In their second album Cats on Fire display their finely honed good taste with a selection of songlets which evoke the likes of The Smiths, Belle and Sebastian and Kings of Convenience. They’ve been criticised for this elsewhere, but it’s hard to question the combination of influences that are woven into the silken fabric of this album. Listening to it is like coming home to find that your beloved record collection’s had a bonkfest and produced a beautiful baby in your absence.
Members from the likes of Beirut, The Arcade Fire and Belle & Sebastian have played a role in creating Flare’s (aka Flare Acoustic Arts League) diverse and brilliantly produced third album Cut. They lead on from the likes of The New Pornographers and The Hidden Cameras in showing that good pop music does not have to be formulaic. In fact, each of the songs on Cut manages to stand out as unique. This diversity accounts for a lot of its charm but equally accounts for its few flaws.
Sad Day For Puppets are Scandinavia’s latest contribution to the UK music scene. With thoughts of Aqua, Alphabeat and ABBA, I approached them with unnecessary caution, as on the strength of this album, Sad Day For Colours have cemented their place on my summer’s playlist.
A Mouthful is a master class in marvellous, unadulterated eclecticism. The record is a mad-sounding melange of all things beautiful – there are recorders, harmonicas, hand-claps, glockenspiels and swirling strings. There is ostentatious, borderline gypsy brass, playground chanting, mc-ing and piano. Melodies swing from sweet and bluesy on tracks like ‘Searching Gold’ to electro-tinged late 1970s nostalgia on ‘Aha’. Too much, you would think? Not for a minute. All of this put together works bloody brilliantly. This album is – my well-documented Francophile over-enthusiasm aside – a work of sprawling genius.
A portable record player sits atop a piano under a solitary spotlight, and from it emerges a dark and unholy voice, oom-pah-pahing whilst ‘the boy’, attired in boiler suit and gas mask, lurks in the shadows. Patti Plinko wouldn’t be out of place in an air raid shelter circa 1941, and the boy would be out of place anywhere. Together they put on a show that keeps the temporary inhabitants of this particular underground bunker in Leicester Square enthralled for the better part of an hour.
Pram Town is a ‘folk opera’ from former Hefner frontman Darren Hayman. The story follows a unmotivated guy stuck in the town where he grew up, Harlow (nicknamed Pram Town in the 50s because of the sudden influx of young families when the town was built in the aftermath of WWII). He meets an ‘out of his league’ London woman while fare-evading in a first class train carriage.
The last day of the festival began for FFS at the Garden Stage. Spirits were high –conditions underfoot were dramatically improved from the night before and the sun was showing its face once again. The Wave Pictures performed an accomplished and lively set which saw lead singer David Tattersal accidentally insulting his mother before dedicating scrumptious pop fiesta ‘Love You Like a Madman’ to her. I’d have forgiven him. There followed drum, lead and bass solos to showcase the not inconsiderable talent of this three-piece. Indeed, bassist Franic Rozycki’s solo was so good that Tattersal could not help but declare his surprise. Stand-out songs included ‘Now You’re Pregnant’ sung by drummer Jonny Helm, which featured these delightfully funny lines on the death of Johnny Cash: ‘And you say “It’s not like Elvis” / and you would be right’. For we sleepers-in, this was the perfect way to begin our Sunday. (Keep your eyes peeled for appearances from the members of the Wave Pictures in the ensuing account of the day. They really do get about a bit). [HT]
As thousands of bleary eyed festival-goers awoke sweating in their tents as the sun beat down on them, still harbouring the muddy wellingtons and rain-lashed clothing from the day before in their porches, it was clear the second day of End of the Road was going to be an absolute belter. Welcoming the Indian Summer onto the main stage from midday were the warm, deep vocals and slow paced soothing tunes of London five-piece Absentee, who briefly burst into more stompy, upbeat rock to showcase the sound of their new album Victory Shorts, due out on September 22.
For FFS, End of the Road kicked off with Peter and the Wolf and this reviewer was alone among her cohorts in enjoying his set, from his rambling tales about New York rich kids who walk across America to his story-telling old-school folk. He was swiftly followed by Laura Marling who, in the couple of months since FFS last saw her headline, has grown into her pageboy crop as well her stage persona. Her inter-track chat leaves you wanting for exactly the intimacy her songs deliver. My Manic and I was a particular highlight as was Cross Your Fingers b-side ‘Blackberry Stone’ which features the lyrics ‘I’m sorry I never did hold your hand as you were lowered’ a reference surely to the boy with black curly hair, Charlie Fink from Noah and the Whale. Marling was supported by her usual band, including drummer Marcus Mumford and bassist Ted Dwane from Mumford and Sons, whose were booked to play later in the evening, but cancelled because they had to fly to the US for the Marling/Flynn tour.
The Windmill Thursday 7th August. Peggy Sue are a jaw-droppingly brilliant cross between Coco Rosie, Lauren Hill and Kate Nash, and their recent gig at the Windmill as part of their 4-day dash to play all the compass points of…