Monday, 20 December 2010

Albums Of The Year 2010

2010 seemed to me like a year of cult bands, for me. The marquee releases didn't really shine. The Arcade Fire's third album was flabby and overwrought, underlining again their inability to properly follow up their classic debut. Kanye West? I didn't listen, and can barely bring myself to engage with it despite the critical frothing. But it was easy coming up with a list of twenty brilliant albums, several of which are debuts. Including Brainlove albums is unsporting; so no placing for Mat Riviere's Follow Your Heart, Napoleon IIIrd's Christiania or Pagan Wanderer Lu's European Monsoon, all of which would be in the top ten otherwise, of course.

10. Darwin Deez
NYC guitar-pop, like a doe-eyed Strokes with a drum machine, a sweet disposition and a sense of fun. Lightweight stuff, but done so perfectly that you can't help but adore it.

9. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Bradford Cox dips into his songwriting memory box and pulls out a series of songs that read like a muso's tribute to his favourite music of the previous 5 decades. HIs body of work keeps getting better. Bradford Cox is a musical icon developing before our eyes.

8. Caribou - Swim
Caribou went electronic, exploring the ground between the mechanical rhythms of dance music and the organic, shimmery analogue sound of Andorra. Cropped down from hundreds of contenders, each song became an artefact, the set characterised by a scholarly attention to detail.

7. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
Following up her iconic album "Ys." was never going to be easy, but Joanna Newsom pulled it off with this sprawling collection of kindly, poetic melodies.

6. Field Music - Measure
A brilliant accomplishment of a record that sounded like a lost AOR classic. Inventive, engaging, sprawling, and practically perfect in every way. So good, I'm freshly surprised on each listen on the sheer musical quality on display.

5. Trouble Books - Gathered Tones
Radiating sonic warmth and character, Trouble Books' second was another engaging and endlessly likeable series of heartstring-tugging short stories and reassuringly familiar everyday scenes. The polar opposite of punk rock.
Trouble Books - Parking by snipelondon

4. Meursault - All Creatures Will Make Merry
Lo-fi emotional folk (lolemolk) music with electronic flourishes, autobiographical lyrics and spellbinding vocals.

Meursault - Crank Resolutions by snipelondon

3. Beach House- Teen Dream
A caring, understated record full of mild poetry and enticing melodies, made great by the seam of human warmth that runs through every song.

Beach House - Norway by sxeseis

2. Future Islands - In Evening Air
A theatrical, histrionic vocal delivery fronts songs that cover the ground between Joy Division's tense basslines and Xiu Xiu's cracked keyboard sounds. A singularly odd and brilliant band who've pulled off something really special with this album.

Future Islands - Walking Through That Door by snipelondon

1. Sam Amidon - I See A Sign
American folk songs and murder ballads made humbly brilliant by Amidon's inimitable, reedy, cracked voice. Arrangements and accompaniment by Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nico Muhly certainly don't do any harm, and the curveball R. Kelly cover is a stroke of genius, bringing the past-and-present element into sharp focus. Like Future Islands, Amidon mixes a healthy sense of absurdity with subject matter of gravity, and in doing so manages to bring to bear the perfect everyday heartaches of the great American blues singers.

Daily MPfree: Sam Amidon - How Come That Blood by snipelondon

Honourable mentions

Yeasayer - Odd Blood
One of the alt-pop records of the year from the contrivedly on-trend NYC quartet.
Ariel Pink - Before Today
More acid-fried retro oddness.
Jonsí - Go
An Inspiring collection from Jonsí, much of which is in Nico Muhly's handwriting.
Everything Everything - Man Alive
Most of the catchiest songs of the year were on this tightly written indie album.
Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
A mature album from a very young band. Great songs in the surf & shoegaze mould.
Zola Jesus - Stridulum II
Alt-pop queen in waiting with a huge voice and an artistic sensibility.
Best Coast - Crazy For You
Loveable, fuzzy, feel-good guitar-pop from Beth Cosentino.
Liars - Sisterworld
Now veterans, Liars latest is a tense, explosive record.
SALEM - King Night
Epic, oppressive, gothic dance music.
Marnie Stern - Marnie Stern
I somehow haven't listened to this yet. I bet it's gonna be awesome though.
Warpaint - The Fool
A grower. Low key, minimal, post-XX tunes.
Perfume Genius - Learning
A beautiful, vulnerable autobiography of a debut record.
Sufjan Stevens
Mind-bending, disorientating brilliance shot through with memorable moments.
The National - High Violet
Sometimes sublime, sometimes drab as hell, the National's high points are worth the perseverance.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Sunday, 12 September 2010

On The Stereo

Written for The Music Magazine

Future Islands
Post-The Wire, Baltimore is probably more famous for heroin and corruption than it's alternative music scene, but Dan Deacon's Wham City Collective (of which Future Islands are a part) are putting the city on the map for other reasons. Their 2010 album 'In Evening Air' is one of the records of the year; broody, simmering art-pop that nods to Joy Division and Xiu Xiu, but with a histrionic vocalist that come across like a desperately heartbroken cabaret singer. Brilliantly strange, and UK-bound this month.

Future Islands - Walking Through That Door by snipelondon

Sam Amidon
NYC folk singer Sam Amidon released an album of timeworn American folk songs this year named "I See The Sign". Appalachian murder ballads, ruminations on life and death and unusual takes on the love song are all present, and in Amidon's hands seem to take on extra dimensions, partly due to some fantastic production and arrangements by Bedroom Community's Valgeir Sigurðsson and US composer Nico Muhly. But, as always with Amidon, there's a gleam in the eye and a spanner in the works - "Relief" turns out to be an R.Kelly cover, plucked out of context and made just as beautiful as the rest.

Sam Amidon - Saro by snipelondon

Active Child
One of those acts ubiquitous in the blogosphere but pretty much unknown elsewhere, ex-choirboy Pat Grossi creates a rich mixture of 80s-derived synth-pop with shimmering production and live harp and keyboard. But the main event is his voice - a high falsetto that manages to be both camp and other-worldly. His Curtis Lane EP is doing the rounds now, available on MP3 or as a handsome 10" record.

Active Child - She Was a Vision by snipelondon

Former Ghosts
An underground supergroup of sorts, Former Ghosts consist of Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart, Zola Jesus originator Nika Roza and former This Song Is a Mess But So Am I member Freddy Ruppert. You can probably imagine what it sounds like from that: dark, harrowing, minimal electronic backdrops with a lead vocal that borders on hysterical. Brilliant.

Former Ghosts - In Earth's Palm by snipelondon

Darwin Deez
Darwin Deez are an implausibly fun NYC indie-pop four-piece fronted by one Darwin Smith - a gangly, good-natured party dude with an ear for a catchy melody and a gift for endearing, simply-crafted pop songs. The debut album seems to consist entirely of potential hits - you want to cheer each time another song begins. Live, the band take breaks to have dance battles and carry out routines to disco classics, making each performance half live and half DJ set. Great stuff, and mainstream-bound.

Darwin Deez - Deep Sea Divers by LuckyNumberMusic

I've been glued to the (as yet unreleased) debut album by our newest siging at Brainlove, Chicago-based Bastardgeist. Spooky chimes float around heavy, pulsing bass, with Midden's spectral falsetto in the foreground. Some songs are built around orchestral loops, but layered up and echoing with live accompaniment to magical effect. He's playing at Iceland Airwaves this year, and hopefully we'll have him heading to the UK soon.

Bastardgeist - COPS by brainlove

Fang Island
Yet another NYC-based band, Fang Island perhaps fill the space left by recently split funcore merchants The Mae Shi, presenting technicolour, anthemic rock-slash-pop fun with electronic squiggles and plenty of breathless shouting and ridiculous harmonized guitar noodling. Euphoric.

Fang Island - Daisy by snipelondon

Zola Jesus
I wrote about Former Ghosts, but I have to cover Zola Jesus as a solo entity. Mercurial 21-year-old Nika Rosa Danilova sttarted to learn opera singing as a kid, which might go some way to explaining her explosively emotional voice - seeming channeling more than she knows what to do with, Nika paces the stage relentlessly during live performances, barely looking up from beneath her mop of bleach-blonde hair. Her gothy art-pop sounds oddly familiar, like a collection of lost 80s number ones. Entitled Stridulum II, a collection of her newer songs is out now.

Zola Jesus - Night by snipelondon

Monday, 30 August 2010

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

New Napoleon IIIrd Album

Hear a snippet from Napoleon IIIrd's new album "Christiania" and sign up to get the opening track for free here.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

BRNLV MPfrees!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Written for The Line Of Best Fit

Anyone who grew up with 1980s chart music is going to find something familiar in the feelgood pop sound of much-hyped Scottish producer Grum. His brilliant debut album "Heartbeats" is a devoutly retro twelve song collection of 1980s revivalist should-be hits, with traces of 90s big-beat influence and squiggles of 00s Ed Banger synth bringing it up to date.

Known to his mum as Graeme Shepherd, the 24-year-old Scotsman's nom de guerre apparently comes from his grumpiness during his university years. But there's a simple joy in these razor-sharp productions that suggests his downbeat demeanor might have come from too many hours spent in front of Fruityloops. Shepherd is on the record saying that he's more music geek than club kid, and as a result his record is melody-based in a way that many dance producers neglect, packed with super-catchy motifs and perfect key changes. Title track "Heartbeats" is an exhilarating 3-minute rollercoaster of beepy saccharine dance. Hyper-retro pop song "Turn It Up" could be lifted directly from the opening credits from a John Hughes teen movie, seemingly taking pleasure in the absolute lyrical clichés it employs.

Grum is less self-consciously mainstream than Frankmusik, less of a work-in-progress than the mercurial frYars, and less arch than Chromeo - it feels like he has genuine love for the canon he's drawing on. Every song on this album is fully formed enough to be released as an anthemic chart-storming single in it's own right.

"Heartbeats" is an intoxicating sugar-rush of dance-pop mini-anthems. I'm not sure if this kind of pop music actually manages to communicate that first-love feeling more clearly than any other genre, or if it's just my teenaged former self perking up his ears, but this record brings to mind first-date butterflies, pounding hearts and summer-night excitement more clearly than anything else I can think of. This is 'going out music' that's way better than anything they'll be playing at the club.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Snipe Machine

The Snipe blog is on Hype Machine now :)

Hype Machine Music Widget MP3 Blogs
Get this widget →

Friday, 25 June 2010

Amusia paused / RSS Feed for the Snipe blog

Hello dears. I'm mothballing Amusia for a while, as all my attentions are currently going into daily articles for Snipe.

Add it to your RSS feed with this:

Thanks darlings.


Monday, 14 June 2010

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

On Snipe: Daily MPfrees selected by meyourhost

The ol' blog has been slightly quiet of late, you may have noticed if you're a regular reader. Well, it's because I've started a feature called Daily MPfree over at Snipe and it's taking up what little time is available for writing...

But the upshot is, you can get a free song a day from now on, with a playlist for songs that go live during each issue of the paper. Bookmark it...

Snipe MPfrees - Issue #1 by snipelondon

Snipe MPfrees - Issue #2 by snipelondon

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Daniel Bjarnason - Processions

Written forThe Line Of Best Fit

Okay, I'm gonna come clean: I volunteered to review this record because I love the Bedroom Community label, and I'm interested in all things Icelandic. Little did I realise I'd be signing up to spend hours staring at a blank screen as I slowly realised the depth of my ignorance on the subject of contemporary classical composition. Sure, I know a little about some of the big hitters - Xenakis, Reich, Messiaen. I listen to bands that flirt with classical style if not structures; Final Fantasy, Sufjan Stevens, Simon Bookish. But the lack of words forthcoming after listening to Daníel Bjarnason's unarguably accomplished "Processions" felt... a little like vertigo, to be honest.

Which is probably quite fitting, as Processions is a thoroughly uneasy affair. The composer, who shares the Bedroom Community label with the mercurial Nico Muhly, has a knack for twisting arrangements into counter-intuitive, teetering structures that never afford the listener time to get comfortable. The sounds seem to jar against each other, creating a nervy tension that permeates the album. The first two tracks of the first movement (entitled 'Bow To String') could soundtrack Jack Nicholson creeping around that huge abandoned hotel in The Shining slowly losing his shit.

The second movement, Processions, starts with a grand flourish but still maintains an awkward tension, reeling and spinning, punctuated by dizzying smashes of percussion. I can only imagine the imagery going on in Mr Bjarnason's head at this point, despite the inherently cinematic feel of his music. Moments of calm creep up but don't last long, creating a constant sense of disorientation; danger, even. When a motif does recur it's in fractured, twisted shapes and shadows that continue to restlessly explore - there are ever more possibilities within this utterly impressive work.

The final piece, Skelja, is based around plucked string harmonics, groaning undertones and feedback; it sounds almost like Hitchcock exercising his gift for building tension, via the harp instead of the screen. Feeling both entranced and endlessly disturbed, I don't know whether I'd rather throw this nervy album into a lake or buy it on super heavy vinyl. Maybe you'll have more luck deciding yourself.

Ain't no party like a

Brainlove Release Party! All the info is right here on Facebook.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Brainlove Festival Headliners DRUM EYES offer a free download from their album GIRA GIRA

MP3: 50/50

An exclusive track from the forthcoming Drum Eyes album Gira Gira! The accompanying spiel says it pretty well: "It’s a real triumph of an album and finally sees DJ Scotch Egg make an album deserved of attention not only from his loyal fanbase but far and wide across the metal, ambient and electronic worlds of modern music, it’s an album that obliterates genres with pride and grace, whilst remaining true in it’s identity and ability to lodge in your mind."

Drum Eyes headline Brainlove Festival 2010 this weekend.

Drum Eyes - 50/50 (Upset The Rhythm Records) by brainlove

How Many Boyfriends?

MP3: I Don't Like You (Coz You Don't Like The Pastels)

To-cool-for-art-school indie-pop upstarts This Many Boyfriends have released a taster from their forthcoming EP "Getting A Life With This Many Boyfriends". It's a song with a massive possible double-meaning in the chorus that singer Richard says was unintended, so we're left not knowing whether the song's protagonist likes it's subject or not. You'll have to guess.

Order the EP, with badges and a fanzine, from Thee SPC here.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

You're at your best in casual evening wear

Released on Brainlove June 14th.

"Your New Favourite Band Is Here" - BBC Introducing

14th May - Cargo, London (w/ Left With Pictures)
27th May - The Camp, London (w/ Napoleon IIIrd)
30th May - Brainlove Festival @ The Windmill (w/ Drum Eyes, David Thomas Broughton etc)
15th June - The Old Blue Last, Single Release Party (w/ Pagan Wanderer Lu)

Stairs To Korea, aka Anglo-Icelandic singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Will Vaughan, is to release his third single this June 14th. An earworm ditty that's perfect for the onset of summer, "Paul, Is This How You Wanted It?" continues the drip-feed of accomplished, memorable pop songs from the vaunted Stairs To Korea live show.

Under the sunshine of the tune and the sparkling production "Paul.." tells a gradually unfolding story, but Vaughan is keen to state that it's not documentary. "I used to live with a Paul but this isn't about him, for the record," Vaughan explains. "This Paul is a personification - he's a man who's slowly losing his identity and self-esteem in a whirlwind of misappropriated blame."

As with Stairs To Korea's previous singles, it's the juxtaposition of light sensibility and subtle substance that adds meat to the juicy bones of the song. "I guess it's one of the darker songs but at the same time the most bubblegum song I've recorded," he muses. "I think those two qualities bolster each other - the melodies lay bear the kinda nihilistic angst of the lyrics. Sort of pop with a point."

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Introducing: Snipe
A new free newspaper for London.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Brainlove Festival In Two Weeks! First Outdoor Stage Announcement!

BRNLVFSTVL 2010's first outdoor lineup has been released - featuring a sunset performance from Oxford's We Aeronauts, a rare and precious UK performance from Icelandic troubadour Svavar Knutur, an improvised cello performance from Bleeding Heart Narrative's Oliver Barrett, Norwich's twee DIY duo The Middle Ones, arch pop from the Woe Betides, acclaimed Oxfordian blues man David G. Cox, DIY uke hero Jam On Bread, comedy from Chris Boyd (who we saw just before Josie Long at last year's Green Man Festival) and lots more...


Saturday May 29th


GREG STEWART (We Aeronauts)

DJ: RICH THANE (The Line Of Best Fit / Ill Fit)

Sunday May 30th


CHRIS BOYD (Comedian)
OLI BARRETT (Bleeding Heart Narrative)
+ more TBC



Thursday, 13 May 2010

Fight For Me

MP3: Fight For Me

Chilly churchy vibes on the new Wildbirds & Peacedrums EP, Retina, out May 24th on The Leaf Label. Reminiscent of Vespertine-era Björk and Bat For Lashes doing her best Kate Bush impression. Which is, I guess, all the time.

They play London on Saturday, too:

Saturday 15 May
Bishopsgate Institute, LONDON (with Choir Of Young Believers)
230 Bishopsgate, EC2M 4QH
Doors 7.30pm
Tickets £12.50

♥ LABEL LOVE ♥ : Brainlove, Good Tape and Kimi Records hit the SPOT

Three independent record labels have joined forces for a very special show at Denmark's urban festival and industry hoedown: SPOT Festival. English Brainlove Records, Icelandic Kimi Records and Danish Good Tape Records will each present a band from their roster at the afternoon event, which takes place on Friday May 21st at the ArcHauz venue in Åarhus.

"It was Airwaves where the idea started,"
says the event's instigator Kamilla Hannibal of Danish label Good Tape. "There were Kimi and Brainlove showcases there, but no Good Tape one. So I was wandering around, getting inspired by all the off-venue activites. It was driven more from passion and creativity than business, with good, creative people supporting it and standing behind it, and having fun doing so. I was thinking the world is pretty small when it comes to music so maybe bringing us closer to work together more and play with open cards. Not worry about borders so much. I think a lot about the... collaboration, internationally. It makes so much sense."

Spot is an annual festival that plays host to the best new music from across Scandinavia, with international guests. Bands playing this year include FM Belfast, Chimes & Bells and The Kissaway Trail, amongst many others. Previous years have seen early performances from breakthrough bands like Sigur Ros, Mew, Múm, Junior Senior and Raveonettes.



21st May 2010
LABEL LOVE @ SPOT Festival, Åarhus, Denmark
Benni Hemm Hemm (Kimi Records)
Murder (Good Tape Records)
Mat Riviere (Brainlove Records)
Venue: ArcHauz
Street: Valdemarsgade
Time: 3pm-4.30pm



Benni Hemm Hemm is a band from Reykjavik, Iceland consisting of anything from one to forty members. Benni Hemm Hemm play delightful songs about hills, snow, ships, blood and norwegian kings, written and orchestrated by Benedikt H. Hermannsson. Benni Hemm Hemm just released an EP called Retaliate.
Video link:

Kimi Records is an Icelandic label based in Reykjavik and Gent (BE). It was founded in 2007 and focuses on the vibrant Icelandic alternative music scene. Kimi Records has released albums with bands such as Sin Fang Bous, Hjaltalin, Benni Hemm Hemm, Reykjavik!, Sudden Weather Change and kimono.

Mat Riviere is a solo performer from Norwich, UK. He creates strange and memorable songs from old synthesizers, overlapping loops, clanking rhythms and cryptic lyrics sung in a distinctive, plaintive voice. His debut album "Follow Your Heart" is out now.
Video link:

Brainlove Records is a UK label working to unearth and present exciting new music. The philosophy of the label is to support musicians exhibiting creativity, spirit, intelligence and imagination, regardless of genre, commercial potential, or technical ability. As such, Brainlove is a record label with artistic rather than commercial values at it's core.

Murder consists of long-standing friends Jacob Bellens and Anders Mathiasen. Their music flits moodily between genres, currently residing somewhere amongst brooding blues and neo-folk, always shot through with melancholy and melodies of murderous intent.
Video link:

Mads Vraa and Kamilla Traberg Hannibal started Good Tape Records in 2006 over a shared love of melody and the mixtapes. Their first release, Murder's genre-defining neo-folk album "Stockholm Syndrome", was the starting point on a winding path that weaves between singer-songwriters, bright-eyed indie-pop, alternative rock and experimental electro.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Sick bruv

Well. Uhm. Here's the new video from Xiu Xiu :(

Monday, 10 May 2010

Cry, Cry Baby

For those who were expecting a different result, here's an anthem for the start of a glum post-election week. Nina Nastasia's new single "Cry, Cry Baby" is a typically beautiful ballad, filmed here with live strings. And, as always, Nastasia mines something fresh and uplifting from under the downbeat contents of the song.

The single is out today, and Nastasia plays Dalston's Café Oto on May 23rd and 24th, touring the UK afterwards. Find out more on her MySpace.

22nd May: South Street Arts Centre, Reading
23rd May: Café Oto, London
24th May: Café Oto, London
25th May: St Margaret’s Church, Manchester
26th May: Cluny 2, Newcastle
27th May: Nice and Sleazy’s, Glasgow
28th May: The Folk House, Bristol
30th May: Talking Heads, Southampton
31st May: The Freebutt, Brighton

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Future Islands - In Evening Air

Written for The Line Of Best Fit

MP3: Tin Man

Future Islands are a particularly odd pop proposition. With their grumbling keyboards and galloping drums, wind-in-your-hair tunes and triumphant chord sequences, they sounds almost like some great lost 80's pop band, like they could maybe be included in the prom scene in a John Hughes movie.

But something isn't right. Like the stray ear in Blue Velvet, there's a spanner in the works. There's a certain awkwardness in how the sounds scrape together. The keyboards have an abrasive edge that tips Future Islands away from Depeche Mode and towards Xiu Xiu. Singer Samuel T. Herring's vocals come with a trans-Atlantic accent that seems to be influenced by both Ian Curtis and Vegas-era Elvis. At times genuinely unhinged, he's reminiscent of a drunken mid-breakdown Kurt Wagner doing karaoke as some alternate-reality synth-pop Meatloaf, kicking drinks from the tables as people look on aghast.

When the emotion spills over into theatrical mania and when distortion overwhelms the synthetic sound of the keyboards; this is when Future Islands blossom. They take the syrupy sentimentality of pop love songs and run riot with it. The Hollywood pink-sunset endings are blighted with belching black smoke as the whole thing tumbles off the rails like a suicidal teen movie hero Thelma-and-Louiseing off the Golden Gate bridge.

It comes as no surprise that they met in art school. There's a conceptual edge to what Future Islands do. It's just that step too far to be entirely earnest. But J Gerrit Whelmers' carefully balanced music carries the weight of the desperation in the vocals. The emotional exhibitionism inherent in Future Islands is a heartfelt cabaret that is more affecting than affected, and plumbs unexpected depths as a result.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Belated Moon Jam

MP3: Icarus

Totally missed the boat on this dreamy pop album from White Hinterland as it was out in January, but I'm getting into it now. Gorgeous, shimmery goodness that Beach House fans will trip over themselves to fall in love with.

Born Free

Written for Snipe

This is the new M.I.A. video. It's by the chap who made the censor-baiting "Stress" video for Justice, and it's equally unsafe for work. The song itself is a direct lift from Suicide's "Ghost Rider", down to the the reverb-ridden vocals. And it's great.

Monday, 3 May 2010

There's always gonna be a time when we don't know the answer

MP3: Dancing (via Brooklyn Vegan)

I've been pretty hung up on Sheffield three-piece Standard Fare's heartfelt indie-pop lately. What initially seemed simplistic has been revealed as smart and engaging, via strikingly honestly lyrics on the topic of relationship woe. Their debut record 'The Noyelle Beat' is out on Thee SPC, and they support Allo Darlin' at the Lexington on June 15th.