GIITTV: Kyle Craft – Dolls Of Highland (Sub Pop)

This sounds like Ezra Furman, but with less of a cartoon comedy element“, my photographer mate Paul Reno informed me as Kyle Craft‘s Sub Pop label debut, Dolls Of Highland, played on my car stereo on our way to yet another gig somewhere in the Midlands.

I can see what he means, though it hadn’t really occurred to me until he said it. To me, it just sounds as though Craft is steeped richly in the classic singer/songwriter values of the greatest performers of the seventies. David Bowie having a good natured food fight with Billy Joel, perhaps. Often, the formula seems to suggest a slightly more glam version of Mott The Hoople, his tunes bristling with an irresistible euphoria, while his intriguing lyrics are playfully astute. “Swing low, low sweet heathen / swing for the wretch and the rock and roll kid / roam this earth, repeat it / all this sin until this wicked world makes sense“, sings the Louisianian on the stirring ‘Lady Of The Ark‘, and I don’t think we need to delve too deeply to summise which recently deceased superstar might have been the template for THIS prose at least, do we?

Craft sets his stall out with intent from the off, ‘Eye Of A Hurricane‘ erupting splendidly like something from Ziggy Stardust, and one thing becomes increasingly apparent throughout – that this guy, without a shadow of doubt, has one of the most fitting surnames in the business right now.

Craft relays his tunes to us through something of a carnival atmosphere, perhaps best evidenced on the aforementioned ‘…Hurricane’ and the tellingly titled ‘Berlin‘, another glorious romp through glam rock’s once fallow wastelands, but seemingly now an oasis of riches in this composer’s hands. These are boisterously exuberant beer swilling anthems, make no mistake, and guaranteed to register highly on the feelgood High Strike machine, should you ever find yourself at something of a low ebb.

Do not let me dupe you, however, into believing that this is some kind of Bowie-by-numbers copyist. He is definitely not that. It’s just that he incorporates the cream of that bygone era so vividly that’s it is impossible not to draw the comparison, and the truth is, Craft’s uncompromising, loud and piercing vocal style is as captivating as it is relentless. In more restrained, reflective moments, such as ‘Trinidad beach (Before I Ride)‘, Craft calls to mind latter day Beatles, specifically some of the great Harrison penned standards of the era, before the mop top’s Traveling Wilburys ally Bob Dylan is unmistakeable as the obvious influence for the slow rockabilly shuffle of ‘Future Midcity Massacre‘.

In summation, Dolls Of Highland is an absorbing, electrically charged, beautifully composed album that will do more to lift your mood than a train carriage full of amphetamines. Lovely stuff.

‘Dolls Of Highland’ is released on 29th April 2016 through Sub Pop

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GIITTV: NEWS: Deer Shed Festival reveals its spoken word and literary line-up for 2016

Date: 22nd – 24th July 2016
Location: Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire

As plans gather even more pace for this year’s seventh edition of its annual event, the Deer Shed Festival organisers have announced details of their spoken word and literary line-up, including  news of an illustrious panel who will be discussing arts in the North:  The North Will Rise Again?

Chaired by esteemed Guardian journalist Dave Simpson, the panel will comprise Shadow Home Secretary and in what has been an emotional week for all concerned, long-term campaigner for justice for families of the Hillsborough disaster, Andy Burnham; BBC Leeds radio presenter, Yorkshire Post journalist and Emmerdale scriptwriter, Nick Ahad; Northern stand-up comedian, poet, writer and BBC Radio 4 regular, Kate Fox; The Unthanks’ general manager, pianist and composer, Adrian McNally;  and the former guitarist with ’90s Wearside band Kenickie and current Arts Council supremo, Marie Nixon. Together they will be exploring some of the cultural differences that exist between England’s North and South.

Dave Simpson will also be seen at Deer Shed Festival reprising his customary role of talking to celebrated individuals from the world of music. Last year it was Billy Bragg and Viv Albertine to whom he was posing the questions, this time around it is the turn of The Undertones’ bassist Michael “Mickey” Bradley and the erstwhile guitarist with The Fall, Brix Smith-Start

Another person making a re-appearance at the festival over the weekend will be Kate Fox who will not only be performing her own wonderful spoken word show but will also host a chat with the excellent poet and author Hollie McNish about McNish’s latest book Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood.

Musician Michael Burdett will bring his spoken-word show – inspired by the discovery of  an unreleased version of the doomed singer-songwriter Nick Drake’s ‘Cello Song’ – to Baldersby Park, and Philosophy PhD, Nick Wilsher will be discussing the philosophy of film as Deer Shed further expands its cultural line-up.

Full details of Deer Shed Festival 7 can be found HERE

If you haven’t already got your ticket, you had better get in pretty darn quick as 75 % of the tickets have already gone.

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GIITTV: Meilyr Jones – Birmingham Sunflower Lounge, 27/04/2016

Birmingham’s marvellous Sunflower Lounge is the epitome of the ‘intimate’ venue, and is just big enough to swing perhaps a kitten. Tonight it is bursting at the seams with an expectant audience here to see former Race Horses frontman-turned-solo artist Meilyr Jones, who is out on tour in support of his recently released 2013 album.

Anyone worrying how such a detailed and complex album, which features a huge cast of musicians playing a vast array of instruments, could be performed live, needn’t have been concerned. Jones has assembled a remarkable four-piece touring band, (all of whom featured on 2013), who between them manage to recreate these very special songs incredibly well.

The Meilyr Jones who wanders onto the stage through the crowd to do a bit of last-minute sound checking before his set is transformed in an instant into the icon-in-waiting Meilyr Jones, whose arresting stage presence sits somewhere between Ian Curtis and Jarvis Cocker‘How To Recognise a Work of Art’ is the perfect opening song, it’s insistent Motown drums and chunky guitar riff barrelling the track along. It is hard to think of many examples where the drummer swaps to a flugelhorn for the second song of a gig, but Gwion Llewelyn does just that for ‘Passionate Friend’. It turns out to be a theme of the performance; Emma Smith thinks nothing of swapping her bass for a violin (and later clarinet!) while keyboardist Richard Jones changes to a viola to accompany her. Younghusband frontman Euan Hinshelwood meanwhile chips in with guitar, keyboards and anything else that needs playing.

‘Olivia’ is probably the hardest to perform of all, but again the band are looking as if they positively thrive on the challenge. The intensity of Jones performance throughout is extraordinary; he seems to totally inhabit the music but is still self-deprecating and charming between songs.

B-side of the recent ‘…Work of Art’ single, ‘All Is Equal In Love’ is a real highlight, a sprightly track that sees Jones take on bass-playing duties on a song that could have been an A-side in its own right.

‘Refugees’  is performed by Jones solo on keyboard and vocals and is a really beautifully understated track that was a brave choice of first single from 2013. The stomping ‘Strange / Emotional’ sees Jones improbably climb a speaker stack and slide headlong down the bannister of the steps that run along the Sunflower Lounge’s wall as his band play on.

After a touching ‘Return To Life’ is announced as the evening’s last song, (much to the audience’s collective sadness), Jones and Co. don’t even leave the stage before performing an encore of the fantastic ‘Featured Artist’ , which pretty much showcases all that is great about Meilyr Jones in one track: ‘I am this week’s featured artist / I’m the face of The Observer’s free magazine’ sings Jones on perhaps his most commercial piece to date.

Meilyr Jones turns in a wonderfully warm-hearted performance and everyone here will be feeling that they have witnessed a very singular talent tonight. He must surely go on to conquer the world.

Photo credit (of Meilyr Jones at Green Man Festival 2015): Steven Sibbald

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GIITTV: Se Delan – Drifter (Kscope)

A collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Justin Greaves – he of Crippled Black Phoenix fame – and Swedish singer Belinda Kordic, Se Delan first introduced themselves to the wider world almost exactly two years ago with their debut album The Fall.  Now they are all set to return with its follow-up, Drifter. And where similarly huge swathes of dreamy, atmospheric pop are still very much in place on the new record, they are now underscored by a much darker resonance.

With its focus upon what Kordic describes as death and the final destination, opening song ‘Going Home’ may well set a lyrically sombre tone for the rest of the record but the sheer uplifting nature of the music raises the overall tone to something that exists way above and beyond the funereal. Assisted by 1000 ravenous skulls, Greaves – who plays all of the instruments on Drifter – and Kordic co-exist in a strange, beautiful union for the length of the record’s duration.

Belinda Kordic’s voice – a soft, sensual, gossamer timbre – floats effortlessly over Greaves’ glorious, chiming guitar chords in much the same way that Elizabeth Fraser did with Robin Guthrie all those years ago in the Cocteau Twins. Her words may well be sepulchral but the manner in which she bends them around Greaves’ guitar subverts their meaning into something that is altogether more joyful and radiant. In this world, death is much less about the end than being some final, comforting refuge.

Since the release of The Fall, Justin Greaves may well have been plagued by an internecine struggle with former guitarist Karl Demata over the rights to the Crippled Black Phoenix name. But Greaves emerged from that battle victorious and he seems to have carried that triumphal air onto the recording of Drifter. Fear No Ghosts, intones Kordic as the album draws to a euphoric close in a torrential squall of celestial voices and guitar.

Drifter is released on 29th April 2016 through Kscope records.

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Dave Hill | The Guardian: The housing crisis and the race for London – Politics Weekly podcast

Tom Clark is joined by Dave Hill, Rowan Moore and Tony Travers as he travels around the capital ahead of London’s mayoral election. With the city’s housing crisis in sharp focus, do the promises of Labour’s Sadiq Khan or Conservative Zac Goldsmith stack up?

London elects a new mayor to replace Boris Johnson next week. The role is evolving and powers must be shared with London’s borough councils but whoever wins will find themselves with the largest direct personal mandate in the country. At present the polls show it is a straight fight between Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith.

Joining Tom Clark as he travels around the capital are the Guardian’s London political commentator Dave Hill and Tony Travers, professor of government at the London School of Economics.

Continue reading…

via Dave Hill | The Guardian

GIITTV: PREMIERE: Monokoora – Pale Slopes(mini album)

Scottish folktronica artist Monkoora releases her new mini album ‘Pale Slopes’ on Hot Gem Tunes tomorrow (29th of April) and we have the premiere stream of the entire record below. Lead track ‘Hiding Behind The Horizons’ is all pattering beats, woozy, warped synths and woven with Monokoora’s evocative vocals its like being lost in a haunted arcade with no escape with the ghosts of the Knife and Bjork. In Monkoora’s own words “The song is about finding your way when situations get murky, particularly when you’re in a committed relationship but afraid of where it’s going – so it’s like holding hands in the dark.”

“Monokoora is a singer, producer and visual artist whose forward-thinking approach sees her blend elements of hip hop, ambient and psychedelic rock with rusty saws, autoharps and detuned ukuleles, her new mini LP ‘Pale Slopes’ will be released via Hot Gem Tunes on 29th April.”

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