Amelia’s Magazine | The New Pornographers – Together – Album Review

ew pornographers

“When I found out our record was coming out the same day as Broken Social Scene‘s I wanted to call Kevin Drew and shoot a little promo video, viagra where it’s like the two of us just facing each other on a windy day and then we embrace to the strains of ‘Wake Up’ by Arcade Fire. That would be like a dual ad for both of our albums. But I’m too lazy. I was distracted.”

I like this story, pharmacy partly because it’s so lovely, viagra but partly also because it illustrates something I’ve always wondered about the Canadian music scene – what’s the rivalry like? What kind of tension is there? Is it like West Side Story, with every band and artist split off into one of two camps and every now and again they’ll have a stand off in the street, Kevin Drew and AC Newman squaring up before one of them pops his collar and shrugs it off? All those artists come across as so lovely, so the thought of them having some kind of ruckus in the street only to have it broken up by the neutral Arcade Fire amuses me.

But I’m digressing – I’m here to talk about Together, the latest record from the New Pornographers, one of the two Canadian supergroups of the last decade (the other being, if you hadn’t worked it out by now, the Kevin Drew-led Broken Social Scene), and a record that I can almost label a return to form (if such a label is legitimate for a band who never really lost their form, who merely went from being excellent to very good for a while). AC Newman is the ‘leader’, as much as he can be called such, and his comrades in arms are Neko Case, Dan Bejar (of Destroyer), Todd Fancey, John Collins, Kathryn Calder, and Kurt Dahle – all artists who have made names for themselves as very good solo artists, as well as frequent collaborators with each other in various capacities. The Broken Social Scene lot are equally prolific, but their style has always been a kind of sloppy shoegaze/Pavement hybrid; the New Pornographers are a straight power pop band, a genre that can infuriate as much as charm. It’s not extremely different to what constituted ‘pop music’ back in the 60s and 70s, but I suppose giving it its own name can help make it sound a little more sincere than just normal pop music.

For Together, the group have also enlisted the aid of St. Vincent’s Annie Clark, Beirut’s Zach Condon (with a trumpet tracK), backing vocals by Okkervil River’s Will Sheff, and singing from the nu-soul group the Dap-Kings. There’s very little silence, with every gap between chorus and verse filled with whistling or (more so than in past records) cello – instruments are piled on top of each other into some kind of approximation of a wall of sound, but it’s not the slab of noise that characterises all those old pop songs but instead just sheer weight of numbers that makes these songs so noisy – yet thanks to fantastic production, it’s all as clear as a bell.

Hook after hook after hook come firing out of the speakers. So one doesn’t stick? Here’s three more! After the slight dip in joyousness that marked 2007′s disappointing Challengers, this, their fifth record, sees them, above all, being happy again. ‘Valkyrie and the Roller Disco’ is the closest to a slow song, but it’s still got something of a beating heart. Throughout Together, the drumming clomps and the guitars hum alongside Newman & Co’s harmonies – there’s the 70s hard rock lick that underpins ‘Your Hands (Together)’, then the dreaming pop ballad of ‘If You Can’t See My Mirrors’, and the gorgeous string-soaked finale of ‘We End Up Together’, building up to its chorus of, “ma, ma, ma, ma,” over and over.

The thing about ‘super’ groups is that they always come with such damned high expectations. For a group like the New Pornographers, the slightest dip in quality is pounced upon as being indicative of the beginning of the end; even more cruelly, they have to reach higher to achieve the deliver the same kind of satisfaction as their peers simply because there’s so much talent in one place. They can toss out compositions easily (and, in the past, it has occasionally felt like that), but here they’ve clearly tried hard to put together something that’s as great a sum of its parts as they are – it’s quite possibly their best album since 2005′s masterful Twin Romantic. Here’s hoping they can keep this going for another decade.

Categories ,AC Newman, ,Arcade Fire, ,beirut, ,broken social scene, ,canada, ,ian steadman, ,Indie, ,Okkervil River, ,Power Pop, ,St Vincent, ,The Dap Kings, ,The New Pornographers, ,Together

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Amelia’s Magazine | Reading Festival 2010 Round Up

Mumford & Sons illustration by Lana Hughes

5. Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons have had a special piece in my heart for a couple of years now. Having played their debut to death and enjoyed their live shows just as much, ampoule the band never fail to disappoint. When they arrived at the NME/Radio 1 Tent they packed out the space and the surrounding areas had hundreds of fans trying to capture the performance.

Despite not being able to see the band or even hear them over the crowd singing along, shop I still had hairs on my neck shooting up. I felt quite proud of the most modest band around who could not have put more effort in. They were made for moments like this. ‘Little Lion Man’ had never sounded so perfect and the new songs were greeted with the same enthusiasm from the crowd.

Weezer illustration by Natsuki Otani

4. Weezer
Sunday evening, abortion there was a chill in the air, ‘nu metal’ pioneers Limp Bizit had been and gone, the heavy rain had done the same. American geek rockers Weezer brought the sun to the main-stage along with a greatest hits set. They are a band I would never choose the listen to but I wouldn’t turn them off either.

Along with the classics, ‘Buddy Holly’, ‘Hash Pipe’ and ‘Beverly Hills’ the old timers covered Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, MGMT’s ‘Kids’ and Lady GaGa’s ‘Pokerface’ where energetic front-man Rivers Cuomo sported a blonde wig whilst rolling about in the mud.

Mystery Jets illustration by Antonia Makes

3. Mystery Jets
Mystery Jets have been knocking about for sometime now with a collection of pop songs that would give Simon Cowell’s song-writing team a fright. Today wasn’t just about the hits, it was to see if the band could work main-stage after a few appearances on the smaller ones previously.

Not only did they get some sing-a-longs from the crowd but also got them dancing when Count & Sinden joined the band to play the party tune of the year, ‘After Dark’. It wasn’t just the stage that the band controlled as the lively band members spent a decent about of time amongst the crowd too.

The Libertines illustrated by Abi Daker

2. The Libertines
2002, the NME. Radio 1 Tent saw Peter Doherty, Carl Barat, John Hassall and Gary Powell play their only Reading Festival together. Since then The Libertines have performed twice without Peter, and since the group disbanded six years ago they have all appeared under different guises.

The main-stage witnessed the band play just their forth gig since their recent reformation. It was professional and energetic. I don’t think I have ever seen the band play that well; they meant business. Talk was kept to a minimum whilst thrashing out tune after tune, they were unfazed when they had to have a quick break whilst the crowd calmed down. A tear was shed when Pete and Carl, hugged and kissed onstage, I had been waiting too long for that moment.

Libertines illustration by Miss Pearl Grey aka Kellie B.

Arcade Fire, illustration by Jenny Robins.

1. Arcade Fire
It was Arcade Fire’s last Reading Festival performance that really won me over. Win Butler lead the seven piece on a emphatic set that included songs from all three records but it was the material from their latest, The Suburbs that really had the wow factor. Words struggle to some up this performance, it was more than just music, more like a religion.

Many thanks to our illustrators. Thumbnail illustration of Weezer by Julie Lee

Categories ,Arcade Fire, ,Carl Barat, ,gig, ,Lady Gaga, ,Live Review, ,Mumford& Sons, ,Mystery Jets, ,Pete Doherty, ,Reading 2010, ,Reading Festival, ,Rivers Cuomo, ,The Libertines, ,Weezer

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Amelia’s Magazine | Album Review: Born Ruffians – Say It

God Bless Canada. Quietly producing some of the most influential and downright awesome musicians known to all mankind (I’m talking Neil Young, viagra Joni Mitchell, treat Leonard Cohen & Arcade Fire here rather than Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne and Bryan Adams, by the way. Although, lets face it, after a few Camparis ‘Summer of 69’ is a chooon…) the Canucks are still chucking out quality music at an alarming rate these days.

Having cemented themselves firmly into the collective consciousness of the indie scenesters in 2008 with their successful debut album ‘Red, Yellow & Blue’, Toronto’s jangly pop darlings Born Ruffians are back with ‘Say It’, the notoriously tricky second album. And tricky it certainly is.
The first thing to clear up is that there is nothing as instantly toe-tappingly poptastic as ‘Hummingbird’ on this record. What we get instead is a sense of impending maturity and a feeling that our kids are all grown up.

Having happily settled into their own skins on this album, they seem less frantic and desperate to impress. This newfound maturity may mean a less instant record musically, but what we do get is a more laid back affair and what I believe will eventually been seen as more impressive an album than their debut. Still replete with the familiar jerky vocal twitchings of lead singer and guitarist Luke LaLonde, whose voice on this record goes from Alex Turner to David Byrne to Ben ‘Band of Horses’ Bridwell from one track to the next, ‘Say It’ displays a wider variety of influence and style which subsequently paints a much broader musical picture than it’s slightly one dimensional predecessor. This ability to develop and grow musically pulls them gently out of the indie schmindie pop kids category, placing them on the periphery of ‘respectable musical outfit’. Luckily they manage this shift in style without entirely losing the cheeky twinkle in the eye that saturated ‘Red, Yellow & Blue’ so appealingly.
Lead single ‘Sole Brother’ is the most radio friendly track on offer here, with a lazy slacker melody line and charmingly mellow weaving guitars. This is the one that inadvertently burrows into your ear and pops up on your internal jukebox a week later when you’re in the queue at Sainsburys. And then stays there for the next two weeks.

Best named track of the year, ‘Retard Canard’, is clearly indebted to Talking Heads early output, with mildly threatening heartbeat pounding exercise in eccentricity ‘The Ballad Of Moose Bruce’ seeing the band forget the commercial future of their music for a second and genuinely get stuck into some cheeky geeky indie eccentricity. And it works. For the most part. What is frustrating about this record is that every song throws up so many overt musical references that it becomes more an exercise in ‘what track/band does this remind you of?’ than in appreciating Born Ruffians on their own merit. Yet this album certainly gets under your skin.
In ‘Retard Canard’ we hear LaLonde yelp about wanting to set the world on fire. Sadly it is unlikely that this record is going to get even close to doing that, but it is still a fine example of a band developing their sound and style, yet not losing their ‘wink at the camera’ playfulness. They still have some way to go before they are up there with the likes of fellow Toronto exports Broken Social Scene in experimental musical terms, but they are getting there. Perhaps if they stopped wrapping up their dark and pain-laden lyrics in such a shiny pop sheen, we might start to see the real band and hear what they are truly capable of. ‘Say It’ makes me hungry to hear what they are going to deliver to us next, which can only be a good thing. This record is, for want of a better term, a ‘grower’ that, if you can be bothered to put the work in, pays dividends in the end. Give it a listen. Or five. It’s well worth it.

Categories ,album review, ,Arcade Fire, ,Born Ruffians, ,canada, ,Indie, ,Joni Mitchell, ,Neil Young

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Amelia’s Magazine | Music: Interview with Alex Winston

Alex Winston by Gemma smith
Illustration by Gemma Smith

Alex Winston‘s music is the sort that you drive around listening to in the summer. Aha! And look outside, viagra page it looks as if spring has popped along to say hello, treatment with a candy pink blossom hat. So today is the perfect day to start listening to Alex, if you haven’t already. The American plays drums, piano and guitar, and comfortably bestows on us a voice that can just as easily sing 60s styled poppy, girlie tracks, as well as slow ballads. It’s high and utterly, unashamedly, feminine and pretty. Predominantly she is fun, flirty pop. Like the modern day soundtrack to Grease, with glorious helpings of Grease spirit and bubbly style. However her music can’t be defined as simply as that, there are sounds of Arcade Fire, Lykke Li, PJ Harvey and Feist in there… diverse indeed. But oh how it works. Her EP is out now on PIAS records.

Could you introduce yourself please?
Sure. I’m Alex Winston
Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
I’m from Detroit, but recently moved to the lower east side of Manhattan.
What sort of music do you create?
The fun kind.
Do you write it yourself?
Yes, I write everything myself.

alex w

What music/artists/eras influence your music?
I’m a big fan of Motown…The Supremes, Martha Reeves, Smokey Robinson, Little Stevie. Being from Detroit, its hard not to have a huge appreciation for it. I’m also a fan of early Rock and Roll stuff like Chuck Berry, Elvis and Little Richard.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Things I read, things I watch, relationships, other artists, good people, shitty people.
What’s your music background?
I started playing guitar and taking opera lessons when I was 10. I played in different bands all throughout high school and have been writing songs since I was around 14. My dad is a musician and pretty much taught me everything I know.

AlexWinston by Gemma Smith
Illustration by Gemma Smith

What instruments do you play?
Guitar, Piano and Ukulele…I toy around with a million others, but those are my main instruments.
What can we find on your EP?
Six songs I’ve written over the last year or so. Some from when I was living in my dads basement back in Detroit, and some newer ones from here in New York. Its been a really transitional time for me, and I think you can hear that in the mini album.
Do you feel free to create the music you wish, or is there pressure to be ‘mainstream’?
There has never been any pressure to be anything other than what I am. Luckly when you write your own music, its easier to control the direction you go in. I also work with a great group of people who are interested in what I produce, not what they could morph me into.

alex winston

And tours, what are the like for you?
I love touring and I love traveling. Right after high school I opted out of college for the opportunity to tour the US and I absolutely fell in love with the lifestyle. Now, I’m ready to expand and play all over the world. There is so much that I’d like to see.
How do you relax?
I sit in bed with thai food and watch music documentaries. I’m just about to watch the Lemmy one right now!
Do you enjoy being in England?
Yeah I love it. Its really becoming a second home. I feel like I’ve spent more time in the UK than in NYC in the last few months, and I can’t say that I mind it!
Where do you see yourself in the future?
Hopefully doing the same exact thing that I’m doing now. I’m not trying to be a super star…just want to be able to perform and write on a steady basis for as long as possible.
When can the UK see you? Festivals planned at all?
I know I’ll be touring over there in May and hopefully doing some festivals as well. I’ll be there whenever you guys will have me!

Tour Listings can be found here.

Categories ,Alex Winston, ,America, ,Arcade Fire, ,Choice Notes, ,Chuck Berry, ,detroit, ,Elvis, ,ep, ,Feist, ,Gemma Smith, ,Helen Martin, ,Little Richard, ,Little Stevie, ,london, ,Lykke Li, ,Martha Reeves, ,music, ,new york, ,Pias Records, ,PJ Harvey, ,pop, ,Sister Wife, ,Smokey Robinson, ,The Supremes

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Amelia’s Magazine | A meeting with indie folk blues rockers Peggy Sue.

peggysue by kellie black
Illustration of Peggy Sue by Kellie Black.

I arrive by bike as usual to meet the three members of Peggy Sue at Spitalfields Market. Rosa got lost on hers and didn’t make their 6Music interview earlier in the day, more about which handily alerted me to the fact that it is Katy’s 24th birthday today, as well as the official launch of their new album Fossils and Other Phantoms. I wonder if their plan to go bowling in Brick Lane has come off, but it turns out the bowling alley was closed and they had to make do with chucking oranges at Lucozade bottles in the Old Truman Brewery instead. After their launch gig at Rough Trade East the band plan to head over to the Scala to enjoy the scuzzy sounds of Mount Eerie.

Even though Peggy Sue have been around for a few years they were only signed to Wichita at the end of 2009. Despite this, Katy, Rosa and Olly began recording their album over a three week period in New York last year. Producer Alex Newport – who has worked with the likes of Does it Offend You, Yeah? – first discovered the girls a couple of years ago at SXSW and he was joined by John Askew, better known as a producer of trance music, but who has also worked with The Dodos. They worked on the album in the studio at night and it was really intense. “But we wanted to do as much as possible,” says Rosa, “plus we like to work really hard.”

peggysue by kellie black
Illustration of Rosa by Kellie Black.

Many of the songs were written in New York, but they came back to the UK to overdub the tracks with friends. Peggy Sue seem quite amused that some of their session musicians belong to bands much more famous than theirs, with a horn section provided by members of Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio.

With the album finished a little over a year ago I wonder if they aren’t perhaps a bit frustrated with the long wait for it to come out officially?
Katy: For a little while we were, but then you just realise that you have to work around other people’s schedules. We’ve only been playing a few new songs on tour so we’re not sick of them yet. We haven’t run out of emotion!
Rosa: We purposefully held back some songs till the album came out.
Olly: And we’ve written some new songs since the album was made.
How pushy is your record company?
Katy: No one tells us what to do.
That I can well believe….

Quite a few reviewers seem to have identified a strong theme of heartbreak running through the album. How would you respond to this?
Katy: Some songs are about breaking other people’s hearts
Rosa: …or endings in general. They can be morose when taken as a whole body of work, but not when taken individually.
Katy: Some people are just ignoring the other themes. We take it in turns to do lead vocals so it’s not like they’re all about just one break up. I don’t know if I want to be known as horribly bruised by love…
Rosa: I don’t remember the last time I had my heart broken!

peggysue by kellie black
Illustration of Olly by Kellie Black.

They used to be Peggy Sue and the Pirates. What happened to the Pirates?
Katy: When Rosa and I started the band we were both studying at Sussex and it was just for fun. I was doing American Studies and Film. I’m still supposed to go to the US for a year as part of my course, but I keep deferring…
Olly: I was studying Popular Music at Goldsmiths, but I didn’t finish either. I prefer to actually make music.
Rosa: I was studying English Literature, but I’m the only one who finished my degree. We started getting serious two years ago when Olly joined. It made sense to drop the Pirates bit when we stopped being a duo and our music became less folky.

How did you girls hook up in the first place?
Katy: I was offered a gig as a solo artist and I asked Rosa to help out.
Rosa: I was so nervous I vomited into my mouth when I went on stage.
Katy: It was really nice to do it together. It was how you should start a band – it didn’t work when I tried to find people I didn’t know; a band needs to be built on good relationships.

How did you guys find Olly?
Olly: I went to Brighton and saw Peggy Sue playing as part of Brighton Festival – I fell in love with them immediately and became a bit of a groupie. I met them again at SXSW, and saw them play in my hometown of Margate.
Rosa: You were one of our favourite fans; we used to give you CDs for free!
Katy: We made him come and watch The Dodos so he could see what we wanted with the drum section and he liked it.
Olly: To start with I didn’t think it was a good idea for the girls to get a drummer because I preferred them without… but then I kept sending lots of pestering emails…
Eventually he organised his own audition in one of the practice rooms at his college, at which point Katy and Rosa realised he could be a great asset. Does he mind being the only man in a band with such strong women?
Olly: Not really, I’m half a girl
Rosa: …and I’m half a boy.

peggysue by kellie black
Illustration of Katy by Kellie Black.

Olly learnt drums at secondary school, Rosa learnt piano and Katy learnt a bit of piano and some clarinet. But as a band they play whatever they can lay their hands on, with great aplomb. How do they pick up all these different instruments so easily?
Katy: There’s something about teaching yourself that means you only play what you can but you play it really well. It’s nice to be self taught as it means there are no rules.
Rosa: I understand enough about how to put music together but I can’t read music very well. It means you discover new things.
Katy: I understand music in quite a mathematical way but I find it hard to translate that into playing a guitar. They are two separate things in my head
Which are your favourite instruments?
Katy: I like my electric guitar.
Rosa: For me it always goes back to the guitar. But when I try a new instrument I end up writing new melodies as I learn how to play it, which means that every song turns out differently.
Olly: I never imagined I would play the guitar but I ended up strumming a few notes on some of the songs, and now I’ve built a bucket base too…
Rosa: …it sounded in tune until we started recording…

I loved the video for single Watchman. How did you get that made?
Katy: We asked illustrator Betsy Dadd to make the video when she was going out with my best mate.
I like the humping angels. What guidance did you give?
Katy: I said she could tap into whatever themes she wanted. We don’t often make videos.
Rosa: In a perfect world we’d have one for every song
Some of the imagery would be great for putting onto merchandise.
Katy: I’d like to put some of the stills onto a t-shirt. We’ve got only one design going at the moment. It features a wolf dancing with a skeleton.

At the time of interviewing the band Katy had just been offered a place at Berkeley in California, but fear not she won’t be going unless she can put her heart and soul into it. Which means we’ve lucked out instead. For now you can catch that great big heart and soul at a whole pile of festivals this summer. Including Dot to Dot and the Park Stage at Glastonbury on Saturday morning.

You can read my review of Fossils and Other Phantoms here.

Categories ,6Music, ,Alex Newport, ,Arcade Fire, ,Berkeley, ,blues, ,Brighton Festival, ,california, ,Does it Offend You, ,Dot to Dot, ,folk, ,Fossils and Other Phantoms, ,glastonbury, ,goldsmiths, ,Indie, ,John Askew, ,Kellie Black, ,mount eerie, ,Old Truman Brewery, ,Park Stage, ,Peggy Sue, ,Pirates, ,Rough Trade East, ,Scala, ,Spitalfields Market, ,Sussex, ,sxsw, ,The Dodos, ,TV on the Radio, ,Wichita Recordings, ,Yeah?

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Amelia’s Magazine | Montreal Festimania 2011: Festival Mode et Design Music – introducing Parlovr

Parlovr by Sally Jane Thompson
Parlovr by Sally Jane Thompson.

Introducing: Parlovr. Also known as Parlour Montreal. Discovered at Festival Mode et Design in Montreal, price where they played a mid afternoon set in between catwalk shows on McGill College Avenue.

Parlovr album cover art
Parlovr by Parlovr.

Need to know:

The band was formed in 2006 in trendy Mile End (that’s look _Montreal”>Mile End, information pills Montreal, not Mile End, east London) when Louis Jackson (who plays guitar) and Alex Cooper (on keys) got together. Both of them sing. Drummer Jeremy MacCuish joined soon after.

Parlovr Montreal Festimania 2011 Alex Cooper
Parlovr playing at Montreal Festimania: Alex Cooper.

Their musical style has been described as Sloppy Pop. Think big Arcade Fire style atonality with infectious tunes. Created by just three lads.

The name just kind of happened: Parlour enraged another band of the same name so they decided to Latinise the name by swapping in a v for the u. They don’t mind how you pronounce it.

YouTube Preview ImagePen to Paper

Their live show is a supertastic energetic head-swinging affair, particularly from drummer Jeremy who really lets rip.

Parlovr playing at Montreal Festimania: Jeremy MacCuish
Parlovr playing at Montreal Festimania: Jeremy MacCuish.

They have toured extensively all over the world, including China, the US and Europe, supporting illustrious ilk such as the Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand.

Self titled album Parlovr came out on Dine Alone records last summer. It has great illustrated cover art work. (see above)

Parlovr playing at Montreal Festimania: Louis Jackson
Parlovr playing at Montreal Festimania: Louis Jackson.

Go check them out! Find Parlovr on myspace and Parlovr on twitter.

Categories ,Alex Cooper, ,Arcade Fire, ,Arctic Monkeys, ,Atonal, ,Dine Alone, ,Festival Mode et Design Montreal, ,Franz Ferdinand, ,Jeremy MacCuish, ,Louis Jackson, ,Mile End, ,Montreal, ,Montreal Festimania, ,Parlour Montreal, ,Parlovr, ,Pen to Paper, ,Sally Jane Thompson, ,Sloppy Pop

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Amelia’s Magazine | Interview: Washington Irving introduce new album Palomides: Volumes I & II

Palomides by Rebecca May Higgins

Palomides by Rebecca May Higgins.

Why does the new album, Palomides, come in two volumes?
Before releasing Palomides, we’d primarily focused on touring for a while, so when we came to it, we thought it would be better to put it out in two parts over the course of the year. It has allowed us to tour a bit more frequently (which we love doing) and meant we’d always have something new to show our fans. We wanted to do something different from the norm, as it’s our first full record. It gave us the opportunity to put the songs in a certain context, which they may not have had if it was just an LP. 

Washington Irving city

What prompted your decision to ‘revolutionise folk music’ when you were all back in high school?
Joe and I may have had lofty ambitions when we said that, (back when we were in High School) but it did ultimately give everyone a direction for when Washington Irving started. We wanted to write something modern that lifted the right things from traditional and folk music. The stories and mythology are what really makes folk music what it is, and we wanted to reflect that in what we did, Joe especially. The sense of melody was also important, as it helped us stick out to a certain extent in Glasgow and the surrounding area, there wasn’t as many bands doing the exact thing we were as we thought there would be. Part of it was to be noticed but also because music is about progression and it feels really good to take the old and make it new. 

Washington Irving, Palomides by xplusyequals

Washington Irving, Palomides by xplusyequals.

Who writes your lyrics and can you tell us about any specific tales that feature on the album?
Joe writes the lyrics and I think occasionally the rest of us will chip in and get a few lines in. I’m speaking for Joe on this, so I might not get it dead on but… The title track has quite a tale behind it. It’s the story of the knight, Palomides, who was (in Arthurian legend) a Knight of the Round Table. His stories were not so well known and he was always a bit player in other people’s tales, so Joe took a liking to him and decided he deserved his own story. With Palomides, it’s an amalgamation of different tales that involve him hunting for the mythical ‘Questing Beast‘, a creature that looks a bit like a dragon and leopard mixed together. I won’t go any further with my explanation because you’ll just have to see for yourself (and I may take liberties and upset Joe)

WashingtonIrving_Palomides_album artwork

What was it like growing up in Oban, Scotland? Best and worst bits?
Oban is a quaint little seaside town, not necessarily dull but quite calm and peaceful. Myself and Joe met each other there and formed the first band we’d both either been in, really. We were terrible, and probably had an awful name, but it was thrilling and completely new to us. 

Best bits? Probably the fish and chips, which are incredible. 

Worst bits? There’s plenty to name, but it all comes from growing up there. When you grow up in a small seaside town and all you want to do is make music and play shows, it can become the antithesis of what you want. I can’t say much more because I’ll probably get a beating the next time I’m home.

Washington Irving by Novemto Komo

Washington Irving by Novemto Komo.

What were your early musical inspirations outside of folk, and where does the wall of noise in your music come from?
The Pogues were a massive influence on us, a great collision of punk and Celtic folk music. We wanted to do something similar to them but not necessarily with the same genres. We can’t deny the influence of Arcade Fire and Neutral Milk Hotel on us, also. Two bands that were and are so good at conveying a very deep underlying emotion in their songs. 

Washington Irving lake

We love noisy shit, it’s just too much fun not to. We played for a long time in a loud and fast manner, but with mainly acoustic and clean sounding instruments, it was just a slow drawn out development where we needed everything to get, in the words of George Lucas, faster and more intense. There’s a very good reason that distortion is found in most popular music these days, certainly rock music. It speaks on several levels and it conveys something that tone and melody can’t always quite get across. Our live shows always revolve around a good bit of noise and it’s become part of who we are. 

Washington Irving LOST

What next for Washington Irving in 2014?
We’re going to start recording some new music very soon and get back on the touring circuit for a while, I think. We might even release our two-parter as one lovely big package, if we’re feeling generous. Onwards and upwards, for certain. And louder and noisier, no doubt. 

The album made me think of folk law but as a sort of mythical ‘Old’ Science… jumbling up several hundreds of years of discovery, collecting specimens on an expedition through rough, wild (and probably quite cold and wet) new terrain, voyages, sea shanties, studying the stars and perhaps a little alchemy. And of course, love.

Palomides: Volumes I & II by Washington Irving is out now on Instinctive Racoon.

Categories ,album, ,Arcade Fire, ,folk, ,Instinctive Racoon, ,interview, ,Knight of the Round Table, ,Neutral Milk Hotel, ,Novemto Komo, ,Oban, ,Palomides, ,Rebecca May Higgins, ,scotland, ,The Pogues, ,Washington Irving, ,xplusyequals

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Amelia’s Magazine | Hjaltalín – Interview

Claire Roberts

The central premise of Silent City, treat the group comprised of artists Emily Whitebread, Cara Nahaul and Sally Mumby-Croft, whose first exhibition has just opened in Brick Lane, is intriguing. Their starting point was a reaction against what they perceived as the standard Climate Change exhibition. Cara explained the original thinking behind the group:

“We went to the RA’s ‘Earth: Art of a Changing World’, and we were completely disappointed. There were one or two standout pieces, for example Lemn Sissay’s performance video ‘What If?’, but on the whole it was a very shallow, one-dimensional show. It didn’t provoke us at all. We found the bright red neon globes and concrete flowers both obvious and pious. The worst thing though, was that it seemed almost entirely from a Western perspective. We’re the ones who caused this mess with our industrialisation, but the Global South is paying the highest price. Bangladesh will be submerged by our actions, but at that show countries that are actually directly affected by climate change didn’t even get a look in.”

They founded Silent City the next day. Their objective was to redress this balance by putting on exhibitions that would seek to present the full implications of Climate Change – especially what it would do to those nearer the equator.

I went along to Brick Lane to see if their exhibition could match her admirable words, and I was suitably impressed. A group show of around 20 artists of various backgrounds whose work all deals with the environment have joined the three founding artists, and the result is a pleasing mix between professionally polished ideas and the kind of activist idealism that was missing from Earth: Art of a Changing World.

Tutte Newall

The work, in various mediums from painting and film to dead insects, was of a very high standard. Highlights included Tutte Newall’s beautiful but disturbing paintings of monochrome animals who stand in pools of their own colour, Jools Johnson’s fascinating installations of dystopian cityscapes fashioned out of screws and random computer components, and Claire Robert’s presentation of dead bees, a commentary on the emergence of colony collapse disorder, which threatens bees worldwide, and therefore a third of the world’s food supply.

Jools Johnson

Works such as the documentary Drowning By Carbon, by Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell, which featured Bangladeshi children planting the trees that they hoped would one day save them from the looming climate catastrophe, ensured that the original promise that the exhibition would deal with the Global South was kept.

But perhaps the best thing about Silent City was that it managed to put forward a view of Climate Change that was not obvious, in spite of the fact that as a topic it has been talked to death from every angle. Featured documentary Mauerpark, for example, focused on the proposed development of the famous Berlin park. At first glance, this seems more a social than an environmental issue, but after watching the film its relevance to the Climate debate became clear: At its heart the film was about the choice between the short term pursuit of growth and a space that was for everyone, whose benefits could appear more intangible and immeasurable. It became easy to view Mauerpark as microcosm of the natural world itself.

This outlook on climate Change that seemed fresh and different, coupled with art that was as well thought out and made as it was thought-provoking, made Silent City a big success. In fact it was so successful that the closing night film screening was such a scrum that people were camping out on the stairs, able to hear but not see the films. Silent City was apparently just the first of a planned series of exhibitions. It looks like next time they might have to rent out a bigger space.

Photographs by Sally Mumby-Croft

Iceland’s Hjaltalín are one of the many groups from the island nation currently building up a fair bit of buzz – their first album, physician Sleepdrunk Sessions, drug was hailed by many for its large, expansive sound featuring what sounded like a whole orchestra at times. Some even compared their sound to Arcade Fire soundtracking a Bond film. I had a chat with their bassoonist, Rebekka Bryndís, about the band as they prepare to release their second album, Terminal.


Can you start off by explaining how the band works together. How do you write your songs?

Our lead singer writes most of the songs. He comes up with an idea or writes something and then they kind of evolve into the full songs through teamwork. And then also some came about from playing with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.

Are you guys classically trained to use your instruments?

Yep, most of us are.

So then you come to this with quite a detailed knowledge of music theory, I imagine? You have a very interesting orchestral sound, especially on the latest album [Terminal]. How does it differ from your first album [Sleepdrunk Sessions]?

It’s very different from the first album. The first album came about, pretty much, because it was supposed to be an EP but it then evolved into an LP. It’s all quite different with Terminal, because we’re all touring a lot and so the songs have changed a lot, within the band, and when we decided to record the songs most of them we recorded in one big session with a chamber orchestra so it had that live sound. Not all of the songs were recorded that way, but most of them.

Recorded quite organically then?

Yes, it was.

I can hear a lot of influence from film soundtracks and composers like Ennio Morricone in your music – are those big influences on your sound?

Yes, true…

Were you trying to record something that sounded like a soundtrack to something, in a way?

Uh… Not really! [laughs] It just kind of turned out that way. We wanted to do a wide sound, really. Lots of things going on.

Have you ever done a film soundtrack?

We have! It was for this black and white film, I believe it was the first film that was ever made in Iceland, made by some Danish peeps, called Saga Borgarættarinnar.

What’s it like to record a real film soundtrack, compared to a normal album?

We played it live, actually, for a film festival, the Reykjavik International Film Festival, and we played live in front of an audience alongside the film. It was a lot of work… We were told that the movie was two hours but when we got the DVDs it was something like four and a half hours, so we just did the first half of the story… It was interesting.

It was a different creative process?

Definitely. We’d just hang out at the rehearsing spaces and just come up with stuff, but after our sessions this guy called Ben Frost – he’s this minimal electronic artist – he performed with us and we had a few recordings that were really cool, for Wonderbrass…


Wonderbrass, it’s the jazz group…

Ah, not the brassiere company.

No [laughs], that’s kind of the joke, I think… But yeah, Ben Frost performed with us, it was like a collective.

Does that happen a lot with you guys? Other artists coming in to help you?

Uh, no… Well, we do have other artists coming in to help us sometimes, but they’re not any part of the group.

But you might be in the studio and someone will stroll by and help put down a guitar track or something?

Yeah, yeah, people do come in and help with stuff.

That’s my impression of the music scene in Iceland – that it’s all like a close-knit, family community sort of thing. Is that what’s it’s like?

Most people, if they don’t know each other, they know of each other – they’ll recognise each other in the street. I guess it’s safe to say that there’s almost cliques that form? But not in a bad way, there are just circles of people who are really friendly and helpful.

Where are you going from here, then?

This summer we’ve got some festivals going on here, and we’ve got this big thing with the National Symphony Orchestra here so we’re here for that…

I imagine it’s quite hard to get them on tour with you.

[laughs] Yeah, yes. That’s a difficult thing. Uh, yeah, there’s also a big tour in September, going across Europe, with Germany in July at the start I think. It’s a busy summer.

What’s going to be the first single off the album?

‘Abroad’? I think… we haven’t really discussed it yet. All the songs are so different!

Categories ,Arcade Fire, ,Ben Frost, ,Ennio Morricone, ,Hjaltalín, ,ian steadman, ,iceland, ,Indie, ,Orchestral, ,Saga Borgarættarinnar, ,Sleepdrunk Sessions, ,Terminal, ,Wonderbrass

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Amelia’s Magazine | Hey Rosetta! The Windmill, Brixton : A Review


Brixton’s Windmill had a distinctly North American flavour to it, about it with a cold (and windy) November Monday being warmed up by the scuzzy blues of J.D. Smith and the alt-country tinged Bearhat. Then, filling all corners of the bijou stage, were tonight’s headliners, Canadian six-piece Hey Rosetta!
Part-way through a mini European tour, Hey Rosetta! have already garnered some very favourable reviews back home for their live shows, as well as their debut album, the Hawksley Workman-produced Into Your Lungs. Comparisons have been drawn with the likes of Wilco and Arcade Fire, but for me the parallels with their Canadian compatriots are the most apposite. With that indie rock twist on alt-country, fleshed out with orchestral flourishes, Hey Rosetta! go for the epic, yet manage to avoid ending up with the overblown.


Singer and main songwriter Tim Baker is an engaging front-man, swapping piano for guitar (even mid-song) and certainly doesn’t shirk his vocal duties, with a delivery worthy of the drama in his songs.
You could accuse Hey Rosetta! of being a bit formulaic, with songs tending to start off very low key, with either just a solo piano or acoustic guitar, slowly building up momentum before exploding into life, but who cares when they do it so well? Also, they tend to throw a little of the unexpected into the mix, such as the intro to the song Holy Shit (What a Relief), which tips a sizeable doff of the cap to Pink Floyd’s Breathe, from prog epic Dark Side Of The Moon.


By the time Hey Rosetta! got to the end of their set, closing with the typically rousing New Goodbye, even the most hard-bitten of Brixtonians at the Windmill were swept along by the band’s energy.
After a couple more London dates, Hey Rosetta! are due to head back across the Pond to finish off the year with more Canadian shows. Though largely unknown in these parts at the moment, I’m pretty sure that we’ll be hearing as lot more of Hey Rosetta! in the months to come.

Categories ,Arcade Fire, ,gig, ,Hey Rosetta!, ,live, ,london, ,music, ,Pink Floyd, ,review, ,Wilco

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Amelia’s Magazine | Live Review: Tasseomancy at CAMP Basement

Tasseomancy by Claire Kearns
Tasseomancy by Claire Kearns.

Thanks to a combination of insouciance and lost leads Tasseomancy opened the launch show for new album Ulalume nearly 45 minutes late. Keeping true to their psychedelic gothic imaginings the twins sat inside a blood red projection looped with dancing white satyrs. Behind them on keys stood their friend and sometime band member, approved Princess Century.

Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at CAMP Basement. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

The show began with a guttural growl that echoed ominously around CAMP Basement, and then the first lilting notes kicked in, angelic voices rising alternately, aided by mandolin and guitar.

Tasseomancy by Sarah-Jayne
Tasseomancy by Sarah-Jayne.

Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
There were home made cakes on the door on arrival, a lovely touch.

Tasseomancy have just been on tour with Arcade Fire as part of Austra and after a few woozy songs they paused for a moment to regale us with tales of life with a band at the peak of the game: a private ping pong table and basketball court provided for their relaxation.

Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory

I am afraid that due to the late start I didn’t stay for the whole set, but I urge you to check out Tasseomancy‘s new album, which has been released (a world first!) on a specially designed candle with the digital download by Turf Records. Naturally, they hope that it will provide an appropriate ambiance when listening to the music. You can also read my interview with Tasseomancy right here.

Tasseomancy at Camp Basement Ulalume 2011 photography by Amelia Gregory
The Ulalume candle.

Categories ,Arcade Fire, ,Austra, ,Camp Basement, ,candle, ,Claire Kearns, ,Digital Download, ,gothic, ,Princess Century, ,psychedelic, ,Sarah-Jayne, ,Tasseomancy, ,Toronto, ,Turf Records, ,Ulalume

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