>Today’s New Band – Gemma Ray

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There’s a club in Manchester that I keep getting drawn too, despite myself. I’ve never actually noticed its name, such is my rush to get inside, but I call it Nerd Bar, due to the overwhelming concentration of computer science and IT students that patronise it.

The music is a complex blend of the great (the ubiquitous Smiths) and the deeply abject (decade-old Fatboy Slim songs), which is tailored to the specific needs of the nerds: good enough songs to keep the party going, and songs dreadful enough to appeal to Jamiroquai fans.

Laugh at the sweaty, strangely-haired and weirdly dressed crowd trying to ape Jay Kay’s dancing if you like, but be sure that they’re thinking exactly the same about you when they visit your club.

Lights Out Zoltar! sounds like one of the so-bad-it’s-bad 70’s sci-fi movies that are projected onto the walls of the club, but it’s actually the new album from Today’s New Band, Gemma Ray. She’s no geek, but the macabre feel sloshing around her music similarly alienates her from the bulk of society. It also separates her from the hoards of Kate Bush-a-like female singers shrieking in the charts now.

(You Got Me In A) Death Roll, seductive, eerie and slinky, will have you under its spell, helpless and rapt. It’s a woozy, libertine and defiant; Gemma Ray is a woman who wants it her way, and will get it too. 100 MPH (In 2nd Gear) is a beautifully overblown, string-driven ballad and Dry River is just unusual enough to elevate the song into a newer territory.

Gemma Ray could hit the big time quite easily, which is an unusual occurrence for a band featured on ANBAD. It’s not that she’s commercial-sounding, but that she’s intriguing and better than her contemporaries. She’d deserve it too, for all the right reasons. Listen here!

Photo by Eric Weiss – www.weissbild.de

>Today’s New Band – Nic Dawson Kelly

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When I left university, I held a succession of woeful jobs, all of which were designed to sap the remaining hope, desire and belief in humanity from the participants. I realised I had reached my personal nadir when I was getting up at six every morning to mow lawns at sewage works.

Today’s new artist, Nic Dawson Kelly, says that he too has ‘done more crap jobs than he cares to remember’. Reading that simple sentence sent empathetic shivers down my spine, and if I was in possession of a heart, as opposed to the black, shrivelled CAULDRON OF HATRED that nestles between my lungs, I’d have felt sympathy.

Sometimes an artist has such a distinctive voice that their songs need to be listened to twice: once to admire the vocals, and then the second time to actually hear the song behind it. Nic can join this short list of lucky singers. The shock of hearing the curious, archaic clarity of his voice is like that of a loud handclap in the face of a snoozing pensioner.

It’s quite easy to overlook the fact that The Musician is a good song in itself, so overshadowed as it is by Nic’s lusty crooning. It’s a dry and sharp snook cocked at the tribulations of a singer trying to make it; a song which will demand your attention and sympathy in equal measure. And yet there’s the voice, the voice…

After such a eulogy, you may find that Nic Dawson Kelly has a voice that you just can’t bear. It will probably divide opinion. But I’m sure you’ll be as mesmerised as I was. Listen here, and swoon.

>Today’s New Band – Robert George Saull & The Purgatory Players

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Maybe you’ve never been tempted to ditch the job, the car, the house and your world possessions and travel haphazardly around Europe until what little money you do have runs out and you return home worried and trembling, like I was. I don’t expect any posts, hastily typed on on a recalcitrant laptop in a tent in the Pyrenees and then shoved onto a music website, to necessarily change your mind.
But just in case: here’s the best thing about ditching the job, the car, the house and your world possessions etc etc. The people – all the people – you meet en route are just lovely.
In Spain, they practically beg you to eat, live, and if you’re lucky, sleep with them, and in France, the endlessly happy population is hell-bent on proving that the grumpy-Frenchman image is a tissue of lies.
As further proof, before I’d even set off, two previous New Bands – old friends The Alibies and delightful Euro-guitar-poppers Daisy Godzilla wrote and said that I could visit them. At the time, I was taken aback by their upfront generosity, and now I still am, but without the surprise. Come to continental Europe and have your pants charmed right off.
I really ought to have featured many more bands from foreign countries, as the subsequent invitations may have made travelling so much cheaper. Unfortunately, forward planning never has been my forte.
It would have been perfect if Today’s New Band, Robert George Saull & The Purgatory Players were based somewhere on the Adriatic coast, because maybe I’d have eagerly made a detour their way. Alas: they’re from Sheffield – a lovely city, but not on my route.
Fer Elsass – a lament for the decline of artisan living standards in and around Strasbourg – is, from the very core of its being, unusual. It lingers, insouciant and grumpy, smoking Gauloises. It is the recording of a rainy, grimy, glum day in Alsace. It is sung in a manner suggesting an interest in the quixotic and sung using words that almost have the wrong meaning, but not quite. It is recorded by young men in very normal clothing from the north of England.
Something doesn’t make sense, but why spend too much time puzzling over it? Robert George Saull & The Purgatory Players’ songs have whimsy without annoyance, weirdness without pretence and are so decidedly skewed against the grain, it’s hard to escape their charms. So why bother trying? Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – L’Aurore

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Christ, there were a lot of unread emails in my inbox. I hope any of you who kindly emailed in weren’t too distraught when you received the soulless/mindless automated email reply only seconds after your sweaty fingers clicked ‘Send’.

But here, in the small discrete bubble of internet access that is to be found in Slovenia, I’ve had a chance to partially redress the awfully skewed balance, and have had the not-unlovely experience of pairing the visceral delights of Slovene woodland with listening to the usual, brilliantly motley, crew of suggested bands.
One such band got in touch while I was toiling in the Mid-Euro Wifi Dead Zone, and said that I should listen to their music “as I walk around on my trip.”After having blown all my cash getting as far as Mitteleurope (leaving me a bit unsure of how to get home, frankly), walking and listening to things are among the few luxuries I can still afford, so I took L’Aurore‘s advice.
Well – they were right. Their music is the kind of expansive, gilded post-rock that suits such strenuous activities as watching the world go by and looking at tree-covered mountains. El Corazon Humano, tender, thumping and relaxed, played as I sat by a clear Alpine river, and the two flowed together; imperceptible, restful and golden.

Before We Explode soundtracked some otherwise quiet moments spent in dappled sunlight in the greenest forest I have ever sat in. The sounds were gently sweeping, quietly thoughtful and adroitly assembled.
I often wonder how much of the enjoyment derived from a song is as much to do with the circumstances under which it was heard as much as the music itself. I was left soothed and happy by hearing L’Aurore’s music in this lovely setting. Would it elicit the same reaction in a busy city? Probably. But you’ll have to find out for me. Comments, as always, are welcome below.

>Today’s New Band – Mat Riviere

>There’s more to great songs than verse-chorus-verse-chorus-chorus, you know, but not much more. That thin line that separates a drab band and a great band is usually located not in the construction, but the execution.

Good songwriters don’t simply know how to move a dull pub-rock song to thrilling innovation – their songs would end up there whether they liked it or not. It’s in their blood. Perhaps Mat Riviere is one of this lucky few.

From his name, you’d think Mat Riviere ought to be crooning from a small, glittery stage, in a shiny suit, on a cruiseboat, in the Mediterranean. He doesn’t though. He’s a singer/songwriter form Norwich; and yes, that is underselling him.

He writes songs like FYH, that seem almost too simple and slender to contain such a wonderful refrain and a chorus which swells uncontrollably with a sad exuberance. Godless Girl slumps dejectedly, sweetly. Castroreale drones urgently, throbbing with opaque white noise before inching into another brilliant, sombre chorus. Most bands can’t do choruses. Mat doesn’t seem to have enough songs to fit them all in. Maybe he can sell them.

And if every Tom, Dick and Harry had Mat Riviere‘s crystal-clear comprehension of what makes a great song, would the world be a better place, or would the standard simply be reset, albeit with a higher threshold? While you’re thinking, listen here, and be happy that this music exists at all.

>Today’s New Band – The Handsome Family PLUS! Beatle-mageddon!

>My theory on The Beatles runs roughly along these lines: their songs are music’s equivalent of the Bible. In my case, it means that I know all the songs, but never actually listen to them; similarly, I know all about Samson and Delilah, but the Bible-shaped space on my bookshelf is filled by 1000 Pinup Girls.

I don’t own any Beatles albums any more, not even Revolver. Last week I was sent a link to a site where one devotee had ranked every single Beatles song in order of preference. This kind of obsessive behaviour indicates that the author is a man, but I may be wrong.

You, like everyone else, will disagree with his list – Day Tripper is only the 147th best Beatles song? Really? – but anyone who has even a passing interest will get lost in it for hours.

It’s tough to truly assess their brilliance – everyone is told about their genius from an early age. But after browsing through the only the bottom 20-or-so songs, and identifying that half a dozen are near-perfect, it quickly dawns on you just how mind-bogglingly revolutionary they were.

It might seem a trifle unfair to now introduce a New Band, but we’ll do it anyway, because The Handsome Family won’t suffer from any latent comparison with the Beatles. This is chiefly because their creepy, isolated and dark American folky-country sound is pretty much the anti-I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

Bottomless Hole, about a man dropping into – yes – a hole in his garden, is rich, gloomy and pitch-black, and there’s a strange sense of happy liberation in its nihilism. So Much Wine is beautiful and soothing to the nth degree. You could easily miss the distressing lyrics – “But when you fell asleep, with blood on your teeth, I got in my car and drove away” – as you sway dreamily to the tune. In Weightless Again, they manage to form a wonderful, skewed love song that sells the idea of jumping from the Golden Gate bridge as an attractive life-choice.

Infused with death, love and a determinedly crooked view of life, The Handsome Family‘s songs are gorgeously out of step with anyone but themselves.

Brett and Rennie Sparks are husband and wife, and if their songs are any indication of life in the marital home, the conversations over dinner must surely be several fascinating notches up from the usual ‘And what did you do today, dear’ pleasantries. I’d like to listen in. Perhaps I already have.

>Today’s New Band – The Monroe Transfer PLUS! Yet more darts!

>Another week, another World Darts Final. It seems like it’s all that’s on TV these days. This weekend it was the PDA – or was it the BDO – version of the world title, and yet another 4 hours of my life was summarily dispatched watching two arrows-throwing titans of the sport battle it out at the oche.

There’s something very Zen about watching the grim determination on the faces of two fat, sweating men as they throw darts as an audience of drunks cheers them on. Even more thrilling is watching this in the knowledge that they could legitimately stand alongside Usain Bolt and Christiano Ronaldo as athletes at the pinnacle of their chosen sport. That said, I don’t expect to see Ted “The Count” Hankie appearing with Tiger Woods and Roger Federer in an advert for Gillette anytime soon.

If Darts is simple, unrefined and to the point (arf!), then Today’s New Band, The Monroe Transfer are the opposite; complicated, multi-layered and dense. But just like Darts, there’s a similar veneer of calmness and a brash nonconformity.

They’re a band where perhaps analysing individual songs is not the point (though, of course, we will), as their songs are long, drawn-out and connecting with you in a wholly different way to the usual three minute blast. This isn’t whale-noise ‘mood-music’ though, but is a collection of carefully constructed sounds, both attention-grabbing and subliminally affecting.

A Long Fall And No-one To Catch You is just that – a slow, lingering descent towards an inevitable finish, like those dreams where you materialise a mile up in the sky and then calmly watch the earth zoom towards you. JFK is doom-laden and tense, a thoughtful musical shimmy to Kennedy’s address on the Cuban Missile Crisis. Joy might well be about happiness, but not any type of glee that you’ve ever experienced.

If all of this sounds weighty, well, it is. I’m sure that, as people, they’re a bunch of knock-around, diamond-geezer, cheeky chappies. But on record, they’re plumbing depths and exploring feelings for us so that we don’t have to. That they’re chosen to record their findings as lovely, drifting music is a happy, complicated, bonus. So listen to them here!

>Today’s New Band – Rob St. John PLUS! Glumness! And more glumness!

>It goes without saying that It’s Grim Up North this time of year. In fact, it’s been grim up here for pretty much the whole of this year, but let’s not dwell on that now, in case the uncontrollable weeping starts again. When this particularly northern grimness overwhelms one’s soul, there are only two viable musical courses of action.

Firstly, the default option of Just Cheer The Hell Up, Saddo, which is initiated by the liberal application of Gabber (thanks, Holland), or spinning a couple of BONKERS! Happy Hardcore CDs (preferably in a souped-up Vauxhall Nova), or maybe just the sensible option of listening to Happy by the Stones.

That option is diversion therapy of sorts, and an entirely normal approach to life. Well, except maybe listening to Gabber, which I believe is usually seen these days by doctors as a diagnosis of mental illness. The second option is just to wallow in that miserablism and just luxuriate in that gloominess. Don’t knock it – Morrissey got two whole careers out of doing just that.

Inevitably, this brings us to Today’s New Band. I’m sure that Rob St. John are actually an entirely upbeat bunch, and their hobbies may well include gaily skipping through fields, making daisy chains and excitedly squealing whilst feeding baby animals, but their music is glummer than listening to Leonard Cohen reading Kurt Cobain‘s diaries out loud. (Note to self – patent that idea double-quick, there’s big money to be made there)

Kurt said there was a “comfort in being sad”, and that lovely, skewed approach permeates Rob St’ John‘s songs. Paper Ships is six-minutes of desolate sadness which also manages to be warm, gentle and uplifting despite the seemingly end-of-world feeling. A Red Heron is as close to upbeat as the band gets – tinkling sweetly like a music box, and slowly growing into a big, black, campfire song.

Rob St. John might just cheer you up, if you need it, or they might make you feel more gloomy than before. Whichever outcome, your soul’ll be stirred, and that is a rare thing indeed. Listen here, and then come back tomorrow, when everything will be much less miserable, I promise.

>Today’s New Band – Photons PLUS! Reunions! Youth! Money!

>If you live in the UK, you’ll have heard all about Blur re-uniting for a few huge gigs next summer. This was a bit of a surprise to everyone, seeing as Blur‘s main protagonists, Damon and Graham, apparently hate each other; that the drummer now seems to be getting on with a career of repeatedly failing to become a Labour MP; and Alex the insufferable bassist is now an insufferable cheese-maker.

All those enlivening inter-band foibles aren’t my gripe with this reunion, and neither is the awful, recession-mocking £45 ticket price. It’s the fact that, now they’re back together and might even make a new album, they are putting themselves in direct contravention of one of the main Laws Of Rock: Stop making music when you hit 40.

This isn’t an ageist rant – just look at the facts: would you really be any poorer if the combined discographies of Paul McCartney, Paul Weller, Oasis or the Rolling Stones suddenly ended at the point where the songwriters hit 40? Nope, not really. Even – whisper it – David Bowie – hasn’t done anything really good since his mid 30s. If Blur do record a new album, I hope it disproves this rule. But I hope even more that they don’t go near a studio at all.

A band that deserve to be spending more time in the studio are Today’s New Band, Photons. They’re from San Fransisco and, having spent too long now looking out of a window into the Manchester rain, this fact alone is enough to make me mad with jealous rage.

The problem is that Photons are far too lovable to ever focus any mindless hatred at. Their songs are dreamy, happy and sweet; the sound of the eight band members shunning worry, despair and all the other frivolous anxiety that is associated with modern life, and choosing glee instead.

Goodbye For Now is a festive Indie sea-shanty, inventively and rousingly clomping into a big, happy chorus. Cease and Desist is a rollocking clatter, both wild and focused together, and finding time to pop in another big chanty chorus. It’s imbued, possibly unknowingly, with more human feeling than most songs ever manage. Something Left To Live For is much more upbeat than the title suggests a plink-plonking melody gleefully dripping through the whole song.

The Photons are rousing, positive and inventive. Are these youthful traits, put into song by people too young to be corrupted by cynicism to think of money-spinning reunions? Who knows, but try to figure it out for yourself by listening to their ace songs here!

PS – The ANBAD eBook is being downloaded like hot cakes. Mix your metaphors too, and get yours here! FREE!

>Today’s New Band – Dave Osbourn PLUS! The Apocalypse Cometh!

>Why is it that at the exact point that you think that things are calming down, in reality – the reality that you can’t see or feel or taste until it’s poking you in the ribs and sneering – it’s the exact opposite and suddenly you have a bazillion new things on your plate? Thanks, life. Thanks also to Today’s New Band, who, usefully, provided an equally sudden calm today.

Dave Osbourn is Today’s New Band. Dave Osbourn might not even be a band, using friends and acquaintances to pad out his sound. Either way, Dave Osbourn doesn’t have the usual name you’d associate with gentle, electronic-y, folk-y hybrid music. I suppose I expected something more… post-apocalyptic, which is a moderately stupid thing to say, but is an adequate indicator of my mindset, and much more importantly, of the softly troubling music Dave makes.

Imagine the world ended in a nuclear catastrophe, and you were lucky enough to survive, and in the new wilderness you found a radio and scrolled through the dial. Dave Osbourne’s music would be tucked away in the hiss. And you’d feel at ease with everything. Night Time Chances is a bitty, bare, mournful song that only just lifts itself off the floor, but with grace.

In his songs are one or two sounds that are just too quiet to be fully recognised, and the effect is slightly disarming. Right By, a song that almost reaches the dizzy heights of ‘happy’, but not quite, is full of echoing knocking sounds and faint washes of noise to spread warmth and confusion.

He says his songs are meant to be reassuring. They are. Self-intervene and soothe by listening to his songs here!

Coming Tomorrow: we’re all thrilled to welcome new writer Jamie into the ANBAD ‘fold’. His first post will be tomorrow and will not only delight, but inform, it says here. So come, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, tomorrow for his first dalliance with A New Band A Day!

Oh, and apologies for those of you that have been using Internet Explorer and wondering why the homepage has been so mangled. We’re confused too. I’m working on it RIGHT NOW!

In the meantime, try the ANBAD eBOOK for happy memories of when ANBAD worked properly!