Vampyramiden; Occult, Conspiracy, Trolls

As a native English speaker, there’s something hugely satisfying about listening to and reading Scandinavian languages.

Because of the very distant link between our languages, if you squint or strain your ears it almost starts to make sense. It’s like tuning the FM-Radio dial of comprehension down just a few notches – confusing but comforting; a leap into the past, the unknown, another world, or all three simultaneously.

Languages like Swedish can either sound like English spoken by very drunk people or give you the feeling that you’ve just had a bump on the head. Bands like Vampyramiden will make you grateful for such feelings.

Any band that uses a portmanteau to scrape the occult and conspiracy theories into one blisteringly brilliant name is worth a few minutes of our time, right?

Vampyramiden // En Stad Och En Trollkarl

I have been making ill-educated guess as to what En Stad Och En Trollkarl means, none of which I will post here, for fear of offence and embarrassment. Oh OK then: the best I came up with was In The Stadium Of A Troll Called Carl. Things we derive such pleasure from don’t need to make sense, OK?

The song itself is a sweet, crystalline gem: delicate to the point of fragility, melodic to the point of heartbreak. Hovering in a newly-defined spot between twee, folk, space-tinkling and sing-along pop, Vampyramiden have managed to make a song that will charm all our pants clean off.

It is entirely superfluous to point out that Scandinavian bands seem to make these sort of songs by accident, but it is worth remembering such geographical oddities.

Vampyramiden might find themselves in the ridiculous situation of being crowded out of their local market because everyone else’s songs are just as excellent. They can move here and entertain me any time. And teach me some Swedish too.

www.myspace.com/vampyramiden

Pengilly’s – Bothering Pedants and Jilting Expectations Since 2009

That’s a mysterious apostrophe isn’t it? A taunting, curious interruption, that begs half a dozen questions, not the least of which is, ‘Who is Pengilly? And just what is it that belongs to them?’

Hopefully it’s (geddit!?!) presence will irritate the crap out of Lynne Truss, the only woman to ever make an extended book career out of being a grammar pedant. Imagine how much fun she’d be at a dinner party.

Pengilly’s, vicious apostrophe and all, however, would be a delight. Especially if they cooed and fluttered their way through the floaty-light Ivan Splits In Two right there, at the dinner table. Well, you have to drown out the Sade CD somehow.

Pengilly’s – Ivan Splits In Two

Starting with a burble, ending on an orchestral high, and bold enough to leave the vocals to half-way through, Ivan Splits In Two takes the long route and walks it, albeit wearing a sensible pear of sandals all the while.

On paper Pengilly’s should be awful – a laptop ‘n’ strings ‘n’ keyboards ‘n’ fey, wide-eyed pop band gushing cheerily – but it turns out that songs like Ivan Splits In Two are a rare foppish joy.

The apostrophe is never explained, and the mystery is all the more welcome. Gentle, ignorant and charming. Just like you and me, dear reader.

www.myspace.com/thisispengillys

>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 – Something Like Fire PLUS! Philosophy!

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What do you call glasses with no glass in them? This quasi-philosophical query popped into my life yesterday, as I was wandering strolling down Oxford Road in Manchester. Lost in my own pompous sense of raffish manliness, donning a new, grown-up coat, I pondered on how devilishly suave I was looking, in a 1930′s gumshoe kind of way. Usefully, a student interrupted before my head inflated and I floated off into the flight path of passing planes.
There are plenty of students on that particular road, and this one thrust a flyer into my hand, as is the students’ want. It advertised a jumble sale of vintage* clothing. As I involuntarily thanked her, I noticed that she was wearing the kind glasses that your grandmother may have rejected as they’d make her look too ancient. The glasses contained no lenses, and were serving solely as a fashion item.
*dead people’s
Removing an object’s function and leaving it as a useless, purchasable, purely decorative item has its rock equivalent – Scouting For Girls (who we’ve discussed before). Surely it’s more difficult to write vapid music than something that sounds different, at the very least.

Perhaps Today’s New Band, Something Like Fire, have thought about similar issues, because their songs seep different influences with abandon. Mr Shadow sounds like a loud punk song that has had the original fuzz stripped away and a light, tight composition put in its place. It scrapes the 2 1/2 minute mark and yet still flirts with as many original ideas as it can.

While New World Wonder is a more straightforward rock song, it still skitters along, skewed slightly, but importantly, at an angle to normality. White Noise isn’t that at all, but is the most calming and engaging lift music ever, clicking and clucking for its own amusement.

Something Like Fire cut a path of their own idiosyncratic making. Their songs are defiantly obtuse enough to be interesting, and tuneful enough to be enjoyable. A good balance? Put it this way – if more bands aimed for the same traits maybe the world (OK, just the pop charts) would be a better place. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – My Tiger My Timing PLUS! "I wanna be a d-o-o-o-g"

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When I was in my mid-teens, oily of skin and squeaky of voice, I listened to The Stone Roses’ eponymous debut album twice a day, every day for about a year. How did this frightening set of circumstances come about?

Well, a young world-view, musical or otherwise, was mainly to blame. This meant that some bands of that time (Pavement et al) were a lot lower on the radar than they should have been, and bands from the near past (Joy Division and friends) may as well have been, to my teenage ears, my grandparent’s very choicest of 78″ acetate discs.

At that age you seem to get – no, actually, actively, subconsciously want to get – amorously attached to one band. Teens want a band that means something to them and them alone, regardless of how many copies of their favourite album have been sold, and so listen religiously, looking for and finding extra meaning that fair weather fans have missed.
I migrated from The Stone Roses after a while. Actually, I can pinpoint the moment of the shattering realisation that they weren’t that good after all to the day when my six-year old sister asked me why, on the first track, ‘the man is singing, “I wanna be a dog”?’
Clinging onto one band is not a bad thing per se, but it does legitimise the careers of awful bands who scraped the bottom of the rock barrel a long time ago. There is a reason why Ocean Colour Scene are still touring.

This is also the reason why listening to Today’s New Band, My Tiger My Timing, is the right thing to do. They’re a band that have found how to be arty and not jarring – one of rock’s holy grails. Thus, the least we can do is point our ears in their direction.

This Is Not The Fire quickly unfolds into one of the jerkiest, warmest pop songs of its unusual ilk this side of Born Under Punches by Talking Heads. It rambles freely in its self-imposed sonic limitations, eager to seek out every cranny of possibility. Conversation Starter, full of gentle punches of pulsating sounds, steely guitar shimmers and careful chanting, dreams of shiny space-pop and aims high enough to get there.

My Tiger My Timing are an example of a band Doing The Right Thing. Not only are they NEW! in spirit and sound, but have delicacy, urgency and the desire to make sounds that you haven’t quite heard before. Ace! Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Julien Fargo PLUS! Repressed late 90′s rock!

>As if further proof were needed that life is full of weird coincidences, just a couple of days after musing on The Only Ones and their reunion gigs, a friend mentioned that he’d gone to see them on Saturday night. And the verdict is: The Only Ones still sound great, but singer Peter Perrett’s voice was shot. He then went on to make several unsubstantiated substance-abuse allegations, which I probably shouldn’t recount.

In fairness, perhaps he had a sore throat, or the mic was at the wrong level, or any number of reasons could account for his croaky voice. But it didn’t matter – the band played the hits, and the fans danced and went home happy. So any lingering cynicism I had about band reunions vapourised. Except then I remembered that Kula Shaker reformed a few years ago, and are troubling venues all over the world again.

This kind of assault on common decency must not stand. Kula Shaker are the second worst band of all time. To banish the resurfaced memory of the woeful quasi-mystic rock nonsense of Tattva and Govinda, here’s Today’s New Band, Julien Fargo, who don’t sing songs in Sanskrit and don’t make ill-informed statements about swastikas. What they actually do is make really good music, which is enough.

L’Homme 100 tetes - which as far as my schoolboy French is aware, means ‘The Man With 100 Heads’ – is just fabulous, a twinkling swoosh through multi-coloured starfields. Wait – sorry about that. I think Kula Shaker’s faux-psychedelia must have leeched into my brain. But it is a beautiful, simple song, built on simple repetition and echoes of sounds, and ends up as a dreamy, woozy soundtrack to whatever you are doing as you listen to it.

Le Jardin de Roses clambers up and up using a genuinely lovely, plinky-ponk melody to find its way to wherever it might end up. Carefree, lively and with just enough world-weariness to make it lovable, it’ll immediately ping an image into your mind. The one that popped into my head was the view from a bar stool in Parisian cafe. I don’t know why. But it was a nice moment.

In these two songs, Julien Fargo – the man, the band – has made two little glimpses of something that’s annoyingly intangible, but special. And so much better than retreading your musical past. Listen to them here!

>Today’s New Band – Meringue, Alcohol and Us PLUS! Chas and Dave! Status Quo!

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One of the disadvantages with using iTunes as your primary music-playing source is that all of your music is clearly laid out for you. If you want to jump straight to your copy of Chas and Dave’s Gertcha, all you need to do is a quick keyword search. If you want to scroll through everything until that Abba Dub Remix album leaps out at you, that’s easy too.
It’s just not the same as manually sorting through a stack of CDs. The beauty of flipping through actual LPs is that, whilst looking for Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon by Status Quo, you may well stumble upon that The Decline Of British Sea Power disc you’d forgotten about and play that instead.
It might be apt at this point to observe that only the truly anal alphabetise a music collection. There’s a zen skill in keeping a randomised collection and remembering what each colour each CD’s spine has, and slowly scanning hundreds of them for one with off-mauve-yellow and red writing.
Shockingly, this exact scenario was played out in slow, agonising detail in my living room just last night. And what an album of British Sea Power’s that is (yellow-spined, by the way). Complicatedly crazy, beautifully melodic and deliberately obtuse all at once – I was so pleased to have rediscovered it.
The CD of Today’s New Band, Meringue, Alcohol and Us, is sand-coloured; CD-owning readers can commit that fact to memory now for future reference.
The band is French, (though they sing in English). All of the best meringues I have ever eaten have been whilst in France, and MAAU’s songs are similarly sweet, light and delicious. Their song Rollercoaster is closer to a gentle weave and bob around on a bike in a country lane than screaming and thundering around a metal contraption, but it drives forward with the same carefree impetus.
Love and Pets weaves more and more cutely honeyed instruments into the mix until a mandolin welcomes a chorus of freewheeling, downtrodden fun. Purple Dreams isn’t about diminutive, squeaky 80′s rock gods, but does manage to make a newly-discovered journey from light crooning over tinkling glockenspiels to angsty howling.
If you’ve ever been to France, you’ll identify Meringue, Alcohol and Us‘ deft jauntiness as being uniquely Gallic. They’re the band you’d like to listen to in a bar on a Friday evening after a long first week back at work in the New Year. Just like this one. So listen 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 – Oh! PLUS! Bomber Jackets and Dubious Political Leanings

>Two heart-warming stories in the news today. Firstly, the final solution, as it were, to the question that has kept all of us awake for the last 50 years – did Adolf Hitler have one or two testicles? The answer, according to UK rag The Sun, is – brace yourselves – only one. So now you know. The second story concerns the leak of those right-wing funsters The BNPs secret membership list.

The list has made all of the BNP’s middle-aged xenophobes a bit hot under the collar. Far-Right political parties like the BNP go out of their way to portray themselves as serious concerns. This list has nicely knocked all that into a cocked hat, owing to the revealing notes next to each member’s details – my favourite of which stated that one member wouldn’t be renewing his membership because he objected to being told off for wearing a bomber jacket.

So now we have learned our second lesson of the day: ultra-right-wingers don’t like to be told not to dress like nightclub bouncers. Poor things. A New Band A Day generally steers clear of politics, so you may be asking – what this has to do with rock ‘n’ roll? Well, not a huge amount, frankly. But after doing a quick search of the database, and finding a truly depressing number of members in my hometown, I needed cheering up. Enter Today’s New Band, Oh!

Oh! are from Guadalajara, which is a whole lot of fun to say out loud, and their songs are short, ethereal bursts of creativity. Listening to them sucks you instantly out of your day-to-day routine, to a happy place that feels a bit like a warm, comfortable bed.

Once Upon A Time is minimalist to the point of almost non-existance, a slow repetetive drone that’s somewhere between a distant pealing of a bell and a slowed-down recording of a heartbeat. Little Jerbil Life Form ping-pongs in the unusual way you’d expect of a song with a name like that.

In some ways Oh!’s songs are half-formed, in the nicest way. Songs like Happy Noaniversary pop in from a starting point you don’t hear, and unravelling before an ending they’ll never get to. Their songs are self-contained and you, the suddenly docile listener, bob along with Oh! on their short, light, peaceful journeys. Hold hands with them here, and forget all about everything, softly and gently.