Saturday, January 23, 2010

Take Off Your Mask, It's Me

It's been a bit of slow start to this year, or maybe I have just been busy finishing up one of my degrees and moving house. But the only great album that has come out so far in January is Standard Fare's debut The Noyelle Beat. Well, it's not really out, but if you pre-order it you get an instant download in mp3 or flac! And for only £10 - can you get a better deal? It looks like a co-release between Thee SPC and a label called Melodic, so I guess the Bar/None deal has been postponed or maybe won't happen. Who cares when the album gives us 13 fantastic songs in a comfortable 38 minutes?

It's no wonder the album has followed so quickly on the heels of the single "Fifteen" (that just came out on Thee SPC) considering some of their songs (including "Fifteen") are almost three years old now. They've been captured very well on tape, retaining the energy of their live appearances. Of which I was lucky enough to catch 3 last year, most recently at The Windmill in December. You'll recognise most of the songs from gigs (if you've seen them!), the ones that sound new to me are "Secret Little Sweetheart" and "I Know It's Hard" and they are both making me smile. A contender for album of the year already, innit?

Actually, I don't know how Standard Fare do it. They're just one of those three-pieces that seem to work organically and make perfect pop seem stupidly simple. In that sense they remind me of Bearsuit. But Standard Fare have a unique resource in Emma Kupa, vocalist and bass player. The bending vocal melody of "Wow" is something not many people would pull off. It's one of my favourite songs on the album, as well as "Be Into Us" - can there be more POP titles than those?

I'm also eager to hear Sourpatch's first album, which is coming out on Happy Happy Birthday to Me next month. And while Slumberland are having a rest Matinée have pushed out the first release of the year with The Matinée Grand Prix, a compilation that feels like a follow-up to The Matinée Hit Parade. While not quite matching the latter's promised "a-side quality throughout", it's certainly an essential companion to the two recent albums from Northern Portrait and The Electric Pop Group. Those both came out at about the same time, at the tail end of December, and the compilation features exclusive non-album tracks from both groups. Northern Portrait have contributed a beatiful slow number called "Stirling Moss" which is not far off a "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" in a racecar. Otherwise The Matinée Grand Prix is notable for three things: 1) the return of Simpático! 2) a new (yes, new) song from Math & Physics Club 3) the last Lucksmiths song to be released. The Luckies' "Get-to-Bed Birds" is really something - I think it's better than anything on their last album actually.

I just found out that Fireflies put out another free download ep last year, called Butterscotch. A co-release between Lavender and Music Is My Girlfriend like the last one, it should surely whet your appetite for the album that came out in November. I've been playing that lots since Christmas, and the ep is suitable winter listening too, with two songs called "Winter" and "Sledding"! But Autumn Almanac is even better. If Lisle had only varied the rhythms a bit more it could have been a would-be classic!

It looks like Fair Ohs is a band to watch in 2010. Their first single "Summer Lake"/"Almost Island" is out now and is a huge improvement from their tape as 'Thee Fair Ohs'. Our Days On the Pacific Rim, released by Suplex Cassettes (now revealed as the bass player's label!) was a tad too Black Flag-inspired for my taste, but the two new sides are upbeat POP with slightly exotic rhythms. Get it from Sex Is Disgusting now! There's also split with Leeds darlings Spectrals coming up soon, pre-orders are shipped from Tough Love in February.

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