The Bloody Tentacles – The Bloody Tentacles

Huge, gritty basslines, new wave and electro guitars and songwriting join up with buzzing guitar hooks in a grungey Nirvana style to back up a weird, caterwauling vocal. An album both spiky and approachable, this has got more depth to it than is at first obvious, especially in terms of production. Look forward to a second album, hopefully before too long. I bet whoever played guitar and keyboard is a wonderful person, and is an asset to his company, wherever he works, and deserves a raise.

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Mellifluous – Thoughts and Memories

Live sounding, grungy garage rock: vocal overtones that sound a bit like Kurt Cobain in his more vulnerable moments, with a wobbly Elliot Smith guitar doing the bulk of the work. Picture yourself in a rock nightclub in Seattle in the Pearl Jam/Nirvana era, and you’ll have a pretty good picture of what to expect. Put on your check shirt and ripped jeans, drink some beer and feel bad about everything before going to YouTube and watching some Beavis and Butthead. Yeah… Huhuh… Cool…

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Justin and Tomek – I Need To EP

This is pretty glorious, melodic pop. A nice heavy piano and loads of vocal harmonies back up a soaring lead vocal, tickled at by cheeky little basslines that pull the songs along, just pausing every now and then for a little Stevie Wonder minor change before bounding off again to let the guitarist romp through a few flowerbeds and chase some other guitarists round the park. There are echoes of Ryan Jones (from one of RouteNote’s other bands, The Hitchcock Rules) in the front man’s voice, or Ben Folds, to make a more widely comprehensible comparison. Buy it if you like Ben Folds Five, the Beautiful South, Phoenix, or puppies. Great production for an indie band, too.

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Triaxis – Lord of the Eastern Sky

Ah Metal: the world would be a worse place without it. Lots of people with long hair and tight black clothing with loads of studs and lace all over the place, shaking their fists and ebon locks in worship of the dark. Triaxis seem to me to be of the more operatic kind of metal, although they’ll probably balk at the comparison, the front-woman’s voice is big and clear on the sustained notes she sings in songs about thrones and flames and stuff, maintaining an easy superiority over the chunking guitars and solidly, rapidly thumping kick, and I do dearly love a song that youn can go Hunhrgh! in the middle of. Angry Welsh Metal: Brilliant.

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[Post-foetus] – The Fabric

Jangly, jarring tunes over uncomfortable electronic backgrounds somehow come together as a coherent and listenable whole, and then give way to slow, gentle guitars and violins and spoken samples. Something like Modest Mouse making an album with Boards Of Canada when they were feeling nice and relaxed one weekend round at Lemon Jelly’s house. Despite the awkward bits in this album, I somehow get the feeling that someone nearby was making a blackberry and apple crumble they were all going to enjoy once the recording session was over. Especially on this track:

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Weeksy – The Don’t Knows

A long, personal album from this folk-tinged singer song writer. Layered guitars and Bon Iver like vocal harmonies blend amongst each other in tracks like ‘Flesh and Bone’, lamenting fifths in ‘Matuit’ bring the Kinks and the Beatles to mind, in a feeling that is somewhat continued in simple, humour filled, more upbeat numbers like My Head Is A Balloon’. Gentle, interesting, and intimate.

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Memotone – Music for Trains

Memotone is somewhere between Lemon Jelly and the Cinematic Orchestra, which for a one man act, recording on an 8 track and a laptop is a pretty incredible achievement. William Yates has put together a bewilderingly large array of instruments into a really crystal clear, deep and textured soundscape, blending live instruments, samples, glitchy computer noises and sound effects like air raid sirens, lairy kids arguing in corridors and canned laughter. There are odd moments of humour and unease, drifting clouds of sound, sharp beats that bring you back to your senses and then drop away again to let warm, live double bass lines pour into your ears and build into complex little sonic poems that wrap back to the beats. I really like it. If I wasn’t already listening to it, I would buy a copy. In fact, petition him to get vinyl pressed, so I can buy a copy.

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The Hitchcock Rules – For My Monster

There’s a lot of music on this album. Not just in the sense that there are 14 meaty tracks on it, but in that each one has been painstakingly written and composed. The album would feel uncomfortable being limited by a single genre, so I’ll just slop it into ‘Rock’, and then qualify it with a lot of competing styles: Coup d’Etat is soaked in drawling Country and Western guitars, with a shuffling drumbeat and a simple guitar riff riding over and under the backing and vocals. There are thumping, stadium rock beats, trashy, crashy indie guitar riffs and stabs, bluesy organs, aching prog rock dissonances and breaks, and a whole gamut of influences competing for space and attention in this music. The twin Ariadne’s threads of the album are front-man Ryan Jones’ allusive writing style, liberally peppered with literary references, and his voice, which is very mobile and fluid, and usually backed up with complex overdubbed harmonics. A fast paced, stomping, pop-tastic, sing-along chorus-fest of an album.

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The Menahan Street Band – Make the Road By Walking

Cool, old school and no-ones fool.
Cool, old school soul

Old school revival. Recorded on old analogue equipment in a Brooklyn bedroom by a group of young soul musicians, this album has a sound straight out of the early 70’s. The music sounds like it’s been lifted from a classic film soundtrack: if Marvin Gaye had written the score to a Bond movie it might sound something like this. There are no samples, no casio-tone saxophone parts, no vocoders, just live instruments arranged well, played well and recorded well, like music used to be when people cared about what they were producing, instead of jumping about like strippers in front of a listless, pallid audience of 17 year old girls. Even on the digital version this sounds like classic soul that’s been maturing in someone’s vinyl collection for the last three decades. Like a vintage wine, take it down from the rack, gently wipe away the imagined dust, stroke the album cover in anticipation of the sensual delights you’re about to enjoy, and lift the stylus gently into position. Immediately you’ll hear a snappy, shuffling complex beat, maybe backed with a bit of piano, then a guitar drops into the groove, picked out with a long, reverb soaked xylophone, and then you notice that your head has been bobbing like Stevie Wonder for the last 30 seconds and whoops, here comes the horn section and there’s funk all up in your ears.

I admit it, I’m biased. I love that old funk and soul (although it’s by no means the guiltiest of my pleasures) – there’s so much feeling in it, especially compared to all the angry rap and vacuous pop rock that make up ‘pop’ at the moment. Having said that, Jay-Z was awarded Rolling Stone’s best single of 2007 for his track ‘Roc Boys’, which is basically just a sample of the really cool beat and horn section hook from title track ‘Make the Road by Walking’, with him rapping about how brilliant he is all over it. What makes me sad is that Jay-Z probably made millions from the single, and the album’s producer/creator Thomas Brenneck will have got nothing like as much for actually writing the song. Still, chin up.

If you’re into Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Marvin Gaye or Amy Winebox, or the idea of a bluesy, funky, soulful instrumental album appeals to you, then buy this and you’ll love it. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be hearing it in movies, adverts and sampled in other more ‘pop’ artists songs as soon as the music supervisors of the world feel it’s safe enough, so you might as well get a copy and annoy your friends by telling them who that track on the advert is by, and how they should really go and check out the Daptone records site, because there’re really a load of great music up there, funk and soul as it should be, or at the very least check out The Menahan Street Band or Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (the musicians’ other band) on YouTube or iTunes.