Xrin Arms – ‘Human Hallucinogen’

“There was black magic leakin’ on the rhino”

Available from the label here. Xrin Arms can be found on twitter.

Recommended tracks: ‘Bordello Soiree’, ‘Human Stuffing’, ‘Magical Hatred’

It’s pronounced “You’re in [or “Urine”] Arms“, before you ask! Formerly known for intense, Soul record sampling Cyber-grind, Xrin Arms has abandoned that sound almost entirely in favour of a drawling, woozy Hip-Hop sound, though one that is not too distant aesthetically from his older work, which is good news for estabished Xrin fans, in retaining his very individual discordant vocals and Southern American psychedelia. The opening track ‘Xr World’ really sets the tone for a record packed full of sneering cynicism and swirling agitation with its intense dissonant singing and harsh lyrical imagery of “scraped knees”, “forest fires” and “fist-fucking”. Elsewhere, Xrin’s great near-slurred swagger and flow is demonstrated perfectly in tracks like ‘Bordello Soiree’ and ‘Magical Hatred’, while tracks like ‘Burning Churches’ and ‘Human Stuffing’ showcase full-on misanthropy. Much of the album is built on samples of rock’n’roll drums, creating something not quite, but almost, like the sound of traditional 90s rap beats, clattering and crunching and adding to the stoned feel.

Xrin Arms has totally nailed a unique, inimitable sound in this record, one that’s hard to accurately describe, not only in his beats and sounds (most of which he produced himself) but also in his lyrics and vocal delivery, forming a really cohesive aesthetic and really leaving you feeling like you’re entering this guy’s world, and leaving it smelling of smoke and sex and with a strong sense of how messed-up the world is, but also with a strong sense of indignant self-motivation, like ‘Xr World’ says, “happiness ain’t delivered / you got to get it”.

Xrin Arms’ music, like the man himself, comes dressed in all brown (feathered mask [link is to an older video of his] and all), and comes soaked in deadly coolness and unsettling, ruthless psychedelics. His label says “‘Human Hallucinogen’ is the sonic equivalent of eating a bag of mushrooms and bar hopping through the 1960s rock’n’roll scene and the 1990s hiphop scene while burning bibles and slanging crack rocks to priests and nuns” and it’s hard to disagree with them!

This album is a must for fans of underground Hip-Hop, and for fans of boundary-pushing music in general. You won’t hear another record like this from anyone else.

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Interview with Lupen Crook

So tell me about ‘Waiting for the Postman’. What is different about it from your other releases?
Aside from the obvious reasons of time, place, and mind-set (which applies to every release) this is first full album I’ve recorded entirely by myself, producing it from start to finish. I guess as well this album has, more than any other, served as a marker in my life, a well needed full stop at the end of an unpunctuated stream of consciousness that has lasted 6 years.

What are your favourite songs in your own discography?
There’s many songs I guess, but I think it’s the songs like ‘Love Underground’ for instance, which are really special to me, because they are like diary entries.  Those sort of songs, this one in particular, serve as cautionary tales. As for the new album, I would say A Little More Blood On The Tracks is pretty important to me.

You have a fairly individual musical style. Who/what are the biggest influences on you as an artist?
Not so much music, more people and events in my life and those closest to me. Humans are fascinating. Our actions, and responses to situations, the knock on effect of people’s energies and reaction to experiences are constantly evolving, but also repeating. We all have semi-stable character traits and quirks, but the dirt of each day challenges them, temporarily distorts them, for better or worse – bit of both probably. It’s these things that really inspire me. Music serves as a vessel, a way in which I can pin down my reactions and feelings toward this stuff. Without the music I’d be in a constant state of bewilderment, which I guess goes some way to explain why genre is not something I’ve ever thought about or cared for. Music is vast, and so are feelings – different things for different people, different music for different emotions I suppose.

How would you describe your sound? Do you think it’s changed in style since your first ep?
As above – an entirely different time, different environment … I’m not sure what style the first Ep was, nor what style you’d call my current work. I know for sure I’m not so uptight about my own music these days, though I’m a slave to it more than ever. I used to be very paranoid about very silly things, in the sense I would avoid choruses, and anything that might make my music too accessible, but I suppose that was insecurity within myself. I don’t know what makes music accessible for other people, only what I like in music. More and more I’ve grown free from my own paranoias, am becoming freer within myself and confident in following my instincts without any regard to how it will be considered by others.  Whatever you do, someone is gonna disagree and interpret it differently from how you intended it to be taken, and that’s neither good or bad, it’s just a fact. The difference between how I thought and worked back then and the way I am now is not something I’ve made any conscious effort to change, because I don’t tend to make those type of choices about myself.  It’s simply a maturity and self awareness that’s gradually developed over the last six years.

Do you aspire to make the music that you want to listen to? Do you listen to your own music in your free time, or is that work?
I guess naturally I aspire to make music that I respond to positively, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get through the writing process let alone have the chance to sit back and enjoy it. Anyone making music that they don’t like seems very bizarre, soulless even. Doing this isn’t a job to me, it’s what I am required to do – keeps the demons at bay.

Medway has featured heavily in your lyrics. How do you think your stomping ground has affected your music? What is special about Medway?
Medway is eclectic. There is no particular scene, no discernable style about it, instead something with far more longevity and importance – it has a spirit that touches all who pass through, a spirit that has been present ever since I’ve known the place, and one that no doubt existed long before. That spirit manifests itself in a variety of ways, some positive, others negative. No question it’s a hard place, a tough area with as many problems as it has potential. I love it. It’s home. I’ve been everything and everyone within that place.

The line between ‘Lupen Crook’ and ‘Lupen Crook and the Murderbirds’ seems rather blurry. ‘The Pros and Cons of Eating Out’ lists just Lupen Crook on the cover, while earlier EPs list the Murderbirds as well. I have heard ‘Waiting for the Postman’ mentioned as a solo album. This doesn’t seem as clean cut as acoustic or full band. How do you differentiate?
Good question. And yes, it is blurry. Perhaps I should have been more strict in defining these two strands at the very beginning, but they never felt like separate projects, simply extensions of the same thing. I guess it’s all part of the way that I have been exploring my songs, so there never felt any need. Lupen Crook is how it all started out – just me and my tattered 8 string, playing and writing. That is the one consistent thing that everything else has grown out from – and this has been present on all the albums, whether with or without The Murderbirds. The Murderbirds came from my meeting brothers Bob and Tom during the recording of my debut album ‘Accidents Occur Whilst Sleeping’. We struck up a close friendship, and by the second album ‘Iscariot The Ladder’ their commitment to my songs came to surpass what one might consider the normal responsibilities of a ‘backing band’ – and so we became far more like a group of like-minded creatives. I would feed my stories and songs into the fold, and as a team of musicians we’d explore the musical possibilities. That process is not uncommon, solo artist singer songwriter types do this with producers and bands, but by way of naming their relationship with me ‘The Murderbirds’ were in affect being written into the actual narrative rather than just getting ‘back of sleeve credits’ as is the case with many players who work with singer/songwriters. Thematically there was never any difference between the two strands – the songs were being drawn from the same place, however to some it did get confusing. Come the third album ‘The Pros and Cons Of Eating Out’ a decision was made to try and address this problem, by presenting it as the one consistent thing ‘it’ has ever been – and so the album was released as a ‘Lupen Crook’ record. Any attempts to avoid confusion were fairly fruitless anyway, and ultimately irrelevant because by the end of 2010 I decided to strip everything back to its core – just me and my songs – and so even though 2010 saw a chapter close, naturally the narrative continues.

Do you have different goals with the band or solo?
I think as a band, we had different ideas of what success was at times, but then half the time we didn’t think in terms of goals, just the moment at hand less any consequence. As far as my personal goals, I guess they haven’t changed, because for me there is no end game, it’s the getting there that is what makes any career or any life interesting and worth having been lived.

Is there a difference in the creative process?
Working with a band is great, it’s like being in a gang, mischief and mayhem at every turn, but then a group of people also have different needs, different lives, which can get tricky. As for the actual creative process, there is no one I prefer, it’s hard to compare them, because they are such different ways of working. It’s been a long while since I’ve gone it alone, and so I’m enjoying the freedom of working at my own pace and under my own steam.

I was listening to the selection of songs you have on your website. 13 Songs that span your whole career. It is fairly noticeable that your last two releases, have been cleaner and more produced, rather than the slightly more raw sound on releases like ‘Iscariot the Ladder’. They seem slightly less ‘feral’. Is this a stylistic choice?
An entirely natural progression. That’s strange, I don’t see that so much, but then that’s the beauty of interpretation.

Having released ‘The Pros and Cons of Eating Out’ just over 6 months ago, you are an undeniably productive artist. Do you find difficulties in releasing material so regularly?
Self releasing is hard work, but it’s very satisfying. Myself and Stuart, with whom which I run Beast Reality, have been learning hard and fast. This year has been the most enjoyable release for me, almost a painless process. We’ve got some ideas to branch out and release some other artists, which will be very interesting. It’s an idea we’ve been eager to realise for quite some time now. As for my own work, like I say above, I need to work at my own pace and this is the first time I’m actually releasing material at the pace I want to and need to. I need to avoid congestion in my mind, and that means working under my own set of terms. Stuart understands this completely, more than anyone has ever, and together we work really well in making it happen.

You design all your own artwork and merchandise as well. Is this out of choice, or is it a means to your musical ends?
I love colours and shapes, music is that to me, so sleeve art is a natural extension of the songs and albums. It’s very important to me, as important as the music in fact. I do it entirely out of choice because quite frankly I don’t think anyone else can see the inside of my head as well as I can – I’ve had a fair few years struggling with this mind of mine, and look forward to continuing that way.

You also write paint and draw separately from your music. Do these artforms achieve something that music cannot? Do you use different artforms for different ends?
Some art is related to my music, whereas a lot of it occupies a very different place for me, and comes from a very different area in my mind. I find art comes second to my music, but that will no doubt change as I get older – because painting is less selfish and ego-driven, more about the subtleties in life, less any need to force my opinion upon it. Painting requires a certain degree of calm about me to get the job done, patience and posture. At this stage in my life, music is more reactionary, driven by my emotions.

What is next for ‘Lupen Crook’?
Well, I’ll be releasing CHASING DRAGONS as a single, which comes some interesting alternative versions, and then I’ll be doing some dates around the UK which can be found on my website http://www.lupencrook.com. I’m also working on a new album due for release in 2012. I aim to exhibit my artwork more generally, both in Medway and London. I’ve an exhibition at Bardens Boudoir in London with some other great artists on 20th October, and will be exhibiting my work at DEAF CAT Cafe in Rochester during November. Other than that, performing solo has given me a new found sense of freedom so I will be gigging as much as possible.

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Violet Hour – ‘Castro Arms’

If music had a dukedom 

(listen here)

Castro Arms is the debut EP from curious Berkeley band Violet Hour. Violet Hour is comprised of…well, it’s hard to say really… the true identity of the band is hard to put a finger on. Looking at their openly available biography the casual internet buffoon (such as myself) will be informed that Violet Hour is a three piece, headed by the self styled Le Duc Violet, supported by “local titans” of the California scene Beef Donut and The Jasper Leech. I hope I am forgiven if I am slightly dubious of the integrity of these fine characters.

Never mind, that doesn’t matter anyway. In fact, it is one of the reasons why Violet Hour is worth keeping an eye on. The whole joie de vivre that pulsates through Castro Arms is exemplified in the enigmatic persona of Le Duc himself. Violet Hour strike the difficult balance between indie rock sensibilities and blending the much worn formula with a fresh, oddball sense of wild and chaotic humour. Songs such as the jangling ‘Money Down’ exemplify this balance. The melody is furiously catchy and the chorus comes fast. It is like a train, but a rickety train, made from pots and pans, a top hat for a chimney, puffing purple smoke. The scratchy guitar work and gravelly vocals evoke a sense of danger and excitement, like the whole song is going to collapse onto itself.

However, although odd and although curious, there is more than simply one flavour to the mad sonic stew integral to Violet Hour’s being. Other tracks evoke mixed feelings. Often what is produced seems unsettling, there is a more subtle undergrowth of pure feeling, melancholy and anger runs beneath the quizzical hook of the music. In particular, ‘Stole my skin’ speaks in great depth about having the desire to fit in; to garner love through an alter ego and the strange peculiarity of feeling at home in another skin. This reveals the great wealth, a reservoir of angst and doubt, so well expressed in their own style which undoubtedly gives a great validity to the band’s music.

Sonically too, the scope of the album expands greatly the further one delves. The sprawling ‘Pride of the Plain’ builds pace, instrumentation, vocal harmonising and guitar hooks to a soaring opus that is built to come down again into a reduction of its component parts. While far from perfect musical virtuosity, the patterns bring the listeners attention to the contribution that each instrument provides and how each come together to create the overall picture that the bands paint (with great, fat brushes that is, and fat strokes too).

Castro Arms is a thoroughly listenable album, and what is more, if one digs deeper it doesn’t disappoint. It is funny, ramshackle, catchy but poignant. It is a well crafted and coherent work and I look forward to seeing what they come up with in the future.

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Lil B – ‘I’m Gay’

“The Hood is a lie.”

(listen here)

(Buyable through iTunes, also released by Lil B for free download)

Recommended tracks: ‘I Hate Myself’, ‘Open Thunder Eternal Slumber’

It seems like it has been difficult to be on the internet for the past year or so without having heard Lil B, but for those who haven’t, here is a brief summary:

Lil B is a rapper (or is he?) who has made his name on the internet by ceaselessly producing music and constantly engaging his fan base; and despite MTV coverage, making the Fader front cover, working with Soulja Boy and Lil Wayne and tonnes more things, he has remained unsigned for a long time and recently signed a 3-album deal with an independent label (he is already 2 albums through). Lil B has many sides to his musical personality, from wide-eyed, woozyBased‘ freestyles on youtube to party tracks about how he is every celebrity  ever, and everything around and in-between.

‘I’m Gay’, an album suddenly announced to heavy controversy and released without warning, shows a side of Lil B more rooted in a traditional hip-hop aesthetic, and as a result has significantly more universal appeal than his countless other releases. In this album what you are getting is back-to-back verses about world issues, life and his philosophies, and with that ‘I’m Gay’ is almost definitely his most consistent record to date, and possibly the best introduction to his work.

This is not to say that the album is without Lil B’s uniqueness: beats that sample the likes of Slowdive (‘Open Thunder Eternal Slumber’), Barack Obama speech and Spirited Away  (‘Gon Be Okay’), lyrics packed with sincerity with lines like “this thing called life, can I give it a hug?” and a little touch of his now-trademark out-of-tune singing make this very much an album with inimitable personality despite the well-explored trad rap format.

The album is pretty strong throughout, though it has a slight lull in the middle; ‘The Wilderness’ has a vaguely cheesy romance movie vibe and a couple forced rhymes here and there (“expensive / fences”). That said, immediately after that comes ‘I Hate Myself’, my personal album highlight and an outright rap epic, a six minute story of the world he has grown up in (“I hate myself for being taught the rules of the hood / which don’t matter, no respect and no love / they got jail for the real thugs”), set to a sample of Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls.

Put simply this is an album to check out even if you are only vaguely interested in rap, or even if you haven’t liked Lil B’s previous work. This is easily one of the best hip-hop records of the past few years, with super-creative, innovative beats and lyrics that are striking and simplistic on first listen, and which reveal more and more depth with every subsequent listen.

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Lupen Crook – Waiting for the Postman

“The joyous bay of a hound at play,The caw of a rook on its homeward way,
Oh these shall be the music for me
For I love, I love the path of the free,”
(“I Love, I Love the Free” – Eliza Cook 1818-1889)

(listen here)

Recommended Tracks: ‘Lunacy’, ‘Mantra 29’

Lupen Crook is ridiculously prolific. In October of last year we were treated to “The Pros and Cons of Eating Out”, and now we get “Waiting for the Postman” and the songs are wonderful leaving the listener, again, in awe. The man can’t stop throwing out killer songs, killer tunes, and an awesome profusion of ideas that are nigh on incomparable to other music.

The mood of this collection is elegiac. He deals with lost childhood and lost friends, and to a touching degree with lost dreams. It’s personal, located in the Medway towns where he grew up, (The Dirty Mile between Rochester and Chatham), the underpasses where he hung out with friends now gone, smoking and joking, and drinking Shiraz, which sounds a bit sophisticated for the Chatham I know, but still… and through it all runs the thread of Lupen’s own mythos; the dragons he chases across the sky, relationships steeped in distrust and paranoia, the parks that might be graveyards, and crows. The ghosts of Elvis and Jim Morrison, and at the end of it all, crows.

Skeins of delicate guitar leaven the songs, jaunty fairground effects, a sort of doomy reggae vibe on “Cold Alone”, and swirls of synth all over “Hard Times”, that gives the collection lots of variety and interest, but primarily, there are rays of gorgeous song-writing that swim out of his bleakest lyrics. My favourite line is in the supremely hummable “Lunacy”, the tale of a street kid called Luna who doesn’t care about the despair that surrounds her since “her light side shines golden when the dawn breaks through”.

Stand-out tracks are “Mantra 29”, featuring exquisite rippling guitar, “Lunacy”, and “A Little More Blood On The Tracks” which is perhaps the best story-telling on the album, addressing an old friend, the childhood they shared, the love they’ve moved past, telling their story simply and honestly because “every life that dies deserves a song”.

The poem that heads this review in Mark Cocker’s book “Crow Country”. Eliza Cook lived in the Kentish village of Lewisham, not so far from the Medway. For her, crows represented freedom. It is unclear what they are to Lupen, not freedom certainly, but something crucial. Something about crowding possibilities and choices extinguished when they’ve been made, and creativity and regret. Something important and worth attending to.

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Jack Cheshire – Copenhagen

Pleasantly guiding the way to introversion

(listen here)

Recommended Tracks: ‘Copenhagan’, ‘Time Travel’

I am very glad to have discovered Jack Cheshire in the summer. He is very much an artist to listen to on hazy days of gentle breeze and warm glowing sun. He has an innate laziness and chilled outlook that feels very july centric. His gentle melodies and hushed voice feel very personal, and give him a singular combination of acoustic intimacy, and dreampoppy woozy atmosphere.

Along with the chilled vibe, there is also a definite eeriness that carries quite a lot of weight. Particularly from the light jangling guitar, which spends the majority of the album flirting with melodies to complement the vocal lines. Songs like ‘Paper House’ almost break down into introverted sections of layered instruments and repeating vocal refrains.

The songs that stand out the most, in fact, are the ones with long instrumental sections such as ‘Time Travel’, ‘We Are Electric’ and ‘Copenhagen’. He and his band mates manage to get very pretty and complex patterns that  counterpoint his vocals gracefully creating a relaxed groove. The vocals themselves are very characterful and the lyrics are interesting and conjure powerful imagery when the due attention is given.

Seeing him live is definitely a better experience than on album. Just him and a friend with an electric guitar, strangely, had more impact than the full band record. Songs like ‘We Are Electric’ climax fairly well, but ‘Paper House’ was a definite strong point live and it blends into the background of the album, which is definitely the strongest criticism of Copenhagen. Throughout, there are refrains and riffs that stick in the mind, but I would be hard pressed to tell you which song is which. To find a standout single in this track list is a challenge, but so is finding a weak one.

It is a good mood. From beginning to end Cheshire maintains an ambient, and intrinsically English vibe. Middle England washes over the listener in a wave of cool cider and green hills. Copenhagen is an interesting album. Reminiscent more of bands like Athlete than anything else. He manages the feat, mostly, of staying fairly grounded whilst maintaining a dreampop vibe. An excellent artist for listening to with a decent pair of headphones on a train or bus. You want to block out the world, but want to be aware enough to not miss your stop or give an old lady your chair.

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My Glastonbury 2011 Sunday

The sun came out on sunday, in a take no prisoners destructive beating down tireless breezeless way, so I decided to go and watch bands on outside stages in a reckless and cavalier fashion. It was worth it though because all of the bands on this day I saw were fantastic, and I had an excellent festival closing.

  1. Laura Marling
    For a lone whispy vocalist, Marling commands a powerful presence. Her songs contain a spirit from old albion that feels very free and gave a metaphorical airiness to the ambience. She was backed by a very tight band who were used sparingly to great affect. She seemed genuinely happy that she had an audience and that we were enjoying it, which made the audience feel rather connected. There are not many performances that I leave with an overwhelming urge to give the artist a big hug.
  2. Paul Simon
    There was a definite duality to this set. The first few songs were pleasant enough in a relaxed environment that was easy to chat over. However, when ‘Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes’ came in, the crowd’s interest was piqued. The pleasant, clean guitars floated over and amongst the audience filling all with an overwhelming joy of the summery setting. From this point on he kept them up with some hits (one or two old Simon and Garfunkel’s), and finished on a high with a satisfying climax of ‘Call me Al’.
  3. The Go! Team
    There is no footage that can accurately demonstrate the power they have live. Watching The Go! Team Live is a truly electrifying experience, and ‘Buy Nothing Day’ is a truly spectacular song. However, this was an absolutely exhausting hour and a bit. They played the whole set with the volume cranked up to 11 and all of their bouncy crowd pleasers, they avoided more chilled songs like ‘Ready to go Steady’ which could’ve given us a much needed rest.
  4. The Low Anthem
    I could not have asked for a bigger contrast with The Go! Team. The Low Anthem’s particular brand of personal, intimate Americana gels in a way that is slightly intangible. It was a very well judged set, starting with gentle acoustic songs that seemed to fit well with the audience, and then a few slightly more driving songs with a full electric band, and finishing with a mobile phone feedback solo. The crowd was wonderful and was 100% on their side; clapping tumultuously after every song, and being respectful during which made the gig a pleasure for all involved.
  5. Bellowhead
    A fantastic festival closer. A truly joyous band to experience. Just watching 10+ people squeeze onto a stage and enjoy themselves is completely contagious. The crowd began square dancing and throwing arms over their companions shoulders. They were very tight and yet definitely maintained the impression that they were strafing the knife edge and could fall into chaos at any moment. All too quickly they reached their last song, which was a cover of The Clash’s ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’ featuring Billy Bragg on Lead Vocals.

(Friday at Glastonbury featuring Emmy the Great, Wu-Tang Clan, Warpaint, Big Audio Dynamite, Radiohead, and the Barenaked Ladies)

(Saturday at Glastonbury featuring Molotov Jukebox, Sixnationstate, Captain Angelo, Graham Coxon, The Walkmen, Tame Impala, Pulp, and more Captain Angelo)

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My Glastonbury 2011 Saturday

This is my saturday from midnight to midnight. Quite a few interesting discoveries in this list that may well find their way into my iTunes library. A little miffed that I missed Fight Like Apes, but they are a must see at Reading in August.

  1. Molotov Jukebox
    Some sort of Cletzmer meets Gypsy punk meets Flamenco meets the new age of souly female pop singers. They claim to be Genre-dodging, and seem to succeed; incorporating elements of anything they could whilst keeping accordion and violin as lead instruments. Their joyous ambience spread easily through their audience. An excellent band to have a bit of a jig to and just generally have fun.
  2. Sixnationstate
    Mix a big glug of The Libertines, a strong dash of Pixies, and a bit of ska energy and you have a feel good garage band who are incredibly tight. They have been touring an expanding repertoire since 2004 and are well loved by their solid fanbase. When songs like ‘Everybody Wants to be My Friend’ and ‘Keep on Dancing’ come on, the loyal audience oblige.
  3. Captain Angelo
    Entering the strange and wonderful world of Glastonbury’s rave capital Shangri-La to see a modest folk set by Captain Angelo was a strange experience, but most definitely rewarding. The triumphant trumpet in tracks such as ‘I Still Think of You’ sang out over the powerful P.A. While too muffled to pick out the intricate lyrics, the spirit of Miles’ gentle Nick Drake-esque vocals made for a wonderful ambience. Sadly, the clarinet and autoharp which add so much warmth to their recorded opus was too low in the mix.
  4. Graham Coxon
    Powerful dirty blues guitar, Graham Coxon relies on his guitar to do the talking because he clearly doesn’t want to. The duality between his introverted body language and between song rapport, and his brash, noisy solos that have a strong sense of musicality amidst the maze of feedback and distortion, is surprisingly engaging, and enthralling. Leaving the audience hushed to hear him utter a small comment about the upcoming song, and then joining in with the noise whether by singing along with his punky vocals, tapping along, or talking.
  5. The Walkmen
    Hamilton Leithauser has an undeniably amazing voice. With every note he sings, his face contorts with the strain he puts into it, both emotional and physical. The band have this strange trashy and yet lazy vibe that transmits well. The crowd started moving excitedly when ‘The Rat’ is played, but at no other times, which is a shame, because they put on good show throughout.
  6. Tame Impala
    Tame Impala are an interesting band, combining ambient music with psychedelia, and electronic indie. I spent the first few songs of their set sitting down and eating a portion of nachos. I enjoyed these few a lot because Tame Impala seem to have a miraculous ability to wash over and make a good atmosphere. However, upon listening more closely, they lack some substance. Though coming on stage shoeless was rather endearing.
  7. Pulp
    Easily one of the best performances of Glastonbury. Jarvis swanned onto the stand and said ‘you didn’t think we’d let you down?’ to which the crowd erupted. They churned out hit after hit, interspersed by Cocker’s enchanting audience interaction and chocolate hurling. His energy got the rather sizeable crowd both hot under the collar and completely enamoured with the music. They chanted ‘Jarvis! Jarvis!’ to which he eloquently responded ‘The band is called Pulp actually’ and a rowsing chorus of ‘Pulp! Pulp!’ was returned.
  8. Captain Angelo (again)
    This time at the far more intimate venue, Capt. Ang seemed much more at home on the claustrophobic Greenpeace stage. They obviously enjoyed this gig more and it showed as they regailed us with a more upbeat and shambolic set; full of shouting out to friends in the and impromptu song changes so as to not need to retune the guitar. It was the rhythm section that carried this performance. The drums skipped along merrily in songs like ‘The Last Song of Guitar Boy’ smiles were abundant for both performers and audience.

(Friday at Glastonbury featuring Emmy the Great, Wu-Tang Clan, Warpaint, Big Audio Dynamite, Radiohead, and the Barenaked Ladies)

(Sunday at Glastonbury featuring Laura Marling, Paul Simon, The Go! Team, The Low Anthem, and Bellowhead)

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My Glastonbury 2011 Friday

The weather gods were listening to the same bands as me this Glastonbury, and they seem to be big Pulp fans as well.

This was my first Glastonbury, and I managed to collect the full spectrum of weather, food, music and people. It was a fantastic experience that anyone who loves music should experience at least once. This is a quick summary of all the music I saw on a day by day basis, starting with Friday.

  1. Emmy the Great
    An effortlessly charming begin to the festival. Opening with the washy, shoegazey ‘Dinosaur Sex’ The full band set up added a lot to Emma’s acoustic strumming and intricate lyrics and melodies. A great ensemble piece, and incredibly full sound. Climaxing with ‘Where is My Mind?’ cover with Tim Wheeler adding vocals grounded the set and really drove it home. A large contrast to her recorded works, and arguably a great improvement, taking her a step above and beyond her interesting lyrics and engaging voice.
  2. Wu-Tang Clan
    While it is definitely a strange experience listening to classic hip hop in a field full of indie fans doing gun hand signs and bopping, Wu-Tang gave it their all and were engaging and powerful, and sometimes emotive in their dedications and freestyles about ODB. However a large percent of audience interaction and rap leads were taken by Method Man. I could have done with a bit more Ghostface and Raekwon.
  3. Warpaint
    This hazy reverb covered band filled the crowds ears with interplaying guitars and vocals and an incredibly strong rhythm section, adding a lilting groove but maintaining a lot of punch. Managing to find a middle ground between Jefferson Airplane and Portishead is no simple task, and it is something Warpaint make look effortless. The four very engaging, and all very different, women on the stand flooded the park stage with a complete joy in their music.
  4. Big Audio Dynamite
    A jolly good romp. Mick Jones has a very charismatic stage presence and the band are tight and talented. Big Audio Dynamite have great spirit and they are about as close as you can get to seeing The Clash perform now. They have that same feel as late Clash albums of messy vocals, reggae beats, and punky guitar.
  5. Radiohead
    This was a conflicting set. On one hand it was an excellent performance that drew the audience in and created a strong mood. Everyone in that crowd left feeling Radiohead. On the other hand, they played almost entirely King of Limbs, with some In Rainbows, and a pitiful 2 older tracks (I Might Be Wrong and Street Spirit (Fade Out)) which was disappointing from the perspective of a massive fan of Hail to the Thief and Kid A. Coming back on stage to an encore of Street Spirit was wonderful though.
  6. Barenaked Ladies
    Opening with Brian Wilson, the Barenaked Ladies had the audience at their mercy from word one. Throw in a couple of freestyle raps about Glastonbury and a couple of covers and you have a band that were entertainers in the truest sense. They had a perfect balance of between song banter and in song commentary. They had all the comedy they are famous for as well as some damn fine songs and sing-a-longs.

(Saturday at Glastonbury featuring Molotov Jukebox, Sixnationstate, Captain Angelo, Graham Coxon, The Walkmen, Tame Impala, Pulp, and more Captain Angelo)

(Sunday at Glastonbury featuring Laura MarlingPaul SimonThe Go! TeamThe Low Anthem, and Bellowhead)

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Shy And The Fight – Living

A mellow set for a strong septet.

Recommended Tracks: ‘How To Stop An Imploding Man’ & ‘Living’

(listen here)

Shy and the Fight aren’t your average Alt. Folk band; this septet hailing from Chester and North Wales, bring forward an unusual mix of instruments forward for their debut EP Living, for a unique twist to the regular acoustic folk sounds across the track list, whether it be the soft, if sometimes discordant, strings combination in ‘Specks Of Blue’, or the fuzzy electric guitar that introduces the toe-tappingly infectious ‘How To Stop An Imploding Man’; having already received huge praise from BBC Radio Wales, it is clear that this band are growing.

Undoubtedly the strongest song on the album is the lead track ‘How To Stop An Imploding Man’, reminding me of an indie version of ‘New York Girls’ by Bellowhead with the catchy infectiousness of Mumford and Sons ‘Little Lion Man’ or Frank Turner’s ‘Photosynthesis’, with the dirty bluegrass intro fast and quick skiffle-strumming new age folk delivers so well, it’s a shame it’s the only faster song on the EP, although other songs are also strong. Listening to the different melodies playing off one another in ‘Living’ sets such a relaxed ambience throughout the track, with the soft plucking contrasting nicely to the brash entrance to ‘How To Stop An Imploding Man’ at the start of the EP, effectively using the band’s wide range of vocals to great effect by bringing in light harmonies to shadow the strings throughout most of the song, before bringing the quicker rocky drum-beats back for the closing section, and ‘Prayer For The Faithless’, with solemn story-telling lyrics painting picture after picture, with the singer’s solemn voice complementing the guitar’s evocative refrain.

On the other hand, the wide range of vocal talent the band clearly has, evident in ‘How To Stop An Imploding Man’ and ‘Living’, and it feels a little under-used on the other tracks. Granted with ballads like ‘Prayer For The Faithless’, a lone voice is enough to convey the song’s lyrical story, but with the equally talented vocalists being left under-demonstrated on most of the tracks, it leaves something a little bit lacking.

This is most definitely an EP for all the contemporary folkies dancing merrily away to Slow Club and early Frank Turner. An interesting mix of the intricate stories and the rawcous campfire sing-a-longs, and, it must be said, rather amazing sleeve art, worth checking out if your more Laura Marling than Megadeath.

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