Amid Concrete & Callousness - Sounds Of A Starlit City
So who have I been neglecting recently? Well, first up, and at least 2 months overdue (though the postie at work is to blame for just under half that) is Livingston's electropowerpopping sextet Amid Concrete & Callousness. As a whole, their sophomore EP shows a real flair for the kinda wasn't-this-once-called-emo? pop that isn't often pulled off this well by bands outwith the U. S. of A. The kind that gets your head nodding long after its burrowed its way into it. So onto the songs... Opener Hailey's Comment is probably the pick of the bunch with its synthed-up vocals, catchy riffs, chants and instantly memorable chorus. The Big Win (feat. Voice of the Balls, Alan Dedicoat), carries on in the same vein, with a great piano line throughout it complimenting the big, synthy guitars. The vocals then switch from boy to girl to boy, then back again for the final track, the rather contradictorily-named, Opening Lines -FUTURE ECHOES- which is a bit too trancey in places, and 'a bit Slipknotty' in others, for my liking. Proof, if proof were needed, that an EP should stop at 5 tracks. If that were the case, I'd be hard pushed to say a bad word about it! Off now, to track down their freshman release.
Trapped Mice - Portrait of the Great Father EP
Anyone who cites cult bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Okkervil River among their influences is almost guaranteed a mention on Kowalskiy. So it's no surprise that Edinburgh's Trapped Mice wound up being one of my Eleven for 2011. A few months ago, they talked me through their first collection of tracks that found their way onto bandcamp. Since then, they've released their debut Portrait Of The Great Father EP featuring a couple of these, plus three more great songs. The whole thing kicks off with the two familiar tracks Secret Letters and The Priest And The Boy, the former a gorgeous piece of orchestral folk which sets the tone for the rest of the EP, and in some style too. The stripped-back Caveman highlights the obvious Okkervil River influence with singer Ian Tilling's style mimicking that of the Texans' frontman Will Sheff. All this is centred around the epic 10-minute long Beauty And The Beast, a modern-day alt-folk Bohemian Rhapsody with its shifting tempo and sudden style changes. One point, reminiscent of The Smiths at their most sinister sounding, and another, like the R.E.M. of old, then reverting back to the now-familiar Okkervil sound before finishing up with some raucous, but rightly approving crowd cheer. It really is a fantastic debut, so you'd best get used to the name Trapped Mice. It's one you'll be hearing a lot of this year!
Steven Milne - Chasing Phantoms
Sometimes I thoroughly appall myself by my lateness in reviewing albums. What makes this one worse is that the good folk over at Bedford Records even went to the bother of sending me this CD way before Christmas. So, before I start, apologies for the delay. Anyway, this is the gorgeous debut solo album from The Little Kicks' frontman Steven Milne. Three of the four tracks from his Best Of Times EP make the cut here, with only his take on Orange Juice's iconic hit, Rip It Up missing out. You can read my thoughts on these here. Things begin and end with the slightly unorthodox musical bookends Scribble One and Scribble Two, a pair of uplifting tunes full of oohs, aahs and as the names suggest, even some background pencil scribbles. In between, things are consistently, nothing-short-of-stunning from the standout, sublime ballad Keeping Busy Letting Go to Falling, the sole moment of electrodisco on here, and the perfect contrast to the gentle beauty of the rest of the album. If his EP was further evidence that Steven is one of the most exciting songwriters in Scotland, then Chasing Phantoms has set it firmly in stone. This boy from The Granite City is a class act!