Tag Archive: Allo Darlin’


If you missed part one, ’tis here.

Allo Darlin’ (London, UK)

Following a string of well-loved singles with an album that has proven to be a favorite of indie pop fans across the world, Allo Darlin’ have been winning hearts everywhere they go, all the while making ukulele-fronted pop bands sexy again. The future is looking bright for Elizabeth Morris and company, especially with the backing of a stellar label like FortunaPop who hit it big in 2009 with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Don’t be surprised to see a similar surge for Allo Darlin’ in the coming year. And if you haven’t bought their album yet, you really ought to give it a go.

The Lighthouse and the Whaler (Cleveland, Ohio)

These lads from Cleveland spent considerable time building a following all over the eastern half of the US before making their debut in the state capitol with The Black Atlantic back in October to a Wednesday evening record store audience who instantly fell for their own brand of what you might call melodic prog-folk. And after watching them return to town just a month later and absolutely killing at their first proper Columbus headline gig to a captive audience at Rumba Cafe, it’s pretty clear that TLATW are a band that have to be seen to be believed. Luckily, their debut LP is an equally solid performance. So download ‘White Days’ for free here, then go out and buy the rest of it. And if you can, catch them live. They’ll be at SXSW and numerous other places, no doubt, as their stock continues to rise.

Download: The Lighthouse and the Whaler – ‘White Days’ [mp3]

My Gold Mask (Chicago, Illinois)

I first heard that My Gold Mask were one of the most exciting bands in Chicago from a sound engineer who I met after he caught me interviewing Emilie Simon at a Starbucks on the North Side. About a year later, an article in the Sun-Times named them among a list of Chicago bands on the verge of blowing up. I have to say, I think they’re right. In 2010, the band released two super-sexy EPs and landed some major support slots, including a few shows with the New Pornographers. Check out the EPs on Bandcamp where you can also download (for free) the remix of ‘Bitches’ by the fabled Hood Internet. And, of course, catch them on tour this spring.

Dimbleby & Capper (London, UK)

Dimbleby & Capper

It seems like I talk about Dimbleby & Capper all the time and, for the most part, it’s true. But I can’t help myself. Since we were first introduced in March of last year, Laura Bettinson has been busy taking D&C from a one woman band to a full-fledged DIY brand with it’s own unique aesthetic. The first single for Tape Records is projected to be released 31 March, hopefully with a full length LP will be in production in the not-too-terribly-distant future. Oh, and did I mention that Laura also happens to be working on a project with producer Nigel Godrich (producer for Radiohead)?

Islet (Cardiff, UK)

You’d be hard-pressed to find any official information about Islet anywhere on the internets, and that is because, antithetical to yours truly, they do not exist online. Anywhere. But they’ve building an enthusiastic following based solely on their near-legendary local live shows around the small but wicked-talented Cardiff scene, selling out of their first album and no doubt approaching capacity on the second (the first purchase I made on my first ever visit to Wales). And honestly, with a reputation like that, who needs a website? Grab one of their records while you can. You’ll be hearing from them again. (And again. And again . . .)

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Best of 2010: Albums and EPs

I feel as if I’ve read through innumerable Best Of lists this month, as, I suspect, do you (especially if you’ve managed to make it far enough down your googling results to reach my little bit webspace). And, as is usually the case, most of them probably read as a tidy summation of what began the year as the most anticipated releases of 2010 with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. But, as hard as I try, no list I can pull together could hope to effectively encapsulate the music of 2010. Of course, there are the usual gaps in my listening, as there are with anyone. But, more importantly, I think the legacy of this past year, at least in my experience, will be an idea. ‘Beauty is back‘.

With it’s near-flawless litany of releases, the genre-bending and earth-shattering work of New Amsterdam Records is proof enough that beauty is a priority once again. But add to that the utter sweetness of The Secret Sisters, rampant sexual tension of Bitter Ruin, the raw power of My Gold Mask and Dimbleby & Capper, and the sheer joy of Super Desserts and Allo Darlin’, and our rediscovery of the visceral impact of technique and execution is impossible to ignore.

I haven’t ranked the albums and EPs on this list. Their very appearance here will attest to my attachment to them (if you want more details—well, that’s what the rest of this blog is for). Still, despite the ironic egalitarianism of my Best Ofs, there is one album which stands out in my mind as the landmark achievement of 2010. This one.

Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’

Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love [review]

Bitter Ruin – Hung, Drawn, and Quartered [interview]

Dimbleby & Capper – Slick Maturity [more info]

Hooray For EarthMomo

Ivan MoultThe Mine Canary [review]

My Gold Mask – A Million Miles (From Where We Were Last)

Public Service Broadcasting – EP One

The SchoolLoveless Unbeliever [review] [interview]

The Secret SistersThe Secret Sisters

Sarah Kirkland Snider (feat. Shara Worden and Signal) – Penelope [review]

Super Desserts – Twee As Folk [review]

VictoireCathedral City [review]

Best Songs of 2010

It’s that time of year again: the time when I bombard you with list after list of my favourite musical bits of 2010. At first, I thought I might rank them like everybody else does, but I’m too in love with everything on this list to choose any one song over any other. Likewise, I reserve the right to add to this list for at least the next week. For example, in the last 10 minutes, I have realised that I had neglected to include two songs I was absolutely mad about for most of the summer (my sincerest apologies to IDRchitecture and Polarsets). No worries, though, I’ll notify the intarwebs of any amendments to this list.

So, here you go. In no particular order (well, in pseudo-alphabetical order), my favourite songs of 2010.

[Links to streaming tracks, videos, official sites, and any posts I’ve already written are provided wherever possible.]

Allo Darlin’ – “My Heart Is a Drummer” [bandcamp]

Belle & Sebastian – “I Want the World to Stop” [video] [review]

Dimbleby & Capper – “Black Smoke/ Burning House” [bandcamp] [interview] [interview part 2]

Dimbleby & Capper – “Raise It Right” [soundcloud]

Dimbleby & Capper – “Want This”  [download]

IDRchitecture – “Mortimer” [free download] [website]

Math and Physics Club – “We’re So DIY” [youtube] [website] [review]

Ivan Moult – “Fetch Me a Bucket” [video] [myspace] [review]

Polarsets – “Leave Argentina” [bandcamp]

Public Service Broadcasting – “New Dimensions in Sound” [download] [bandcamp]

Secret Sisters – “Big River” [Third Man Records page]

Sarah Kirkland Snider – “Circe and the Hanged Man” [bandcamp] [album] [website] [review]

Super Desserts – “I Only Love You Because You Can Play Guitar” [bandcamp] [album] [review]

Super Desserts – “Crush on You” [bandcamp] [album] [review]

Those Dancing Days – “Fuckarias” [mp3] [review]

BONUS: because I failed to place it in it’s proper place in 2009 (and because there is an official video now) . . .

The Black Atlantic – “Fragile Meadow” [bandcamp] [album] [website] [review]

I’ve been known to travel a good distance for the right gig. You may recall that, about five months ago,  I drove 400 miles for an opportunity to finally see Emilie Simon perform. It was easily the farthest I’ve ever traveled for a gig. Until last week.

On 6 March, Indie Handbook favorites The School set off on a tour in support of their long-awaited debut LP, Loveless Unbeliever (Elefant). Despite my best efforts, I was unable to be at the official release show in Cardiff, but I managed to meet up with the band at the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh on Friday the 12th. (More wee and red than it is a bar, the venue is the sort of place you go to hear things before everyone else. Judging by the concert posters covering nearly every available inch of wall space, I’d say it’s a role the relish and fill admirably. It is not the easiest place to find the first time around, but well worth the effort.)

Getting the night off to a psychedelic start was Django Django. Until Friday night, the only Django I was familiar with was the gypsy jazz variety, but if there is any justice in the world, another one will be inducted into the musical vernacular. With captivating energy and song structures and a sound that is as hard to pin down as it is to ignore, it won’t be long before the lads from Django Django assume their rightful place on the throne where the pretender-Kings of Leon now sit.

You may remember Allo Darlin‘s brilliant “Silver Swans in New York City” from Bubblewrap Collective’s 12 Days of Christmas compilation. It was, hands down, one of the best songs of 2009, but you’ve never experienced the dynamic range of a ukulele until you’ve heard Elizabeth and company perform their live set. Long a staple of the twee scene and navel-gazing faux-folksters, the band reclaim it in the name of rock and roll. And they do so with passion and abandon. Don’t believe me? Catch them at SXSW or back in the UK for the final dates of The School’s Loveless Unbeliever tour. My one regret about the show: I got so caught up in talking with one of the band members about Buddy Holly, 3-D movies, and everything in between, that I forgot to pick up a copy of their LP.

Then, of course, there was The School—the reason I scheduled my trip when I did. They’ve gone through some lineup changes in the last year or so, most notably, perhaps, being guitarist Ivan who made only his fourth appearance with the band that night in Edinburgh. I mention this only because, even if you had been there, there is no way you could have known. Yes, perhaps there were one or two hitches over the course of the night (as there are in any live performance—emphasis on the “live”), but most importantly, the spirit of The School came across perfectly intact. That sounds a tad new age-y. Allow me to explain.

If you’ve listened to The School, you know that they have possibly the most innate understanding of the 1960s girl group sound of any band currently active—so much so, that it is not so much a reconstruction of an old style as it is the embodiment and continuation of it. But such a sound is only achieved through intricate orchestration and the vital interplay of melody and harmony, all of which is easy enough to execute in the studio—live performance is another matter entirely. And yet, new as this current lineup may be, it is all there. Common sense says it will only get better, and that is an exciting thought.

Don’t take my word for it, however. The tour is far from over, so those of you in the UK (or headed there this month) really ought to make an effort to get out to one of the remaining dates. In my professional opinion, the London gig on the 27th promises to be especially tight. As a seasoned concert-goer, I can say with complete confidence that last Friday was one of the most memorable performances I’ve ever attended, and worth every one of the 4000 miles I traveled to be there. So what are you waiting for? The remaining dates are posted below. Plan accordingly.

  • 20th Mar – BIRMINGHAM Victoria Inn
  • 22nd Mar – CARDIFF The Gate
  • 27th Mar – LONDON Bush Hall
  • 28th Mar – BRIGHTON Prince Albert
  • 31st Mar – CHELMSFORD Basement

More details about the venues and support acts can be found on the band’s blog. Come out to one of these final dates and see what my friends* can do.

* I say “friends”.  It may not be 100% “Facebook official” (yet), but you know what I mean…

A Switched On Christmas Spectacular

I love Christmas. What’s not to love (even though the fact that half the world celebrates it in the summer kinda freaks me out)? It’s the month leading up to it that I’m not so keen on. Sure, December has its good points, like Starbucks red holiday cups and the incomparable scent of winter (again, with the exception of that freakshow Southern Hemisphere). But, let’s face it, December comes with a lot of crap, too, like traffic, huge crowds, and the incomparable cold of winter (except for you know who). By far, however, the worst facet of the Christmas season is the music. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas music. What I absolutely hate is the effect it has on musicians, namely the “I’m bored, let’s make a Christmas album” attitude. Cases in point: Newsong’s “The Christmas Shoes” and Bob Dylan’s new Christmas album.

No, it’s been a decade since I’ve come across a Christmas album that delivers consistently from start to finish (it was BEC Records’ Happy Christmas volume 1, feat. a young Switchfoot, Starflyer 59, and Five Iron Frenzy, among others). This year, thankfully, has been different. There are a number of promising collections circulating right now. Here are two of them.

The Cardiff-based Bubblewrap Collective has put out a collection that is in some shops this week and ought to be for sale at Rough Trade in London sometime next week. The concept is quite clever, I must say. Twelve artists were given 31 days to write and record a song based on one of the twelve days of Christmas. The result is a varied landscape of often lo-fi, stripped-down indie goodness where ukuleles and glockenspiels (and everything else, really) flourish with an impressive line-up including: The School, Little My, Allo Darlin’, and The Bobby McGees.

Our old friends and Indie Handbook favourites, The School (who are included on a couple of other Christmas comps this season which, if we can get our hands on copies, we will also review for you) have the twelfth day (for those who, like me, don’t have the attention span to make it through the entire song, that’s drummers drumming). And they execute their share of the festivities brilliantly with the handclappy C86 ditty “Drummer Boy”. Brontosaurus Chorus, on “Calling Birds” (that’s the fourth day), manage to pull off what may be the single greatest line in the history of Christmas music: “Christmas is a time for excessive drinking”.

On the lighter side are “Five Golden Rings from the Hi 5 Kings” by The Rocky Nest (including a heartbreaking muted trumpet refrain between otherworldly vocal performances) and Allo Darlin’ with the ukulele-laden “Silver Swans in NYC”. Then there’s the relentlessly charming “Lords Keep Leaping” by Silence at Sea, complete with injected sound effects. I’m going to have to stop myself there, because I’ve got another album to talk about. You’ll just have to check out the other seven days on your own.

Venus Hum’s Switched on Christmas EP (get it here for free) is something completely different from the 12 Days compilation. Rather than a set of entirely new songs, Venus Hum have embraced the spirit of reinterpretation championed by artists like Wendy (née Walter) Carlos on such albums as Switched on Bach and Switched on Brandenburgs. (Once upon a time, the traditionalist in me cringed at the thought of such an atrocity. The post-structuralist in me has since destroyed that aesthetic neophyte.)

Certain tracks on this EP, like “Suzy Snowflake” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” translate naturally into such an electrified idiom. Even before listening, the concept is a welcome change. Ballads like “Silver Bells” also sync easily with the band’s dreamy electropop aesthetic, as a sort of hybrid of their first two albums (though it’s more Big Beautiful Sky than The Colors In the Wheel). On the opener, “Let It Snow”, Annette Strean’s vocals have been assimilated into the network and “switched on” along with a seemingly endless array of computers, synths, and processors to dazzling and (aurally) sparkling effect.

Going in, however, I had my doubts about how even one of my all-time favorite bands would adapt two of my favorite seasonal numbers. There is, of course, the classic “The Christmas Song”, penned by Mel Tormé, immortalized by Nat “King” Cole, here given a tastefully switched on treatment, with a bit of ambient crackling tacked on in the opening for good measure. In the cases of electro-programming wizards Kip Kubin and Tony Miracle, it is their sensitivity and, more importantly, ability to hold back that render “The Christmas Song” not only passable, but one of two “must hear” tracks on the EP. The other being “Silent Night”.

Now, about that “Silent Night”. It’s come a long way since Christmas Eve of 1818 and the debut performance (for voice and guitar) at Nikolaus-Kirche in Oberndorf, Austria. But it’s still one of those songs I prefer un-fooled-around with. Sometimes (ok, oftentimes) it’s easy to question if all of the “progress” we as human beings have made in the last 191 years, has really left us any better off or if we’ve regressed, and those really were the “good old days”. Maybe we really have sucked the world dry of all the beautiful things. Venus Hum’s take on this, perhaps quintessential, musical rendering of the birth of Christ is humbly trippy and sufficiently glitchy (just like we are), but the sound of Annette’s voice floating just over top of it leaves me with the sense (and hope) that there just may be some goodness left in the world.

Sleep in Heavenly peace”? Yes, thank you. I believe I shall.

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