Le Couleur: Proven Wrong, Proven Right

I’ve just written a guest article for the BBC about Scandinavian pop music and why those Scandinavians write such darn catchy tunes.

What I discovered was a little stunning (and will be revealed when the article is published – keep ’em peeled, folks), but it at least partially dispelled any fanciful ideas that our Northern Euro-cousins have a special Pop Hook gene.

But it’s so easy to make these generalisations, isn’t it? You know, like how French-language pop is oh-so suave, jaunty and sophisticated.

Well, here’s Le Couleur to – well, prove exactly that.


OK, L’Amour de Jour is so much more than vapid Franco-pop, but it certainly does have a certain sultry slink to it that you couldn’t imagine being present if the song was sung in, say, German.

If, unlike me, you can get past these vague sweeping pre-conceptions, there is a shiny nugget of a  pop song in L’Amour de Jour – one with verve, style and – hell – sophistication.

Maybe those stereotypes are as they are for a reason. Good stuff.

MORE: lecouleurmusic.bandcamp.com

Douglas Firs. No, *This* Douglas Firs. Not That One.

It turns out there’s quite a lot of bands named after Douglas Firs. Who would have thought? In the interests of fairness, let us list them all:

  • The Douglas Firs – a ‘Jam Funk’ band, influenced by – yikes! – Ben and Jerry’s favourites Phish;
  • The Douglas Firs – a contemporary acoustic duo with ‘thought provoking lyrics’ who probably don’t know who Phish is (lucky them);
  • The Douglas Fir – tantalisingly singular, and in possession of a song called I Think I Loathe You;
  • Douglas FirsBelgian Ryan Adams-a-likes drop the definite article for a zany twist on the theme.

There’s more. I could go on, but Christ, I won’t. After reading the same band name over and over and over, the words start to lose their meaning, my already shaky grasp on the English language starts to loosen and I’d quite like to finish this article thank you very much.

So what is it about this tree that generates so many identical band names? I have done no research whatsoever, but am prepared to offer this explanation: all of the bands were founded by vain men called Douglas who wanted to see their names plastered across poorly-photocopied flyers for grimy gig venues the world over.

Here’s the Douglas Firs that I’m interested in. Funnily enough, this Douglas
Firs is the most unusual sounding of them all. Go figure.

Douglas Firs // Soporific

I’m all for self-explanatory names – as both A New Band A Day and Bad Cover Versions testify – and so wholeheartedly approve of the thought process behind the naming of a song which creeps in almost agonisingly slowly, mutates a few times and just as quietly slips out again.

At times echoing Radiohead at their most sedate, the song moves restlessly and rewards you for repeated listens. I’m not sure how many of the other Douglas Firs have songs about which that can be said. But do feel free to find out.


Friendly Foliage; Donkey-Bestiality and Tenuous Links

Sometimes a crock of comedy gold just falls into your lap.

Sometimes it is a hairy, confusing crock. For instance: the news story of a man who has been sneaking into a farm and having sex with a horse and a donkey.

I don’t know at which point buggering a donkey just doesn’t cut it any more and the step up to having sex with a horse is the only remaining option, but this man passed it with brazen certainty.

Regardless – a man having sex with animals isn’t funny, right? No – but the funny thing is the penultimate paragraph in the resultant local newspaper article:

“The defendant does not have a stable address…”

Wonderful. Someone buy that sub-editor a pint, quick.

So the link to today’s new band? Well, Friendly Foliage could well have been used by said donkey-buggering gent to gain the gentle beasts’ trust. And that, dear reader is the most tenuous of all the many tenuous links that have graced the pages of ANBAD.

Friendly Foliage // Masonic Meadows

Masonic Meadows is exactly the kind of drop-dead gorgeous, burblingly beautiful song that I would happily have soundtracking every move of my life from here onwards.

This kind of music – that is, the sort that meanders, grows and organically weedles its way into your head – is rare. Anyone can make drawn-out, self-indulgent soundscapes (just visit any modern art gallery).

But to create something that glistens with dewy, sun-drenched beauty is outrageously difficult; and yet Friendly Foliage have done just that. Masonic Meadows is truly wonderful: calm, earthy, real. From donkey-rape to this. Yum.


Song issued under CC license (BY-NC-SA) via Bad Panda.

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?


Timothy Cushing, and Liam Gallagher’s Hair In “Boring” Shocker!

Funny, the power our idols have over us. If I unceremoniously deposited a lock of my hair into your outstretched palm, you’d probably call the police, wash the offending hand in bleach and take out a restraining order.

However, if I told you that the bristly bundle belonged to a certain truculent, microphone-lobbing rock star, the excitement would be so great, you’d not know whether to update your Facebook status or Ebay listing first.

Such otherwise mundane occurrences punctuate a normal life with the dazzling white-hot glare of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and when @SkinnyGirlWho, one of the tremendous ANBAD Twitter followers, tweeted to let me know that she was once in the possession of Liam Gallagher’s hair trimmings, only one response was appropriate. Did she smell it?

The answer was, of course, yes. Who wouldn’t? Further probing uncovered that it was – and I quote – “incredibly brown, and, dare I say it, unexciting”. So there you have it: Liam Gallagher has clean, dull hair. Like a choirboy. Shocking.

Such deviant behaviour, and subsequent judgements, await the follicle snippings of Timothy Cushing when he makes it that big. This is the price of fame.

Timothy Cushing is crafty – in every sense: his songs are both sneakily insidious and subtly constructed to give the air of quickly cast-off folk-rock. In reality, of course, songs like Dandelion Wine have been sweated over and refined more times than a bottle of expensive vodka.

Timothy Cushing // Dandelion Wine

Dandelion Wine‘s guitars chime, the lazy beat shuffles, and while Tim relays a story of half-shrugged melancholy, it’s hard to deny that all is just A-OK in the world.

It’s a song you’ll be sure you’ve sung along to before, but can’t remember when or where. This is because you haven’t, and is also the reason why it is such a good song.

From a cursory glance, I can make these judgements on Tim Cushing’s hair: it’s brown – though not ‘incredibly’ – and it may be harbouring pockets of excitement. The smell, alas, is so far unrecorded. This information is not hankered after yet. But with songs like Dandelion Wine in his armoury, it’s just a matter of time.


Something Beginning With L and Manda Rin

You know, rummaging around in the grubby dustbin of Indie is undeniably an act of escapism both for its practitioners and followers – and so when a dose of real life crawls up your trouser leg and grabs you by the delicates, your head spins that bit faster.

An unwelcome example: Manda Rin from fabulously carefree 90’s lo-fi Teen C heroes Bis has Multiple Sclerosis. She blogged about it a couple of weeks ago, and it’s a sobering, uplifting read: blunt, bold, positive.

I loved Bis then, did when they reformed for a few gigs a while ago, and still do now. All cynicism, archness and snobbery is set aside today: Manda, we sincerely wish you all the best.

Perhaps it would have been apt to feature a band today that owed something to the scurrilously upbeat influence of Bis, but it wasn’t to be. What do you want, sincerity and thoughtful structuring in one day?

Something Beginning With L’s Say does hark back the the very mid-90s, but owes more in its slouching attitude to Elastica: the casual sneer, the guitars that are sharp but fuzzy, the ominously rumbling bass, the louche female vocals.

They find that same fuzzy sound/even fuzzier minds groove and work into their own gully, forming a song that’s familiar yet brand new.

Something Beginning With L – Say

Say is an excellent song – angular but not clichéd, disenfranchised but not sloppy, apathetic but still fierce. It’s exactly the kind of song that is tempting, and yet so hard to do –  seemingly effortless, drawling, four-square rock.

Something Beginning With L get it right, parcelling up all that they want – and all that we need – into a satisfying package. Great.


Swimming In Mist, and For Sale: Sony Ericsson W880i (casing has minor teeth-marks and bloody streaks)

Swimming In Mist: A Literal Interpretation

How to induce a technologically-assisted breakdown in a zillion easy steps:

The process begins with breaking your phone by dropping it in a strip club that you never even wanted to be in in the first place, and then ends with you finally managing to fix the phone after a full ten days of hassle.

But only assuming you’ve ordered a special cable, special software, and spent hours tinkering with the computer, and stifled a sob upon realising that all of your contacts’ phone numbers have vanished, and you have no way of retrieving them other than asking each person individually on Facebook, which you hate even more than fixing mobile phones.

And to top it all, halfway through this process, you went out and bought a new phone in frustration, and now you’ve got two phones, when you only really need one, and thinking about it now, you don’t really want the hassle of even one phone any more.

If you do know that specific series of unfortunate events, the you too will find relief, comfort and maybe even the glimmerings of inner calm in the synthetic/organic warmth of Swimming In Mist‘s eponymous song.

Swimming In Mist- Swimming In Mist

Swimming In Mist is rough ‘n’ ready in its rapid and judicious use of flat, bluntly sampled sounds and beats, and herein lies the charm. The song meanders and yet has four-square rigidity, in warm but metallic, sounds cushion-soft but prickly.

If yesterday’s band glinted manically with all the facets of naive exuberance, then Swimming In Mist is just plain naive, having racked up a grand total of 200 views on Myspace at time of writing. So here’s an artist’s first tentative steps, just and like a stumbling baby, any clumsiness is masked by novelty, surprised delight and beauty.


>I Come To Shanghai, The Fall, and The Mark E. Smith Fingers/Pies Interface

As well as watching the Worst Band Ever, last week I also finally managed to catch The Fall, the finest grumpy band in the world. Singer Mark E Smith has been puzzling, delighting and be-grumpifying audiences for decades now, armed only with a perculi-ah! singing-ah! style-ah!, an endless supply of black leather zip-up jackets and a band line-up that rotates, frequently, and at his whim alone.

Needless to say, all the worthy praise you’ve ever read about The Fall is true – defiant, odd and thrilling- and make songs that are timeless by virtue of two things: their genuinely weird, outsider status, and the clattering brilliance of the songs themselves. All of this is held together by Smith, cracked ringmaster extraordinaire, the laser focus fuelled by beer, ego and more beer.

All of this has been roundly ignored by I Come To Shanghai, a band whose smoothed-off sound and shimmering brightness is miles away from grimy post-punk nihilism. Pass The Time is a yearning, pretty sigh; lazy, candy-coloured and wrapped up in its own semi-happiness.

Your Lazy Eye is a sky-shooting delight, and the breezy, bright pop couldn’t be further from The Fall’s… wait – or are they? There’s a sneaking suspicion that The Fall is still influencing new bands even now, possibly without either party knowing.

I Came To Shanghai – Lazy Eye

Having hung around for so long, rambling at all and sundry, telling them what to do, that, like the old drunk in the pub, you begin to take some of it in. And in I Come To Shanghai‘s sweet, clanking guitars, off-kilter view and taut drums, The Fall are there, insidious and sneering. The band just don’t realise it yet. This might be a very good thing.

>Today’s New Band – Finneyerkes

If you listen to a lot of music on the internet, I’m willing to gamble that the following question has crossed your mind too. Why are there so many post-rock bands? Answer: because making post-rock looks like an easy task.

Having dispensed with traditional song structure; you can just plug in and improvise, or so it seems. The less you think about what you’re doing, the more the beauty of the sounds flow through onto tape, right?

This is a fallacy, and is also why there are so many drab, tedious post-rock bands all peddling the same glum, unfocused, unwanted wares all over the internet. There is a very fine line between making lovely, semi-conscious noise-fuzz and a knuckle-chewingly lazy drone. You’ll be pleased to hear that Today’s New Band, Finneyerkes, are proponents of the former rather than the latter.

Finneyerkes make strung-out, light-as-air, soundscape-rock. If their actions matched their music, they’d stay in bed all day and dream about perfectly flat, brilliant white, snow-covered landscapes where nothing interrupts the horizon line.

Their songs lilt and lap like a stuporous sea; build up then release. Hear The Listener, its minimal reverberations overlapping and forming a larger image, like a dropped pile of so many photographs. Arshile falls from a mass of radio fuzz and, strangely but beautifully, threatens to become a huge, trancey keyboard-riff. Weird, yes: you’ll have to listen to hear what I mean.

Don’t be tricked into thinking that Finneyerkes make this music easily; it will have taken all the time, patience and frustration that is always required to make songs that sound this lovely. Their music is a genuinely soothing, sweet experience. Great. Listen here!

>Today’s New Band – Sparky Deathcap

I’m now at an age where indulgently nostalgic activities can be excused, and so yesterday I spent a few happy hours playing the early 90’s Sega Megadrive game Toejam And Earl. The game is still fun – as any game featuring jet-pack Santa Clauses and randomly scattered hula-girls is – if aged, but its best features were, and still are, the 80’s MTV visual stylings and the jazzy P-funk soundtrack.

For a such a determinedly odd game, it was right on the button, time-wise, when it came to music. Did the game steal its sounds from Dr. Dre or was it the other way around? I like to believe the latter, and picture him playing a game featuring three-legged aliens speaking in mock surf-slang as an idea for global musical domination forms slowly in his mind.

If the game was made today (which it wouldn’t be, because it’s too much fun, and doesn’t feature enough gun-toting gangsters/marines) it’d have a soundtrack to reflect today’s sound. But what would that be in such musically fractured times?

The internet has made everyone a semi-expert on every type of music, like, ever, and now every man and his dog are making songs that blend 90’s lo-fi with 80’s electro coupled with a sprinkling of 00’s ‘glitch music’. In fact, Today’s New Band might be a better bet.

Sparky Deathcap has all the right ingredients: strange name; colourful imagery and even more colourful sounds; miserablist themes; and obscure influences. Oh, and glockenspiel, natch.

“Make your own luck/Send it to Oslo,” sings R Taylor, implausibly, whilst a delightful smattering of ooh-ooh’s, handclaps and lazy pluckings brawl in the background. These are songs that bloom into slick, clever and shimmering nuggets of pop despite their clunky, rough-around-the-edge roots.

Winter City Ghosts is another case in point – the forefront clattering of the drums and the phone dialling tones are steps that most musicians would baulk at taking. Sparky Deathcap confidently strides; confident that a beautiful, thoughtful song would emerge from the confusion, like when you walk around an Anthony Gormley tubular sculpture and suddenly a figure appears from the mass of pipes.

Sparky Deathcap is a musician for today, and all that that entails. Offers to score bewildering funk-surf video games may or may not follow. Listen here!