Heading to the Academy 2 on a chilly wintery Mancunian night was quite apt for my first foray into the World of Stornoway. They’re a bunch of simple straightforward outdoor loving lads, along the lines of British Sea Power visually, a less 80s sounding Mystery Jets, with conservational leanings and literary minds. The latest album Beachcomber’s Windowsill (May 2010) has been going down an absolute storm with the critics, and the band only signed to 4AD label in March this year, despite having been on the circuit for some time.
Embarking on an end of year tour of the UK, USA and Australia, the band of Oxford lads have a brand of what you could call folk (or could you?), with songs carefully balanced between pretty harmonies, and energetic, brass filled melodies.
Songs like the latest single I Saw You Blink (which has actually been around since 2006!) have a nice pop melody, the more commercial side of their writings. Zorbing (first single, 2009) and Unfaithful (single, 2009) remain at the upbeat side, but things like Boats And Trains dragged a little being quite slow, and even with the addition of a piano piece was a little flatter than the likes of Watching Birds, which has a nice heavy riff. There I go being a rock chick again.
Other songs included We Are The Battery, End Of The Movie, and The Cold Harbour Road with a beautiful violin intro, and Fuel Up again with a folky intro on what I think was a lute of all things!
Labelled earlier this year as Britain’s most exciting nu-folk band (The Times Online), the freshly coined genre that has been circling for some years now, Stornoway have never really broken through to the mainstream as much as others such as Mumford & Sons, Noah & The Whale. But now it’s a sound that’s becoming more familiar and it’s becoming impossible not to love the magical, mystical folk songs they make, even for the most hardened dark-rock chick.
Live, the band have great vocal clarity and are good musicians, and if you love this kind of music you’ll love them. Having been hailed by some teen mags as ‘cute’ etc etc, they weren’t too bad on the eye either. Have a look at their website as well, it’s beautiful.
It’s all in the name really – Casiotone; melancholy keyboard music, For The Painfully Alone; simple, bedroom-made songs full of love, longing and life as a shy and retiring individual.
After thirteen years ‘being’ Casiotone, Owen Ashworth is calling it a day. This is the last tour of the CFTPA songs, his final ever gig being on 5th December this year (the thirteenth anniversary of his first ever gig), and from what can be seen from the turnout at the Deaf Institute, he will be sorely missed.
Never having experienced CFTPA before, listening to the basic clunky sounds took a while to get used to - more of that chip-tune nonsense, not very musically adept, all on top of a great but pre-recorded bassline…
Half way through the gig, Ashworth’s lyrics began to sink in. Apparently heavily reliant on The Smiths (quite obviously in Toby Take A Bow), he builds empathetic and strangely alluring songs, which poetically are quite wonderful. The simple keyboard sounds and his fumbling around the various pieces drum machines and devices wired together in front of him becomes endearing, and on stage it all has a feel of a modern more pop Silver Apples.
Songs from seven albums, nine E.Ps and numerous collaborations are squeezed into just over an hour’s set, with Ashworth’s minimal melodies and heavy chords becoming less tedious than initially felt. It’s still all quite twee, and the most avid fans seem to be female students who’ve probably not been around for even half of the years that CFTPA have and look the sort to still have bunny rabbit bead spreads. But there are more knowledgeable and avid fans in the crowd, people who have become more absorbed in the poetic side of Ashworth’s work, and appreciate the lyricism rather than the pretty-pretty jingles on the keyboards.
Here’s wondering what the next project will sound like… hopefully he’s a happier chap after all this time, and will have a different viewpoint on life to write about other than loneliness.
There’s something to be said about originality, but there’s also a lot to be said the the resurgence in soul and garage music, with the likes of Aloe Blacc popping up, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings touring again, and The Rascals’ Miles Kane pushing his solo career sounding and looking just like a 60s throw-back.
With obvious twangs of Love, The Byrds as well as Pop Levi and The Zutons, Kelley Stoltz’s new album To Dreamers sounds like something you could have picked straight off the ‘classics’ shelf at King Bee Records.
Full of straightforward songwriting, with a focus on poetic lyrics and harmonies rather than fancy guitar parts, the songs are full of simple 60s garage style guitar up-stroke riffs, violin, organ and sax.
The intro to the first track ‘Rock n Roll With Me’ sounds suspiciously like the intro to Love’s ‘My Flash On You’, and as the album progresses through the flutes of ‘Pinecone’ (a dreamy folky number) these retro similarities are scattered throughout. Upbeat ‘Keeping The Flame’ would sit nicely alongside the sounds from new acts like The Soundcarriers or The Superimposers, whilst ‘Fire Escape’ is more of a straightforward stomp, a little like The Jam, with some odd psychedelic sounds over laid here and there.
Sounding again like something you’ve definitely heard before the slightly slower paced, ‘I Remember, You Were Wild’ shows Stoltz’s lovely poetic lyrics, about daydreaming and memories, and following this pace is ‘Ventriloquist’ which sadly does get a little plodding and snoozy. Another Love-a-like intro is on ‘Baby I Got News For You’ which is full of fuzzy bass and some guitar parts that go beyond strumming - I think I spotted a speedy chord change in the middle.
‘Little Girl’ is full of typical garage riffs and reverb, as well as a very Bruce Foxton type bassline, with ‘I Don’t Get That’ having more 60s up-stroke strumming and lyrical harmonies. A sudden upbeat outburst of sax and hand-clapping pops up with ‘I Like, I Like’, if you liked Pop Levi and The Zutons this is for you. Down on the musical rollercoaster again to a ballad type track, ‘August’ which just wasn’t musically inventive enough to keep me occupied in a downbeat song.
‘Love Let Me In Again’ with piano and brass is again a bit Zutons-y but more middle-of-the-road pop than the rest of the album, and the final song ‘Bottle Up’ has some prominent vintage guitar sounds on middle eigth solo, finishing the album in slow and ballad-like mood.
It’s hard to ascertain whether an album which leans so heavily on already heard sounds is good or not; do you give it some acclaim for sounding as good as the favoured acts from the past have, or do you slate it for not being original…?
That huge debate aside, this is a really nice album to listen to. It peaks and troughs in tempo like a rollercoaster, and some songs are definitely not as strong as others, but this eighth album from Stoltz keeps the retro faith and those psychedelic San Fran sounds strong.
I love that Jagger looks like a giddy schoolkid when faced with the nonchalant James Brown. Fantastic.
Having always been a rocker at heart, the whole hip-hop/metal crossover thing has gone against every musical bone in my body, and I’m not the only one of my ilk who has had such a strong judgement on that. Hip-hop has beats, metal has riffs, and ne’er the twain shall meet.
That theory has kind of been proven wrong though. Seeing Deftones at Download Festival earlier this year soon changed my mind… And by a band whose name was created to exemplify the cross over of styles they have; ‘Def’ as in hip-hop beats, ‘Tones’ as in rock n roll rhythm.
Their set before Rage Against The Machine’s much awaited headline slot in June was mind-blowing, there’s no other way of putting it, and their show at the Apollo on Sunday was no different, other than the fact that we were inside instead of in a field of course.
With the stage surrounded by strobe lighting, perfectly synchronised to the songs, DJ Frank Delgado and drummer Abe Cunningham were set on lit platforms, whilst Chino Moreno had a running bench across the front of the stage to elevate him way above the crowd. Perfect for jumping and throwing himself off at every explosive drop.
The set started with Rocket Skates from the new album Diamond Eyes, went straight into four songs from the highly acclaimed Around The Fur album from ’97, including the amazing Be Quiet & Drive, then four more from third album White Pony (2000), which went down more than well with the crowd, the crazy circle pit was the full width of the stalls. These Californian boys know how to make the fans enjoy what they’re there to enjoy, and they’ve tailor-made sets for each night of the tour to gain maximum response at every turn.
The band went on to work their way through all but three songs from their latest long player including the title track, which despite crunching guitars and thundering drums sounds quite like a love song, but with a few screams thrown here and there for good effect in the live show. With small solos from Delgado and Cunningham, and brawny basslines from Sergio Vega, there wasn’t much to fault at this show at all. They even ended with an encore of songs from their first ever album Adrenaline (1995).
Duly converted. Thanks Chino – it’s become clear why the whole place was chanting your name at every opportunity. Get to see them as soon as you can, although with 22 years in the business, it still doesn’t look like they’ve any sign of slowing down.