A classy five-piece brought together by Arctic Monkeys manager Geoff Barradale and fronted by the glamorous Sarah Lazenby, this group ooze style and sophistication on a debut album that will stand out from the pack when it is released in July. Applying a tried and tested indie sound to a collection of icy cool, contemporary songs in the English pop idiom, like the single Listening to Joni, the band mix pop with the retro sixties chic that is so popular right now (think Scott Walker and co., also an inspiration for Last Shadow Puppets). Lazenby already have some acclaimed live performances to their name, including gigs at the Edinburgh Festival, the O2 Wireless Festival and the MTV Party in Cannes, and this album should be the sound of the summer. Timeless.
Kerfuffle To the Ground Rootbeat RBRCD06
Brilliant roots four-piece Kerfuffle, who wowed the Cropredy crowd last year, shine here on their fourth album. With a mix of versatile jigs and traditional songs vibrantly and originally arranged and performed, Kerfuffle bring something fresh to the folk plate. The highly proficient group include Hannah James, bringing jigs to life with her accordion and enhancing the songs with her beautiful vocals; Sam Sweeney, already amongst the greats of the English folk fiddle scene, who peppers the album with his multi-instrumental work; Jamie Roberts, whose guitar-playing is reminiscent of the young Bert Jansch; and Tom Sweeney, carrying and supporting the group's versatile musicianship with his capable bass playing. This album more than succeeds in capturing the band's lively stage presence.
Steve Tilston Ziggurat Hubris HUB004
One of the country's finest roots singer-songwriters, whose material has been covered by artists including Fairport Convention, Steve Tilston returns to the fray with his first collection of new material in nearly five years. On this new record he looks back over his past on the brilliant The Road When I Was Young, and delivers a song about writer's block (Madame Muse), along with the beautifully evocative After Summer Rain and the closing loveliness of Archipelago, written for his wife. This is vintage Tilston, and a fantastic return to form.
Maddy Prior Seven for Old England Park PRKCD100
Steeleye Span vocalist and folk legend Maddy Prior goes back to her roots on this acoustic folk album. She is accompanied by Benji Kirkpatrick and Giles Lewin, who provide sympathetic contemporary arrangements of songs that Prior has performed over the years: a wonderful Dives and Lazarus, a remake of the classic The Cuckoo, and a brilliant interpretation of the fantastic Staines Morris. The sixteen tracks are an amazingly diverse collection of well-known and obscure trad songs, recorded by one of the finest voices on the folk scene. Prior's singing is the best it has ever been.
Lark Rise Band Lark Rise Revisited Talking Elephant TECD124
Lark Rise to Candleford, the album of Ashley Hutchings' music for the National Theatre production of Flora Thompson's classic books, has always been well-regarded. With the BBC's recent lavish adaptation of the novels, Hutchings was persuaded to return to Lark Rise. Recorded with a band that includes Simon Care, Judy Dunlop, Ruth Angell, and Guy Fletcher, this record is the result. Combining material from the original NT production that did not appear on the first album (Bonny Labouring Boy and the seldom-heard Richard Thompson track Bad News is All the Wind Can Carry) with newer songs such as Poor Old Soldier and Brighton Camp, this is a superb sequel. It should entice you to discover Thompson's novels, if you haven't done so already.
Phil Harding The Story of Beginners Shellshock WBCD002
Renowned record producer Phil Harding, who has worked for the past thirty years with people like Stock, Aitken & Waterman, the Pet Shop Boys, and Kylie Minogue, turns his hand to song-writing on this debut album, for which he teamed up with talented lyricist Mila Bogen. The result is a fantastic acoustic rock record—almost a concept album— about love, life and relationships. From the superb first track There is Time to the stunning closer Goodbye Pain, this is a brilliant first record from a music industry veteran.
Hey Negrita You Can Kick Fat Fox FSM CD023
English writer Felix Bechtolsheimer has been resident in America since 2000, developing his song-writing craft down in South Florida. Building on previous releases The Minnesota Method and We are Catfish, for this latest album he has honed his band's playing into what can be described as a combination of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. There are elements of widescreen Americana on tracks like Room Service, Lay Me Down, and Lies, and Bechtolsheimer mixes it up with good old-fashioned English rock-and-roll and the lyrical style of songwriters like Ray Davies. With a superb laid-back groove and a nice line in dazzling guitar riffs, You Can Kick is a terrific record.
William Self in Fiction Tough Love TLV 019
Released on July 7th, Coventry three-piece William's debut album has received plaudits from Radio 1's Zane Lowe. William are a vigorously versatile band, reviving the old power-trio formula with songs like Five Minute Wonder, South of the Border and zHero, which show off Gavin Housley's powerful vocals over a wonderfully tight musical plateau. One of the most interesting new bands around at the moment, William have made a first record that is worth repeatedly revisiting.
Rotary Ten These Are Our Hands Xtra Mile B001914U4Q
The first album by Sheffield boys Rotary Ten was recorded at their hometown's 2Fly Studios. It's a confident and strong debut full of that Sheffield musical sensibility of listening to what's out there, and then confidently and subtly doing your own thing. With a powerful sound and great songs including Time is Not a Line and I am Not a Rock, and These Men are Made of Rust, this debut will create quite an impact.
The Fall Imperial Wax Solvent Sanctuary 1765729
Approximately the twenty-sixth studio album—with the umpteenth different Fall line-up— by the idiosyncratic and unique Mark E. Smith, this record's release coincides with the publication of Smith's autobiography. On songs like 50 Year Old Man, I've Been Duped (with vocals by the new Mrs Smith, the singer Eleni Poulou), and the opener Alton Towers, Smith proves that he's not lost his fire, and is one of the few English punks still going strong.
Ecki Mono Product Product035
Following up 2005's PunchDrunk, this CD commemorates Ecki's turning thirty (something I can relate to). Better known as a photographer than as a musician, Ecki brings his sense of light, shade and colour to his music. With moods ranging from joy to darkness, the album contains a great collection of material, particularly the stand-out songs Wake Up, Gods and Heroes and Passion. Here is a record from a songwriter at the peak of his powers.
Hungover Stuntmen Blame the BBC One Bounce OBRCD001
Hungover Stuntmen are a Geordie four-piece whose mixture of indie rock and powerful riffs is in the process of transferring their excellent live reputation from Newcastle to the rest of the country. Blame the BBC is a rocking contemporary album that has everything including the kitchen sink: songs of love (She Knows), angry songs (United States of Emergency), and songs about having a good time. This vibrant debut record should soon see Hungover Stuntmen ranked with groups like the Arctic Monkeys, Young Knives, et al as one of the finest bands of our generation.
The Steeples Easy Money Townsend
Like many other contemporary indie kids, The Steeples possess a certain sparkle and verve. Hailing from Ormskirk, the group are building themselves a considerable live following. Their debut album contains the quirky pop song Britney's Tears, with its twanging delivery, as well as a number of other superb tracks including Loosy Lucy and On the Run. With a big UK tour planned for 2008, The Steeples will be capitalising on this album's charm.
Amsterdam Arm in Arm CIA B0013F2LXK
Amsterdam were one of the bands chosen by the late great John Peel for his last Festive Fifty, and this is their second long player, showcasing a group with quality songs and the ability to weave them into a memorable whole. Featuring legendary Irish singer Christy Moore on Nothing's Goin' Right and some stirring music with great lyrics and vocals, this is acoustic song writing at its finest.
Chris T-T Capital Vital B0014GFUMM
The fifth CD from London-based performer Chris T-T, and the third and final album in his London trilogy, Capital is a semi-biographical picture of life in London in the early twenty-first century. Highlights include the rocking opener We Are the Kings of England, the nihilistic buzz of Let's Do Some Damage, and Old Men, a piece about turning into one of the old men who sit in the bars (a subject that is much on my mind at the moment). [In case you hadn't noticed, James recently turned 30—Ed.] Jon Boden joins the band on violin for Interlude: Balletschool Pianist, a piece of folky instrumentalism that slots perfectly into the album. The aftershocks of the London bombings are a theme of the record, and Box to Hide In personalises the events in a moving manner. With the closing 4AM, Chris T-T wraps up this excellent release in style.
William Topley All in the Downs www.williamtopley.com WT02
All in the Downs is English singer/songwriter Topley's seventh solo album, and his voice is on top form as he takes the listener on a blues-rock-inspired journey to Jamaica, the Bahamas, and England. With stunning tracks like Are You One of Us? and Traitor's Gate, as well as the closing magnificence of Sweet William (an epic based on the John Gay poem "Black-eyed Susan's farewell to Sweet William"), the musicianship on this record is faultless, with amazing vocals and guitar work. This is the first Topley album I've ever heard, and I'll be heading out to investigate his back catalogue with interest.
The Tornados Science Fiction Dream Catcher B000SSONWU
Original Tornados drummer Clem Cattini has re-formed the legendary band to re-record some of their greatest hits, as well as some new cover versions of suitably space age-themed music. The original space-rock band, the Tornados hit it big in 1962 with Telstar, which is included here along with hits like Globetrotter and recordings of the themes from Doctor Who, Fireball XL5, Star Wars and many others, all given a unique Tornados makeover on this fantastically enjoyable record.
Frank Turner Love Ire and Song Xtra Mile B00142RWZO
He's been described as one of the best singer/songwriters of our generation, and Frank Turner (no relation) follows up his classy debut Sleep Is For the Week with this, the title of which lists his ingredients for a perfect life. It's an album of varying musical moods: the catchy single Photosynthesis (currently making waves on Radio 1) contrasts with tracks that tackle mourning and heartache, such as Long Live the Queen and Jet Lag. Turner has a rousing way with words and an ear for a good melody, and this album deserves to be successful.
Rod Clements One Track Mind 1994 2001 2008 Batsville BATCD02
This is the re-release of the debut album by Lindisfarne guitarist Rod Clements, which originally came out back in 1994. It includes the original album, its limited-edition release in 2001, and two new recordings, expanding the CD to a seventeen-track collection of stunning acoustic blues, folk, and rock that charts the career of one of our best songwriters. With versions of Meet Me on the Corner and Dylan's Down in the Flood, as well as the superb Piston Broke Again, this is an excellent album.
Esoteric Recordings Reissues
Room Pre-Flight Esoteric ECLEC2043
This is the first European CD release for this 1970 album originally released on Decca's Deram label. With superb vocals by Jane Kevern, blues workouts, jazz and classical interludes, and lots of prog guitar, it defines the word eclectic. Tracks like the epics Pre-Flight Parts 1 & 2 and Cemetery Junction Parts 1 & 2 are bona fide classics, and now is the perfect time to rediscover this prog masterpiece.
Denny Gerrard Sinister Morning Esoteric ECLEC2045
Esoteric are slowly working their way through the Deram archives, and this 1970 gem by Denny Gerrard is in a similar vein to that mined by another obscure seventies songwriter, Bill Fay. Gerrard's song-writing skills are peerless on tracks like the stunning True Believer, a harmonica-driven song which sounds like a Dylan outtake, while the seven-minute-plus Atmosphere, with its classical overtones, closes a stunning album of English singer-songwriter genius.
Michael Moorcock and the Deep Fix New Worlds Fair Esoteric EClLEC2026
This is Moorcock's concept album recorded with Deep Fix, the band he formed in the mid-seventies after working with Hawkwind. The concept—if there is one—seems to loosely follow a visit by the Dude to the New Worlds Fair. Combining Moorcock's otherworldly poetry with folk, folk-rock and space-rock, this superb mid-seventies record is another great release from Esoteric.
The Web I Spider Esoteric ECLEC2027
Originally released in 1970 on Polydor and unavailable on CD until now, I Spider is a wonderful record from the early seventies prog era. With lots of brass and keys and a funky blues-based sound, the album is made up of several epics, including Concerto for Bedsprings, Love You, the title track, and the closing Always I Wait, all brilliantly performed. What with this and all the other recent reissues, Esoteric seem to be the new home of great obscure prog.
EPs and Singles
Like a Thief The Hours We Keep Stonetrax
Holly Jazz Lowe, a.k.a. Like a Thief, has already been signed—and dropped— by Mercury. This, her third single, is a slice of pure indie pop, mixing the piano-led swagger of early Tori Amos with the observational lyricism of artists like Kate Nash and Lily Allen. This is a song that should be on heavy rotation throughout the summer. If it's picked up by Radio 2, Like a Thief could be the next Amy Macdonald.
Elena Androgyny Profound Delicious Records
Described as a cross between Marianne Faithfull and Cerys Matthews because of her gravel-throated croon, Elena is a contemporary rock chick who mixes harder-edged sounds with the melodic precision of bands like Coldplay on her debut album Glimpse. Androgyny Profound, her new single, is a pile-driving piece of rock, with big guitars, heavy beats and a stunning vocal performance.
Nigel Clothier Come North Leftarm Records
This single taken from Clothier's debut album Book of Days mixes contemporary American rock with the traditional feel of English folk, creating a new sound in a great up-tempo number. Earning comparisons with Springsteen, Dylan and Bragg, Clothier is carving out a niche for himself in the music world. His is a name to look out for.
The Indigo Road featuring Heidi Jo Hines Simple/Goodbye to You
With guest vocals from Heidi Jo Hines, the daughter of Denny Laine (formerly of Wings), this double A-side is The Indigo Road's debut release. It's a single of contrasts. Simple is a soft-edged acoustic ballad with a lovely string counterpoint, on which Hines's vocals mingle with Mark Herbert's to create a beautiful love song. Goodbye to You, a darker track recounting a love gone sour, lets Hines's voice soar. She will be big.
London five-piece Stone Halo have been causing a stir on the live circuit for some time now, earning rave reviews from, amongst others, Steve Harris at Virgin Radio. This debut EP recorded at Abbey Road is a statement of serious intent. Riding a funky groove that moves into territory previously occupied by bands like the Black Crowes and Led Zeppelin, Stone Halo rock hard on a terrific release that certainly has plenty of swagger. --James R. Turner