The TUBS – ” Names ” EP

Posted: July 27, 2021 in MUSIC
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Formed back in 2019, Owen Williams and George Nicholls, formerly of Joanna Gruesome, connected in rural North Wales to expand on what they’d done in their previous outfit, taking on styles from jangly guitar post-punk to traditional British folk. The ‘I Don’t Know How It Works‘ 7-inch arrived on Prefect Records in early 2020, with a run of shows following seeing them share stages with the likes of Porridge Radio, Flasher and Public Practice.

Two Person Love‘ sounds like everything we love right about now – moving at a clip like all the best Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever songs with a bit of guitar flash that calls to mind our favourite Atlanta trio Omni. A proper ripper on the quiet we reckon.

From note one, the “Names” EP is all business, with “Illusion”s punchy riffs (suitable for stargazing or naval-gazing) gallop forward, with Williams pontificating on his reflected reality vs. the illusion of self; a two-minute earworm on gender confusion. “The Name Song” is next, with its persistent jangle, laundry list of Williams’ favorite Seventies names & instantly memorable chorus of “I don’t care about anyone” coyly delivered with a sardonic wink and nod. “Two Person Love”s fuzzy lead line opens side two, (an ode to “erotomania”) barreling forward like a Fairport deep cut on ephedrine. A woozy cover of Felt’s “Crystal Ball” ends the EP, a faithful love-letter to an obvious influence, draped in a gauzy flange. 

With ‘Two Person Love‘ now out in the open, it comes with it the announcement that The Tubs have got a new record on the way at the end of July – the EP ‘Names‘ 7-inch EP, due for release on Trouble In Mind Records (their first 7-inch release in four years!) and Prefect Records in the UK. Sleeve design comes care of Total Control’s James Vinciguerra!

Off the back of the EP, The Tubs are looking to head into the studio to record their debut album. From the “Names” EP, out July 30th, 2021 via Trouble In Mind Records

<img src="; alt="Son Volt Find Glimmer of Hope on <i>Electro Melodier

Jay Farrar has long had a reputation as a morose guy with a fondness for inscrutable, impressionistic lyrics. That’s only half right. In reality, the Son Volt singer is simply self-contained. He doesn’t have a public persona, or much of a social media presence. Farrar is focused instead on writing songs that say what he wants them to say, and then letting them stand on their own. And while he’s written some downer tunes, particularly when he was wrestling with youthful cynicism early in his career, there aren’t as many of those as you might think from the sound of his preternaturally weathered, lived-in voice. In fact, these days, there’s often a hopeful current running beneath the surface. In his low-key way, Farrar has become a quietly radical idealist.

Even amid the lingering chaos and cruelty of the Trump years, a global pandemic, and protests and unrest in response to the ever more visible framework of structural racism in America, Farrar sees cause for a measure of optimism on Electro Melodier, Son Volt’s 10th album. He’s a believer in grassroots, bottom-up solutions that involve people working together, a notion that recurs in Son Volt’s latter-day work. He makes the idea explicit on “Living in the USA,” a centerpiece of the new album that catalogs the contradictions inherent in 21st-century America, from the dark money and fear-mongering that undermine the system to the resilience of those fighting for a better, more equitable nation. “Power invested in people, let the ideas shine,” Farrar sings over a bed of acoustic guitar topped with overdriven electric guitar licks and a steady beat.

Elsewhere, there’s a sense of change in the air as people in the street push back against authority on “The Globe,” a sturdy roots-rocker with a Moog synth part in the middle that recalls The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” “Someday Is Now” finds “players of the long con” getting toppled for their perfidy, and Farrar intones the lyrics with a stern gravitas, accompanied by hard-strummed acoustic guitar and foreboding electric licks. Midway through, the song kicks into a different gear, as if the band turned onto a straightaway and buried the accelerator.

Not every song on Electro Melodier (named for two vintage guitar amplifiers) is topical. Farrar has also written his fair share of (admittedly oblique) love songs over the years: “Caryatid Easy,” from 1997’s Straightaways, or “Dynamite,” from 2009’s American Central Dust, are just a couple of them. Here, he draws inspiration from his marriage of 25 years on “Lucky Ones,” where a burbling organ vamp swirls around his earnest vocals. He takes a rootsier turn on “Diamonds & Cigarettes,” a duet with Laura Cantrell featuring piano and twangy lead guitar from Chris Frame as Farrar reflects on “all the hard lessons with no regrets” that can come from making a life with a partner.

Musically, Farrar stays close to the country-rock sound he began honing with Uncle Tupelo in the late ’80s and early ’90s, with harmony vocals from bassist Andrew Duplantis often sweetening the melodies on Electro Melodier. There are a few variations on theme: “Arkey Blues,” one of his finer latter-day efforts, alternates between a rollicking guitar riff and mournful piano, while there’s a dusky country-blues feel to “War on Misery.” Acoustic slide guitar and Farrar’s dusty voice carry “The Levee on Down”—one of his history-minded songs, in this case about Andrew Jackson’s forced-removal campaign against the Cherokee.

It’s been said that Farrar has been making a version of the same album over and over since Son Volt’s 1995 debut, Trace, but that’s a simplistic perspective. What’s true is that his sound is unmistakable, no matter what direction he steers Son Volt’s music. Though his penchant for indirect, sometimes esoteric lyrical imagery can result in clunky turns of phrase, the songs on Electro Melodier are the subtly engrossing work of a songwriter who continues to hone his craft, and shift his worldview, more than three decades after he started.

New album “Electro Melodier” – available July 30th

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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard Share Transformative Video for "Catching Smoke"

Australian psych-rockers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have never shied away from the quirky and adventurous. Following the release of their 18th studio album “Butterfly 3000”, King Gizz took a literal approach to the album’s visuals, such as the trippy, Hayao Miyazaki-inspired video for “Interior People.” The band shares the visual for “Catching Smoke,” which forgoes animation in favour of the band’s literal transformation into happy, eyebrow-less butterflies.

The video begins in a dim performance space with singer and lead guitarist Stu Mackenzie embraced in a cocoon costume. After a moment of darkness, the band emerges in brilliantly cheesy butterfly costumes, accompanied by dancers. Mackenzie explains that “’Catching Smoke’ is about chasing the feeling that’s impossible to catch.

You’ll never get your hands on it, but you’re gonna try anyway … ”

In a statement, director Danny Cohen explains his approach:

Here’s a clip that might feel like the past, or the future, maybe both, the present? It’s set wherever you want it to be, whenever too, in a time that’s everyone’s. It’s a story of a fleeting fleet, straying the course to inhabit their inner instinctual insect, I think. Or maybe it’s precisely what it is, Sgt. Pepper’s Bug’s Life Matrix Band but more fun.

This is the most considered album we’ve ever made. With lots of elements in different time signatures, it’d be very easy for something like this to just sound like a mess, like free jazz. It takes a lot longer to finesse everything, until every part feels deliberate. As one would expect on a King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard album, thorny knots of prog surface occasionally – the immersive hopscotch tangle of ‘Black Hot Soup’, for example – but the dominant mode is brilliantly focused and accessible. From the pulsing, utopian electro-pop of ‘Yours’ and the pitch-bent visions of ‘Dreams’, to the ecstatic, uplifting loops of ‘Catching Smoke’ and the assured fusion of synthetic and acoustic elements on ‘Interior People’ (one of the greatest Gizzard anthems yet), “Butterfly 3000” displays a confidence at odds with its experimental methods, and a succinctness that pays dividends.

The Moody Blues took a big leap with November 1967’s Days of Future Passed, an ambitious concept album that they made in collaboration with a full orchestra. Eight months later, they took another jump with “In Search of the Lost Chord” perhaps realizing that touring with an orchestra wasn’t practical, they replaced it with Mellotrons played by members Mike Pinder and Justin Hayward, not to mention everything from flutes, saxes and harpsichords to cellos, sitars and tablas. “Although we’d used an orchestra on the previous record, we all felt that we should be self-reliant with our next work,” the group’s John Lodge later said. “So if we wanted to use a particular instrument on a track, one of us would figure out how to play it.”

The resulting album, released on July 26th, 1968—which, like its predecessor, was (in 2018) expanded into a lavish 50th anniversary set—didn’t sit any better with the critics Rolling Stone gave it one-and-a-half stars, where two stars mean recordings that “are failures” and one star signifies LPs that are “wastes of vital resources”.

Maybe that half a century later,  the Moodies have sold 70 million records, are (finally) in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and remain popular enough to have prompted the release of a anniversary box set. That said, the critics got one thing right: some of the lyrics on this concept album—which focuses on spiritual and philosophical concerns—sound dated or downright puerile.

If ever the Moody Blues made an LSD album, this was it. You don’t have to venture beyond the opening lines of the first track to sense that the drug has taken effect: the album begins with a spoken bit about “the sight of a touch or the scent of a sound” that dissolves into stoned laughter. By the second number, the band are inviting you to “take this trip” and, in case you still haven’t caught on by the fifth track (“Legend of a Mind”), it pays tribute to Timothy Leary. (“He’ll take you up, he’ll bring you down…He flies so high, he swoops so low…he’ll bring you back the same day.”)

The good news, is that much of the music is excellent. There are a few brief throwaways, such as the spoken “Departure” and “The Word” as well as “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume.” But Justin Hayward’s vocals on songs like the lilting “Voices in the Sky” are as captivating as his work on the earlier “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin.” The two-part “House of Four Doors” is strong as well.

Songs like these sound better than ever on the album’s new 50th anniversary edition, which contains three CDs, two DVDs and a 76-page book that features notes, credits, period concert reviews, lyrics and photos of the group and assorted memorabilia.

One of the all-time classic albums of ‘60s Psych gets a welcome 50th anniversary makeover with this 5-disc box set. Across the three CDs are new and original stereo mixes of the album, mono ‘A’ and ‘B’ sides of the original Deram-era singles, BBC sessions and bonus tracks including a never-before-heard mono version of ‘Legend Of A Mind’. Meanwhile, DVD1 contains an audio ‘In Search of the Lost Chord’ 96 kHz / 24-bit 5.1 Surround Mix, the new stereo mix plus a re-master of the original stereo mix. Visuals on DVD2 include BBC TV’s ‘Colour Me Pop’ special from 1968 and the previously unreleased French TV’s ‘Ce Soir On Danse’. Comes in a hard box with 76-page book packed with photos and a new essay.

Sub Pop Records is pleased to announce the release of Porridge Radio’s cover of The Shins’ “New Slang,”! The song is the B-side from the group’s forthcoming contribution to the subscription-only Sub Pop Singles Club Vol. 6. The A-side, Porridge Radio’s cover of Wolf Parade’s “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son” will be available on August 9th.

Beginning as Dana Margolin’s sadcore bedroom project, Porridge Radio developed into an idiosyncratic post-punk 4-piece after she moved to Brighton and met her future bandmates. They inelegantly knot together Margolin’s vicious, furious emotional outpourings with beautiful pop melodies. After a series of demos, and the growing legend of their intense live shows, their lofty debut “Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers” came out via Memorials of Distinction in 2016, documenting struggles with life, love and boredom, and showcases the scrapbook absurdism at Porridge Radio’s core.

The band’s 2020 Secretly Canadian debut, “Every Bad”, is a culmination of what has been in their head for some time. Every Bad arrived full of grand, sweeping ambition – with vocals so urgent that it often feels like it is moved by compulsion rather than choice, with all the rawness of early Karen O, and influences as disparate as Charli XCX and The Cranberries. After receiving wide critical acclaim across the board, Every Bad was shortlisted as one of the Hyundai Mercury Prize’s albums of 2020.

Releases August 9th, 2021,

© 2021 Sub Pop Records

FOLK ROCK – ” The Albums “

Posted: July 26, 2021 in MUSIC
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You only have to take a brief listen to Jimmy Page’s “Black Mountain Side” instrumental on Zeppelin’s 1969 debut alongside folk guitarist Bert Jansch’s “Black Water Side” on his 1966 album, “Jack Orion“, to realise that they are even closer than the subtle title change suggests.

Fast forward to Led Zeppelin III and that’s folk rock you’re listening to on “Gallows Pole” – a traditional folk song given the rock’n’roll treatment. Then you have Roy Harper they’re taking their hats off to on the last track?. Another renegade folkie they’ve adopted, . What we have here are not necessarily the most famous albums produced in this genre in that period (though some are), but a collection of personal favourites. Each has something special and distinct to offer, great performances, nifty songwriting and ancient atmospheres so very inspiringly different to what is presented as creative and cool in the world of rock and roll, 

The folk scene had remained suspicious of rock music. Even Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Ralph McTell were wary of ‘selling out’. They folkies were also pretty sniffed when Jansch and Renbourn became part of the Unplugged-style folk supergroup Pentangle a couple of years later. When Donovan broke cover and shot up the charts with “Catch The Wind” in 1965, the traditionalists denounced him as a traitor. It needed a rock group to put the rock into folk rather than vice versa. That band was Fairport Convention. They’d built up a name on the underground scene with their covers of (then unknown songwriters) Joni Mitchell, Cohen and Dylan, Singer Sandy Denny had already paid her dues on the folk circuit and when then joined folk fiddle player Dave Swarbrick.

Their 1969 album, “Liege & Lief“, laid down the folk rock template for the decade that would follow. Other bands soon took advantage, although there was an incestuous element at play (in the studio, The Fairport’s later begat Fotheringay, Richard & Linda Thompson and Steeleye Span who begat the Albion Band and so on.

Fairport Convention generally have the tag of being ‘the all-time folk-rock band of Britain’ and deservedly so.

“They began with a much more American focus to their music, which is often forgotten. It was much less traditional than it became a few years later. They fell back more into being a traditional folk band, but with all the rhythmic and rock sensitivity that would come to them.

“Some of those members of Fairport did play with rock bands, including Dave Pegg who played with Jethro Tull, too. But they do in a very worthy sense have the right to be crowned the most important folk-rock band ever.

Fairport Convention – What We Did On Our Holidays (1968)

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Before helping invent (well, mostly inventing) British folk-rock, Fairport was the UK’s answer to Jefferson Airplane, at least structurally: genius lead axeman (Richard Thompson), supremely melodic lady and man singers (Sandy Denny and Ian Matthews), and a brooding mastermind behind it all (Ashley Hutchings). Their sound was very US-folk-rock oriented and a little psychedelic. Not original at all, but the individual talents shining through is what makes this album special. Most people seem to prefer to praise the following album, “Unhalfbricking“, because it contains some early Thompson and Denny composed classics, but since that album’s also about half Bob Dylan covers, I declare this to be superior. It contains the first hints of the Brit-folk-rock/acid-folk sound “Fotheringay“, “She Moved Through The Fair”, “Nottamun Town”, but also some rousing folk-rockers “No Man’s Land” and “Tale in Hard Time” and some gently beautiful low-key psych-pop “Book Song” , Joni Mitchell’s “Eastern Rain”. Matthews and Denny’s harmonies are one major draw, the other being the developing talents of Thompson on six strings, but also there is just a hazy, reverby, otherworldly feel to the production that other Fairport albums of the period lack. This album contains some of the most beautiful music you will ever hear.

Fairport Convention – Unhalfbricking (1969)

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“Unhalfbricking” was, if only in retrospect, a transitional album for the young Fairport Convention in which the group shed its closest ties to its American folk-rock influences and started to edge toward a more traditional British folk-slanted sound. That shift wouldn’t be definitive until their next album, But the strongest link to the American folk-rock harmony approach left with the departure of Ian Matthews, who left shortly after the sessions for Unhalfbricking” began.

The mixture of obscure American folk-rock songs, original material, and traditional interpretations that had fallen into place with “What We Did On Our Holidays” earlier in the year was actually still intact, if not as balanced. Sandy Denny’s two compositions, her famous “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” and the far less celebrated but magnetically brooding “Autopsy,” were among the record’s highlights. So too were the goofball French Cajun cover of Dylan’s “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” (here retitled “Si Tu Dois Partir” and a British hit) and the magnificent reading of Bob’s “Percy’s Song,” though the bash through of another Dylan cover “Million Dollar Bash” was less effective.

Richard Thompson’s pair of songs, however, were less memorable. The clear signpost to the future was their 11-minute take on the traditional song “A Sailor’s Life,” with guest fiddle by Dave Swarbrick soon to join Fairport’s himself and make his own strong contribution toward reshaping the band’s sound.

Fairport Convention Leige and Lief (1969)

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Folk rock’s defining moment came as Fairport Convention nailed the spirit of rock to the rickety table of folk. Epic traditional ballads like Tam Lin and Matty Groves get a driving backbeat, with Richard Thompson providing hefty guitar riffs that mutate into furious jigs and reels. 

It’s all topped off with Dave Swarbrick’s taut, frenetic fiddle and Sandy Denny’s peerless, soaring, swooping, lingering and cajoling vocal – sometimes all in the same song. It was an audacious move, but Fairport Convention knew exactly what they wanted to do and they succeeded beyond expectation.

“I thought I might find something quirky, but I do have to go back to Liege And Lief because it’s the one that put them on the map. It’s the one you can’t escape, the biggie

Fairport Convention – “Babbacombe” Lee (1971)

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As the best known folk-rock band, Fairport has the best-known discography, too — but few of their albums are unflawed. Some are classics, some are frankly quite awful. And then there’s this rather interesting piece of work. After the departure of Richard Thompson, the band’s primary songwriter and guitarist, Fairport got to its feet with the middling Angel Delight, which is still a pretty good album. Then they got ambitious! It was the era of the concept album, and bassist Dave Pegg and fiddler Dave Swarbrick conceived of this bizarre based-on-a-true story tale about a nineteenth-century man (possibly innocent) who escaped hanging by sheer luck and mechanical failure. And that’s the story! So it traces his early life, the accusations, sentencing, and then freedom. It’s something of a commentary on the class system. And quite affectingly, I must say. There’s traditional stuff “The Sailor’s Alphabet” but also psychedelia “Dream Song”, the energetic rock n roll of “John Lee”, and sorrow “The Time Is Near”, all delivered quite confidently by Messrs Pegg, Swarbrick, Mattacks, and Nicol. You’d think the weird concept might not work over the course of an entire album, but it actually perfectly fits the band’s aesthetic. And the LP came with some really snazzy booklet packaging.

In the early to mid-70s we came across Steeleye Span. I knew of them as a traditional British folk group trying a more rock approach to presenting their music.

Steeleye Span – Below the Salt (1972)

Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention were the most successful folk-rock bands, and Steeleye probably made the most dough. This album is their finest. It spawned a “novelty” hit, “Gaudete“, very likely the only time an example of medieval a capella music has hit the charts! They somehow made a time machine from the grooves of this record that transports you back to the epoch of the songs in a way that I just haven’t heard before. “Spotted Cow” is a jaunty tale of a sexy meeting in the fields. A grand example of Watersons-style polyphony, “Rosebud in June” is a pagan-style evocation of the summer with just the right amount of reverb behind the vocals. The complex horror ballad “King Henry” is a monumental achievement. The band wrenches every drop of drama from it, from the spooky a capella opening to the hard rock chords underneath the verses. After all this greatness, the majestic “Saucy Sailor” wraps things up. The song is a carefree evocation of the freedom of a wandering life and is great fun. This is THE album and definitely the album on which Maddy Prior establishes herself as the UK’s finest female folk singer (well, June Tabor can make that claim too).

Steeleye Span – Parcel Of Rogues (1973)

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Although Steeleye Span were originally formed by Fairport Convention’s Ashley Hutchings, they didn’t really put on their rock’n’roll 10-holes until Hutchings split and the band windmilled a flame-streaked Gibson through their traditional folky repertoire.  They didn’t have the rough-edged credibility that Fairport did, but they had an awareness of British folk music going back hundreds of years. They were seen as being a little too twee.

“They were very keen students of British folk music and they were looking very diligently for sources of material from traditional lyrics and they would often write music to go with those lyrics.

Steeleye Span is unquestionably the greatest folk-rock band of them all, based on the criteria of musicianship, song selection, showmanship, background in the tradition, the whole shebang. But this album is quite something in itself. While the group did not have a drummer yet at this point, these songs are very aggressively electric but still very respectful of the source material. The production is weird, almost metallic and boomy. The songs and arrangements are incredible and so very atmospheric, from the mournful, echoey tale of exile “The Bold Poachers” to the epic harmonizing, insistent bass pulse and catchy licks of “The Weaver And The Factory Maid”, to the shocking heavy metal chords and shrieking violin solo of “Alison Gross” (one scary witch!) to the dirge-like multi-part harmonizing of “Rogues In Nation” (there’s a Scottish theme to side two). Basically the massive inventive genius at work on this album never fails to blow me away. No band ever brought the past to life with the aid of electric instruments as well as Steeleye Span.

The slashing guitar power chords that cut across the heavily harmonised vocals of “Alison Gross” and Maddy Prior’s lilting tones on Cam Ye O’er Frae France verge on folk metal. Competition for the wah-wah pedal is intense – guitars, violins and even the bass all get a shot on Robbery With Violins. This is folk rock you can stomp to.

“They toured with Jethro Tull in the mid-70s and Ian Anderson produced one of their albums [1974’s Now We Are Six], but I only really ‘produced’ in the sense that I supervised the mix – other than getting David Bowie to come and play saxophone on one of the tracks!”

Steeleye Span – Ten Man Mop or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again (1971)

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The first song on the album ‘Gower Wassail’ kicks off with a rockish backbone but it is when it comes to singing and song construction unmistakably folk. Even jigs have a strong distinctive bass based rhythm, fiddle is not allowed to roam on its own. And to me this album is the best example of the folk rock with stress on both words. Simply speaking this album would not be half as good without electric guitars.

It has a beautiful cover. To me (almost) every song is a gem and it is definitely among top 20 albums of the 1971. Gorgeous Maddy Prior’s voice highlights the peak of this beautiful record ‘when I was on horseback’ but music is as gorgeous and as delicate. Maddy Prior’s voice finds another somewhat darker even chilly dimension on ‘Captain Coulston’ another highlight although production somehow throws her voice behind the screeching music half drowning it. ‘Wee Weaver’ provides more of lovely Maddy Prior’s vocals but stylistically its minimalism could have worked better on other band’s or on her solo projects. ‘Skewball’ ends the album on a high note adding more tough electric guitars bordering on riffs and it also showcases that guys can sing too.

Bert Jansch – ‘Bert Jansch’ (1965)

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Scottish guitarist and folk singer Bert Jansch’s debut album is a bare bones delight – just Jansch, his guitar and a whole bunch of feelings. ‘Needle of Death’ is as harrowing as it sounds, written by Jansch about a friend’s heroin overdose. His version of finger-picking folk standard ‘Angie’ is a triumph.

Recorded with a portable tape player on a borrowed guitar in the kitchen of his London flat, the impact of  Bert jansch’s debut has been somewhat blunted by time, but it was a vastly influential work. His masterful acoustic picking, which blended elements of traditional British folk, blues, and jazz, inspired not just other folk players, but rockers who frequently used acoustic guitars. Jimmy Page and Neil Young have gone on record as noting their heavy debts to Jansch’s early material. He was also a talented songwriter, and all but one of the 15 tracks on his debut was an original composition (the set closes with his version of the instrumental “Angie” originally performed by fellow British folk guitarist Davy Graham, and popularized by Paul Simon). Though he is darker and less pop-oriented; indeed than Donovan who recorded a couple of early Jansch tunes, and wrote a couple of songs directly inspired by the artist (“Bert’s Blues” and “House of Jansch”).  Jansch reflects a rambling, beatnik sort of lifestyle with his compositions on this album, which includes one of his most famous tunes, the sombre “Needle of Death”.

Bert Jansch – Rosemary Lane

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Of all Jansch’s superb early albums, “Rosemary Lane” is the finest product of this purple patch. During a break from working with Pentangle, Jansch recorded the album at home with producer Bill Leader, as he had with his first few albums. Jansch makes these traditional songs truly his own, and the resulting ambience is intimate and immediate, as though the gentle melancholic lilt of Jansch’s hushed delivery were solely for you.

Rosemary Lane” is a return to the raw production of Jansch’s first few albums he made in the 60s, though the songs on here show just how much Jansch had grown as a guitarist and songwriter after just 6 years from his 1965 debut. Jansch has some great originals songs on here such as “A Dream, A Dream, A Dream”, “Silly Woman”, and “Bird Song” that are possibly some of the greatest songs he wrote in his career. He also does some splendid covers of some English folk tunes such as “Rosemary Lane” and “Reynardine”.

John Martyn – Bless The Weather

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“Bless the Weather” was Martyn’s fifth album and his first solo album in what would  become his classic style, playing his guitar through an echoplex. Martyn develops his blend of Jazz, Folk and Rock into a spaced out hall of mirrors on Glistening Glyndebourne. His semi-slurred delivery only thickens from this point on, giving his songs a narcotic edge, even at their most romantic.

The first “real” John Martyn album (after two traditional folk efforts and two with Beverly) and the one that introduced him as an artist to add to the re-definition of folk. A very spontaneous album, written mostly in the studio and recorded over just a few weeks, it has kept its magic over the decades. There is a hint of influence from his friend Nick Drake in the songs and vocals but his guitar playing already goes into far more experimental territory.
Ian Whitman’s piano and Danny Thompson’s bass are subtle throughout the albums, on some tracks a young Richard Thompson on guitar, Tony Reeves on bass guitar and Roger Powell on drums are adding touches.

John Martyn – Solid Air (1973)

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John Martyn makes the leap from folk to fuck-knows-where on “Solid Air”, partnered all the way by Folk supremist acoustic bass of Danny Thompson, whose blurry playing keeps pace with Martyn’s blurry voice. 

Running his acoustic guitar into a rocker’s array of effects pedals, Martyn picks and strums his way through a set of songs that snake about among jazz, blues, folk and rock – the driving “Dreams By The Sea“, the mellow “May You Never” and the tripped-out exorcism of Skip James’ I’d Rather Be The Devil. Despite most of Fairport Convention turning up for the recording, the sound is still sparse – leaving more room for the mesmerising atmosphere.

Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want To see The Bright Lights Tonight (1974)

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Richard Thompson left Fairport Convention when he realised his song writing had got lost in the band’s new folk rock format. He married Linda and then married British folk to American country to give folk rock a new twist. 

Linda’s voice is the perfect foil for Richard’s still-developing vocal style on “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight”. But his controlled, angular guitar style is already well-developed and hones the dark edged lyricism on carefully crafted songs like “When I Get To The Border” and “Cavalry Cross”.

Richard and Linda Thompson – Hokey Pokey (1974)

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I would argue that renowned guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson’s best albums were made with his wife Linda. Not that his material from the eighties and onward is terrible, but there was something special about their dynamic (which later exploded, unfortunately), and the icy purity of her voice was the perfect vehicle for his often morose songs. I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight is an acknowledged classic, while this album is overlooked a bit. In fact, there’s a greater variety of material on here than he ever wrote before or after.

The songs are about odd people in weird, surreal situations, and there’s a twisted sense of fun about the grotesque proceedings. The opening title track probably features Richard’s hottest, most searing lead playing on record. “Never Again” is possibly his saddest ballad, and “A Heart Needs A Home” his most touching love song. The weird characters of “Georgie on a Spree” and “Smiffy’s Glass Eye” are just the icing on the cake.

This album too is a classic and a work of pure genius.

Lindisfarne – Fog On the Tyne (1971)

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Formed around the Geordie song writing triumvirate of Alan Hull, Rod Clements and Ray Jackson, Lindisfarne had found a ready audience for their wit and raucous harmonies at late 60s rock festivals. Come the 70s, they lured Nashville producer Bob Johnston (Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel) up the river for their second album, “Fog On The Tyne“. It was a smart move. Johnston smooths out the rougher edges without losing any of the band’s populism. The album swept to the top of the charts in early 1972 and hung around for more than a year, propelled by hit singles like “Meet Me On The Corner” and the original pre–Gazza title track.

Roy Harper – Stormcock (1971)

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Never a man to be tied down by style and convention, Roy Harper had his own ideas about the great folk/rock crossover and committed them to record on four long tracks on “Stormcock”. He was a wondering troubadour with an acoustic guitar who sang very personalised and sometimes controversial songs. He wanted to be in a rock band, as often people like that do.

The best being “The Same Old Rock” – a biting attack on religion, where Harper’s sensitive acoustic bounces off some searing electric guitar courtesy of Jimmy Page (thinly disguised as S Flavius Mercurius) and culminates in a superb three minute duet between the two. 

Harper’s voice is familiar thanks to his vocals on Pink Floyd’s Have A Cigar, and is particularly fine on Me And My Woman where he’s backed by an orchestra.

Pentangle – The Pentangle (1968)

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They did bring together these elements, rather like a rock supergroup, like Cream, except they came from folk and jazz backgrounds rather than blues and rock”

“They had the tag of being folk jazz at the time but in fact their influences were very broad. In a way they were the first super group of unlikely musicians that came from backgrounds not conventionally allied.

“They didn’t have a long time together, but particularly with their first album, I got to know and like them and their musical approach. They weren’t big on the loud and more rhythmic sense of it.

“I think they were important and they were much respected, particularly in America.”

Horslips – Book Of invasions (1977)

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Pioneers of Celtic rock, Dublin’s Horslips took a Steeleye Span-style approach to their Irish roots and used Celtic mythology to create a giant concept album and enough flute to attract even the densest passing Jethro Tull fan. 

Book Of Invasions, themed around the Christian invasion of Ireland, is their sixth electro-acoustic affair. The melodies are strong, the playing is polished and despite the sometimes-contrived conceptual feel, the songs are short and separate. A big influence on U2 (singer/bassist Barry Devlin directed several of their videos and produced Mama’s Boys) and later Big Country.

Horslips at this point, though they also released albums of more contemporary compositions, occasionally released ambitious concept albums inspired by Ireland’s traditional music, history and mythology. As far as I know, it was the only band doing this at the time. The Táin was a roaring success, because Horslips brings this mythology alive through the drama of very good, melodic compositions and some great playing, particularly from bluesy guitarist Johnny Fean. Highlights are the glammy stomp of “Dearg Doom” the muscular masculinity of “You Can’t Fool The Beast” and the psychedelic swirl of “Faster than the Hound.” Also starring are multiinstrumentalist Jim Lockhart and chain-mail-fisted fiddler Charles O’Connor. One of the best concept albums ever made.

The Tain is Horslips’ best-known folk-rock album (they also did fairly straightforward rock, and later, new wave), but this may actually be the superior album; The Tain had lots of interesting ideas and rocked pretty hard at times, but this later album has better songs, and it’s a more polished production overall. The band tackled another Irish myth cycle for source material, the Leabhar Gabhála Éireann, and retells the stories through such barn-burners as the classic “Trouble With a Capital T” and “The Power and the Glory”, but this album contains some of band’s most beautiful and melodic mid-tempo stuff as well, such as the majestic “Rocks Remain” and “Sideways to the Sun”, this album feels more like a statement of pride for a whole culture rather than just a set of fun rock songs. Additionally, lead guitarist Johnny Fean is a hell of a bluesy player, and each band member that takes lead vocals has never sounded better. An excellent intro to the band for newbies.

Sandy Denny – Sandy (1972)

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One of the UK’s finest female singers, after her first stint in Fairport Convention and post-forming Fotheringay Sandy Denny released her debut solo album, her bold vocals adding muscle to the bucolic likes of ‘Sweet Rosemary’ and ‘Bushes and Briars’. If you want you breath taken away, listen to the amazing acapella that is ‘Quiet Joys Of Brotherhood’.

Sandy Denny – The North Star Grassman and the Ravens (1971)

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Ex-Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny was extremely popular in the early seventies — just a few years later her self-destructive behaviour sent her from this world. But what a legacy! This, her first solo album, is a crazy quilt of melancholy autumnal imagery, backed by an incredible band of folk-rock stars. Sure, she had that enchanting voice and romantic yet tragic style, but man, there’s an embarrassment of riches here — the spooky strings of “Next Time Around”, the odd storytelling of “Wretched Wilbur” and “The Sea Captain”, the incredible poetry of “Late November” and the rousing anti-war sentiments of “John the Gun” (also featuring a mind-blowing fiddle solo by Barry Dransfield), and an impossibly groovy version of the trad “Blackwater Side”. A few rock n’ roll covers are less successful mood-breakers, but overall this is the untrammelled creativity created by the late sixties in full flight and probably Denny’s finest hour as a writer.

When both peak together, like on Who Knows Where The Time Goes, Banks Of The Nile, The Sea, The Pond And The Stream, and Listen Listen, the results are exquisite.

Sandy Denny – No More Sad Refrains The Anthology (2000)

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After Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny formed Fotheringay and later pursued a solo career before falling down the stairs to her death in 1978. While all her albums had high spots, none really did her justice. This two-CD collection follows her from Fairport to 1977’s Rendezvous, focusing on her voice – one of the finest in British rock – and her song writing. 

Nick Drake – Bryter Later (1970)

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The second album from this cult singer-songwriter is something of a respite from the stark introspection that linked his other albums. Backed by various members of Fairport Convention, including Richard Thompson, and some delicate brass, woodwind and string arrangements, Drake’s mournful folk style takes on a lighter, jazzier feel here, particularly on “Hazy Jane I and II” and “At The Chime Of A City Clock”. 

It’s not long before Drake’s dark side is lured out by the Velvet Underground’s John Cale on viola, celeste and harpsichord – check out Fly and perhaps Drake’s most perfectly realised song, “Northern Sky.”

Fotheringay – Fotheringay (1970)

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When Sandy Denny departed Fairport Convention, insisting that she wanted to concentrate upon her own song writing rather than pursue the band’s exploration of traditional English music, she never meant she also intended abandoning the folk idiom itself. Although all but two of the songs on this, her first post-Fairport project, are indeed original compositions, it is readily apparent that, like former bandmate Richard Thompson, her greatest talents lay distinctly within the same traditions as the poets and balladeers of earlier centuries, while the fact that fully one-half of Fotheringay itself would eventually join Fairport illustrates the care that went into the band’s formation.

Even the group’s name resonates “Fotheringay” was also one of Denny’s best-loved Fairport songs. Listening to the album, too, one can see and hear the mothership all over the show, from the tight dynamics of “The Sea” to the simple beauty of “Winter Winds” and on to the showpiece “Banks of the Nile,” a Napoleonic Wars-era ballad set firmly in the storytelling mold of “A Sailor’s Life,” “Tam Linn,” and the post-Denny Fairport’s own “Bonnie Bunch of Roses.” The presence of producer Joe Boyd and guest vocalist Linda Peters complete the sense of a family affair.

Where Fotheringay and Fairport drift apart is in the instrumentation — one of Fairport’s most-endearing talents, after all, was the sense of ramshackle adventure that the bandmembers brought to their recordings. Fotheringay was far more “musicianly,” packing a perfectionism that comes close, in places, to stifling the sheer exuberance of the music. The overuse of Trevor Lucas’ distinctly mannered vocals, too, reveals the album in a disappointing light — great guitarist though he was, his voice offers nothing that you could not hear in any amateur folk club, any night of the week, rendering Dylan’s “Too Much of Nothing,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Way I Feel,” and his own “Ballad of Ned Kelly” little more than makeweights. Such failings are completely overshadowed, of course, by the triumphs that are Denny’s finest contributions — the best of which close the album on a peak unheard since “The Sea,” back at the beginning of the cycle. “The Banks of the Nile” rates among the loveliest and most evocative performances of her entire career, while the hauntingly hypnotic “Two Weeks Last Summer” and a moody “Gypsy Davey” draw out an expressiveness that had similarly been in short supply elsewhere on the record. The end result is an album that, while every Denny fan should hear it, is best experienced sliced and diced across the various compilations.

Bereft of the faults that never make those collections, Fotheringay deserves every kind word that has ever been sent in the band’s direction. In 2004, Fledgling Records released a remastered edition that included live versions of “Two Weeks of Summer,” “Nothing More,” “Banks of the Nile” and “Memphis Tennessee,” recorded at the 1970 Rotterdam Pop Festival.

Trees – On The Shore (1971)

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Trees, as with most of the bands on the list remained fairly underground and met little commercial success at the time but rather gathered a cult following and critical acclaim many years after they disbanded.

They, like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span chose songs found in a huge catalogue of folk songs known as the Roud, which were collected from oral tradition all over the world. Their sound is defined by heavy guitar riffs and soloing, coupled with the prominent melodic bass in the mix. Trees has a bit of an inflated reputation with freak folkies desperately searching for a super-cool hip version of Fairport to worship.

The fact is, the two albums are pretty good but flawed. When the band stuck with traditional songs or traditional-sounding ones, it was quite successful, but some of the contemporary-style originals are not good. Witness track one, “Nothing Special”, which features some terribly raw, overblown soloing that interferes with the overly-sweet lead vocal. Fortunately, things improve greatly after that with some truly wonderful psych-folk and psych-rock performances. Celia Humphris had a very pure voice, and the moody arrangements on “The Great Silkie”, the original “The Garden Of Jane Delawney” and “She Moves Through the Fair” are just perfect. While Trees may not be the geniuses some would make them out to be, there’s no doubt their two albums made a great contribution to British electric-folk scene.

The Strawbs – Grave New World

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The Strawbs became best known as a prog band with classic albums like Hero and Heroine and Ghosts, but they started off in bluegrass and then did a sort of psychedelic/mysticism-influenced folk-rock “Grave New World” is probably their finest classic album. Dave Cousins is one of the most gifted songwriters the UK has ever produced. This album contains no traditional music, but I include it here because, importantly, the imagery and the feel of the album are VERY English, and that was unusual enough. Cousins lets his idealism and his imagination soar on songs like the viciously honest animal rights diatribe “Sheep” and the equally viciously anti-war/sectarian violence condemnation, “The Hangman and the Papist”, but there’s also the spooky “Witchwood” , gently nostalgic “In Amongst the Roses” and idealistic pastoral Christian, Blake-ean imagery of “A Glimpse of Heaven”. Ably supported by second singer/guitarist Tony Hooper, future famous prog keyboardist Rick Wakeman and future Hudson-Ford/Monks pop hitmakers Hudson and Ford on bass and drums, Cousins presents a tapestry of English poetic imagery that is unflinching in its commentary but also celebrates the beauty of the land and its history. This is a true classic.

Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band – No Roses (1971)

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This is considered by some to be the album that really defined British electric folk — sure, Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief got the ball rolling, and The Pentangle played a role, but this album sounds more “authentic” and true to the vibe of British country music. Not only is the massive cast of musicians a who’s-who of the British folk world (you name ’em, they’re probably here), but the super-authentic village-bred voice of Shirley Collins dominates the proceedings. The songs are, interestingly, mostly a bit spooky — there are two long, melancholy murder ballads, “The Murder Of Maria Marten” and “Poor Murdered Woman”, played with medieval solemnity; the songs rock, but in a very dignified fashion. There are some lighter moments, such as  “The Little Gypsy Girl”, “Just as the Tide Was Flowing”, and “Hal-an-Tow”, later rocked up by The Oyster Band. Overall, there’s a sense of history and mystery hanging over this album, which may well be the finest that impresario bassist Ashley Hutchings (founder of Fairport, Steeleye Span, and the various incarnations of this band) ever put together. It’s a statement of intent and a manifesto for a musical movement that unfortunately had less impact than it deserved.

The Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (1968)

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This sorta folk duo (which at other times was a trio and sometimes even a quartet) of Mike Heron and Robin Williamson was the psychedelic era personified: two world-travelling, raggedy super-hippies who learned to get by on a ton of instruments, brought them all home, and made a conscious decision to break all musical rules with them. Their zany inventiveness is so mind-boggling that we can even overlook the fact that neither of them could sing very well at all. Like, at all.

Williamson’s shrill Celtic croon is the more pleasant voice, usually. The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, the most famous one. This album is far more coherent and contains most of the duo’s best songs: the surreal imagery and enchanting melodic variations of “Koeeoaddi There”, the unusually delicate, melodic, and sensitive “Nightfall”, “Witches Hat” and “The Water Song”, and the amusing music hall pastiche of “The Minotaur’s Song”. There are also other places where the album falls flat on its face (the mostly toneless, long “A Very Cellular Song”), but no one can deny that these cats were as individual as they come. Mind expansion was their game, and these surrealist ditties, rendered with all them gimbri, oud, shehnai and hammered dulcimers, probably blew many’s the mind, with or without the help of drugs.

Incredible String Band – The 5000 Spirits Or the Layers Of An Onion

Out of the fertile folk scene of Scotland’s central belt, Incredible String Band were tremendously gifted musicians with a beatnik/proto hippie sensibility, who drew from a deep well of ethnic music, little heard at the time. Strong melodies augmented with keen harmonies and exotic arrangements, complement lyrics that range from whimsical conversations with clouds, to meetings with death and all points in between. They sound simultaneously ancient and modern all within the same song.

Various Artists – Morris On (1972)

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Ashley Hutchings was at it again with this one. He realized that almost certainly no one had made an album of electrified Morris dance tunes! Morris dancing is an odd pagan holdover that was revived to an extent by hippies and is now becoming rare again) So he set about rectifying that. Morris tunes have a stately, stomping elegance and dignity that is quite different to the wild prancing of Celtic dance music like jigs and reels. It lends itself surprisingly well to the dynamic of a rock rhythm section, and Ashley Hutchings had an excellent one here in Dave Mattacks and Hutchings.

The album was plainly a ton of fun to record, considering you can hear the chaps bantering back and forth in the middle of pieces. Fun, racy songs like “The Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Nutting Girl” add even more saucy enjoyment to the experience. As does the virtuosic playing of super axe-wielder Richard Thompson. Probably the cheeriest music in my entire record collection and guaranteed good times.

 If you want to read a big-ass book on the subject, find Rob Young’s Electric Eden, which, while it gives short shrift to some acts I consider significant and spends far too many pages on The Incredible String Band, But it does provide a great in-depth overview of not only the music, but how it came to be and the movement behind it.

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It marks their first new music in 9 months, when the insistent garage-rock smarts of previous single “Be My Friend” landed it on the BBC6 music playlist. “Second Time” was premiered by Steve Lamacq on BBC6 Music, who said “it sounds so unhurried and just has a lovely jangle to it.” Teenagehood, brotherhood and a love for alternative music have united The Goa Express from the off. Hailing from the northern industrial towns of Todmorden and Burnley before being adopted more recently by the Manchester culture carriers, their teenage years can be viewed as something of a hedonistic pilgrimage into the underbelly of suburban rock and roll- their first gig having been 3 songs blasted out their mates garage, the next on top of a local vintage shop where the floor nearly caved in:

But in an age where artists and bands are often exist as heavily constructed, pretentious facsimiles, it certainly feels new. The intensity of this friendship has resulted in the occasional bust up along the way, yet it only adds to the burning chemistry that the band offer on record and on stage. together, brothers James Douglas Clarke (guitar + vocals) and Joe Clarke (keys), along with Joey Stein (lead guitar), Naham Muzaffar (bass) and Sam Launder (drums) all contribute to a fuzzy wall of diverse sound, becoming harder to pin down with their constantly evolving, psych-umbrella’d, rock and roll. what sets The Goa Express apart from other musicians who sit comfortably within scenes is that their identity as a band has been growing organically long before the 5 of them decided to pick up instruments and teach themselves art of killing time.

“Second Time” – mixed by Ride’s Mark Gardener – unpicks the imperfections of youth, not dwelling on mistakes, letting them run their course. no matter how foolish the deed, with allies by your side, all is well. the band comments: “Second Time is a song about young people making the same mistakes over and over and over again; a warming ballad which breaks aside from our live performances, foolishly thinking, that it’s able to mend itself.”

A song about young people that was recorded down at Abbey Road and brought to life by Mark Gardener. The video captures our journey from our roots in Burnley and Todmorden to Manchester. Directed by Mairead O’Connor and shot by Andy Little.

Released April 20, 2021

Written by James Douglas Clarke, Joe Clarke, Joey Stein, Naham Muzaffar and Sam Launder (aka THE GOA EXPRESS)

Recorded at Abbey Road for BBC Introducing

The single ‘Second Time’ out 18th June on Ra-Ra Rok

“For our Levitation Session we recorded on reel-to-reel 1/2 inch tape in the middle of the Mojave Desert in Antelope Valley. Due to my natural tendencies to explore the layers of my ancestry and being forever inspired by the beautiful sounds coming out of the Saharan desert, I wanted to challenge myself to produce a recording that doesn’t filter but fully embraces a similar environment. A search for symbiosis between the music and the ground it’s made on. Thanks to a place I love and respect, a welcomed challenge, and some of my closest friends, what you are hearing is Night Beats in one of its truest and rarest forms.

Night Beats ventured out into the Mojave Desert and recorded a discography spanning 13 track set on reel-to-reel tape, featuring classic Night Beats tracks and our first chance to hear some jams from the new Outlaw R&B LP in a live setting. Thank you for listening and thank you to those who lived on and cherished this land before us.” DLB

Thank you for listening and thank you to those who lived on and cherished this land before us” – Night Beats

Releases August 6th, 2021

Penelope Isles

Indie-rock group Penelope Isles have been pretty quiet since the release of their lush and electric debut album Until The Tide Creeps In in 2019, but on new single “Sailing Still,” they prove that time has been spent maturing and evolving as songwriters. Complex string arrangements and heavy guitars drop like an anvil, feeling like a noise-pop avalanche has made contact. It’s hard to successfully pull off a song that makes such dynamic use of space—especially within the format Penelope Isles is used to—but they pull it off with the effortless brilliance of bands like Grizzly Bear or Beach House.

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Almost all records are a snapshot, a musical ribbon bow that documents a very specific moment in time or simply ties-off everything up to that point. Indigo De Souza’s “I Love My Mom”, her debut LP initially released in 2018, was the latter; a collection of the best songs she’d written in the few years that preceded it, recorded quickly and breathlessly and thrown out into the world.

Consisting of ten songs, “I Love My Mom” feels both raw and unabashed. Indigo pulled a band together for the first time, and was quickly encouraged to commit her songs to tape. Recorded at her friend’s house, they played almost everything live in just a few days, and released the record naturally, with little fanfare. That the record quickly took on a life of its own, deeply resonating with those who heard it, is a testament to Indigo’s song writing which took inspiration from the unique worlds created by Arthur Russel, Sparklehorse, The Microphones, as well as contemporaries such as LVL UP and Happyness.

Two of the songs have racked up more than a million streams each on Spotify: “Take O Ur Pants” and “How I Get Myself Killed.” The former balances an often breezy lead vocal with gnarly undercurrents of guitar before the whole thing lets rip in its punchy chorus, while the latter, the album’s opening track, finds a different mood entirely, a slacker rock gem that repeats its chorus as a chest-beating mantra.

Elsewhere, “Good Heart” furthers the dichotomy which sits at the record’s core, each moment of quiet introspection soon met by a cacophonous burst of energy.

Indigo De Souza under exclusive license to Saddle Creek Records