Shrag & Standard Fare @ the Lexington, London Friday 4th March

Standard Fare @ the Lexington, London Friday 4th March
Standard Fare @ the Lexington

Standard Fare are a very tight three-piece hailing from North Derbyshire and now based in Sheffield.  They are Andy Beswick, Danny How & Emma Kupa who plays bass & sings most of the catchy well constructed sweet ‘boy-meets-girl’ love songs.  The guitarist’s quiet and bashful softly spoken vocals are the antithesis of Emma’s infectious and unique vocal style.  I’ve been racking my brains since I first heard Emma sing as to whether I can think of a comparison, but alas, all I can say is, I love it!

In amongst a big wave of indie pop music that for many bands offers little more than reproduction of the jangle and twee indie pop of the 1980’s Standard Fare have something different to offer, but most of all they have great pop songs.  Tonight they were as tight and professional live as they are in the studio.  The well received set included songs from last year’s wonderful debut album, The Noyelle Beat and their new single Suitcase and Nine Days released this month on Melodic Records.

Up-tempo tracks like the excellent 7” singles Philadelphia, Suitcase and Fifteen had the crowd dancing and cheering for more. The guitarist looked bashful as he swung his guitar and stepped up to the microphone, looking down or away from the crowd.  In fact he looked so young I thought he must have come straight from school.  By way of contrast, Emma Kupa revelled in fronting the band with an amazing vocal delivery – such a strong voice.

A perfect live set so good that it left me wondering if tonight’s headline band were going to be effected by such a strong, popular performance.  But I needn’t have worried.  After all, tonight’s headliners were Brighton’s finest export since the Lo-Fidelity Allstars.

Standard Fare @ the Lexington, London Friday 4th March
Shrag @ the Lexington

When Shrag took to the stage it seemed the whole room was full of expectancy.  Shrag are Helen King (vocals and keyboard), Bob Brown (guitar and vocals), Steph Goodman (keyboard and vocals), Russell Warrior (bass guitar) and Andy Pyne (drums).  Here is an indie pop band that has it all, hopefully not at the peak of their powers but certainly on form.  But would they deliver a set as good as the last time they played the Lexington?

Tonight Shrag sounded even better than when I previously saw them play in October 2010. Once again they gave a solid performance and looked so at home with Helen (King) now commanding centre stage (is she turning into a pop star?) while their songs are delivered with more power and edge – more post-punk angst than twee indie pop!

The sound system was great for a small venue but I don’t think it was just down to the soundman that made Shrag’s sound punchier than before.  The solid backdrop of guitar, bass and drums allows Helen & Steph to be the focal point with their Casio synths and their duel vocals that they deliver so well with a range of riot grrrl, twee C86-style indie pop and post punk music. The set comprised of tracks from their two albums, the first being a self-titled compilation of early singles and their second album – Life! Death! Prizes! which was one of my favourite albums of 2010.  They have some great songs – Tights in August, the recent single Ghosts Before Breakfast, the brilliant Their Stats and the perfect pop song, Rabbit Kids, amongst them.

Like Standard Fare, Shrag can call upon a wealth of quality pop songs that, with their confident stage presence, help to lift them above other bands in amongst what appears to be a 1980’s indie pop resurgence helped by labels like Fortuna Pop. Keep it coming!

Sharon Van Etten one off London show February 13th

Definitely not one to miss, the excellent Sharon Van Etten will be making a one off appearance at London’s Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen on February 13th, doors open at 7pm with tickets priced at just £7.00.

Sharon Van Etten’s excellent second album Epic recently made it into my favourite albums of 2010, our album review can also be found here.

The album lays a romantic melancholic lining over the gravel and dirt of heartbreak without one honest  thought or feeling spared, watch the excellent acoustic version of One Day taken from the album Epic, here:

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From Rubble Rises by Theatre Royal – album review

From Rubble Rises by Theatre Royal
From Rubble Rises by Theatre Royal

Last year Medway-based Theatre Royal released their debut album, From Rubble Rises, while they continued to carve out a following with their tight, solid live performances across London and the south-east of England.

Theatre Royal are Oliver Burgess (Vocals/Guitar), Robbie Wilkinson (Guitar/Vocals), Brendan Esmonde (Bass) and Jon Gibbs (Drums) and only formed in 2009. The album includes 11 self-penned songs that effortlessly blend different guitar-led genres including 1960s brit pop, lo-fi garage rock / pop and west coast / alt country music.

There are plenty of possible influences on Theatre Royal’s sound, some of which can be heard on From Rubble Rises. From Morrissey and The Smiths on Turn To Rust, to the stomping garage rock of The Clash on Foreign Shores.  Theatre Royal also appear to indulge themselves in the so-called 1960s “Medway sound” without sounding too retro in their appreciation, unlike other bands from the Medway area that appear to be doing nothing more than regurgitating the past.

From the jagged-edged jangle guitar and up-tempo beat of the first track, Cold Charity, the album is pulled along by its irresistible and uncomplicated charm and is a great testament to a young band that have released an exceptional debut album compromising of everything that is good about pop music and many of its offshoots from the past forty years.  The result is a well produced studio album that captures the excitement and full colour sound of their live performance that resides in the ‘all thrillers not filler’ category of all good record shops.

From Rubble Rise is released on Theatre Royal’s own imprint,  ‘The Preservation Society Presents’ label  and Spit And A Dream was chosen as the title track of a four track EP.

The Shape Of Things To Come is a jolly sing-a-long ditty that has the hallmark of 1960s brit pop and falling somewhere between an early Beatles mop-top sing-a-long and a ‘hum-mungus’ Searchers pop treat. This is a perfect pop song, as is the slower ballad, Painted Smile.  These songs show great song composition and song writing skills with a professional maturity well beyond their years.  Both songs should have made the Radio 2 playlist.

From Rubble Rises includes some very strong tracks but the power, driving beat and duel vocals of Foreign Shores is a real stand out track for me.  Every now and then I hear a track, whether it be from Radiohead, Shrag or Theatre Royal that hits the spot so perfectly that I wish I had written it.  Foreign Shores is one of those songs.  From the its two guitar discord build up, rolling snare drum that acts as a role call and then the duel vocal delivery that works perfectly, reminding me of the way Joe Strummer and Mick Jones used to command the stage in the heady days of The Clash. It doesn’t get much better than this!

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From Rubble Rises is a great album full of gentle pop escapism; nothing too taxing but never a dull moment.  The album concludes with the slow building track, The Ballad Of Tommy Hall complete with harmonica solo.  It tells of the suicide of a young man, though along with a couple of other tracks on the album, I can’t help but think it has anti-war overtones.  I maybe be wrong about that.  But I know that if I had listened to this before stuffing myself with festivity and New Year celebrations, I would have included From Rubble Rises by Theatre Royal in my ‘best albums of 2010’ list.

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My Top Ten Albums of 2010 – John Williams Buzzin Music

A late round up of my top ten albums of 2010, in no particular order.

1. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

Can Damon Albarn do no wrong? It seems artists from all musical genres are falling over themselves to feature on this latest Gorillaz album and nothing fails to impress.

2. The Xcerts – Scatterbrain

The Xcerts follow up to In The Wind We Smile finds the band pushing the boundaries further than the confines of the indie pop of the previous album, creating an in your face grunge influenced album of note.

3. A J Unity- Sweet Roses

London based collaborators Naomi Suzuki and Phillip M.Moll produced a stunning debut album with Sweet Roses, a mesmeric collection of tracks that float through you with influences from pop to trance and much more.

4. Corinne Bailey Rae – The Sea

Her second album sees Corinne Bailey Rae far removed from the sweet pop music of her debut, infusing jazz and other influences into this excellent collection, but still managing to sound both sweet and sexy at the same time!

5. Shea Segar – Shea Seger

Ten years after quitting the music business, Shea Seger returned with one of the most emotional albums ever made. A collection of very personal tracks that document all the emotions that the singer has been through during the last decade, a reminder of what we have been missing.

6. Sharon Van Etten – Epic

An epic production compared to her sparse yet beguilling previous albums as a part of the New York underground scene, Epic is a superb collection of songs that take the singer into a new dimension.

7. Shield Your Eyes – Theme From Kindness

A proper mental juggernaut of an album from Shield Your Eyes that surprisingly reeled me in on first listen and has never been far away from the playlist on my iPod since.  Not for the faint hearted!

8. Lower Dens – Twin Hand Movement

The debut full length from Baltimore’s new wave post punk drone pop lo fi outfit and it is a stunner. Swarming guitar fuzz, bass waves and insistent drum throbs accompany the charred intimate ghost-heavy vocals on this excellent and so far under rated album.

9. Dead Confederate – Sugar

A dark alt-grunge production that retains the psychedelic feel of their previous recordings with driving fuzzy guitars,  trippy vocals and unbridled emotion remaining intact albeit with a tidier approach to their songs.

10. Mark Sultan – $

An excellent offering from self styled garage rocker come doo wop stylist Mark Sultan that fuses every genre known to man into an excellent amalgam of unique tracks that manage to sound instantly familiar yet totally unknown.

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Best albums of the year 2010

As always, I am concerned when compiling a list of my favourite albums of the year there will always be the odd ‘slow burner’ or three that I will listen to again sometime and wish I had included here.  Or albums I discover later or knew were released but didn’t find the time to listen to in 2010.

That said, and listing only original studio albums, here are my favourite albums of 2010 in no particular order.

Best albums of the year 2010

1.    MGMT – Congratulations
2.    d_rradio – Parts
3.    Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Rush To Relax
4.    Shit Browne – Every Single Penny Will Be Reinvested In The Party
5.    Trentemoller – Into the Great Wide Yonder
6.    Four Tet – There Is Love In You
7.    Tokyo Police Club – Champ
8.    The National – High Violet
9.    Shrag – Life! Death! Prizes!
10.    Union Sound Set – Start/Stop
11.    Shield Your Eyes – Theme From Kindness
12.    Dead Confederate – Sugar
13.    Caribou – Swim
14.    d_rradio & Lianne Hall – Making Spaces
15.    Gil Scott Heron – I’m Here Now

For the record, my favourite remix album was Moira Stewart’s Sweetness, Yes Please! – a remix of their debut album by various artists on Distraction Records.  While my favourite DJ mix album has to be Platform by Paul Woolford, even if the second CD isn’t as good as the first.

Favourite singles were most definitely Like A G6 by Far East Movement (featuring Dev & The Cataracs), Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National and Rabbit Kids by Shrag!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rXs9O2Tq90

Anyone agree, want us to publish their own list, or let me know of any albums I should take a listen to?

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