Treasures: The Chills ‘Pink Frost’

The Chills ‘Pink Frost’ is almost definitely not about cake

Sat at home one night recently, I hit upon the very clever idea of making a playlist of my favourite songs for the walk to work. Pretty innovative, I know. I reasoned that listening to tracks I treasure, rather than have to review, might get my days off to a better start. Four hours and about 250 songs later (I shit you not) it was done. What was at the top? ‘Pink Frost’ by The Chills.

It throws you a curveball (baseball analogy from an Englishman, oh dear) this one – everything’s all happy bunnies and sunshine lollipops to begin with and then from nowhere it dives into a completely gut-wrenching guitar line. It’s nostalgic, paranoid, brutally honest and in it’s own way very beautiful.

Favourite song ever? Fuck knows, it changes with the wind.

The Chills 'Pink Frost'

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New Band: Whales In Cubicles

Whales In Cubicles are exactly as awesome as their name would suggest

Check these chaps out, they’re the second new band I’ve heard through Track In The Box (the other being Sunderbans) and, although they occasionally have some questionable offerings, Whales In Cubicles more than make up for the duds. As evidenced by the track below ‘100 Years Of Solitary Franchising’.

They’re taking the best bits of ‘Fracture’-era (as in the zine) UK punk rock, Future Of The Left and Queens Of The Stone Age and and mashing it in your face like a school bully with yellow snow…

Check out this video in which they have subtly super-imposed TVs for their heads. Why haven’t YOU made a video in which you’ve super-imposed a rear-projection TV for your head? Because YOU’RE not as awesome as Whales In Cubicles, that’s why.

Whales In Cubicles

New Band: Sunderbans

Sunderbans have infected my head with their ‘Road Kill’ song

This is a post about a new band called Sunderbans and their song ‘Road Kill’. There you go SEO bods, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Anyways, considering how popular The National are right now (not that they haven’t earned it) and how, if you think about it, they’re a very English sounding band, it’s surprising that more Angles haven’t tried to pick up the idea of morbidly melodic indie rock and run with it in a quirky way. Like on ‘Chariots Of Fire’.

This is where that band I mentioned, Sunderbans, come in. It’s not just The National though, there are bits of Joy Division and Bon Iver in there as well. ‘Road Kill’ in particular has got its talons in me. It’s beautifully morbid and yet somehow  uplifting and  it won’t leave my head. Possibly unofficial video below.

Sunderbans 'Road Kill'

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

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

Interview: The Leisure Society Nick Hemming

Interview: Nick Hemming Of The Leisure Society

Since they released their debut single, ‘The Last Of The Melting Snow’, last December The Leisure Society have been on a bit of rock ‘n’ roll rollercoaster, or perhaps a fragile indie-pop rollercoaster. Whether it’s gaining celebrity endorsees in the likes of Elbow man Guy Garvey, being whisked from your factory job to The Ivy, or being plucked from obscurity by that fateful Ivor Novello nomination. Yes, in the words of huggable poprechaun Ronan Keating, “You’ve just got to ride it.”

And ride it they have. Amiable frontman Nick Hemming would be the last person to brag about his life thus far, so Rivmixx has taken it upon itself to present this tale of ups, downs and further ups.

Speaking on the phone following the completion of a tour with one of The Leisure Society‘s many sister-bands, Shoreline, Hemming is apparently a tad bleary-eyed. However, despite having quit his much-publicised day-job, the humble singer is not yet beyond a pre-noon interview. What’s more surprising is that he still hasn’t tired of his Novello nomination war stories and nor should he be,

“It was just such an amazing thing to happen, it totally changed my life, so I’m happy to talk about it as much as people want to,” says Hemming. “It was an interesting, totally surreal experience, the whole thing, especially when they first announced it and all the press went crazy. There were film cameras coming in to where I was working.”

Strangely, the fact that Hemming had a day-job at the time of his band’s Novello nomination has been treated by a press – who seem to have forgotten that some musicians don’t just get signed on the strength of their page impressions – to be the exception to the rule. The singer has a refreshing sense of perspective though,

“It definitely helped me creatively – it was always jobs that I didn’t particularly enjoy – but at the same time it allowed me space to think about songwriting and it gave me something to strive for. Now I find that it’s very different because I think, ‘Right, I’m a songwriter now – this is what I’ve got to do today.’ It’s a lot of pressure, which isn’t a good way to be creative.”

Fortunately, the man has a back-up plan, “We’ll see how it goes,” he says. “I’ve got most of the next album written now anyway, so if I get writer’s block then I’ll have to just take a part-time job in a warehouse or something.”

Despite the apparently “bizarre and embarrassing” coverage of his factory worker plucked from obscurity rags to (critical) riches story, Hemming wouldn’t change a thing. “The publicity we got from it was just fantastic,” he says. “Because we’d done it all ourselves and had no money, we couldn’t have asked for anything more really.”

The group are not without their celebrity admirers either, rival Ivor Novello nominee and eventual winner of the 2009 award, Guy Garvey of Elbow, has been a staunch supporter of the group from day one –  something the band are extremely thankful for. “He was just amazing,” says a still slightly flabbergasted Hemming. “He’s such a lovely guy. When they won, the first thing he talked about when he came out to do his interviews was that he thought ‘Melting Snow’ should have won.”

The Novellos of course brought a great deal of interest to the self-funded, run and recorded Leisure Society, but the various member’s long-slogs and an independent streak meant that the band have maintained, in their own words, “a healthy scepticism” of the record industry. In the end the group opted for a friendly face, that of Full Time Hobby founder Nigel Adams.

The group are still without a manager, though, preferring to remain hands-on, but their relationship with their recently acquired label seems to be an extremely healthy one and the group are slowly accepting the fact that a record label can be a good thing. “It’s just nice to have lots of people help us out really,” explains Hemming. “It’s just fantastic because, at the end of the day, we don’t want to sell-out, but we do want lots of people to hear our music.”

Still, things look to be going in the right direction now and The Leisure Society have exciting times ahead, not least in the recording of the new album, “My favourite bit of music really is the recording/creative processs,” enthuses the songwriter. “I’m just really eager to get back into that again.”

In addition, the months on the road over the summer have helped to cement this one-time studio project into a cohesive unit, “It’s really changed the dynamic of the sound, so I think it’s going to be more collaborative arrangement-wise. It won’t just be people coming in and getting told ‘Play this, play that.’ I think it’s going to be a much bigger sounding album as well, probably with a bit more of an edge to it.”

“Within the next couple of weeks we’ll hopefully have started the second album,” says Hemming, clearly ready to try and top his previous year. “We’re aiming to have it ready for next summer so we can start touring again and begin the cycle again.”

Whilst the future is indeed looking just peachy, The Leisure Society, as part of the Brighton-based Willkommen Collective – a group of talented folk-pop musicians who all feature in each other’s bands – are keeping their feet on the ground. “Obviously,” admits Nick, “We’re taking up a lot of time with The Leisure Society at the moment, so it is tough, but I’m trying to make sure that I don’t just leave the other bands and concentrate on The Leisure Society because I owe them a lot.”

Having said that, Hemming guiltily reveals that the ‘Collective – of which the aforementioned Shoreline are a regular feature – are putting together a new release in which all the various bands cover songs from ‘The Sleeper’, Hemming and Co.’s acclaimed debut. Therefore, it would seem, that the respect is mutual.

It’s nice to see someone deserving gain recognition, though, and the songwriter can now look his old friends, ‘This Is England’ director Shane Meadows and actor Paddy Considine, in the eyes knowing he has found acclaim in his own chosen creative path.

That said, Hemming still looks upon their shared adolescence with a friendly nostalgia. “That was a really formative period of my life really,” he states coyly. “Shane introduced me to all kinds of debauchery. He was a bit more experienced and he’d seen and done a lot, so he kind of opened our eyes to a lot of things. Some good,” he pauses briefly. “And some not so good.

“From that point I just used to skive off and go and play with the band every day and it was really inspirational. Paddy and Shane are just such crazy characters, just so much energy, particularly Shane.”

Rivmixx can’t help but wonder if there’s something in the water in their shared home town, Burton-on-Trent, or if the trio just happen to have a shared sense of determination. “I don’t know,” he hums pensively, “Because they had that determination and I really didn’t, I was a lot more insular.”

Considine and Meadows’ creative energy was put to good use early on in one of Hemming’s first musical incarnations, She Talks To Angels. “We had this really crap band,” he states flatly. “But Shane would just phone up record companies and stuff and just arrange things. He just had so much energy to do all that, whereas I was more inclined to just sit back.”

Fortunately, the Burton trinity are still in touch, not only that, but they’re still working together. Hemming even reveals that, as he did with ‘Room For Romeo Brass’ and ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’, he’s co-written a song for Meadow’s new film, ‘Le Donk And Scor-Zay-Zee’.

Starring Considine, it’s based on a local character that the three budding musicians met back home  “who used to manage bands and stuff” and it’s been evoking frequent comparisons to Steve Coogan‘s ‘Saxondale’. However, according to Hemming it’s Coogan who is indebted to Meadows,

“Funnily enough, this Le Donk character has been around for years,” he is keen to explain. “They did some shorts and Paddy showed them to Steve Coogan about eight years ago when he was doing ’24 Hour Party People’, so I think Steve Coogan got a few ideas from that.”

Rivmixx is shocked and appalled, but that’s showbiz and having taken 18 years to get this far, Hemming and co. are enjoying it whilst it lasts.

Matt Parker

Written for Rivmixx