony - Merri Goes Round
12 Dot Dash - Unfair Weather
13 Louise Connell - Rope
14 The Anderson Council - Our Worlds Collide
15 Lost Ships - Best Laid Plans
16 Berwanger - Bad Vibrations
17 Big Eyes - Lucky You
18 The Morning Line - Nostradamus
19 Adrian Belew - The Times We Live In
20 The Late Great - Sundown Surrender
21 Ulysses - Dragons
22 Alex Lahey - I Don't Get Invited To Parties Anymore
23 No Win - After Your Legs
24 WarrenScottBand - She's A Little Bit Off
25 Paulusma - Singer Without Song
26 Ausley - Make This Relevant
27 Bottlecap Mountain - Dismayland
28 Colin Wylie - Pop, Chips And A Bardown
29 Karen Haglof - Tobiano Twirl
30 Custard Flux - Cirque D’enfant
31 Dan Luke And The Raid - Disco Is As Disco Does
32 Onesie - Customers
33 Erk - Taking My Time
34 The Lunar Laugh - Welcome To The World
35 Dave Cope And The Sass - Seeing Things
36 The Needs - Summerbore
37 The Davenports - Don't Be Mad At Me
38 Bill Lloyd And The Tallymen - Boy King Of Tokyo (Live)
39 Populuxe - Garage Sale
40 Mounties - Heavy Meta
It is often noted that the Indie scene is full of chancers, sadly the majority of these seem to come from Los Angeles. That's not me having a go at an area that I love, it's just plain matter of fact. You would be surprised for instance how many UK Internet Radio Stations are run from L.A. That may help explain some of the ridiculous Indie Charts that you see. You know the ones, the ones you look at as a seasoned music scene watcher and have never heard of 36 of the 40 artists. You pay the pluggers, who own the chart compilers, who own the radio stations, who report back to you about all the airplay you've had on these stations. Strangely your 400 dollars doesn't equate to one extra sale.
Then there's the live scene where the norm and seemingly accepted way of doing business is bands not getting paid, not even being allowed to run a tip jar because it would make the promoter look bad. The artists are doing it for the exposure. Exposure Pounds again equate to nothing, more on that in a bit. There are even compilation CDs that charge you to appear on them whilst the organiser keeps all the funds without doing any marketing. But you have the exposure of course. Below is a spoof that we did of these Indie Charts a while ago. It is still relevant.
Next Year, I Don't Hear A Single expands. Whilst this is exciting, it is also scary. What has always been a hobby and has never took one penny for anything, now has to make a little money to cover for the every day real life work that I will have to cut down. That doesn't mean IDHAS will change in the way you know it. The Blog will remain as it always has been, free and a celebration of new music. It will do this solely via distribution, the label and outside PR work for other companies.
I Don't Hear A Single has grown beyond belief and as it has got known, I've had less of the Exposure emails. Largely because these companies have learned and it has got around that they get a load of grief back from me. However, because I have been involved in another area over the past couple of weeks and the Exposure Givers have returned big style. I'll quickly detail why.
I offered to help an artist who I much admire with some PR. There was method in my thought. It was a change for me to do something like this and in an area where I'm known more as a fan than a writer. I'm not mad on PR, it is very time consuming. I thought it would be a nice trial run for what 2020 could be like for me promoting IDHAS and it was. For the couple of days that I helped, I enjoyed the variety and we had some success. I was helped by some knowing me as a fan and others knowing of me vaguely as a writer in a different genre.
However since then, the Exposure Brigade have returned. Would I like to help them for errrr exposure? Can I help with contacts for a credit? Would I write a review for them? One chancer even suggested that he would give me credit on other sites for a small fee??????? I've found out today that the artist is getting similar exposure requests from "Artist Showcases". My top tips for anyone involved in this shark pool? What can you do for me? Why is it costing me money? Why am I not being paid? Do not pay out anything that you can get help with or do yourself for free.
There constantly appears to be a theme with great Pop Rock bands of the 90's in that they build a loyal following, get signed by a major label and within a year or two they are no more. A lot of this is labels who sign a band because of what they are good at and then strangely try to change them into what the label thinks they should be.
It is a bit like meeting a partner and being smitten, then getting married and then trying to alter everything you loved about them. Why? The 90's is littered with examples. In The Mommyheads case, why on earth would you want to mess about with a band that produced an album as good as Bingham's Hole.
Thankfully, the band are back and in incredible form. Listen to Mutual Enemy, a song as good as anything you will hear this year and weep at the largely lost last 20 years. Future You is an album that enhances the Mommyheads reputation.
Eldsjal is a magnificent sprawling moody affair that continually breaks out into a Deep Purple-esque affair. Two versions are included here, the English and Swedish versions, the latter sing by Edward Forslund of Riddarna. Life In A Bubble even borders on Prog.
I'm reminded a lot of early Radiohead here, the time when they wanted to write songs than extended nonsense, but that's not the decry the splendid song structures here. The whole album is a real mix of the complex and the catchy.
Woke Up A Scientist edges towards Queen and The Hound is pure US 90's College Indie. Future You is a fantastic listen. After the start stop of their return over the past decade, let's hope they are back for good. The Mommyheads are far too good to be kept on a shelve.
The trouble with reviewing sometimes is that you can analyse the album so much that you lose sight of the actual music. Never has this been more true than with Cotton Candy, Rusty Nails, Pattie have fashioned up a cracking listen.
The Israeli Quartet offer up a wonderfully atmospheric album. On first listen, I spent most of the 43 minutes trying to define what the album was trying to be and then realised how pointless this was. When you then listen to the album as a whole, you realise that none of that matters. Never more has an album been meant to be listened to from start to finish.
There will be inevitable comparisons to Tame Impala and that would be unfair, because Pattie are far more than that. Whereas Kevin Parker comes across as far too clever for his own good, Pattie write songs with a beginning, middle and end. They are far more structured than soundscape.
The album largely falls into a gap between the Psych and Prog of the 70's and the Dream Pop of the 80's. The band feel nearest to Pond, although at times you can hear Greenslade. Repaint shows off the 70's in the way that Your Words opens up the 80's.
All of this feels original in an incredibly laid back way. Down To The Sea borders on Alan Parsons Project. Pair Of Shoes is very 70's Pop Rock. Bottomless Hole even sounds a bit Coldplay instrumentally, thankfully without Chris Martin's moaning voice and morphs into a Pink Floyd-ish close.
Cotton Candy, Rusty Nails is an incredibly rewarding listen, you just need to give it time for the album to connect. When it does, you will be playing it for months. I look forward to what the band come up with next, because this is great,
You can listen to and buy the album here. You can find out more about the band here.
After the success of Volume 86, which made three different Mixcloud Global Charts. the best being Number 17 in the Indie Pop Chart, we return to some normality. Volume 87 is the more traditional mix of new stuff with a splendid Archive song to open.
A reminder that these episodes are compiled with great care. The aim is to produce a sort of mix tape. Hopefully this will be the soundtrack to your day. I've also learned that if you use the mixcloud player at the bottom of this page, each song title is shown as it plays.
We may try to squeeze another new volume in before going to the two Best Of 2019 Volumes. It depends on how popular this Volume is. If this continues the success of the last 8 or 9 shows, we will move straight into the Best Ofs on New Years Eve.
20 Fantastic songs await your listening equipment. Thanks as always to Jim Moody for his technical excellence. You can listen to the previous IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on Mixcloud here. Here's Volume 87's playlist.
01 Imperial Drag - Boy Or A Girl
02 The Walker Brigade - Tower
03 The Skullers - Still Life
04 Green Buzzard - I Don’t Want To Be Alone
05 Bird Streets - Dear God
06 Mounties - Heavy Meta
07 My Little Hum - November In New York
08 The Paint Splats - I Gutted My VCR
09 The Fast Camels - The Wedding
10 Out Of My Hair - Cream
11 Recliner - The Affair We Never Had
12 Ulysses - Bad Tattoo
13 The Heck - I Won't Change
14 Beat Hotel - Feel It
15 Dave Kerzner - The Lie
16 Goodman - Watch Your Mouth
17 Fallon Cush - Burn
18 The Greek Theatre - Laurence Of Laurel Canyon
19 The Lounge Bar Orchestra - Maximum Strategy
20 Origami Angel - Welcome to...
Simon Eugene AKA Comfort was and is the masterful creative force behind the brilliant Out Of My Hair, a London based psychedelic pop rock combo from the mid nineties, mining adventurous melodic musical riches from similar fertile fields as Straw, Dererro, XTC and Octopus. They put out a handful of fantastic, should have so been hits, singles like In The Groove Again and Mister Jones and a tremendously fine album, Drop The Roof.
Creatively Comfort had it all, a beautiful honey drenched voice, genius song craft, a psychedelic mind and a remarkable and magnetic onstage charisma that was impossible to ignore. Unfortunately what he also had was a dull-brained major label in tow which all too typically hadn’t got a clue what it was doing most of the time and clumsily dropped the golden ball at every opportunity.
By the end he was left at the best kept secret end of things, adored by the true music lovers who knew his stuff and cherished every precious note. But relatively unknown outside of that fervent cult following. But now, finally, a proper release of the mostly unreleased second, (and just as great), album heralds his return. Followed soon after by a new single that shows his considerable talents undiminished and raring to go. Definitely in the groove again…time for a word….
What are your earliest memories of first getting into music?
"Well one was my dad bringing home the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar, the film. There is an overture, the opening track, all atmospheres and very 70s sounding electric guitars. Actually the new album by Michael Kiwanuka has this kind of sound, single string fuzz guitars and heavy spring reverbs.
I was supposed to be asleep, but I could hear him playing it and I was just so excited, so taken by it. I have never stopped loving that album. Its so funny that it is like an Andrew Lloyd Webber album...and Tim Rice and yet it is up there as one of the best things ever."
Which music artists first made you sit up and take notice?
"The Beatles and Wings, especially Band on the Run, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, Blondie, Marvin Gaye, Joan Armatrading (early memories of Love and Affection), Kate Bush. Then discovering Syd Barrett and the Velvet Underground was just like…the meaning of it all.
I played a piano quite young and had music lessons at school but, being old old school, the teacher would hit your hand hard with a ruler every time you made a mistake. So this clearly didn't encourage me to carry on. I did the self-taught route and became anti learning anything. The guitar came later, because I was left handed and didn't realise. Well of course I realised, because I wrote left handed, but my Granddad had a couple of guitars and I couldn't understand why it was so hard to play.
Then one day I found out I could string it the other way and I was off. But it was later, at around thirteen. I think I wrote a song about unemployment when I was twelve! Then nothing until maybe fifteen or so and then it just came pouring out."
What was the first song you wrote where you knew you had something?
"I wrote a song about my other granddad who was dying. It was called Old Man. It was just so deep and so sad...I think its still pretty moving now. So I believe around then. I tried to play guitar in a couple of bands, but I was really bad back then. Really enthusiastic but really bad. So I'd turn up all happy and full of excitement to rehearsals only to find I'd been kicked out.
So I went solo and Out Of My Hair came out of that because it was always a solo project that I built a band around later. I didn't have a clue how to break into the music business. I got a place at University, but dropped out because I wanted to be a musician.
But I was just hanging around North London getting really stoned as you do, on the dole, having occasional acid flashbacks and just sitting in my room writing song after song. Loads of songs about how I didn't know what to do, I thought I had fucked my whole life up by the time I was twenty one. There's a song on Drop the Roof...Wendy. That was all about that.
Basically I was at this guy's house in Finsbury Park who I bought my hash off and we were both sitting there stoned, probably not even talking to each other. Then his mum rang up and told him there was this free music biz course on a boat on the Thames and he should go do it. So I went with him. We did a week there and at the end, I played one of my songs and everyone turned round and looked at me like...wow.
That’s how I found my first manager, he was on the course too. He said lets get some gigs. I had some friends that I knew from hanging out at a hippy commune in Scotland, including Barny, the first Out Of My Hair drummer. So I called him up and we'd play and try out different friends until we reached some kind of good sounding line-up."
"We played about five gigs and RCA approached me in the Amersham Arms in New Cross and showed some interest. Then I put out the Valley Sound cassette. That 4 track tape, I love it. From there it all kind of came together and ended up with a record deal.
The album recording process was very challenging for me because in the 90s, the recording technology didn’t lend itself to the sounds I wanted to make. We know now how to make everything crunchy and retro, but back then everything was SSL desks and drums kits with 15 mics. Things were quite bright and thin sounding and this caused me tremendous angst and sleepless nights! I couldn’t get the sounds I wanted and I ended up getting some of my own gear and trying to learn how to do it on my own.
Pre-computer, this took a while to get my head around, but I ended up coming up with the recording of In the Groove Again. I got the sound! But my record company refused to push it because they said that radio wouldn’t play it. Whereas Radio 1 picked up on it and played it loads, but there was no promotion. This is a long story and the battles that I had with them regarding the nature of sound was pretty much the story of my signed career.
But anyway…we ended up finishing Drop the Roof with Pascal Gabriel and Jim Abbiss, great guys, great producers. It was a mix of self recorded stuff and studio recordings. It worked out well. Hits? We never had one. Only in Japan, where the album sold well, maybe across Europe, I’m not sure.
Yes we supported Bowie, but what should have been a fantastic experience turned into a near disaster because Bowie’s crew said we were out of control and they had to put a security guard on our dressing room. It wasn’t true and we nearly lost our agent because of it. Now I think wow, we supported Bowie. Because he is no longer here. How amazing is that?"
So you then drop the name and the next release goes under the name of Comfort. What was the thinking behind that?
"We recorded what became God Is In The Detail in Spain with producer Chris Kimsey and engineer Chris Potter. Potter went straight from there to recording Urban Hymns. It was six weeks of complete mayhem. We nearly didn't get anything done, it was…another story. I think we changed the name of the project, because we were having so much trouble at RCA. We just wanted to redefine it away from the past associations and because the old band had changed so much it didn't quite feel like how it started out."
So then there’s the International Love Corporation ….I will admit I knew nothing about this at all until recently. What a wonderful sounding album….though you say the live band was a very different animal.
"The ILC band was the best thing that I have been involved in so far. I had a no rehearsal policy and the band members would rotate. We would do gigs with people who had never played with us before and possibly hadn’t even heard the songs. We would just see what happened. I was running clubs in London and a lot of it centred around there. Loads of us lived in this part of Camden, Camden Square.
It was the best time and the band was like I imagined these great American 70s touring bands, like the Grateful Dead or something. It was sensational, lots of different players, great musicians. We did the album with a great friend of mine, Mike Pelanconi, who is known better as Prince Fatty, a dub master and the best engineer I have worked with, bar none."
How does the song writing process work with you?
"To be alone. Mainly. When I hear Kevin Parker from Tame Impala talk about his music making process I feel like I am hearing myself speaking….be alone, let it come, arise. Just play, don't think, words come best at the same time as the song, otherwise the lyric writing is far more of a process than the music. If I get into the swing of being alone, then after a few days it will come pouring out and then you have to make a good judgement of when to stop and actually do something with it.
I’ve written far more songs than I can ever record. At one point in my life I actually made a decision to try and stop writing so much because I didn’t know how to handle it. Like it was some kind of illness. How that relates to what you actually produce as an ‘artist’ is again another story.
But if you write and record and you have nowhere to release it, that can really cut you up inside. I think around the ILC time, with no record company and pre the internet explosion for music…I just went a bit mad. In the end, I had to leave everything and spend a few years…wandering."
What would you say were your biggest influences in the recording process?
"The biggest influences are the sound of things and the moment you hear them. This can be the sound of Lou Reed's rhythm guitar in the Velvet Underground, the first chord of Who Loves the Sun, the opening of Rock n Roll. It’s having an expectation of Prince, back in the day and then hearing Parade. The sound of No Man’s Land on the Madcap Laughs…even now I hear the Barrell by Aldous Harding or Moonshine Freeze by This is the Kit and something inside me just says yes to the sound of the guitar working with the drums. On and on.. the attack of the intro piano on Lovely Rita, the first moment. For me one of the biggest things was to put sounds in recording that you couldn’t hear. That is psychedelic for me, the unheard sound…
And then you stopped… what happened between then and your return last year?
I never stopped but I went away. I wandered; I carried on with the ILC but made it not a band but a way of life and an exploration into life. It led me on the most amazing journeys, more psychedelic than any music possible. I would love to write about it one day.
Now I’m back in this world, well I’ll just release more music again, tour where I can. When I started I had so much expectation- nothing was ever good enough. Last weekend I got played by Mark Radcliffe on Radio 6-the first new song on the radio in like twenty years…it felt like the best feeling on the world.
You can buy the Cream single here. Back Catalogue is available here. You can find out more about Simon and Out Of My Hair here.
Toby Jepson's Wayward Sons offer up their second album and it is a corking listen. Little Angels were always thrown into the Metal gang and Wayward Sons seem to be suffering the same with the Hard Rock label. Both bands can Rock, but they are much closer to AOR.
Despite advice from my great friend, Nick Fletcher, who is constantly trying to get me to venture more into AOR territory, I manage to resist. However somewhere between AOR and Metal is very very acceptable. Particularly when the albums are as good as this.
Yes Jepson is back and he is angry at the world. The Truth Ain't What It Used To Be hits the balance just right. The riffs are plentiful, the solos aren't over long and the melody more than the drips from the album.This is a splendid affair.
Toby Jepson has a fine set of pipes, here he is nearer Styx at times, a noisier Styx for sure. The album doesn't come up for air too much, but on the two slower songs, Fade Away and Us Against The World, this could be Dennis De Young.
This is very much up and at 'em stuff. Songs such as Any Other Way, As Black As Sin and Have It Your Own Way will get your fists pumping. The opening riff on Little White Lies is wonderful, the whole song is AOR joy, probably the only time the album ventures fully into the territory.
Although this isn't the sort of album normally covered on IDHAS, I have recently played Joke's On You on the Audio Extravaganza and it is the stand out here. It is a crackerjack of a song, some great Jerry Lee Lewis piano just adds to the pleasure. Well done Wayward Sons! You've hooked me completely.
The album is available everywhere. You can find out more about the band here.
Over to New Jersey now and the quartet that is The Warhawks. I've seen the band referred to as Punk Rock and I don't concur with that at all. Never Felt So Good was released earlier this year and it is a cracking slab of noisy Indie Rock.
Also don't be fooled by the noise, although there is plenty of Garage Rock here, there's also hints of Classic Rock as well as sleeze. At times I'm reminded of The Quireboys. An accusation of basement production is often levelled at albums such as this, well not a bit of that here.
This is a beautifully produced Guitar album. Big choruses amongst the wonderful looseness. The 28 minutes fly by, the album just doesn't come up for air, it is an Indie Wall Of Sound. Got It From Me could become their anthem and Ten Things is a wonderful closer, it's moody and magnificent, reminds me of Days Of Europa era Skids.
Not A Problem has so much attitude, very CBGBs and Soulsucker verges on Guns n Roses. There are influences all over the place from The Stones to The Replacements, but everything sounds uniquely The Warhawks. This is a really impressive affair. Plus, Nothing To Do is one of the best songs that I've heard all year.
I'm sure some regular band followers may accuse the band of selling out and there is a hint of looking for the right direction. But who cares? When an album sounds this good, they can keep searching all they like. Never Felt So Good is a nine song joy,
You can listen to and buy the album for a bargain 5 dollars here.
The new Lannie Flowers album is magnificent. It is as magnificent as his previous solo albums and as magnificent as his music with The Pengwins. The man not being massive is one of those great injustices and surely Home is the album to change this.
As a long time fan, I continually look for reasons why. The column inches and web words always seem to come from the same direction and the label Power Pop doesn't do Flowers justice. He isn't Power Pop, he's a Rock artist, call it Indie Rock if you like, but he is definitely Rock.
It is also a tad frustrating that the album has been released so late in the year. Too late maybe for many Magazine Best Of Years and also a risk that in 2020, it is treated like last year's news. But it is what it is and it is a masterpiece.
Home more than any other Lannie Flowers should put this Power Pop thing to bed early and for good. Indeed on Free To Dream and I Got A Secret, there is far more of A Van Morrison feel. It certainly isn't Material Issue.
Anyway and In Time verge on great mellow Beatles Pop. Although Flowers is great when he lets loose and he does here on the wonderful It's All Over and Running certainly do that, overall here the noise is held back a little and that further demonstrates the song craft.
TV Off ventures into Psych Pop successfully with a killer Blues solo, but Home, at heart, is very reflective, a real storytelling album. Never more so than on Missing You Tonight, He's Going Home and Anyway. The latter is pure McCartney Pop.
It's All Over is a four minute epic and the title track is bouncy pop of the title track is joyous. I never expected this album to be anything other than great. The monthly digital singles had promised this, but it is nice to have it more than confirmed.
So if you like Home (and I can see no reason why you wouldn't), tell everyone that you do. It really is time to breakout in the whole wide world, not just a few American States. Home is fantastic, shout it from the rooftops.
You can listen to the album here. You can buy the album from Spyderpop here and everywhere. Find out more about it here.
Recliner are from San Francisco and have been around since 2001. The Wait is album number six with a further two EPs recorded in the period. The surprising thing is that they haven't broken out, bearing in mind this is the sort of Pop Rock that should appeal to many.
2015's Unfinished Conversations gave a hint of what was to come. It revealed a stretching out in the songwriting. Plenty of the familiar, but a few more chances then. The Wait goes the whole hog and offers up an album of two halves.
The first half is classic Pop Rock, very Brit Pop sounding, but all hooks and choruses, real singalong stuff. At times Recliner remind me of Vegas With Randolph and any one of these first five songs could breakout in its own right.
It's Who We Are has probably the best chance with it's big chorus, although the New Wave stomp of The Affair We Never Had runs it close, it may be created in San Francisco, but it sounds like the spirit was on these shores. The Wait is a fine title track. It sounds a bit like peak period Robbie Williams. Don't let that put you off, just think Guy Chambers.
The second half of the album is built far more on experimentation. The You-Us Anthem is built around a Billy Duffy Cult riff, very 80's, almost The Alarm. Postmodern Homesick Blues is Country Rock and twang, whilst Wake Up is built around a Funk Bass Line that could be Duran Duran in Notorious mode.
Misery Loves Company bounces along into Lloyd Cole territory, yet Buzzard is a Big Arena Rock ballad with its moody Lead Guitar Lines. The Wait is an astonishingly good album. It will make you wonder why you haven't heard of Recliner earlier.
There really is something for everyone here. The Scarf wavers are beautifully catered for in the first half. Those looking for something deeper that requires a bit more thinking have plenty in the second half. Whether either suits, only you will know, but just try and not sing along to The Affair We Never Had.
You can buy the album on Vinyl or as a download on Recliner's Indiegogo page here. You can listen to the album here. It is also available to buy on the likes of Amazon here and CD Baby here as well as streaming everywhere. You can find out more about the band here.
OK. I'm not gonna say it, oh alright I will. Some people who don't have deadlines to hit, release their Best of Year way too early. I've previously given some examples, but here is the main one. Mansion Harlots released their new album this week and it is one of the best Pop Rock albums that you will hear this, or indeed any, year.
Many of you will know of Baz Francis from the wonderful Magic Eight Ball or his solo output. For over a decade and a half, Francis has been releasing what has become an admirable back catalogue, majoring on crunchy Guitar led Pop. Well Mansion Harlots was his first band.
Initially formed in 1997 with drummer Will Gray and a revolving line up, Mansion Harlots disbanded in 1999, but kept working together and in 2017, it was decided to reform the band. Honed by their return to the live stage, All Around A Fairground was completed this year.
I like to think that I know what is going on, so when I get caught by surprise by an album, it is more than welcome. This album reminds me of how I felt when I heard Somerdale's Shake It Maggie, so much so that Tale Of The Same Old Story could be interchanged between both bands.
What does shout out here, is the sheer melodic quality of the material. I knew Francis could sing and his guitar playing is exemplary, but this is up another level. The quality never lets up and here's hoping that the commercial quality finally gets the credit that it deserves.
All bases are covered from the Don Henley-ish Until We Work It Out Tomorrow to the Riff Rock of Come Back For More. Meet Me In The Shadows reminds me of a calmer JJ72, until it goes all Fleetwood Mac in the chorus. Lover, What D'ya Put Me Through? is Power Pop of the highest order.
Happier Alone is a real American Soft Rock singalong and Panda Eyes is 80's Film Soundtrack material. You could pick any of these 12 songs to be a single. All Around A Fairground is Pop Rock of the highest order. I can't recommend it highly enough.
When you see Los Angeles, you normally think of Sunshine Pop or West Coast Rock. Well this L.A. Quartet offer up a stunning album of Psychedelic Rock. Maybe Someday delves deeply into shoegaze, but in a darker totally hypnotic way.
Built on enormous riffs that penetrate the skull, the effect is a wonderful departure from what I've been listening to lately and demonstrates what a fantastic soundscape that Psych can be if you open up your mind. This is truly wonderful.
This is a sonic adventure, so don't be expecting to sing along. At times, it is wonderfully heavy, almost Stone Sour heavy. But the band's landing point is somewhere between early Pink Floyd and My Bloody Valentine.The album is suitably noisy, but never in your face.
The riff on The One is pure Iommi, whilst Behind Mind sounds like Spacemen 3 wanting to be Hawkwind. I Believe is built around what could be a Stuart Adamson run, particularly Absolute Game era Skids.
Dreams is a big moody closer, again in Space Rock territory, but the stand out song here is the title track with it's Berlin undertones. It reminds me a lot of Ozric Tentacles instrumentally wise, indeed a lot of the album does. No Bad Thing! Maybe Someday is Top Notch Psych, updated for the next generation. Well done Tombstones In Their Eyes.
People ask me why I no longer write about Power Pop. The answer is I do, it is just integrated in to other genres, rather than actually named that. I never left Power Pop, it sort of left me. It has always been a label that divided artists, a label loved or hated whilst the vast majority of music listeners haven't a clue what it is.
I used to think of examples to make them understand, do you know Squeeze?. Now I just don't care. It became a scene that fire bombed itself and the sad thing is that it wasn't the bands who continue to make great albums. It was a combination of the supposed fans and the writers. The writers seemed to be in a battle to be the King, it was always a king, of Power Pop.
Instead of celebrating the success of others, there became a bitching and badmouthing largely built on selfishness and jealousy. Why does he get albums that I don't? Also a collective where writers were wined and dined, so labels that didn't get involved with this nonsense were left to perish. Bands weren't paid for gigs, because that's not what the scene does. Five years ago, Power Pop was so vibrant, now it is last man standing. There are still a few great writers, but they are the exception, a lot of it is cut and paste PR.
Then there are the fans, who are mainly middle aged men, who reside on forums and groups. They are the arbiter of what is and isn't Power Pop. Most new music to them is rubbish, it isn't like it was in their day or rips of The Power Pops or some other 70's or early 90's band. I mean in the dying throes of 2019, Rock and Roll in it's seventh decade has little less to originate.
So where do these bands go? Five years ago, a band as good as The Whiffs would be lauded, so now we have to find an audience for them and we should. Another Whiff is a fantastic album, because so few do this now. It reminds me a lot of Lo-Fi, Nick Lowe Produced, Stiff albums. That lo-fi, is deliberately, deliciously done. I'm reminded of the best of the past, whilst I want to celebrate what they have done now. Hey Little Anne could be Pezband, Please Be True could be Chinn and Chapman and My Vision Of Love is fantastic late 60's London Club Night joy.
Essentially though, despite comparisons, The Whiffs should be celebrated for what they do now.
There is great variety. all of which is toe tapping great. Throw It Away is glorious New Wave Pop. Seventeen reminds me a lot of another breakout new band, The Speedways. Please Come Home has a splendid Bruce Foxton Bass line that adds to the Pop Rock delight. Every one of these 14 songs are worthy of inclusion. True they may sound like something else, but who cares? I'd rather listen to something as good as this when it is done so well.
This is an album that deserves to be owned and raved about. We just have to decide who to tell and how. You can listen to and buy the album here.
Volume 86 of the Audio Extravaganza is so special that it could be considered to be an Audio Explosion. The Big Stir Weekly Digital Singles have been an absolute revelation. The 57th single is released tomorrow (20 December) and four compilations have been released featuring the A's and B's of the relevant singles as CD and Download combined purchases.
I've decided to pick my current favourites for Volume 86 of the Audio Extravaganza. I say current because faves change weekly, even daily. Timing meant I could only fit 23 in the mix as there is a 70 minute show limit. The only distinction that I gave was that I would only choose A Sides.
You can find out more and purchase individual singles at the bargain price of a dollar for the two songs by visiting the Big Stir page here. It has been a fantastic year for the Big Stir Label and look out for further news early next year for some joint news concerning Big Stir and I Don't Hear A Single.
A reminder that these episodes are compiled with great care. The aim is to produce a sort of mix tape. Hopefully this will be the soundtrack to your day. I've also learned that if you use the mixcloud player at the bottom of this page, each song title is shown as it plays.
Thanks as always to Jim Moody for his technical excellence. You can listen to the previous IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on Mixcloud here. Here's Volume 86's playlist that starts with a special intro from The Brothers Steve's Os Tyler and Jeff Whalen.
01 The Brothers Steve - Angeline (With Intro Bumper)
02 Sundial Symphony - Merri Goes Round
03 The Walker Brigade - Tower
04 Armstrong - Love Hate Passion and War
05 Spygenius - If You Go A-Roving
06 In Deed - I'm Alright (When I'm With You)
07 Joe Normal & The Anytown'rs - Don't Hurt Me
08 Librarians With Hickeys - Black Velvet Dress
09 Lannie Flowers - Day Glow All Night
10 Blake Jones & The Trike Shop - My Soft Rock Girlfriend
11 The Armoires - (How Did You Make) A Mistake Like Me
12 The Reflectors - Teenage Hearts.mp3
13 The Vapour Trails - Sonic Wave
14 The Ex Teens - Good News (for Shut-Ins)
15 Blaine Campbell - Happy Faces
16 The Kariannes - This Song Is A Cure
17 Plasticsoul - The Ghost Inbetween Us
18 Karla Kane - Goodguy Sun
19 The Persian Leaps - Catnip For Cupid
20 The Hangabouts - Who Wants Cilla
21 The Tor Guides - Just A Smile
22 Jim Basnight - Never Get Lost
23 mylittlebrother - Love Song For An Island
I'm 56 (I know it is hard to believe) and I have a few problems with music fans of a similar vintage. I'm not gonna go through them here, many of you will see them in my adventures on Facebook. I'll just approach the subject of one here and that is the constant griping that the young don't make great music.
Put aside your prejudices, because there is some fine music out there. Just accept that da kidz are not all about algorithms and likes and turning up the Bass. realise that new music will be by new artists who are unlikely to be 56. Give youth a try, you never know, you might just like it.
Hey Major are two Canadian Brothers, Mickael and Raphael Fortin. Both are multi instrumentalists and The Station is unashamedly Commercial Pop. This debut album aims at multiple targets and not all of it will appeal to all, it can come across a bit K-Tel 20 Poptastic Hits. But in a way that's the beauty of what is on offer, because there is something for everyone.
There's a lot of Brit Pop here and it is that appeals to me most. Old Enough is an absolute cracker of a song, as good as anything you will hear this year, it is top class Pop Rock. The title track, The Station is hypnotic and Brother is a wonderful soaring piano led ballad.
Connie is another fine piano led ballad and the big soundscape closer, Smoke And Mirrors, has an eastern undertone that catches you by surprise. There's a bit of boy band pop present that may not suit all, but overall The Station is a fine debut album and well worth your attention.
You can listen to and buy the album here. The album is also available on the streaming links contained here.
Croatia's Ichobod offers up a wonderful nine song selection that will delight fans of both Psych Pop and 60's UK Pop. The album crosses over into Folk and even Baroque in a delightfully low key way. The whole thing is an absolute joy.
There is Electric here. but that is to expand the largely acoustic songs. At times, the album feels very Donovan, but the pop fights successfully to get out and this enhances the lo-fi delight of Psychedelic Chansons Volume 1.
This is a moody sweeping journey through the late 60's whilst also feeling very Canterbury and also providing flashes of Robyn Hitchcock. The arrangements are spot on, particularly on the twee Lloyd Cole-esque Gilda, it even sounds Bolan when he had the flowers in his hair.
God Help The Slob is very Orgone Box Psych Pop, while Never Alone is happy Lennon with a splendid Toybox soundtrack. The Stand out song though is Dinner Song. It begins very Andy Partridge Beatles Pop, morphs into the hippy trippy and then a third part bounces into a bouncy instrumental close. All of this is kept within 3 minutes.
Apologies for the delays in getting the next two Audio Extravaganzas to you. These have been delayed due to technical issues during the mixing. We'll probably go straight into the 2 part Best Of 2019 Volumes, once they are with you all.
In the meantime, here's something that the Power Pop fans amongst you will enjoy. Those who follow the scene may recognise the targets. My own opinion is that Power Pop in 2019 has been very much like this, so it's a sort of full circle.
Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster are in fine form on WFMU's The Best Show. This was originally broadcast on 22 May 2007. Most Power Pop fans will know, or make up their own mind about the targets. I can tell you from my experience, that in 2019, the scene is still very much like this.
Robbie Rist, a man even more hilarious than me, no there is someone honest, wrote a nice piece about the show in the current Big Stir Magazine. I listened again tonight and was laughing out loud. It is a splendid 26 minute listen.
Hopefully this will put you listeners on until the Volume 86 of the Audio Extravaganza is ready for your discerning ears You can listen by going to the IDHAS Mixcloud page following the link below or going to the foot of this post and clicking on the embedded show.
We are back in more familiar territory with Washington State's The Rallies. Upside Down provides Wonderful Pop across these 10 songs. 2017's debut album, Serve is a fine album, but Upside Down takes this on a pace. There is nothing sophomore (that dreadful word!) about it.
The songs seem more focused, the craft honed and in vocalist Steve Davis, the band have a modern day. Neil Finn. The choruses are singalong, the jangle count is high and all the necessary prerequisites for a great Pop album are present.
Upside Down feels very Glasgow when it jangles, yet very 70's Pop Rock when it steps back. It will get lumped in with the McCartney Pop catch all, but that would denigrate the variety and song strength that shines through.
Brand New reminds me of the likes of The Vapour Trails, the moodier Merseybeat of In Everything works just as well, it is almost a torch song. All Of Us is as close to Badfinger as you'll get and All Over Town is in definite Teenage Fanclub land.
If You Do is the one real Power Pop song, everything else is wonderfully written Pop. The stand out song is It's Okay, it is an addictive joy that threatens to break out, but settles on a great guitar solo, all very Crowded House.
Don't expect to get your air guitar out for Upside Down, it's very much a sit down and sing out affair. It hasn't been a big year for stand out albums of this nature, this certainly is one of the best.
I think one thing that has become apparent about IDHAS throughout 2019 is that it is not a Power Pop Blog. My influences are welded by over 40 years of being involved in different scenes from the Glam Rock of my youth to the largely Indie Pop Rock that I listen to a lot now. If it is good I like it, no matter what the label is. I got a bit tired of receiving emails in 2018 starting with the line I know this isn't Power Pop but....... and that combined with the constant nonsense in Power Pop circles, led me to gently change the focus of I Don't Hear A Single.
Away from IDHAS, the real love of my life is a mixture of Prog and Psych, particularly Psych Pop and I get irritated by people thinking all Psych is hippy trippy backwards guitar monotony. Very much like Punk Pop, when people see the word Punk, they run. For anyone trying to convince sceptics that the Psych World can be joyous, The Greek Theatre are the band to choose.
The Swedish band offer up their third album and each has developed what they do. They specialise in gentle West Coast Psych. All of it is an easy listen and borders on Prog and artists as varied as The Byrds, Pink Floyd and the Alan Parsons Project. Indeed a song like The Streets You Hold is almost Fleetwood Mac until the jangle cuts in. Songs are beautifully arranged and played, it is like being invited into your own personal soundscape.
I'm reminded of Big Big Train at times, who I've always thought are far more than Prog. But don't think that the band have forgotten their roots. The Post-Factual Jam is top notch Psych of the highest order, wonderfully out of kilter with the rest of the album and the Guitar work is mind blowing. Compare that to The Cabooze which is built on some wonderful Guitar, Piano and Flute. Both songs are very different, but both just as rewarding.
A Different Place starts slowly but builds into a sort of Reelin' In The Years West Coast Rock Out. It's this West Coast feel that marks the distinction of The Greek Theatre compared to other challengers in the field. The album closer, Sail Away (Part 2) is a splendid moving five minutes, mixing a mellow Art Garfunkel like vocal with a film soundtrack type arrangement. However, the real killer song is Laurence Of Laurel Canyon with its jaunty Psych Pop arrangement matching an early Journey, Gregg Rolie style vocal.
The Greek Theatre are building up quite a reputation now. Three albums in, they are a mark of quality in what they do. Big Praise too to the continued success of Sugarbush Records. Label head, Markus Holler specialises in a wide range of releases, only releasing albums by artists that he loves. This reveals how much the taste the man has. It is refreshing to see a Vinyl label grow and grow when the majors have got their dollar heads on thinking up the latest pointless Super Deluxe Edition. There really is something galling about the major's marketing of albums as being the first time on vinyl.
You can buy the album directly from Sugarbush here. You should, you will not be disappointed.
New York's Tuff Sunshine offer up a splendidly laid back affair. The feel is very Seventies, conjuring up images of Glam Rock, the fine Mid 70's Pop Rock UK groups and venturing into Funk and even New Wave. The whole album seems to grab you in a hypnotic way.
Dig Deeper, Peanut is very different to most of what I've heard this year. It's quaintly old fashioned, but surprisingly original. Arrangements are wonderfully surprising and unexpected, plus it is great to hear the drums up front. The drum sound is a constant complaint of mine over the past couple of years.
The title track is pure Shaft like funk, yet feels very Mungo Jerry. Yet, Mask Away is melancholic Southern Rock. There's also a splendid diversion when Ani Cordero takes over vocals on Buttercup, which is a great upbeat pop song.
Sleepwalking again is very 70's Movie Soundtrack funk, but the overall impression is 70's UK, bands such as Smokie at times. The stand out We Seal Every Deal With A Kiss is a great example of this. It is definitely the stand out song.
It's the mix of Glam and Funk that makes Dig Deeper, Peanut so special. It hits a vibe that stays through the whole 35 minutes. This is definitely an album to listen to start to finish. It will you Rock You, but gently. Tuff Sunshine provides comfort on dark evenings.
I've listened to albums that shout out at you for most of the year and so this is so welcome. It's like a comfortable blanket wrapping itself around you. This is a warm easy listen and for that reason, it will be a fine addition to your collection.
I've always loved what Detroit's Ryan Allen does. Initially, I looked upon him as a sort of noisy pretend son of Nick Piunti, As Extra Arms developed into a stand alone band, he got noisier, exhilaratingly so and last year's Headacher was in the IDHAS Top 100 Albums of 2018.
Now we have the follow up, Up From Here and it's a 22 minute, 8 song concept album about his marriage break up. But before you all run for the hills on hearing the word concept and thinking downer, because it is neither.
The sound is upbeat, the album just doesn't come up for air, so don't expect any ballads. There is anger in the lyrics, but this is tempered and Up From Here is more about dealing with the change and coming out the other side. Also, you wouldn't know this was a concept album unless I told you, you'd just notice the lyrics as the thread.
The album may be short, but it packs in an awful lot. I often read Power Pop artists wanting to gain a younger audience, well this is the sort of thing that will appeal to that younger audience. I've often said that the best albums coming out lately are from Punk Pop and EMO bands stretching out as they grow older and this sounds like one of those.
There are some wonderful arrangements and riffs, all done at a lightning pace. The title track is a stunning upbeat closer, but what goes before is a real up and at 'em joy. It is very in your face, but melodically so and will appeal to those who like their Pop to have balls, whilst keeping hold of the Superchunk brigade.
Comes In Waves borders on Garage Rock, No Enemies could be Cheap Trick and Hold Me (All The Time) is right in Classic Rock Territory, it is a crackerjack of a song. The 22 minutes fly by, but I guarantee that you'll be playing it three times in the hour. The whole album is wonderfully noisy or let's just settle on wonderful.
Another debut album to delight you all as the year reaches its close. Also underlining a real comeback for Australian Pop Rock this year, Green Buzzard offers up a poptastic gem and proves the benefit of singalong choruses.
Green Buzzard is Sydney based Paddy Harrowsmith and he's caught a wave that's not been present since The Lightning Seeds had their heyday. Very much like those Ian Broudie albums, this feels more like a Greatest Hits than a new album. It is wall to wall hooks.
Whilst there is a definite reminder of the better Brit Pop bands, certainly those like Dodgy and The Bluetones who emphasised the songs rather than the haircut, the album certainly isn't stuck in that period. Far from it.
There's everything from C86 through Madchester , but it is really pointless to dwell on what Amidst The Clutter & Mess reminds of you of, because you'll miss the joy if you do. The album does what all great albums of the type do, it matched lyrics of lost love, broken hearts and despair to an optimistic, chipper sounding soundtrack.
Any of these 12 songs could be a single, but there's always a stand out and that is the wonderful, I Don't Want To Be Alone with its bang on chorus. But the real treat for such a Psych Pop fan as myself are the likes of Put Me Under and Suburban Dreaming. It just fuels my fire.
Nothing's Happening Here is a brooding late 80's Indie joy, Clutter & Mess is so Shoegaze and Country Life is synth duo 80's. But it is the pure pop that will grab most. Songs like To Be Like You, Forget You and Aches The Heart will soon have you singing at the top of your voice.
This is an outstanding album, astonishingly great. You can buy or listen to it by following one of the links here.
Unless you've been living in a cave, you will know of my affinity and link to Big Stir. It's a community that I'm proud to be a part of and although that community seems to have been dragged in all directions this year, it is still home.
I delight in the development of Big Stir. I mentioned the community, because it still grows, but as with I Don't Hear A Single, I don't think Rex and Christina expected it to grow so quickly and become as known worldwide. Big Stir's influence is enormous and as well as being renowned as a mark of quality, artists now clamour to be on the label.
What started as a so called Power Pop home has never really been that, it is a much broader musical church, even more so now and its tentacles stretch far and wide. When the Weekly Singles idea surfaces, I thought Wow! How Cool!. Now 50 odd singles on, it still feels as exciting as ever and this is the fourth compilation. Each is very different, but woven together by the same heavy duty thread.
This will be a slightly different review in that the usual embedded songs will not appear in the review. Instead there is a Special IDHAS Audio Extravaganza coming up this week. So Special that is called an Audio Explosion. This was planned to appear side by side with the review. However delays due to me preparing for next month's Radio Show debut and Jim tied up further South means it will appear as soon as possible.
The Audio Explosion selects 22 A Sides from all Big Stir Singles to provide the soundtrack of your day and indeed month. It is either this or Christmas songs and I don't think I could stand the forced plastic jollity of 20 odd I Love Santa ditties.
The 13 artists present here consolidate Big Stir's reputation as the label of choice. It is like a Now Decent Music 4. Something for everyone. Michael Simmons's sparkle*jets take on Big Star, The Walker Brothers brand of Psych Pop excels, the return of Shplang and the Scottish jangling joy that is The Vapour Trails.
Those present include Welsh sensation, Armstrong, probably the best singer songwriter that you've never heard of and the heart warming Power Pop of The Reflectors. There's also one of my current faves, The Hangabouts and a favourite that I've had for more years than I care to remember in Joe Normal. Then there is the left field pop wonders that are Blake Jones And The Trike Shop.
Every A and B Side earns its place. All 25 songs add to The Fourth Wave's strength. All four Singles Collections wipe the floor with any compilation that you'd care to mention. This fourth volume underlines the strength of the label and I know there are many more surprises to come your way in 2020. I'm currently listening to one of the 2020 releases as we speak.
What's more, five dollars from every download or CD Purchase goes to the ED Asner Family Center. You can find out more about that project here. The Fourth Wave is Pop Rock Excellence. Now is chance for you to discover what all the fuss is about.
You can buy the CD, which includes the download free for the bargain price of 12 dollars here. Look out for the IDHAS Big Stir Audio Explosion later this week.
I don't half like surprises and this splendid six track EP from The Skullers is a delight. The New Jersey trio have released an absolute Pop Rock gem that just drips with melody. Jack Skuller's vocals are slightly Glenn Tilbrook like, a great start.
There's certainly a Squeeze like ring to Still Life, a three minute joy of a pop song, killer riff, singalong chorus, all of the requisites are present. Much will be made of the stand out single. She Denies Herself The Thing She Loves and rightly so,
She Denies Herself has an Oasis second album vibe, whilst at the same time having a Glam Rock bounce. It's a fine song, but the other four offerings are equally good. Convenient is late 60's UK Beat / Power Pop of the highest order. Out Of The Garden just melodically rattles along.
Brooklyn Girls is a great slice of Psych Pop and the EP is rounded off with a quaint version of She Denies Herself The Things She Loves recorded in The Third Man Record Booth. I can't wait to hear more from the band. This is a Top Notch Listen.
You can listen to the EP in all the obvious places including Soundcloud here.