Here’s a selection of the music in residence on the office stereo right now.
Just click on the album covers to find out more!
New and notable releases this week, 5th May 2014:
Magic Mountain, Black Stone Cherry
Sheezus, Lily Allen
Luminous, The Horrors
Natalie Merchant, Natalie Merchant
Supernova, Ray LaMontagne
Nikki Nack, tUnE yArDs
American Interior, Gruff Rhys
Seven Dials, Roddy Frame
Someday World, Brian Eno and Karyl Hyde
The Road Of Bones, IQ
The Quantum Engima, Epica
Goin’ Home, Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Girls/Sleepsound, Jamie XX
All the above and many more are available via the Skin Back Alley Music Store!
A selection of music devilishly dialing up the volume in our world:
Just click on the album covers to find out more!
All of the above and many more are available via the Skin Back Alley Music Store. If you’ve heard something that’s raising the hairs on the back of your neck, and think we need to hear it, just let us know with a comment or e-mail.
After living with Death Cap At Anglezarke for a couple of weeks, a powerful feeling of a Thoreau-related, Walden-esque return to nature begins to build in the heart and mind; a rediscovery of the essential self, and a jettisoning of all the flotsam and jetsam of modern life that distracts us from the core of who we really are.
Perhaps it’s something to do with the references to the natural world that run through the lyrics (fields of long grass, wasps, mushrooms and conker trees proliferate); perhaps it’s something to do with the beautiful cover photography by lens-woman Jody Rogac. It may well be to do with the pulchritudinous intertwining of the voices of Jon-Lee Martin and Helen Thorpe, or the pastoral, elegiac quality of the music that feels singular and organic in it’s arrangement and intent.
Whatever the reason, the album is a thing of astonishing, exquisite beauty.
All of which isn’t to say that it doesn’t rock, too. There’s 90’s alternative DNA running strongly through most of the tracks on offer here. You get a distinct feeling that Rivers Cuomo would have been very happy to have penned “Any Other Thing” for example, its fuzzed-up guitars adding vital and provocative texture, but not completely masking the gargantuan melody holding the song together.
Opening track, “Heaven Won’t Wait”, subtly pervades the consciousness like a thief in the night, the layers of Tom Griffin’s synth providing an ethereal sonic bed over which strummed guitar and the baritone voice of Jon-Lee Martin build a brittle surface tension. That tension finally breaks with the thundering rumble of Charlie Hartley’s drums and a decisive power-chord, ushering in the rest of the band to breathtaking effect. From there the track builds to it’s conclusion in sharp and accomplished style.
It segues almost directly into “Restart Your Heart”, the album’s first single from December last year, and a driving slice of indie-rock that wouldn’t sound out of place in the company of the best work of, say, Editors, or perhaps – and say it with a whisper – Joy Division. The song’s spritely tempo, pounding rhythm and lyric of fragile hope pave the way – and provide the perfect forward momentum – for the remainder of the LP.
The aforementioned “Any Other Thing” follows in it’s woozy beauty, before semi-title track “Death Cap” rambles in to view on a stop-start platform of stuttering guitar, and a pulverant, Pinkerton-esque drum pattern. These, abutted with the flocculent foundation of Martin and Thorpe’s vocal emoting, provide a beguiling and poetic piece of music that stays long in the mind.
“Ritalin Love” is a sultry, scuzzy pop gem, it’s languid pace bringing to mind long, hot summer holidays, misspent in woods, friend’s bedrooms and doing whatever else alienated awkward teens get up to during humid, hazy days. And from there, the mournful, minor-key inflected “Matthew”, the indie stomp of “Worms”, and second single and radio-friendly pop song “Tiny Legs”, continue to demonstrate that this Chorley six-piece are gifted and consummate practitioners of a particular brand of melodic, mellifluous and yet rough-hewn rock and roll.
From there it’s a proverbial hop, skip and jump through the equally rich pickings of the threnodial “Run Off”, the almost hymnal “A Wasp In Your Mouth”, and the paired back, stripped down troubadour’s take of “Any Other Thing (Reprise).”
Jon-Lee said recently in interview with Skin Back Alley that there wasn’t a conscious theme to the album: “The songs were kind of put together at random for the record… There wasn’t really much lineage to the choices of the songs.” And yet, serendipitously or otherwise, that sense of returning to self, of coming out of the other side of something, remains. Like all good works of art, there’s a feeling with this album that something mysterious, something just out of reach or beyond understanding, has somehow been captured in a bottle.
Or on a Neve console at least.
Death Cap At Anglezarke is released on the 5th May via Hatch Records.
Then Thickens are a band born out of the demos of Lancashire musician, singer and songwriter, Jon-Lee Martin. Having worked on 23 tracks with “…just a guitar and whatever I could fill them out with,” Martin was encouraged by friend and fellow musician, Jorma Vik of The Bronx, to give them the full band treatment.
Five new bandmates, a recording session, one mixing nightmare and a forthcoming glorious debut album later, and here we are, on this balmy Spring evening, at Wakefield’s The Hop.
The atmosphere feels almost like a mini-festival, albeit with a roof overhead, no tents and a far more intimate environment within which to savour the musical wares. Doors opened early at 6pm for an extensive bill of performers, including The Spills, The Ainsley Band, VerseChorusVerse and, after Then Thickens own set, grunge rockers Nine Black Alps.
As their 8:50pm stage time rolls around, Then Thickens waste no time in setting up and getting down. No sooner are they plugged in than album opener from Death Cap At Anglezarke, “Heaven Won’t Wait”, creeps into the crowd on a wave of synth-wash and strummed guitar. Jon-Lee’s deep-voiced delivery of the opening lyrics begin to build the tension, and the song only grows as Helen Thorpe joins him with her beguiling harmonies. It’s an engaging, captivating, mesmeric delight in the close quarters of The Hop’s upstairs room.
Those who know the song wait in anticipation, and are handsomely rewarded, when it breaks ranks on the rumble of Charlie Hartley’s drums and added ‘sturm und drang’ of Bobby’s bass and Sean’s guitar.
The band then segues directly in to first single, the fuzzy, driving rocker “Restart Your Heart,” a perfect one-two that has the audience warming up now, heads bobbing, feet stamping and giving nods of knowing approval to each other. Here are a band that have really got something.
We’re treated to non-album tracks, too, one containing a striking lyric about vaseline and nipples. For a group of musicians with just one finished album to their name, it’s a seemingly healthy sign of more good things to come, and a reminder that Martin was already sitting on a wealth of quality songs.
A slew of tracks from Anglezarke follow, one after the other, never letting up in emotional push and pull, including “Worms”, second single “Tiny Legs” and the sort-of title track, “Death Cap.” Each is delivered with total and devastating commitment, Jon-Lee in particular becoming more passionate, involved and intense with each and every note.
By the time the end of the set starts to make itself known, guitars are being wrangled like lives depend on it, Hartley is a whirling dervish clattering at his drums and Tom Griffin, up until now a relatively stoic presence behind his keyboards, starts to look like a mad scientist, desperately trying to perfect his sonic formula through the frantic twiddling of knobs, slamming of keys and creation of cataclysmic aural violence.
In a live setting, with each of six musicians at the top of their game and firing on all cylinders, it’s astonishing just how big every one of Then Thickens’ songs sounds. An already expansive album, full of poetry and melody, becomes something of overwhelming power when delivered on stage with such conviction.
The audience at The Hop can have been left in doubt that they’ve just witnessed a matchless set of single-minded and vital rock and roll. If Then Thickens are indie rockers, make that rockers with a capital R.
Read our interview with Then Thickens here, and look out for our album review of Death Cap At Anglezarke, arriving on Skin Back Alley later this week.