This Christmas, please join us for yet more festive capers as we expertly trawl through music’s joyful past. And all for charity.
Many years ago deep in the mists of time Nottingham promoters Whycan'twejustallgetalong? decided to get all their friends' bands to play a Christmas party. Because there were a lot of them, and to make it a bit more interesting, they asked the bands to only play cover versions and to limit their sets to 2 or 3 songs. They christened it "The Christmas Covers Party". Well, you would, wouldn't you?
There are no headliners - the music has a gradual gradient from 'less party earlier to more party later' – and the bands don't tell anyone what they are going to play. Over the years all sorts of red herrings have been planted to throw covers detectives off track. Previous years have seen medleys of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Spandau Ballet and covers ranging from Cher Lloyd to Throbbing Gristle, from Belle and Sebastian to R Kelly (those last two in the same set!).
So basically, lots of bands play lots of covers whilst we get drunk, dance around and shout at them. Sounds suspiciously simple doesn’t it? Almost too simple...
First band is on at 7.30, so please turn up early so as not to miss any of the fun as the running order will be decided on night. The brave artists taking part this year are:
Bill Botting & The Two Drink Minimums
Gold Sounds / Grave Architects
Steven James Adams
Old Magick, the second solo album by Steven James Adams, former songwriter/singer/guitarist from the critically acclaimed Broken Family Band, is proof that Adams’s gift for marrying exceptional lyrics with inescapable earworms is very much intact.
With minimal instrumentation, Old Magick is, in part, a reaction to Adam’s first solo outing House Music (2013), an album recorded in his living room and featuring an array of musical friends, including members of bands as disparate as pop-rockers The Vaccines and folk-idols Lau. This time around, he relocated to The Premises studios in Hackney with producer Dan Michaelson at the helm. With Michaelson also adding guitar and piano - lending his distinctive, pared-down style to many of the songs - and drums from Daniel Fordham (The Drink) the recording process was consciously self-contained.
Old Magick sees Adams playing with new sounds and ideas but he has a message for fans of his earlier output: "I've still got the old magic" he quips. "I also have some new magic. And some crap jokes".
Adams takes Old Magick on the road in the UK this March, with some magic (and magick?) related surprises. His shows are wonderful to behold: funny, intimate and wildly unpredictable. According to a recent Guardian article "you'd struggle to find a British songwriter of the last 15 years who's had such consistently good reviews." A genuine entertainer, a truly gifted songwriter, and perhaps the closest thing there is to a British Bill Callahan, Adams has produced a high watermark of a record in Old Magick, proof that his reputation is deserved.
The Old Magick Tour, March 2016
12th Brighton, Hope & Ruin
14th Bristol, Louisiana
15th Cardiff, The Moon Club
16th London, St Pancras Old Church
17th Manchester, The Eagle Inn
18th Glasgow, Hug & Pint
19th Gateshead, Central Bar
20th Leeds, Fox & Newt
FLOWERS ARE DYING TO MEET YOU - NEW ALBUM & TOUR
There’s something great about a three-piece – think The Cocteau Twins, The Clean, Galaxie 500 – and the way that irreducible nucleus takes its strength from its limitations, making a virtue of its purity. And so it is with London trio Flowers, returning with their second album Everybody's Dying To Meet You. Over the course of ten intensely thrilling pop songs, singer Rachel Kenedy's ethereal vocals and Sam Ayres textured guitar are backed by the powerful, metronomic beat of drummer Jordan Hockley.
For Everybody’s Dying to Meet You the band retreated to Bark Studios in Walthamstow to work with producer Brian O'Shaughnessey (The Clientele, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine), a return home for Sam, who was born and spent most of his life in the area. It proved to be the perfect fit for Flowers, the sessions enabling them to capture the essence of both their dynamic live sound and their distortion-laden home demos. Effortlessly blending pop songs with noise while leaving space for more stripped back elements, the recordings strike a perfect balance between the sweetness of Rachel’s voice and Sam’s abrasive guitar stylings. Their musical inspirations, from shoegaze, C86 and New Zealand’s Flying Nun label, are now evident.
Armed with a youthful intensity and determination that shows in their songs, Flowers have succeeded in harnessing their singular magic. Exuberant and electrifying, Everybody’s Dying To Meet You crackles with confidence.
Lookout! Flowers are heading to a rock venue near you soon.
25 February - MANCHESTER - Fallow Café
26 February - COVENTRY - Kasbah
27 February - LIVERPOOL - Leaf Tea Shop
28 February - GLASGOW - Broadcast
02 March - NOTTINGHAM - Rough Trade
03 March - READING - Oakford Social Club
04 March - CARDIFF - The Moon Club
05 March - PENRYN - Stuart Stephens Memorial Hall
11 March - LONDON - Sebright Arms
09 April - LEICESTER - Leicester Indiepop Alldayer
NEW ALBUM FROM INDIE AUTEUR PETE ASTOR
Spilt Milk is the brand new album from indie auteur Pete Astor, previously of The Loft, The Weather Prophets, and other esteemed acts. It was recorded onto ½ inch tape at the home studio of James Hoare of Ultimate Painting, The Proper Ornaments and Veronica Falls, with James playing guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and singing backing vocals. “He was”, says Astor, “an amazing band.” Other contributions came from members of Astor's live band, with Pam Berry (Black Tambourine, Withered Hand) supplying vocals, Jack Hayter (Hefner) on pedal steel, Alison Cotton (The Left Outsides) on viola, and Robin Christian (Male Bonding) and Susan Milanovic (Feathers) on drums.
The album has all the hallmarks of a future Pete Astor classic, drawing together key strands and tributaries of his work over the years, blending intuitive songwriting, acute lyrics and incisive melodies. After many years making more experimental, electronic music Astor has come full circle to the sound that made his name. He explains, “I’m back to being myself, bringing together sounds that I’ve used over time to make a record that sounds more like me than me!”
From the opening track “Really Something” to the recent single “Mr Music” (a favourite of Marc Riley and Gideon Coe on BBC 6 music) the album’s re-connects Astor’s bespoke guitar pop with his long-standing embrace of The Velvet Underground’s musical DNA. Other standout tracks include “My Right Hand”, a hymn to everyone’s best friend, with guest appearances from Tony Hancock, Marvin Gaye, Philip Larkin and a host of ex-girlfriends; the slow burning drama of “The Getting There” recalling the atmospheres of Astor’s 80s kindred spirits, The Go-Betweens. Also, there is the wry drive of “Very Good Lock”, summed up by Astor as “a description of an injurious medical condition that often affects the male of the species”. Elsewhere there are the gorgeous harmonies of the grown up country lament “Good Enough”, which wouldn’t be out of place on one of George Jones’ most heartbroken albums.
Spilt Milk is part of a continuum: from Astor’s beginnings with The Loft and The Weather Prophets on Creation Records in the 1980s, via his solo work through the 1990s and his more left field albums with The Wisdom of Harry and Ellis Island Sound on Matador Records, Heavenly and Peacefrog, through to his return to solo work with the Songbox album in 2012. As well as this ongoing musical activity, Astor is also Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster, where he teaches, researches and writes about music; 2014 saw the publication of his study of Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation as part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series.
Astor remains in touch, engaged and vital in a way that is rare with someone with such longevity. The album continues the story of one of one of England’s most respected and significant songwriters. As Astor says, “time passes, shit happens; some losses, some gains. Don’t cry – but I did!”.
This is Spilt Milk.
STANDARD FARE'S EMMA KUPA RETURNS WITH NEW BAND MAMMOTH PENGUINS
Hide and Seek is the debut album from Mammoth Penguins, the new band fronted by Emma Kupa, formerly of the much-loved Standard Fare. The album is an exhilarating collection of indie anthems, with Emma's candid songwriting and heartfelt vocals at the fore. Chugging away like a great lost Weezer record, the songs are bold, loud and outrageously catchy, with lyrics that hit just the right chord, exploring the burgeoning responsibilities of being in your late 20s/early 30s.
When Standard Fare called it a day after nine years and two albums, Emma Kupa upped sticks and moved from Sheffield to Cambridge, where she recruited Mark Boxall (bass) and Tom Barden (drums). Previously the bassist and lead singer in Standard Fare, Emma relished the switch to guitar in Mammoth Penguins, allowing her the space to deliver her trademark soaring vocals and to indulge in the occasional mean guitar solo. With Tom’s driving energy and Mark’s bouncy pop bass they quickly developed their riff-tastic powerpop sound.
A songwriting force of nature, Emma soon had enough songs for "Hide and Seek". Recorded at Sickroom Studios in Norfolk by producer Owen Turner (Magoo, Factory Floor), Hide and Seek captures the band at the age they're at right now, reflecting on different aspects of being in their late twenties. With Hide and Seek, Mammoth Penguins have produced a wonderfully varied record, each song a story containing nuggets of joy, despair and hope.
JOANNA GRUESOME ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM & TOUR
Due to rising international pressure, Joanna Gruesome’s new album Peanut Butter finally entered the world on 11 May via Fortuna POP! (UK), Slumberland (US) and Turnstile (RoW). Rival groups will be disappointed to learn that the record is a further experiment in combining hyper melodic pop music with sonic violence. Officials have confirmed that the album contains a record number of hooks, traces of nut and elements of jangle pop, British hardcore punk, atonal music, screaming and drone organs. Yet they have issued warnings of "a marriage of radical politics with peanut butter spread".
Like their debut, the new album was recorded by MJ from Hookworms, with the aim of heightening the group's "pop" and "aggressive" elements to excessive and hitherto unrecorded levels. As songwriter Owen Williams explains: “We tried to make it shorter, more economical and attempted to pack as many hooks and screams in as quickly possible in order to avoid short changing the consumer or wasting her/his/their time. Lyrically it’s more obtuse and surreal but also attempts to mock trad masculine rock themes whenever things do get more lucid. But sometimes musically we embrace them by doing embarrassing guitar solos. I'm not sure how much else I'm at liberty to say but one thing I will disclose is that the record is a response to threats posed by rival groups."
"Does more in 22 minutes than most albums do in 40." NME 8/10
"Ebulient, thundering and made with unabashedly 90s vigour." The Guardian 4*s
"Their tip as one of Britain's brightest new hopes is more than backed up on this showing." DIY 4*s
"Devoid of pretence, "Peanut Butter"'s sonic impulsiveness is wonderfully chaotic." Loud and Quiet 9/10
"Their fusion of righteous hardcore and cutie pop stylishly decluttered for their second outing… short, but invigoratingly sweet." Uncut 8/10
"Joanna Gruesome have managed to retain the gift of allowing the listener to feel as if they are part of a very exclusive gang." Record Collector 4*s
"A collision of riot-grrrl, C-86 tweeness and whistling Psychocandy-era Mary Chain." Q
GONGS PLAYED BY VOICE - THE CHEMISTRY EXPERIMENT
Prog-influenced Nottingham quintet The Chemistry Experiment are set to release their second album, the intriguingly titled “Gongs Played By Voice”, some ten years after the release of their debut album “The Melancholy Death Of…”. Housed in beautiful artwork by the Bulgarian artist Gyukov, a set designer in communist Bulgaria, the new album sees the band conclude the transition from their indie roots with nine beautifully arranged and recorded songs that encompass such influences as Will Oldham/Bonnie Prince Billy, Tindersticks, King Crimson and Soft Machine.
Formed by songwriter Steven J. Kirk (vocals, guitar) and Paul Stone (bass) and completed by Emily Kawasaki (keyboards), Lee Tombs (flute, vocals) and Martin Craig (drums), two of the band have long since departed from their Nottingham origins with Kirk now resident in Bologna, Italy and Kawasaki living in Brighton where she plays in krautrock grrrlgruppe Slum Of Legs. The release of “The Melancholy Death Of…” in 2005 saw critical if not financial success with the NME awarding the record 8/10 and describing it as “Strange, gargantuan rhythms, weird instrumentation and a singer who sounds like Kurt Wagner under ten feet of snow”.
If the geographic dispersion of the band wasn’t challenging enough, in 2009 drummer Craig was diagnosed with MS. “It has made drumming somewhat tricky”, he says. “I still gnash my teeth to the rhythm of the music though, and I feel honoured to join the company of Ronnie Lane, Clive Burr, and Don van Vliet.” All of which may go some way to explaining the My Bloody Valentine-like gestation of their second album, although Tombs posits a more positive explanation, saying, “ ‘Difficult second albums’ are difficult because people spend 5-10 years gathering up what they need for the first, and then have to knock out the next one in a matter of months. We overcame that problem by taking ten years.”
Loosely based around the theme of seasons, elements and the sea, the album opens with the wondrous “Hung Lam”, followed by the track “Rainy Day”, on which Stone employed the little known technique of water percussion. “Martin and I started swirling water in saucepans and tapping the edge of the pan to make the woooo noise. I’d heard something similar on an Edith Piaf record”.
The fantastically catchy “Leo & Magician” has an even more fantastical plot. “It’s about a scarecrow who runs away from his farm, leaving the farmer (Leo) without a way to protect his crops from the birds,” says Kirk. “Luckily Leo’s friend Magician comes along, and although he can’t help him with the scarecrow due to union rules, he turns Leo into a cat to scare away the birds, and that is why birds to this day are scared of cats. The scarecrow also abducts Leo’s wife but I didn’t want to go into that in the song.”
Other songs include the beautiful “We Have Seasons”, “Jandek Bakery”, “The Event and the Experiment” (“It’s kinda the same story as Valis by Phillip K Dick”) and a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Story of Isaac”, but perhaps the standout track on the album is “Channel Light Vessel” which Kirk describes as the best song he ever wrote and says, “This is about the sea, and sailors, and a boy I read about on BBC news who impaled himself on a fence trying to pick conkers.”
The album concludes with the nine minute long “A Good Wind”, describing a windy day on the coast of Australia and the classic battle between good and evil, nature and synthetic, human and vocoder. Like many things about The Chemistry Experiment it’s unique, slightly odd, and shouldn’t really work but somehow does. In the ten years since their last record a thousand faceless indie bands have made a thousand dreary records, while The Chemistry Experiment have ploughed their idiosyncratic furrow to produce “Gongs Played By Voices”, the perfect distillation of their strange and distinct vision.
"As tuned-in to the prog sorcery of king Crimson as the reflective rootsiness of Will Oldham" (Mojo, 4 stars)
"It’s [A Good Wind] simply extraordinary, but then the whole album is." (Echoes & Dust)
The second edition of our Jukebox 45s Singles Club is now on sale. Subscribe now for twelve 45rpm coloured vinyl 7"s from the following great artists...
Tigercats * Evans The Death * Joanna Gruesome * Simon Love * Pete Astor * The Spook School * Cinema Red & Blue * Darren Hayman * Flowers * Mammoth Penguins * Martha * The Proper Ornaments
What do you get?
- Twelve limited edition 7" singles, pressed on coloured vinyl with a jukebox hole
- Exclusive B-sides
- A custom-made glow-in-the-dark Fortuna POP! Jukebox 45s record middle
- A Fortuna POP! Jukebox 45s tote bag
- A Fortuna POP! Jukebox 45s fridge magnet
- Free MP3 download of all tracks
Illustration by Matt Ashton of The Leaf Library.
Subscriptions are limited to 150.
*Artists subject to change
SEPTEMBER GIRLS RETURN WITH BRAND NEW 12" EP "VENEER"
January suddenly seems like a terribly long time ago, but if you can cast your mind back that far you may remember a remarkable album released just mere weeks into the then fresh, unsullied year that was 2014. Full of driving drums, doom-filled fuzz guitars and perfect monochrome vocal harmonies, September Girls’ debut album Cursing the Sea shot into the new year with all the excitement, vim and vigour of an outrageous New Year’s Eve party.
Critics rejoiced and new fans were birthed, kicking and screaming to the front rows of gigs and festivals across the globe. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Phil Spector, The Velvet Underground, The Cure, My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus And Mary Chain, the five-piece play reverb-soaked noise-pop of the finest order and have been described as "a combination of razorwire guitar lines, thudding Moe Tucker beats and girl group melodicism".
Cursing the Sea garnered widespread coverage, with a Guardian New Band of the Day piece, NME radar and 8/10 review and a 4* review in The Fly as well as coverage in The Sunday Times, The Observer and Uncut. The Financial Times said that they were “like a less malevolent Jesus and Mary Chain – impressive power, conjuring exactly the right balance between noise and sweetness”, while Time Magazine no less named them as one of the 11 best new bands in the world.
As their year of triumph draws to a close, September Girls return with a brand new four track EP entitled Veneer, recorded deep underground in Guerilla Studios, Dublin. Whilst still retaining their signature drenched feedback sound the tracks have a greater depth and polish than the album recordings. Each of the four tracks is written and sung by a different member of the band. The perfect way to round off September Girls' incredible year, the Veneer EP builds on the foundations of Cursing The Sea to offer a tantalising glimpse into the band's future as purveyors of the finest dark-hearted pop in town.
WITHERED HAND ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM 'NEW GODS'
Fortuna POP! (UK/Europe) and Slumberland Records (US/Canada) are proud to announce the new album by the Edinburgh based folk-rock troubadour Dan Willson who records as WITHERED HAND. New Gods is his stunning second album, which follows his critically acclaimed debut Good News, and is scheduled for release next March.
Active in the world of visual art and dabbling in music for many years, Dan Willson came late to singing and songwriting at age 30, in a period of reflection between the death of a close friend and the birth of his first child. The resultant material, much of which went on to become the album Good News, has been praised for its depth and startling honesty.
Withered Hand has been embraced by Fife-based musical powerhouse the Fence Collective (whose sovereign King Creosote guests on the new album), seen his songs picked up on MTV and cult series Skins, and gained a legion of fans including Jarvis Cocker and Rolling Stone Magazine USA (who decreed him “Artist to Watch”).
A prolific live performer, recent Withered Hand shows have included collaborations with Pam Berry of seminal 90's US noisepop band Black Tambourine and a rotating cast of musical friends embellishing Dan's exuberant and original songwriting alongside fragile and uplifting solo performances.
The long-awaited second album (produced by Tony Doogan – Mountain Goats/Belle & Sebastian etc and part-funded by Creative Scotland) features guest appearances from the likes of Pam Berry, Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines and members of Belle & Sebastian and Frightened Rabbit.
The five years since Good News was recorded has seen Willson honing his songcraft, building his audience and gaining critical momentum. The new album is a beautifully executed collection of songs from one of Scotland’s most gifted songwriters.