Menagerie: Peaks Vs Troughs

Of Steve Jobs’ many achievements, perhaps his most successful product, the iPod, also harboured his most unhelpful unhelpful: the driving-down of musical attention spans to a fraction of what they once were.

Why listen to a whole album when you can just skip to the single? And why listen to the verse when it’s simple to spool ahead to the chorus? It’s just to easy to skip from highlight to highlight; all peaks and no troughs.

So how would a teenager brought up on this tid-bit mentality cope with a song like Asahiyama by Menagerie - a song that never ponders or drags, but nonetheless takes its time to get up to speed?

At five minutes in length, this song is an ice-age in pop terms, and covers as much ground as  a glacier grunting its way to the sea. The beauty of the slow build is laid bare in Asahiyama – and we are all rewarded for our patience.

Jabbering basslines weave into caramelised melodies, icy and warm all at once. When the vocals eventually creep in, they are a pleasant shock – simply because, until then, their absence won’t be noticed.

Menagerie has a pace from another time, and slows us all down to it. Excellent.

MORE: menagerie.bandcamp.com

Robyn G Sheils; The Great Impression

When was the last time you saw a band that you couldn’t quite bring yourself to love until they cast off the knowing self-referential nods that seem specifically designed to appease cool magazines, websites and TV channels?

Bands who do this are either idiots, or sane – but weak – people hedging their bets. Robyn G Sheils, however, hasn’t mucked about. There’s no layers of ironic  faux-nostalgia or self-conscious posturing draped over his songs.

Calling your début EP The Great Depression amounts to nailing your colours to the mast pretty comprehensively. So it’ll be a shock to learn that his songs are actually a bunch of bouncy, 90s-revivalist Gabba, hands-in-the-air floor fillers.

Only kidding. They are, of course, all slightly morose stripped-down laments, albeit exquisitely beautiful ones.

Look What You’ve Done is so affecting that the EP ought to come packaged with a packet of tissues to mop up tears from the inevitable blubbing that surely accompanies his music.

I hope he’s got a few upbeat zingers in his setlist, otherwise his live gigs are going to leave a trail of inert, zombified fans, all pondering the point of it all. Hey – better to have some sort of emotional influence on your crowd than none whatsoever.

On Robyn G Sheils’ Bandcamp page, amongst the usual clutter of snatched studio and goings-on photos, there is one small shot of some graffiti that reads ‘There is no God’.

Bleak, but honest. Just like Robyn’s songs.

MORE: robyngshiels.bandcamp.com // Photo by Robin Cordiner

David Rybka & The Victorian Dad Band. ALSO: Phlegm

You know that Spring is on it’s way when you get struck down by the same phlegmy cold as ever other poor so-and-so staggering around with a sheen of sweat and a wan complexion.

The imposing bulk of ANBAD Towers, it turns out, is no defence against the humble cold, and so your brave correspondent sits here, pallid and weak, hammering keys in a quasi-delirious state. At least today I have an excuse if the words that follow are faintly ludicrous.

Succumbing to illness is the perfect instance for a great band to leap out and poke one in the (bleary) eye, momentarily lifting any feelings of flaccidity – and guess what? That’s exactly what happened.

David Rybka‘s group, The Victorian Dad Band, might either be named to poke wry fun at their own uptight male behaviour, or are simply nicking a moniker from an old Viz character who forces his children to attend church for “three hours of hypocrisy in sub zero temperatures” on Christmas day.

Maybe the band share something of his gritty contrariness. Indeed, songs like the lilting, gorgeous Push and Pull wax and wane with determined shoves against the norm.

That Guy Garvey, a man with a generously silken voice of his own, was won over by David Rybka‘s warm, wrought, winsome vocals, is no surprise. Guy apparently offered him a record deal almost immediately. This too is hardly surprising.

He signed to another label instead. Contrary, see? No surprise either. Delightful.

MORE: myspace.com/victoriandaad

TODAY’S BONUS BAND: Dimbleby & Capper // FIVE WORD REVIEW: Surprising amalgamated electro-cute epic pop.

Inlets, Not Islet. Repeat: Inlets, Not Islet.

When I was sent a link to today’s new band, I thought, in my new-band haze, that I’d been sent a speckle of actual gold – the link to the fabled Islet Myspace page.

Islet, for all of you who are clearly uncool, are the ‘underground’ band de jour. So underground that until very recently they had no website, no digitised music, and indeed no online presence at all, leaving enthusiastic fans to do it for them.

It was either a lovely strategy, tilting in the face of convention, or a cynical attention-grabber that worked. I hope the former is true.

Of course, you can only fight the inevitable for so long, and now they have a very homegrown-looking site that, sadly, was made by professionals and maintained by a PR company.
**NB- Mark from the band Islet sent me a very polite email to point out that this was, in fact, totally untrue – he made it and runs it himself. This makes me very happy, and I hope Mark and Islet accept my apologies for stating rumour as fact!**

But anyway – I was sent the Inlets link, and any chance of an all-time ANBAD exclusive perished. Fortunately, Inlets are an equally fascinating proposition, blending silky smoothness with off-kilter quirk:

Inlets // In Which I, Robert

In Which I, Robert wrenches the low-end piano clunking from 70′s cop movies and bolts it to a lugubrious, yet jaunty melody. It’s a juxtaposition that works effortlessly – a prodding and dizzying song sung by a man who, for some reason, you’ll need to listen to.

It’s a shame, really. Inlets are just as worthy of home-made fan pages, breathless forum-chatter and ‘industry buzz’, and heck – now they have to do it all for themselves, just like every other new band. The world is not fair.

Photograph by Kristianna Smith

Matt Raudsepp; Unconvention, and Har Mar Superstar’s Gooey Faceful

Last Saturday I watched Har Mar Superstar rub Vaseline into his face before having a large quantity of white goo applied to his features. I even took a photo and tweeted it.

Of course, such titillation can only result in disappointment – and in terms of half-hearted sexual connotations, you’d be right – but all these things did indeed take place at the wonderful Unconvention Factory, in Macclesfield.

As with all clever concepts, its brilliance is matched by its simplicity. Take a bundle of new music’s movers, shakers and hangers-on, put them in an old factory and make them talk.

The music world is so enclosed, it hurts. Bands are scared they’ll get ripped off, photographers are tired of having pictures half-inched, and writers *cough* are bored of spending hours typing without reward. As a consequence, out of dumb, plain fear, we stupidly keep our traps clamped shut – you know, just in case.

This is nonsense, and Unconvention proves that sharing is, indeed, caring. I learnt more in ten hours than in a month of reading forums or wading through message board abuse. If you can attend one near you, I suggest fighting to get in.

And speaking of sharing, back to the new bands. Here’s Matt Raudsepp, Montealean, songsmith and maker of gently persuasive songs about Rolling Pins:

Matt Raudsepp // Rolling Pins

If Matt Raudsepp could share anything with us, what would it be? There’s something about Rolling Pins that prickles feelings of weariness, aches and pains, and euphoria – all at once. Lush with0ut bloat, simple but not crude and wise without preaching, the song caresses, soothes and calms.

Here’s a man with songs to brighten the cloudiest of hearts. That’s a good thing to share.

www.myspace.com/mattraudsepp

Misses Ellen Sunday and Her Fantastic Cats; Dog, Man, Star, and (Laser) Ray.

Spending a vast proportion of your time listening to new bands affects your behaviour in unexpected ways.

The ups I don’t need to tell you about – they are all documented here – and the downs I will spare you. The unforeseen result has been to spend the rest of the time scouring the albums of my past for safety and comfort.

Seeking solace in cherished and half-forgotten albums is clearly a reflex action to counteract all the newness – and a quick glance at the ‘Recently Played’ list on Spotify tells a story of mid-90s teen infatuation: It’s A Shame About Ray, Elastica, Dog Man Star.

This old-band-yin is counterbalanced by the new-band-yang of the likes of Misses Ellen Sunday and Her Fantastic Cats.

They’re not the first band on ANBAD with unwieldy names or song titles, but they are the first to do so whilst playing such a delightful, strange, and – yes – delightfully strange mandolin songs.

Misses Ellen Sunday and Her Fantastic Cats // I Thought I’d Take It For Myself Like The Others All The Same

I Thought I’d Take It For Myself Like The Others All The Same isn’t just a  mouthful, it’s a whole meal, but the song itself is an utterly lovely paean to loneliness and love. Sparse, touching and pretty – it’s a song that is touching, multi-faceted and shimmering with delicate beauty.

The accompanying picture on their Myspace page is one of cats firing red and green lasers from their eyes. What’s not to like?

www.myspace.com/missesellensunday

>Airship, Weevils, Larvae and Pupae

>Woodworm - as pop music subjects go, they’re one of nature’s more overlooked contributions. But Airship are, if nothing else, altruistic in their plotting to showcase the worth in the little larval critters.

And thus their song Woodworm is appropriately named. Tiny and innocuous, it initially seems harmless, but soon you’ll be aware that it has slyly burrowed its way into your affections. A song of slender beauty.

Airship – Woodworm

If Woodworm is almost quaint in its quiet nature, Kids is a voluted, urgent and clean pop shriek that peaks time and time again in a chorus of eyes-to-the-sky life affirmation. It’s on the upcoming, excellent, Love and Disaster New Manchester Artists EP – of which there will be more in the New Year.

Airship aren’t full of hot air – they are precise in their manufacture of happy, shimmering, introspective songs. Mournful and upbeat. Clever.

Photography by Toria Brightside

>The Narrator: Deader than Disco

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Today’s band is from the ‘Wait – Haven’t They Already Split Up?’ file, because, indeed, The Narrator have already split up. Months ago, in fact. So they’re not so much of a new band as a an ex-new band, which might indeed make them post-new. I don’t really know. Such are the perils of genre-defiance.

But old-new bands can still be new, even when they’re dead – ask any teenager who discovered their dad’s copy of The Stooges and inquisitively popped it into their CD player. I missed The Narrator the first time around, and so did you, probably. This is not a good enough reason to miss out on their lovely, sloping music.

Son Of The Son Of The Kiss Of Death, exuberant and alive, delights in its own skew-whiff angularity. The guitars might be tuned, or they might be slightly out of tune, or they might, indeed, be slightly in tune. It doesn’t matter – there’s something happening in this song, and you’ll want to be part of it too. Delicious, relentless, carefree, whatever. Son Of The Son… is so fresh it still has that new car smell.

The Narrator – Son Of The Son Of The Kiss Of Death

You, like me, will wish you’d heard them a few years ago, and when So The End, sad and jittery, suddenly lurches from so-so guitar strum into a a beautiful, rousing chorus, you’ll realise you’ve found a fitting point of closure to mourn their passing. This is the beauty of making music: The Narrator are still with us. Revel in the band as much as the sentiment.

Photo by Clayton Hauck – www.everyoneisfamous.com

>I Was A King, Attempts At Miserablism and Fjords

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Norway: a country of intense natural beauty, endless sunshine and the highest standards of living in the world. No wonder that I Was A King make music that’s so happy the songs themselves are fit to burst, right?

Well, kind of. I get the feeling that I Was A King are a little… well, bored of all the good times, and are trying out this whole ‘miserable’ thing, you know – to see what it’s like. Naturally they partly fail, but that’s no bad thing, resulting, as it does, in songs that throb with bliss and only tinged with sadness.

A pop song with ‘hit’ writ large all over it, Norman Bleik‘s melody is a lightly trodden dance straight into Teenage Fanclub territory – hence the name – and it’s chiming, charming and purer than mountain water. Norman Bleik isn’t the first song to press Byrds-y wistfulness into My Bloody Valentine‘s warm blizzard of noise, but it is the first for a long time to do so this successfully.

I Was A King – Norman Bleik

Best Wishes mines the same rich vein of dreamy, fuzzy melody, a songs whose saccharine stylings are tempered with washes of well-measured blissed-out Shoegaze guitars.

I Was A King meld icy Scandinavian sweetness, duvet-cosy feedback and (whisper it) Britpop choruses to form their own musical fjord. Cleverer than you’ll initially give it credit for, sadder than you’d dare hope, and drenched with sunny yearning. Delightful.

PS: They’re playing at the Ja Ja Ja Scandi-showcase in London in a week’s time. Don’t miss them.

Photography By Silje Andersen

>Coyote Eyes, and IKEA/ADHT/H1N1

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Looking for new bands by wading through Myspace – which sometimes can resemble an endless, IKEA ball-pit playroom populated only by ADHT snot-nosed kids with Swine Flu and soundtracked by a million Coldplay-a-likes – can be a genuinely despairing experience, especially when one drab band after another is whelped into your lap.

Today, it took an uncommon amount of time before the abrasive buzz of Clumsy by Coyote Eyes served as a very welcome reminder that it was all worth it. Like a disproportionate number of sharp new things at the moment, Coyote Eyes summon from Brooklyn and make rugged, metallic, yelps from somewhere far beyond comfort.

Yellow Red is bloody and raw, searing and naive; juddering with sweet and sour vocals and guitars that slope and slide muddily. Out Of Mind is a slow gentle cry, bandaged, dabbed and dried, with a chorus drenched in mania – purposely built for fey Indie kids to sing along to.

Their songs are cleverly built and lackadaisically compiled – and this combination of spirit and slumber leaves them with a selection of songs that are uneasy but enthralling. Coyote Eyes prod at your worries but leave you strangely soothed.

Photography by Michael Seto for L Magazine // Northside Festival