Category Archives: Reviews

Live Review: Frankie & The Heartstrings @ The Louisiana, Bristol 16/04/10

Live Review: Frankie & The Heartstrings @ The Louisiana, Bristol 16/04/10

First off, it’s nearing the end of April, so I should probably wish you – the internet at large – a happy new year. Happy new year, how was the first third of it? Yes, it’s been that long already. And you’re still fat.

I was fortunate enough to catch Frankie & The Heartstrings last Friday. Well, I say ‘fortunate’, I tracked down their PR, told her that I loved this band in particular, and she duly pointed out that they were appearing in Bristol the following evening – a fact I was well aware of… I harbour a manipulative genius of Machiavellian proportions.

When we arrived the sound-man was looking at his board with confusion and the support band were standing languidly at the bar, by the time they had got the problems fixed and hit the stage, things were running about 30/45 minutes late. Fitness Club Fiasco (the aforementioned languid standers), were fairly splendid. They make a nice electro-twee-pop in the vein of Tilly and the Wall and all those groups that sprung up about four years ago. They did it well and they had a big crowd and they seemed super-confident, if already a bit dated.

By the time they were finished and Frankie finally made it to the stage, the room was inexplicably half-empty. Apparently, ‘the next big thing’ is no longer ‘the next big thing’, now it’s some kind of ludicrously ‘small thing’.

Frankie & The Heartstrings were fantastic, it took a while for the audience to warm up and for a while it was just me – the twat in the middle of the room – and charismatic frontman Frankie bopping our heads. Personally, I didn’t understand how any could fail to be turned on, his eyes were wide, his expressions desperate and his songs (‘Fragile‘, ‘Tender‘, ‘Possibilities‘, ‘Hunger‘ – that I can remember) brilliantly crafted. Yeah they’re kind of like Orange Juice, but they’ve also got that foil-packed freshness found in Motown soul and that Northern wit found in (some of) The Smiths.

Thanks to the tardy support I had to cut out early to catch my train, which felt like I was skipping out on an early ‘Pistols gig and missing something special. Still there’s always the next shows, when they’re bored and less communicative and generally ‘on the up’, to look forward to.

Following the gig, Frankie & The Heartstrings signed to Wichita for a three album deal. I sent them a tweet. They didn’t reply.

P-fucking-S. On my annoyingly-early mid-gig exit, guess who I saw chilling downstairs with half of audience? The shitting support band. Who the fuck doesn’t watch the band that’s driven across half the country, and asked you – in your hometown – to support a show that’s going to have every iPhone-tapping industry knob (me included) in the area attending? Twats. That’s who.

Frankie And The Heartstrings live review

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Album Review: Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

Mumford coverAlbum Review: Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More [Favourite Gentlemen]

London folk outfit Mumford & Sons (so called after lead-man Marcus Mumford, though Rivmixx is fairly sure his band-mates are not his sons) cut their teeth as the Mercury-nominee Laura Marling‘s backing band.

This, their debut album, sees the group emerge from the Marling’s formidable shadow and pull together a surprisingly cohesive collection of well-crafted, delightfully melodic folk-pop gems. Whereas the group’s nearest contemporaries (the excellent Johnny Flynn etc.) are still plying their trade in the occasionally quagmire-ish folk scene, Mumford & Sons seem to have succeeded in achieving that folk holy grail – appealing to both the NME crowd and the bearded jumper-wearers.

In some ways this is slightly baffling – Flynn and Marling are both superb song-writers and all three folkies have embraced the gleaming production that can also be found on ‘Sigh No More’. However, Mumford have found a way to work pop hooks and a rock ‘n’ roll edge into their music without betraying the purists. It also helps that they sing mainly about affairs of the heart as opposed to dancing a jig on St. Swithin’s days.

Instead what we’re offered is a cosy, winter-ready collection of intimate ballads and glowing sing-alongs with “an edge” ™. Lead single, ‘Little Lion Man’ – a guilt-wracked, Pogues-esque anthem of admission – brings folk song crashing into the 21st century, ‘The Cave’ strays into indie territory, all catchy hooks and twanging guitars, before a banjo fantastically eradicates such initial conceptions. There are quieter moments to be had too, ‘I Gave You All’ echoes with introspective nights spent indoors before building into a desperate monster of a tune.

Fortunately, all this regret has not been allowed to cast a gloomy shadow over ‘Sigh No More’ and it’s much more of a joyously cathartic record than the lyrical content would initially suggest. Wrap up warm, dig out your chapsticks and worm your headphones around your complicated coat-scarf arrangement.

Matt Parker

Available now.

Written for Rivmixx

Album Review: Kings Of Convenience – Declaration Of Dependence

KOC cover

Album Review: Kings Of Convenience – Declaration Of Dependence [Source]

For this, their third studio album, Norway’s Kings Of Convenience show little innovation in terms of instrumentation, production technique or atmospherics. What the duo have developed though, is their songwriting method.

Whilst their first two studio efforts, 2001’s ‘Quiet Is The New Loud’ and 2004’s ‘Riot On An Empty Street’, left this reviewer feeling a little cold and what’s more, a little bored, ‘Declaration Of Dependence’ is a very different affair. At first listen the differences are barely discernible – a small guitar hook, a Parisian cello – but the album immediately feels far more accessible than its forebears.

To this end, tracks like lead single ‘Boat Behind’ reveal hidden depths (no pun intended). Whilst in lyrical content it’s fairly standard KOC fare (themselves, the fairer sex and their respective mistakes), melodically, the song feels far superior to much of the pair’s previous recordings, immediately reeling in the listener with it’s dual sense of intrigue and loss.

‘Mrs Cold’, in contrast, wags a knowing finger at a one-time lover, whilst bouncing along to a subtly Jack Johnson-inflected acoustic bossa nova.

Kings of Convenience are never going to win any prizes for innovation with ‘Declaration Of Dependence’, but what they have done is produce a collection of quietly crafted, tranquil pop tunes. It sounds like the album they’ve been trying to create for the last eight years and it is one that cements their position as masters of their own secret corner of pop music. It should do too – it’s taken five years…

Matt Parker

Available now

Written for Rivmixx

Album Review: Yacht – See Mystery Lights

YACHT coverAlbum Review: Yacht – See Mystery Lights [DFA]

Portland electro duo YACHT (they like their capitals) first caught Rivmixx’s eye when they ably filled the support slot on Patrick Wolf‘s pre ‘Bachelor’ tour. Exuding a confidence rarely found in supporting artists, the duo – who bare more than a passing resemblance to the Eurythmics – were ably blasting out choice electro-pop cuts, much to the delight of the assembled Wolf pack.

On ‘See Mystery Lights’ Yacht have graduated from Jona Bechtolt‘s solo bedroom project into a charismatic pop juggernaut. The duo seem to specialise in marrying state of the art sampling and programming with ’80s production techniques and, as a result, come across like Midnight Oil covering Kraftwerk.

Delighting in challenging and cheerfully goading preconceptions of life, death and religion, tunes such as ‘Psychic City (Voodoo City)’ see YACHT at their best, deftly combining intelligent lyrics with disco hooks and pop harmonies. In addition, ‘Summer Song’ is not short on charm and the dreamy production touches conjure up images of simmering traffic jams, paddling pools and stifling city nights.

As is often the case with dance-influenced indie artists, some of the tracks don’t translate well to home listening. However, these are often the same tracks that keep an audience moving in a live situation and that’s where YACHT really shine.

Matt Parker

Available now.

Written for Rivmixx

Album Review: Fanfarlo – Reservoir

fanfarlo coverAlbum Review: Fanfarlo – Reservoir [Fanfarlo]

As you may have guessed from the use of their name, both as their band and label moniker, Fanfarlo are a group that likes to go it alone. Having flirted with various indie labels, the melodic pop-folk collective realised that they were to be offered little more expertise than they were capable of providing themselves. Thus, ‘Reservoir’ their highly anticipated debut, has, like most of the significant moments of their career, become an in-house production.

When Rivmixx says in-house, we of course mean in America, with inveterate indie producer Peter Katis – the man responsible for The National’s ‘Alligator’ and Interpol’s ‘Antics’. As you would expect, Katis’ production touches are evident all over ‘Reservoir’. Spacious yet intimate, it’s a credit to both band and engineer that Fanfarlo’s deceptively complex and lushly melodic arrangements are given room to shine without feeling overcrowded.

Perhaps it’s their diverse geographic background (members hail from Belgium, England and Sweden), but the group seem to have hit upon a sound that is of everywhere and nowhere.

The sextet (hehe) are currently fresh from a stateside tour, where ironically, considering the spate of US bands breaking the UK, the group seem to fare better. In fact, that North American indie-folk eclecticism, so evident in the likes of the Arcade Fire and Beirut, is a good reference point for Fanfarlo’s particular brand of pop music.

The group also harbour something of the same talent as those aforementioned groups in writing intelligent, thoughtful and catchy songs (see ‘Drowning Men’). Fortunately, what they don’t share with those bands is the tendency to enter dirge territory – Fanfarlo provide a decidedly happier, more philosophical affair; ‘The Walls Are Coming Down’, in particular, is far more joyous than anything you will find on either of the Arcade Fire’s efforts.

Overall, ‘Reservoir’ is a strong and focussed debut, Rivmixx is just slightly shocked that it’s come out of our own pleasant land. We suggest you catch them now, before they head off to greener pastures.

Matt Parker

Available now.

Written for Rivmixx

Album Review: The Stupids – The Kids Don’t Like It

stupids coverAlbum Review: The Stupids – The Kids Don’t Like It [Boss Tuneage]

Influential 80s punks, The Stupids, latest album – their first for 21 years – has created something of a nostalgia trip for this reviewer. It seems they are responsible for creating much of the music that inspired Rivmixx to put hand to keyboard.

For a start, the album’s out on Boss Tuneage – a label which nurtured this reviewer through his wilderness years. The group’s one-time bassist (Wolfie Retard) is a member of DIY pop-punk outfit Lovejunk – who had the privilege of being this writer’s first interviewees. On top of this drummer/song-writer Tom Withers now produces DnB and techno under the name Klute and is responsible for ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ – this writer’s favourite DnB tune.

Nostalgia and coincidence aside, Rivmixx had to question the validity of a reformed Stupids. Punk, generally, is a young person’s game after all and the unique combination of righteous anger, high tempos and a dash of idiocy are generally the special reserve of the teenager.

Fortunately though, The Stupids seem to have neatly side-stepped the whole problem, by simply refusing to grow up. The guitar sound is still blistering and the vocals are still snarling, the only thing that’s matured is the songwriting.

Rarely breaking the two minute mark, ‘The Kids Don’t Like It’ is a mile-a-minute fusion of Jawbreaker, Husker Du and early ’80s American hardcore. Some songs are cranked up a notch and rely more heavily on the latter of those reference points, creeping closer to the sound of their early albums – ‘Middle Aged Punk’, in particular, springs to mind.

This band made NME covers and toured Australia and the US in their day, since then though, their achievements and influence have remained largely unsung. Hopefully, this modest gem of a record will bring the collective the recognition that they deserve. A must for any self-respecting punk/DIY fan.

Matt Parker

Available now.

Written for Rivmixx

Album Review: Crocodiles – Summer Of Hate

big_8edfef83d1d4c98937c221d86e498c6fAlbum Review: Crocodiles – Summer Of Hate [Fat Possum]

Crocodiles write the kind of music that the internet has a massive jones for right now. They take traditional ’60s pop song structures and chord sequences, lay a bunch of lyrics about alienation over the top and feed the whole thing through an old analogue distortion pedal marked ‘The Destructonator’.

Like label-mates and contemporary noise-poppers Wavves, Crocodiles have a background in the punk scene and the angry young man inside their heads is clearly not going quietly. The result of this is a delightful mix of crystaline distortion, pop hooks and hours spent seething over teenage sufferings.

This might sound familiar to any one that was around in the ’80s and not vomiting and s**tting oneself (I am of course referring to early childhood, not the festival season). ‘Summer Of Hate’ positively reeks of the Jesus and Mary Chain, so much so you can smell the hairspray, but such is the style these days (Glasvegas anyone?) and Crocodiles do pull it off very well.

‘I Wanna Kill’ is likely to be the first song most people will hear from this band and it is probably the closest the band have got to achieving the sound that they have stored in their carefully back-combed heads. As the first proper song of the album, it sets things off to a strong start with an infectious chorus and a driving ’80s drum-beat. In contrast, ‘Sleeping With The Lord’ is a blissful meditation in gated-synth form, the obscured vocals just poking through enough to engender a general sense of wasted euphoria and hint at an underlying melancholy.

Title track ‘Summer Of Hate’ deftly erases any air of self-indulgence and its pounding drums and confident, melodic guitar lines lend it an almost Oasis-like swagger. Rest assured though, we’re way out of Gallagher territory here, instead, Crocodiles have crafted a collection of intelligent fuzz-pop tunes that aren’t afraid to deliver the hooks, yet don’t use them as a crutch. We are going to hear a lot more of this, as the whole dark-pop-shoe-gaze thing slowly replaces the post-Libertines indie-landscape as ‘the norm’, and there will be a lot of terrible bands come out of it, but for now lets just bask in the light of the new originators.

Matt Parker

Available now.

Written for Rivmixx.