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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Noção de Nada - Sem Gelo (2006)

What is it?
The only album from Brazilian rockers ‘Noção de Nada’, as far as I know. A shame, really.

Why should you listen?
I initially downloaded one track, ‘Orgânico’, from this for free from and liked it. So, I downloaded the full album, again for free. Being English, I can’t understand a word they’re saying but I can appreciate the language of rock. And so do ‘Noção de Nada’.

What’s it like?
Shouty. Distorted. Surprising catchy at times. There’s not a bad track on the whole album. ‘Ela Não Sabe Ser Feliz’ is fairly standard issue. Two guitars playing single note lines against each other, then in come the crunchy power chords for the shouted chorus. The aforementioned ‘Orgânico’ is notable for the subtle changes in timing on the end of one vocal line from the chorus that completely makes the song.

What’s the best track?
The first track ‘Aspirina’ is probably the best of the bunch. A mixture of power chords and simple riffs again, but the vocals are surprisingly catchy and it’s got loads of energy and urgency throughout.

Who does it sound like?
Like a Brazilian Leatherface with less gravelly vocals, obviously.


Saturday, 25 June 2011

Sarah Records Chart

Sarah Records was stylish, uncompromising and put extra jangle into the world of indie jangle pop. Releasing just one hundred singles, usually in 7 inch or flexi-disc format, the label left a legacy of  pure pop tweeness that still sounds vibrant and distinctive today. As a tribute Into the Valley... presents our all time Sarah favourites in time honoured chart rundown fashion.

15. Blueboy - Alison (Sarah 55)
Fragile guitars and winsome vocals characterised Blueboy's b-side of 'Clearer'.

14. Aberdeen - Byron (Sarah 93)
From the later end of the Sarah spectrum, Aberdeen were American exponents of delicate indie pop creations and sounded like a cross between the Cocteau Twins and Lush, which can't be a bad thing.

13 Northern Picture Library - Paris (Sarah 94)
And even later came Northern Picture Library with a definite continental sound that the title of the track conjures up, in a similar vein to Stereolab maybe.

12. St. Christopher - The Kind of Girl (Sarah 15)
The sound of downtown York, North Yorkshire and if ever there was a northern Sarah city it would have to be York. Jangly and beautiful.

11. The Orchids - A Kind of Eden (Sarah 617)
The best track from the album 'Striving for the Lazy Perfection', this was a laid back, Sunday morning anthem from the Scottish starlets.

10. Another Sunny Day - You should all be Murdered (Sarah 22)
Just pipping 'Anorak City' for the Another Sunny Day entry and just sneaks it due to the lyrics. Let's face it the lowest ranked people on the FBI database of murderers are anyone who's ever been in a Sarah band, but nice sentiments.

9. The Sweetest Ache - Tell me how it feels (Sarah 39)
Not my favourite Sweetest Ache song, but I don't think 'I Remember Caroline' was released on Sarah. It's possibly dated badly, but the boy/girl harmonies are great and scores highly on the tweeness-ometer.

8. Shelley - Reproduction is Pollution (Sarah 98)
Quirky late release and really appeals to my liking of records with talking on them. Loved the lyrics too.

7. The Golden Dawn - My Secret World (Sarah 009)
Harking back to the sound of C86, The Golden Dawn produced a whirlwind sound that combined a fragility of vocals with the indie fuzzbox experience.

6. The Wake - Crush the Flowers (Sarah 21)
Brilliantly twee boy/girl vocals from Glasgow band The Wake and shaping up like the weedier younger brother of Sons and Daughters.

5. Secret Shine - Loveblind (Sarah 71)
I possibly like their post Sarah output a bit more, but how can you not like Loveblind? A surging rollercoaster of love and emotion. Great cover on the record as well.

4. Even as we Speak - Falling Down the Stairs (Sarah 614)
Sugar sweet and as jangly as a jangly thing, Even as we Speak's album track from 'Feral Pop Frenzy' never fails to provide a little jolt of happiness.

3. The Sea Urchins - Pristine Christine (Sarah 001)
An obvious choice I know but quality nonetheless. The only thing spoiling it is that all women called Christine now work as slightly cranky school secretaries and are not the sirens of seduction they once were.

2. The Field Mice - Sensitive (Sarah 18)
So unlucky not to be number 1 as this is pure quality and a track I used to listen to over and over again in the late 1980's. The Field Mice are the archetypal Sarah band and combine delicacy and passion in equal measure. I also love 'Willow' from For Keeps.

1. Heavenly - Attagirl (Sarah 82)
Not just the greatest Sarah track but one on the best tracks from any label or genre. Lyrically powerful and possessing a muscular attitude that is more Riot Grrl than Sarah, this is a monster of a single and it's even got swearing in it. Amelia Fletcher is a legend in a musical sense but also manages to be an economist, which can't be a bad thing. Britain would be a far better place I'm sure, if the government turned to her for economic advice. Somehow I doubt they will.


Songlines Magazine

After recently listening to the Songlines Awards compilation CD I decided to subscribe to the magazine, and I've got to say it's been a brilliant decision. For about £30 you get 8 issues of the magazine with the attached 'Top of the World' CD sampler and a world music album thrown into the bargain. The content combines world music features, news and reviews in an accessible, if rather serious style, with the 'Music Buyer's Guide' invaluable in recommending new and exciting music. The compilation CD that arrives with the magazine has been the real surprise as issue 76's offering is absolute quality, with a real mix of styles and fusions. The 5 tracks selected by guest Nitin Sawhney are all fantastic too. I'd recommend it to anyone with world music leanings of any proportion. 


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Classic Track - Dreadzone - Fight the Power (1995)

When Dreadzone released Fight the Power in 1995 it was like some hybrid techno reggae monster. It still stands the test of time today, but at the time it was like nothing I'd ever heard before. Too hard to be house, too dance oriented to be reggae and too political with a capital P to be pop. The time has come for each and everyone of you to decide...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Eliza Carthy - Neptune 2011

I've looked forward to Eliza's new album since 'Dreams of Breathing Underwater' had me drooling for more in 2008. True to form it's an eclectic combination of folk, layered with various styles and genres of music. True to form its a Curate's Egg; it's good in parts. And in some parts it's genius.

That's why you've got to love Eliza Carthy; she takes risks. Not content with possessing a voice that combines the sweetness of honey with the huskiness of a coconut, she has contrived to write an album which exploits this to the full in a variety folk based musical settings. She could play safe and churn out the folk standards, but you get the feeling she sails close to the wind with all her compositions.

Because of this attitude, there's a certain sense of gamble in listening to 'Neptune' on shuffle. Each song is either an absolute cracker or a bit of a duffer. There's nothing in-between. One minute it's the brilliant, end of the pier stomp of 'Blood on my Boots', then it's the irritating 'Monkey' that I'm forced to flick after the first fifteen seconds. Likewise, 'War', 'Britain is a Carpark' and 'Tea at Five' are all bona fide classics, but there's something uncomfortable about the Mowtown inspired slush of 'Revolution' . On the whole it's a triumph, with the gamble paying off with some original, memorable and life affirming pieces of British folk music.

There's also a tangible atmosphere to the whole LP where Eliza's voice carries you off to a fairytale world comprised of a 1950's fairground, a salty harbourside pub and a gritty northern pit village. The lyrics are semi-political with a small 'p' and particularly relevant to the Evil Coalition's 21st Century Great Britain. The more I listen the more I love it.

It's not quite a masterpiece but it's three quarters of the way there. Eliza is a national treasure who continually pushes the boundaries of the folk genre and this is an LP that should launch her to superstardom, up there with Beyonce Knowles. It won't of course, but it should do.


Lush - Kiss Chase 1994

Songs I've been obsessed with...#1

Easily one of the best Lush songs but sadly omitted  from Ciao: The best of Lush. At the time of my obsession I would come home from work put the vinyl version of  'Split' on my Technics record player and before I'd realised I'd have listened to it about twenty times. It still has an addictive quality now as I've already put it on three times while I've written this paragraph. The lyrics, the atmosphere and the ending just have that effect on me for some reason.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Metronomy - Radio Ladio

One aspect of the Summer I'm really not looking forward to is attending Saturday of the Leeds Festival with Daughter of Doccortex and one of her buddies. Not to mention the travel chaos, parking and chemical toilets, I'll also have to stand at the back and watch My Chemical Romance, The Blackout and Bring Me the Horizon! The only bright spot in this sea of Kerranginess is the potential for me to sneak off and watch Metronomy in one of the other tents. Although I don't own an album yet, I've had them on my YouTube playlist for ages and really like their left of centre take on electro pop and amusing videos. As well as the cracking video of 'Radio Ladio', check out 'The Look', 'She Wants' and 'Holiday' for more eccentric goings on. Whether they will be worth getting sun burnt, drenched in urine and generally hacked off remains to be seen.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Chilled C'quence - Dream Triggers LP 2008

What is it?
Pedro Matias and Fernando Rodrigues apparently make up trance duo Chilled C'quence who in Dream Triggers produce lush, downtempo trance that may induce some pleasant dreams.

Why should you listen?
This fits somewhere between Trance Europe Express era trance, ambient and downtempo, but always remains interesting , engaging and soothing for your brain. The few songs with vocal samples are especially memorable and provide a quirky sense of fun to contrast the new age soul searching vibe. Although I have tried on several occasions, 'Dream Triggers' has always failed to provide any decent dreams. It lulls you to sleep efficiently enough but if you want a real dream trigger I'd eat a cocktail of strong cheddar, stilton and danish blue, washed down with a bottle of Newcastle Brown and a tequila chaser.  

What's it like?
It's like having your brain gently massaged by elves.

What's the best song?
"Double Pleasure' is like 'Little Fluffy Clouds' with a dream inducing, philosophical  plot.

Who does it sound like?
Reminds me of Trance Europe Express, Scanner, The Orb maybe.

Bloc Party - Silent Alarm 2005

Not all wilfully obscure stuff #1

I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone other than me but Bloc Party are actually quite good. Having decided early on that I'd hate them, I'd never engaged until I was buying five CD's for a tenner in a discount music shop and needed that all important fifth CD to make up the numbers. 'Silent Alarm' was that CD and I kept it for a couple of years before I had the stomach to give it a listen.

To my amazement it's pretty decent stuff. They don't sound at all like the way they look or the way they've been portrayed in the media. It's geeky voiced indie with particularly bangy drums and clashing guitars that is at times faintly reminiscent of The Jam, Blur, The Buzzcocks, Muse and Echo and the Bunnymen all mixed together, and at other times unfortunately like Ride.

The three absolute standout tracks, which all probably got to number one in the hit parade for all I know, are 'Banquet', 'Helicopter' and 'Positive Tension' which has one of the best endings you'll ever hear. But there's an awful lot more to enjoy in addition to the obvious. Perhaps in future I'll have a more open mind and listen to the advice of George Micahel and 'Listen without Prejudice' but somehow I doubt that will be the case.


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat LP 2006

What is it?
Jenny Lewis takes time out from underrated indie outfit Rilo Kiley to record her first solo album with backseat support from the Watson Twins.

Why should you listen?
The transition from indie goddess to alt-country diva may well have proved traumatic for many a pop star but this is not the case for Jenny Lewis. Rabbit Fur Coat is authentic, finished article alt-country with wicked, left of centre lyrics and a lullaby quality that could send you off to a beautiful sleep if you're listening late at night. Ms. Lewis obviously loves this flavour of music and this is no gimmick, as the belief and confidence in the songs shines through with an integrity that suggests this was a record that 'needed' to be made rather than a money making exercise. Her voice is as sweet as honey but suitably pepped up with just the right level of Southern 'twang' and the lyrics pose more questions than they answer which is always a good thing. This is something really different, intelligent and relaxing and is wholeheartedly recommended!

What's it like?
It's like Taylor Swift on steroids, if she'd lived in a deprived part of South Yorkshire, but retained her accent somehow.

What's the best song?
I'd go for 'You are what you love' just for all the magic references, but 'Rabbit Fur Coat' and 'The Charging Sky' will possibly have more universal appeal.

Who does it sound like?
I don't know any country artists really, but I've recently ordered Laura Cantrell's 'Kitty Wells Dresses' so I'm hoping it's as good as this.


Will and the People - Mr. Sketchy 2010

Unfortunately I have to spend a fair few hours listening to Daughter of Doccortex’s playlist on the computer which is generally made up of the usual suspects from the pages of Kerrang. The one bright spot is the odd appearance of Will and the People; a bizarre mix of folk, rock and ska that I find it difficult not to enjoy. I know very little about them other than they originate from Brighton and sell snazzy green promotional t-shirts. “They’re different, original and I met them at Donny Live,” adds Daughter of Doccortex after several minutes of thought and moody introspection.


Steeleye Span - The Best of LP 2002

In another bizarre twist of fate I find myself in the car listening to the best of Steeleye Span. I have no recollection of ordering it, but nevertheless it arrived through to post and rather than send it back I decided to give it a go. It’s 1970’s commercial folk with a touch of the hey nonny nonnies and most of it gets the instant flick on the CD player, but Maddy Prior’s vocals are at times stunning and I can’t help but keep returning to tracks like 'Gaudete', 'Royal Forester' and 'All Around My Hat'. It hardly warrants five stars, but not an altogether unpleasant experience after all.


Sunday, 5 June 2011

The League of Quirky Female Singers

You know the feeling; you've exhausted your Kate Bush collection and now you want to listen to a new quirky, kooky and eccentric female singer/songwriter but you're not quite sure where to start. Well look no further, because Into the Valley of the Obscure presents the second in the series of strangely popular chart competitions: the League of Quirkiness.    

As always the rules are simple. Each artiste scores points based on the following criteria and then gets woven into an appealing chart that should guarantee at least one pageview. The Quirky/Kooky maximum criteria are as follows:
  • 10 points for having such a distinctive voice that it is impossible to confuse with anyone else on Earth.
  • 5 Bonus points for making an 'exploration of voice' type LP, based of course on the sounds generated by own voice.
  • 10 points for being an unnaturally serious artiste, with a certain aloofness and air of self importance, but with a wry sense of humour thrown in for good measure.
  • 5 Bonus points for combining this with a hint of offbeat instability.
  • 10 points for weird, self possessed and generally unintelligible lyrics.
  • 10 points for having a distinctive 'look' and possibly looking like a character from a children's fairy tale.
  • 5 Bonus points if videos focus exclusively on this 'look' possibly using extreme facial close ups, or over long scenes of the artiste doing very little.
  • 10 points for sounding a bit like 'Smelly Cat' by Phoebe from Friends.

10. Kimbra (22 points)

Straight out of blogosphere recommendations comes Kimbra. Scoring highly in the voice categories and sense of humour, Kimbra was let down by a lack of obvious oddball qualities. From her videos she's also a bit of a mover in the dance department but not in a quirky way. A great singer though and possibly destined for greatness.


9. Lisa Hannigan (26 points)

Lovely Lisa looks like she lives alone with her cats in a patchwork house in the middle of a forest. Not vocally distinctive enough to trouble the top spots, she nevertheless scored highly in the Phoebe soundalike category. Check out 'The Ocean and a Rock' from the album.


8.  Feist (27 points)

Mid-table obscurity for Feist with her particular brand of acoustic folk warbling. Strangely, her videos reveal her as another capable dancer with a strong sense of humour. 'The Reminder' album is recommended as a quality starting point.

7. Laura Marling (29 points)

Liked the first album but not convinced by the second. Laura is undoubtedly serious about her music and there's plenty of facial close up action in the videos, but it's more of a cutesy image than a quirky one. The atypical delivery of the first album may have seen her higher up the league and it's definitely worth a listen.


6. Emiliana Torrini (31 points)

The quirky level goes up a notch with Emiliana Torrini. Lots of angst on show and lots of shots of her doing very little in the videos. The voice is distinctive and there's just a hint of elf in the way she looks. 'Love in the Time of Science' is a cracking entry level LP.


5. Camille (34 points)

Camille ladles on the French quirkiness with the distinctive gallic yodelling voice, weird lyrics and using her vocal samples as a backing track. Obviously we're big fans at Into the Valley... but sadly Camille needs to add some serious offbeat action and more individual fashion sense if she wants to progress as a quirky superstar.

4. Polly Scattergood (35 points)

She's got the affected voice, the 'Phoebe' factor and has a certain look of a willowy version of the White Witch from of Narnia. I'm currently looking forward to listening to her eponymously titled album, but she certainly looks like a promising newcomer to the genre. I bets she's got several cats too.

3. Fiona Apple (36 points)

From Evlkeith's stable of quirksome fillies comes Fiona Apple. Scoring maximum points on the serious, self important artiste front, Fiona has plenty going for her. She has a look of an unhinged Phoebe from Friends combined with intense, passionate lyrics, however to progress, these lyrics need to make less sense, she needs to 'quirk up' her look and add some humour.

2. Joanna Newsom (41 points)

Playing the harp with silken fingers to make angelic music, Joanna then combines this with a voice like a strangled stradivarius. It's undoubtedly premier league quirkiness as Joanna scores highly in virtually every category with her look of a slightly evil 'gelfling' from the Dark Crystal (check it out film fans), going down particularly well with the judges. There's just a hint of Kate Bush about her and I must buy more of her albums!

1. Bjork (45 points)

In football there's Barcelona, in tennis there's Roger Federer and in quirkiness there's Bjork. She has everything going for her; she's serious, strange, funny and has the most unique voice in the world. She looks and acts like a deranged pixie, but is at the same time beautiful and intelligent. And she made Medulla, and released it! And look at her fashion sense!

What most people don't realise is just how inaccessible most of her albums are to everyday pop fans. After 'It's Oh So Quiet' she could have gone on to world domination like some Icelandic Lady Gaga, but she chose an altogether quirkier path and released a string of albums which just got more and more un-commercial, which is great news for obscure music fans. So raise a glass to the undisputed Queen of Quirkiness; Bjork!



Saturday, 4 June 2011

Sabrepulse - Nintendokore Ep (2006)

What is it?
Chiptune. Proper chiptune. From Ash Charles, a UK based chiptuner.
Why should you listen?
If you have a liking for 8-bit music from the Commodore 64 era and if you like hardcore mental drumming then you’ll possibly like this. I fit into both categories so I absolutely love it. I was trying to find something different to listen to on from the free downloads section. I came across this and instantly liked it. I would definitely pay money for his other albums. Many wouldn’t. In fact, most people wouldn’t. They’re missing out on a treat. A word of warning though - I put this on a CD followed by a Lolishit album and listened to it in the car. It drove me mad. You can OD on chiptune.
What’s it like?
Chiptune is just like any other dance music except that rather than your standard issue dance sounds you replace them with 8-bit sounds. Imagine a Rob Hubbard game soundtrack from the eighties, dancify it up, add a blistering drum track and you’re about there.
What’s the best track?
‘Nintendokore’ - Great main hook to it, bonkers drums with one of the best kick sounds and an intense ending. A classic.
Who does it sound like?
She (Chiptune Collection 1), Lolishit

10 Steps From Coldplay to The Mars Volta

Do you have any Coldplay loving friends that you want to convert to the dark side of music? Well, buy them these albums in the appropriate order and give them a chance to get into each album before you get them the next. Within a year they’ll be listening to a lovely bit of Mars Volta. Possibly. If they get down to System of a Down you’ll have done well!
  1. Coldplay - Parachutes
  2. The Zutons - Who Killed The Zutons?
  3. Feeder - The Singles
  4. Foo Fighters - In Your Honour
  5. System of a Down - Toxicity
  6. Deftones - White Pony
  7. The Fall of Troy - Doppleganger
  8. Protest the Hero - Fortress
  9. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works
  10. The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute
If anyone actually manages this miracle, let us know.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Leatherface - The Stormy Petrel LP 2010

It's seems strange that even though Leatherface made three truly great albums in the late 80's and early 90's, that I never got round to buying any of their later offerings. Cherry Knowle, Fill Your Boots and Mush are held in such high regard that perhaps I feared that an reduction in quality would tarnish the legend in some way, or maybe I just moved on a bit musically.

Anyway, twenty years on and I'm holding a copy of the Stormy Petrel with something like religious reverence. Surprisingly for a band who have taken a long break, it doesn't disapoint. It's tangibly different from the old, high octane rush, but that's probably because Frankie and the boys are now middle aged men. But that's not to say it's not high quality stuff. This is more northern folk rock album than its hardcore ancestors, with the emphasis on the interplay between the guitars and Frankie's voice and lyrics.

The standard of songwriting is consistently brilliant with no suspect tracks and a host of hooks and memorable moments. On 'My World's End' Frankie croons about the inherent dangers of expensive ice-cream consumption, 'Diego Garcia' is as political as it is catchy and 'Nutcase' is a hell for leather throwback to Fill Your Boots. The standout track however is 'Never Say Goodbye'; a good old fashioned stormer with Frankie getting all philosophical about lost love.

It's not the Leatherface sound of the early days, but in some ways it's more relevant and current than most of the bands in the 21st Century. Just as aging footballers may lose a yard or two of pace but never lose their quality, similarly Leatherface continue to produce quality music despite the decline in tempo.


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Rocket From The Crypt - Group Sounds 2001

What is it?
More from the prolific John Rice/Reese. This is their sixth studio album and probably their best. It doesn’t contain their best song but that will have to wait for another review...
Why should you listen?
As usual for RFTC this is an album of short, catchy little numbers, most clock in at under three minutes. Within the first three songs, in total 6 minutes 30 seconds, you’ll hear some of the best guitar/ horn section/ gravelly shouty fellow/ rock and rolly/ poppy goodness there is going. The album continues in a similar vein with sprinklings of great songs in amongst the good, in particular ‘Venom Venom’ and ‘S.O.S’. The only real duffers are ‘Heart of a Rat’ and ‘Dead Seeds’ but on an album of 16 songs that’s a pretty good hit ratio. If you like one RFTC album you’ll probably like them all.
What’s it like?
Short, sharp, perfectly formed songs incorporating distorted, crunchy guitars, saxophone and a trumpet. The combination of the instruments means I’m instantly sold on the idea. John Rice/Reese’s vocal are the icing on the cake. 
What’s the best track?
‘Straight American Slave’ - under two minutes and with some quality singalong bits. Wasn’t that keen on this from the live R.I.P. album but the album version is strangely better, especially played loud.
Who does it sound like?
Redskins, Night Marchers, Hot Snakes