Monday, 21 September 2020
You may have had an email today or read Ray's Facebook post. If not, then I'm delighted to say that Kool Kat will now be distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single. It has been a continued IDHAS mission to bring down the costs of US Imports to the UK and Europe. This is just a quick post to tell you that Kool Kat Musik joins Big Stir in being distributed in these areas by us.
There will be a more official announcement later in the week which will be more all singing and dancing with links for you. In the meantime. here Ray's email is pasted below to explain ordering from Kool Kat. Big Stir is ordered from their own site and we just automatically deliver UK and European orders.
We hope to add more US labels as time progresses to keep Physical Sales from these great artists alive.
GREAT NEWS FOR ALL CUSTOMERS IN THE UK + EUROPE!!
We are all well aware of the ridiculously high postage rates to send CDs to the UK and Europe. These are uncontrollable costs set by the US Postal system – UNTIL NOW!! I am happy (and thrilled) to report that Kool Kat Musik has officially entered into an agreement with I Don’t Hear A Single to help fulfill orders to customers in the UK and Europe which will result in significant postage savings for you. ALL CDs ON THE KOOL KAT SITE ARE ELIGIBLE TO ORDER!
In order to accomplish this and to ensure accurate product fill/postage costs based on destination, a different ordering procedure will be necessary. Do not place order through the Kool Kat site. Orders are to be placed via email, preferably to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to IDHAS (email@example.com). No payment in advance is required.
At the time the order is received, product availability, total product cost and postage costs based on destination will be calculated. A PayPal Money request will then be sent representing the total amount due for your order. Please follow the same ordering procedure if you choose to have CDs sent to you without Jewel Cases. They will ship directly to you from Kool Kat Musik in the US at a reduced postage cost (vs. sending them with cases).
IMPORTANT NOTE: Though this process will result in additional delivery time to you with regard to allowing the products being sent from the US to get to IDHAS for shipment to you, it WILL ultimately result in significant postage savings. You can link to the new releases here.
You will see that titles are broken down into several categories (Top Sellers, New Releases, New CDs, Compilations, and Used CDs) with icons for each category to click to view all titles.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!
For instance you can find the Best Sellers here.
Sunday, 20 September 2020
Croydon's finest, Nick Frater returns with his wonderful brand of Pop and seeing as the UK used to be the world's finest at this sort of material, it is particularly sad to note that Frater is one of the few exponents here in Brexit Land.
His signing to Big Stir would appear to be a marriage made in heaven as his brand of Pop Rock seems ideally suited to the West Coast label. However, bar a couple of Vocal Harmony driven songs, this album feels very British.
There also seems to be less Guitar and so the songs have the vocals at the forefront in true Singer Songwriter style. It does sound very 70's, but beautifully so. Fast & Loose can rock, but its gently and here his superb voice is showcased.
IDHAS has been a big supporter of Nick, simply due to his talent and you can read our reviews of his previous albums here. He featured in the I Don't Hear A Single Top 10 Of The Year in both 2018 and 2019 and Fast & Loose is sure to ensure that he will again.
It strikes me that he would never want to make the same album twice and having mastered the likes of Power Pop and Rundgren Territory etc, it feels like the right time to nail the Pop Territory of the 70s, particularly the tail end of Glam Rock.
I definitely wouldn't suggest that there is no variety here. Let's Hear It For Love is terrific Glam Rock and Cocaine Girls is a great cross between both UK and US New Wave. California Waits brings memories of Christie and Edison Lighthouse and may be the best song on the album.
Would You Like To Go is California harmony heaven, but it is the Singer Songwriter joy that rings home most. Moonstruck is so Gilbert O'Sullivan, That Ship Has Sailed is so Art Garfunkel, Luna is so Andrew Gold.
The album opens up with a wonderful Telstar like instrumental. That title track conjures up Cinematic mid 60's Psych. That may be Nick's next direction, it'd certainly delight me, In the meantime, I'll just admire his mission to keep Playdoh in business.
What you do have here is one of the great Pop Records of recent years on one of the best of the new crop of labels. Fast & Loose is another splendid album from a musician who can release an album a year without ever covering the same ground. Highly Recommended.
You can listen to the album here or here. You can find Nick Frater's website here and Big Stir's here.
Friday, 18 September 2020
I'm back into more familiar Pop Rock territory with Marshall Holland. It's been six years since the Marshall Holland And The Etceteras album, but Holland has none of his pop chops and that Pop covers a wide area of influences.
Our Fate is all UK New Wave, When The Rain Comes is all Monkees dabbling with a bit of Baroque Pop and A Hand Holds A Bird comes across all Neil Finn. These three opening songs reveal the variety on offer across the album.
Don't Do It is all jaunty Pleasant Valley Sunday pop whilst Look Into My Eyes is top notch Gentle Pop with an adorable keyboard background riff. This really is a chocolate box album of feel good pop, a welcome retort to what's going on in the outside world.
She Buys A Dress is so Elvis Costello And The Attractions with its Oliver's Army keys. Whatcha Gonna Do could be The Rubinoos on Ready Steady Go and the closer, A Dream Away is pure Gilbert O'Sullivan without his piano.
The stand out though may very well be the title track. Paper Airplane comes across all mid 1970's Pop Rock, think Jigsaw and Liverpool Express with more than a hint of Burt Bacharach. This album is a joy, Summer Pop for the upcoming Autumn.
It'll transport you to sun drenched beaches with a smile on your face. Paper Airplane is yet another example of a Mystery Lawn Music gem. Allen Clapp's base is certainly the mark of quality for music of distinction.
You can listen to and buy the album on Vinyl, CD or as a download here. The CD is also available at the excellent Kool Kat here.
After a really up and down year music wise, for obvious reasons, the last couple of months have exploded with a plethora of great albums. Brighton's, psych collective, Moon Attendant have been one of the best of the bunch with their debut album.
One Last Summer is a heady mix of Psych Pop. Psych Pop suffers at times when people see the word Psych, they can run as they do when they see the word Punk in Punk Pop. Like in any genre, there are good and bad and labels should only be a slight hint in what bands are about. I have to say that currently, Psych Pop is offering up the most innovative, interesting Pop around. You should try some.
Moon Attendant make it easier for newcomers in that the mix is very much this is psych, this is pop. Take the two opening tracks for instance. Blue is a synth led pop fest that keeps making me sing Can't Take My Eyes Of You, Hot Power is a 7 minute Psych Powerhouse of a song, an exceptional intriguing listen.
Elsewhere, Catch A Train is almost acoustic folk. wonderfully moody whilst Hammers could be Ray Davies and the arrangement is just top notch. The Telstar like organ on Don't Step Back matches the dreamy lounge beautifully.
It is the Psych Pop that really hits home though. I Would Like To Teach You is wistful joy and Sleepy Sleep is 65 - 70s UK Psych Beat at its best. Lucky Escape is a gentle strum that launches into a Psych Explosion. There's even an instrumental, Castles Burning, that comes across as Kraut Rock or Tangerine Dream.
There is so much here to like. The Pop will draw you in, but the Psych is what grabs you. The Analogue Synths provide an unusual touch. At times, the album sounds like a mix between The Coral and Strawberry Alarm Clock. One Last Summer is fascinating and truly wonderful.
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Thursday, 17 September 2020
As I prepared to review the new Gretchen's Wheel album, I realised that this is the only artist that I have reviewed every album of. There is a reason for this and that word is talent. Album Number 5 just enhances that opinion, Lindsay Murray could sing the Phone Book and make it sound interesting.
With the delicacy of her voice, she could make a mint joining the volume of female artists singing whimpering cover versions of well known, but irritating, songs on TV Adverts. Instead she chooses to provide inventive self written gems that use that voice in unexpected ways.
You can read my previous album reviews here and you'll note that I mentioned that her last album, Black Box Theory, appeared darker with less guitar. Well there's only a little of that here as Such Open Sky rounds up the things that she has been great at in the past and takes things on a notch. The Guitar is definitely back!
There is far more use of THAT voice here, whether it be alone or with some excellent backing vocal assistance. With help from the likes of Matthew Caws, Brendan Benson and Jon Auer, you can imagine the quality, but you are left in no doubt that this is a Lindsay Murray album.
Murray has always mastered the moodier songs, her voice is ideally suited to them, but here she stretches out, even more than her earlier work. Songs are beautifully arranged, vocally and instrumentally. The whole thing is a triumph.
The three opening songs are incredibly strong. You Should Know and Interloper, with Backing Vocals from Caws and Benson respectively, are just top notch. Heat Death is the type of trademark song that has made Gretchen's Wheel name.
Can't Shake The Feeling is the real favourite of mine. A wonderful unexpected riff and very modern pop, unexpectedly so. Shapeshifters has a killer chorus and there is also a wonderfully moody cover of Robert Pollard's Learning To Hunt on which Murray makes the song her own.
It is common for an artist to state that their latest album is their best yet. Please allow someone who is completely independent to tell you that it is. This the most fully formed Gretchen's Wheel album yet. It is a glorious selection of songs and oh THAT voice is still worth the admission alone.
You can listen to and buy the album on Vinyl, CD or as a Download here. There is also a current offer on a download of the complete Gretchen's Wheel discography that is too good to miss.
Wednesday, 16 September 2020
The Coral, as well as cementing their own reputation, has become a sort of Wirral Motown. As tentacles spread far and wide, the band are fast drawing up a Family Tree. Bill Ryder-Jones, Ian Skelly and now Paul Molloy have all taken slightly linked but very different solo directions.
Guitarist, Molloy may have provided the best album of the all. No stranger to the scene after spells in The Stands, The Zutons and his current venture with Skelly in The Serpent Power, the album was recorded in a two year period, during which both of his parents died.
With this in mind, you might expect a reflective, maybe morose, affair. There is none of that. This is a joyous album of glorious Psych Pop. It is very 60's in feel, but that Psych whimsy rings out in what has been a fantastic revival of the genre over the past couple of years.
The Fifth Dandelion has much in comparison with the current Medway led sound, but there is also great Pop bursting to get out and at other times, the album borders on Toytown. The only time that the album gets anywhere near The Coral is the Lounge Folk of Bring In The Night and that has a real Psych close.
Salad Days is great Glam Rock, almost Gilbert O'Sullivan, it is outstanding. Dungaree Day is Small Faces meeting The Beach Boys. The Return Of Cherry Pie could be Prime Time Pugwash and contrast all this Pop to the early Pink Floyd vibe of From Venus To Pale Blue.
The Swamp is in Bossa Nova Sci Fi Movie territory, Andromeda is almost Orgone Box and My Madonna is splendid Baroque Pop. The closer, Talacre Lighthouse, a place that I know only too well, is perfect Medway Folk.
Paul Molloy has served up one of the surprises of the year. An outstanding album that offers up a wide range of variety. It will be high up in the End Of Year List, if not the toppermost. You can listen to and buy the album everywhere.
Friday, 11 September 2020
The Audio Extravaganza returns with Volume 102. I know you'd expect me to say it, but I've listened to it a couple of times today and it sounds top notch. 22 songs in 77 minutes. Thanks as always to Jim Moody for his technical excellence.
A reminder that these episodes are compiled with great care. The aim is to produce a sort of modern day mix tape. Hopefully this will be the soundtrack to your day. If you use the Mixcloud player at the bottom of this page, each song title is shown as it plays. The playlist itself is also as the first comment on the Mixcloud Episode page.
You can listen to the previous IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on Mixcloud here.
Here are the contents of Volume 102 :
01 Spice - All My Best Shit
02 I'm Glad It's You - Big Sound
03 The Successful Failures - This Girl
04 Wolf Parade - Under Glass
05 The Orange Peels - Something Strange Happens (2020 Remaster)
06 The Young Wait - Never Sleep 'til Regret
07 Tugboat Captain - Day To Day
08 Time Thieves - Way
09 Kekker - Doveroverland
10 Alpine Subs - Clear Blue Waters
11 Cloud Nothings - The Sound Of Everyone
12 Zipgun Bomber - Reflections
13 Sergeant Buzfuz - Your Time Is Tomorrow
14 The Total Rejection - Caravan
15 The Loft Club - Heard Her Say
16 Love Sport - Life's A Joke
17 Scenic Route To Alaska - Closer
18 The Foragers - Forever Changed
19 Prize Pig - The Line
20 Dungeon Of Skeletons - Valencia
21 Civic Green - There Is Always A Light
22 Blight - Legends
IDHAS Audio Extravaganza Volume 102 Mixcloud Link
Or Click Below
Wednesday, 9 September 2020
I was a big fan of Colin's Godson and sad to see them call it a day. It was such fun with the comic strip 80's Video Game themes. You can read the IDHAS review of the album, The Timely Demise Of Colin's Godson here. The Bandcamp site is still active and I urge you to go and listen to their archive there.
So on discovering that main man Joe Greatorex had formed Brontosaurus, I excitedly ran to find out more and I'm so glad that I did. Greatorex has lost none of the trademark Colin's Godson wit, in fact the songs have got even more cutting and dry. The man has a way with words.
What is different is the emphasis is far more on straight ahead Pop, gloriously lo fi, but the songs stand up wonderfully. These People is very very Housemartins, the jolly singalong tunes accompanied by the everyday tales of banal everyday life.
One look at the song titles will give you more than a hint of what to expect, but these lyrical side swipes never undermine the great Pop of the album. Blogger is the stand out song, cruel but splendid, but all the rest of the album comes close to its greatness.
Powerpop By Numbers is great Power Pop and Band Of The Week is great Brit Pop Pop Rock. A Do-It-All Dad's Denim Dream like so much here is fun packed and Heaton-esque. Soundman is in The Supernaturals territory, hardly surprising since James McColl helps out on the album with Backing Vocals and an assortment of instruments including Saxophone and Flute.
At other times, I'm reminded of Brian Bordello if he were the lead singer in a Power Pop band. But all in all this is a fantastic album. I'm so glad that Joe Greatorex is back, he's been missed. Anyone who can make me laugh in these hard times is worth listening to. Highly Recommended!
You can listen to and buy the album here.
It has been 13 long years since The Good China, but thankfully Icecream Hands are back and it is like they've never been away. The 2019 Tour reunion for the 20th Anniversary of Sweeter Than The Radio has now been cemented by an album of new material.
No Weapon But Love is a Pop Rock masterpiece. There's nothing about what they do that is Rocket Science. They just no what they are doing. The band has four part harmonies which means they could do Beach Boys harmonies all day, they choose to spread these vocals sparingly.
All of the band can play, but the solos only add to the song not the ego. The arrangements are wonderful but tight, no kitchen sink, when a song is done it's done and those trademark killer riffs are all present and correct.
This is all pretty close to Power Pop without any of the I Love You Yes I do. At times, there is a real Tom Petty feel. The beauty of the album is that comparisons can be made to UK and US Pop Rock, but the band are essentially proudly Australian.
The twangs and jangles ring out, particularly on the splendid Roll It Back (which also includes a killer guitar solo) and the slower, Somehow We Never Got Together. Thank You, a homage to music, could be The Traveling Wilburys.
The stand out song is the title track, a fine opener, but So Happy runs it close with its 70s Pop Rock joy bordering on those old Glam Rock ballads. Shyness And Alcohol is another one that runs it close with it's West Coast feel. This is very much a Guitar album, but the piano led closer, Waiting ends proceedings beautifully. No Weapon But Love is simply superb. But would you expect anything less from Icecream Hands?
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Sunday, 6 September 2020
Ian Rushbury reviews The Cleaners From Venus's latest offering and it is on Bandcamp at "Name Your Price".
Martin Newell has a wide variety of hats, which he wears very well. For the “July” EP, he’s popped on the “Cleaners from Venus” hat, which I imagine looks a bit like that sawn-off top hat thing that David Crosby used to wear. It suits him.
There are just four tunes on “July”, but they’re all ace. Enough is as good as a feast, as my old dad used to say and I’m sure Newell would agree with him. The opening track, “Statues” (sadly not his version of the Husker Du tune – imagine what that would have sounded like) is one of those “how come no one has written this before?” songs.
It starts a bit like an outtake from “Mr Tambourine Man” but it has the unmistakeable scent of Wivenhoe about it. The lyrics are typically excellent. Any tune that starts with the couplet: “Now you dare to ask your rulers what they meant / It’s a paperchase of flaming discontent” is A.O.K. with me.
“Golden Lion of the Sun” is the kind of thing The Beatles would have recorded in 1966, if they had to make records in someone’s back-bedroom in Colchester. A nice, laid back latinesque groove, topped off by a lovely understated guitar solo. Where’s Ringo and his claves when you need him?
Track 3, “King Inglorious” showcases Newell’s command of language and easy way with a melody, which lift it from being merely “good” and nudge it into the “borderline great” category. The last track, the beautifully titled “Tricky Customer, Johnny Tomorrow” is – whisper it – an instrumental.
It sounds like the theme music to some long forgotten psychological crime drama, probably starring Edward Woodward. We really need to have a whip-round and get the London Symphony Orchestra to record this, because although it sounds great with Newell’s toybox synth, playing the string parts, the real thing would be astonishing. If they ever remake “The Prisoner”, they could do a lot worse than use this.
And just as you’re beginning to really enjoy it, it fades away. Newell has probably done a dozen projects since “July”, but let’s hope he revisits this type of thing soon. His “Cleaners from Venus” is my favourite Martin Newell hat. If only they did them in my size…
You can get this EP at Name Your Price here.
As IDHAS uses September as catch up month for reviews, the realisation kicks in of how far behind you actually are. This splendid Red Skylark album was released on Ray Gianchetti's excellent Kool Kat label in April and Mr Tardy finally gets around to telling you all about it.
Red Skylark is the solo project of Columbus Ohio's Ed Shuttleworth and this collection gathers together both the 2015 album, Red Skylark 1 and this year's RunOn EP. This results in a cohesive 14 song affair that offers up plenty of great Pop Rock.
Collection 1 is incredibly melodic and beautifully produced. The Run On EP occupies the five opening songs and these are gentler riff led affairs. Run On is driving Pop Rock, very Per Gessle, whilst Two Shades Of Fine is all jangly and Soulfire Gone may be the best thing on the album with its hints of The Cult and killer riff.
The rest is just as good, but has far more of a Brit Pop and 60's Pop Rock feel, Love Airwave particularly so. Soft Soul has a real Psych Pop tint and Mother Faces could be The Who before it all got a bit too bombastic. Comedown even ventures into Mid 60's Beat territory.
Hey Precious Stone is another jangling joy and Bad Dream could be UK New Wave. There's so much to admire here. I hear Kula Shaker at times, even The Kinks and some of the Guitar Riffs are reminiscent of Alex Lifeson's first half of the Eighties, if not the material.
The album is also another triumph for the Kool Kat label. Ray seems to be single handedly keeping Physical releases alive and he has a fine ear. Red Skylark provide melodic Pop Rock of the highest order without ever needing to shatter your eardrums. Excellent!
You can order the CD from Kool Kat here. You can listen to both Red Skylark 1 and Run here. Both are also available for download at the Bandcamp site.
Richmond, Virginia's Plastic Nancy's second full length album moves them on a pace. This is a storming albums of 60's based rock that splits two ways. It is a wonderful Psych album that switches between laid back riff led fuzz and a more experimental acid direction that is mind blowing.
The more casual listener will favour the predominately lighter Psych, but here in IDHAS land, it's the stretch out stuff that resonates most. The muddy free for all that is Sweet Release is exceptional, almost mind blowing.
See is a mixture of the two styles, a crunching opening that leads into an almost jangle fest. The Landing is 70s Pink Floyd-ish in its feel and Memory is in dream like territory. The variety and versatility with the closer, Electric Flowers which is all laid back, almost West Coast like.
The stand out here though is Taking Off which is the most commercial the band get. This is almost Garage Pop Rock and an absolute gem that you can hear on an upcoming Audio Extravaganza. Great Psych albums are hard to find lately. This is probably the best that you'll hear all year.
You can listen to and buy the album here. The album is available at Name Your Price, so what have you got to lose?
Tuesday, 1 September 2020
Sydney's Peter Marley is a busy man, but whatever he comes up with is always top notch. Most notable for his adventures in the wonderful The Nature Strip, you can read the IDHAS reviews of the band's Presents and Beetle Bones albums here and here.
He's also part of the excellent Alt Country / Folk band, Fallon Cush. Now we have Marveline, Marley's debut solo album and you can easily note The Nature Strip influence, but the album has less in common with that band's XTC similarities, concentrating far more on Pop.
That Pop encompasses a whole range of styles including Pop Rock, Psych Pop, Synth Pop and more straight ahead stuff. You'd expect some of this when an artist is set free from band democracy, but not necessarily for the artist to get it so right.
There's not a hint of self indulgence here, variance yes. Gonna Get Myself is a surprisingly loose opener, a bit baggy, a bit more Manchester Brit Pop and that contrasts wonderful with the magnificent, Turpentine, an absolute wonder of a song. I've played it on the Audio Extravaganza and I've no doubt that it will appear again on the Best Of Year show.
Made Of Stars is fine laid back 70's Pop Rock with a killer riff and Another Perfect Day is all Glasgow Post 1986. Monkey Mind is mid 80's Synth Rock, deliberately so. It also is lyrically great, Difford And Tilbrook like.
How Green The Grass and In The Garden both contain big hints of Psych Pop and Marley's vocal is very close in style to Orgone Box's Rick Corcoran. The former is more poppy, but In The Garden hits home most with a Ray Davies feel.
There are also two instrumentals among the dozen songs. (Theme From An Imaginary) Cop Show made me go all misty eyed for Starsky And Hutch and Something Sweet is a Bossa Nova Spaghetti Western affair. All in All, Savoury Toothed Tiger is an absolute cracker of an album. I can't recommend it highly enough.
You can listen to and buy the album here. You really should!
Cardiff's KEYS have presented a fine Pop Rock album. The reaction to lockdown was to record a Bedroom album on 4 Track and it works beautifully. There's a lot of snobbery about lo-fi and 4 Track recording from the Garage Band devotees who strive for a higher technical sound on their dull outpourings.
How many tracks do you need to write great Pop and my experience is that having all the audio tools just makes you mess about with songs more. When you can write songs as good as this it doesn't matter if they are recorded on Cassette or your new Mac.
Matthew Evans is not only a songwriter to be admired, but he also has a wonderful gentle lazy vocal style that works beautifully. Home Schooling is reminiscent of 70's Pop Rock albums in the Badfinger and Jigsaw mould.
However, KEYS aren't afraid to branch out in other directions. Songs Cold Hands and Trick Of The Light have a Psych Pop vibe and This Side Of Luv nails the Glam Pop of Bay City Rollers perfectly, including the false ending. Your Name Across My Heart sounds distinctly Lennon-ish and Pressure Cooker is a wonderful Electronic Psych Instrumental.
The band are best at that aforementioned 70's Pop Rock though. The Strain is the best example of this, but Phases comes close, it really does sound 1975. I'd heard trailers of the album and thought they were really promising, but wondered if the band could hold a full album together without it seeming samey. Well they have, superbly so.
You can listen to the album here or more importantly, buy it here.
Huntington Beach's The Aquabats are well into their third decade now, not bad for a supposed band of cartoonish Superheroes. That's because if you concentrate on the music rather than the costumes, it is actually kind of good and really good fun.
True, the themes are very "let's fight crime" in a 1960's Batman way and the songs seemed aimed at a younger audience, but there is some great pop on display. It is all reminiscent of 80's MTV Band Pop with its emphasis on wackiness and geek, but there is more here than that.
The style is like a cross between Devo and B52's, although at times, I'm reminded a lot of the UK band, Space, particularly on Dangerous Leon. Pajamazon is all Euro Pop, think Aqua and songs like Sneak Attack and No One Wants To Party are incredibly catchy.
The songs are really twee and a little kiddy like, but they are meant to be. This isn't meant to be deep meaningful Indie Pop, it's dance and sing orientated and it may be best to stop taking things and yourself so seriously. Enjoy the joy and everyone loves a Superhero. Right?
You can listen to and buy the album here.