Sunday, 15 December 2013

thegeneral's 2013 Round Up Award Ceremony With Optional Sausage On A Stick - Part Two.

Welcome back my darlings. That was rather a longer advert break then I intended - but I had to hoover the remnants of the ready salted off the rug and refill the kettle before we could commence with part two. It's been all go backstage, I can tell you. I had a huge hissy fit when I realised no-one had pointed out I'd almost done a Judy Finnegan as I presented the last award. I don't think anyone noticed though, and if they did they kept manfully quiet to preserve my dignity (and my raspberries). 

Anyway, here we are, reassembled and ready to go. Have you all done toilets and remembered to wash your hands? I shall be awfully cross if anyone has to leave this blog page to have a wee just as I'm warming up. There's nowt more annoying than getting into your stride and then being thrown off by someone walking past you in a dinner jacket and bermuda shorts. Or was that in my dream about Matt Berninger...? 



Let's plummet on with part two shall we?

Award number six:

Band That Make thegeneral Most Very Excited For New Music In 2014

Arcs and Trauma

This Place That I Love / Lost Spirit cover art

This again, was a very easy choice. Arcs and Trauma have simply rocked my world with their new single. This Place That I Love is a total joy - it's backed with another utter beauty of a song called "Lost Spirit". Both tracks are very different, yet still full of properly rocky, rampant energy and exuberance. Since their initial "2011EP" and the follow up "White To Violet" came out in 2012, they've continued to develop and hone their talent and these two new tracks show just how far they've come and just how far they could go. Hopefully 2014 has great things in store for them - and for their fans too. Thanks for a great end to the year, A&T (oh and also for the T-shirt, which I wear with total pride - and which I did pay for, in case anyone thinks I took a bribe...)

Award number seven:

Solo Artist That Makes thegeneral Feel The Same As For The Above Award But Totally On Their Own And Stuff:

Joe Allan

Joe Allan - September (DEMO)

Lovely lovely Joe. I was totally surprised by his song September, which he sent to me last month to have a listen to. I sometimes feel like a passe old mid-thirtysomething cliche maker when I review young bands and artists and try not to make too many "music's all changed from when I were a lass" comments, but as with Arcs and Trauma, Joe displays a real talent and a maturity in his music that can only improve over the coming year or two. The fact he is just preparing his debut EP for release in 2014 gives me great hope his music will reach a wider audience and that he is recognised for being a really great songwriter and musician. 

Award number eight:

Gramaphone Record That I'm Most Getting My Drawers In A Tangle Over For 2014

Emperor The Stag - Fantasy To Bleak

The Red Admiral's Daughter cover art

When Emperor The Stag sent me their debut album - which is due out in February next year, I listened with relish and feel as though it's going to offer a great musical start to 2014. It's still top secret and hush-hush for now, but I can tell you that it will give so much to the discerning indie fan and really will be a treat to see the Spring in with. I'm hotly tipping both it and the band themselves for GOOD THINGS during the next year and can't wait for everyone to hear what they've come up with. 

Award number nine:

Best Record Label And Band Collaboration That Totes Made Me Go All Emosh And Shit

Tiny Lights Recordings and Tissue Culture

Saint Waleric cover art

Couldn't go to two nicer lots of folks. Just a few weeks ago I blogged about how Tissue Culture had won the Hit The North East and Tiny Lights Recordings Top Twenty Hit List thingy with their song "Satellites". When I played it, I could totally understand why. What you need to do is go over to their bandcamp page and have listen to their EP Saint Waleric and see/hear for yourself. They're a hard working, gutsy, intelligent and thoughtful group and Tiny Lights have really worked hard to bring out the best in them. Just like all the other acts I've featured over the last night or so, they deserve stellar success in the coming months and beyond. Good luck to the finest band of shouty, stroppy bairns there is and thank you to Tiny Lights for bringing some of the best music I've ever heard - not just from TC, but from all the other acts you've helped along the way this year. While the label itself is on a hiatus for the time being - you really should check out what they have to offer because you will not regret it.

Award number ten:

The Really Difficult To Pick Last Award, You Know The One That Includes A Montage On A Video Screen And Features Shots Of Everyone In The Audience Wiping A Solitary Tear Away And Then Checking Themselves Out To See How Good They Look Crying:

Every artist featured on the blog this year

So I know I like a laugh and a joke and to take the piss out of myself quite a lot. I also know that trying to pick ten acts who've really changed the way I think about music in 2013 has been really terribly difficult. The truth is that if I've featured you on here it's because I do genuinely love you and think you've got something to offer my small but perfectly formed readership - so, as cliched as it sounds, you're all winners in my eyes. 
This blog came back from an extended hiatus in August and the first post featured the awesome Kill The Captains with their album "Sounds Mean", it was a fucking brilliant album to stage a return with. In the months that followed I've been lucky to hear some really great EPs and singles from really talented bands like PALACE and Lionhall. thegeneral was also incredibly lucky to witness one of the greatest comebacks in rock history - by going to see the mighty, mighty CUD in Manchester at the start of November, a band for whom it's been a twenty odd year ambition to see and who didn't disappoint. All the bands who've contacted me directly have been a pleasure to work with and a joy to help promote. So I'm hopeful that moving into 2014 I've got plenty more great new music to bring you.

I'm now taking a short break until the new year, to recharge, refresh, reboot and restart my life after what has been a difficult couple of years, but I'll be back and raring to go very soon. In the meantime, thank you to everyone for reading and thank you to the bands I've written about for giving me some music to cling on to when things have been mind-shitty. I wish you all a safe, happy Christmas and a peaceful and bright new year. 

Much love
thegeneral xx

Saturday, 14 December 2013

thegeneral's 2013 Round Up Award Ceremony With Optional Sausage On A Stick - Part One.

It's the night of the year literally none of you have been waiting for. Perhaps even fewer of you than that. The red carpet has been laid out (well, it's a purple rug from Ethel Austins), the champagne (PG Tips) is ready to be popped and the canapes (a bag of Morrison's own brand ready salted) have been organised in an attractive crescent on the table. 

Yes, that's right, it's thegeneral's 2013 Round Up Award Ceremony With Optional Sausage On A Stick. The reason the sausage is optional is that I only had six in my deep freeze, so it's on a first come, first served basis. I've also just realised I've no sticks - I've got a box of Swan Vestas in an old shoe box under the stairs though, so we'll make do. 

The glitz! The glamour! The high life! ...Are all somewhere flick the kettle on, get settled and read on to find out what the musical highlights of the year for this little blog have been. Try and enjoy it, even if you don't, just lie. It'll make me feel much less inadequate than I already do. 

Award number one:

Gramaphone Recording Of The Year That Made thegeneral Squeal With Unbridled Pleasure:

Saint Max And The Fanatics - Saint Max Is Missing And The Fanatics Are Dead

There really was no way this was going to go to anyone else other than Saint Max and The Fanatics and their frankly beautiful album Saint Max Is Missing And The Fanatics Are Dead. I felt like I'd been waiting years for such an exciting, buzzing, thrilling collection of tracks to come my way and when they did it was everything I'd wanted and more. To read my original post, see here, but anyone that doesn't go and listen to it, and then buy after reading this is quite frankly a few scoops short of an Ice Cream tub. No contest for me, this was far and away the best long player I'd been presented with. 

Award number two:

Gramaphone Recording Of The Year That Wasn't Quite LP Length But Nearly Was And Also Made thegeneral Squeal With Unbridled Pleasure:

TUSK - Interrobang

Interrobang EP cover art

This particular award goes to a band called TUSK. I've mentioned them before on the blog, and they continue to be a band I champion and want great things for. Their last EP, called Interrobang came out in April this year, and as the blog was on hiatus then I didn't get chance to review it - so this is by way of apology to them and also to you, because many of you may have missed out on just how brilliant it is. Click on the link above to listen to it and download it. It's a genius mix of witty, urbane lyrics, chippy, dubby music and dark humour. TUSK are effortless in their brilliance and this was definitely the EP of the year for me. You absolutely have to have them in your lives. 

Award number three:

The One Single Track That Made thegeneral Want To Yell In The Street "WHY IS NOBODY TAKING NOTICE OF THIS BAND???"

By Toutatis - You Need To Know When It's Time To Leave

You Need To Know When It's Time To Leave cover art

Easy. Easy easy easy. This accolade is presented to the stellar By Toutatis. I'm listening to the track in question as I type this (I mean of course, as I stand at the podium in my dashing evening frock...) and I'm reminded of its painful beauty and the genuine emotion in it. Click the link to listen to: You Need To Know When It's Time To Leave. It is quite simply one of the loveliest songs I think I've ever heard and I can't say anything other than that; You need to hear it yourself to appreciate what I'm talking about and it really rankles with me that more people don't know just how talented they are. 

Award number four: 

The Most Blinding Bit Of Electronica You'll Hear All Year - That Even Made thegeneral Put Down Her Kraftwerk Records For A Bit

Discopolis - Falling (Committed To Sparkle Motion)

Oh this record. This was the soundtrack to my summer. Discopolis had the dubious honour of being the first band I wrote about on this blog way back last year. Over the last twelve months they've developed, matured and grown in their sound and this track felt, to me, like the cumulative effort of all the hard work. From the moment I heard it I was blown away and even now, all these months on it continues to be a staple of my regular playlists. You must also watch the Donnie Darko-esque video for it:

Which is beautifully intense. They are worthy winners of this award and I hope they come back in 2014 with more bleepy excellence. 

Award number five:

The "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo DON'T LEAVE, I'm Totes Emosh" Gong.

Blank Maps 

Lucky Dip cover art

You remember in the mid 90s when Take That split up? They had to set up counselling lines to cope with the numbers of screaming girls who were bereft at the passing of a boy band institution. I never batted an eyelid. Didn't affect me at all. Got through the whole thing without chipping my nail polish. I couldn't understand why there was so much knicker wetting going on over a few lads who'd decided not to make records anymore. I LAUGHED IN THE FACE OF THEIR SADNESS. Then, just last month, I heard that Blank Maps were to play their final gig and afterward split. Frankly, I was bereft. I had an adolescent hissy fit and Queeny strop and picked all my nail polish off. Incredibly gutted they've gone, but also extremely glad they've left us with a brilliant back catalogue of stuff to keep with us. You can download their hits here and love them as much as me, albeit retrospectively

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Knievel Dead - Psychosis

Psychosis cover art

PHEW. It's Tuesday. It's tea time. In the words of Gene Hunt "I'm 'avin 'oops". Except that was lunchtime. And it was 1973. And it was a fictional drama. And this is real life. And I'm a girl. Yes. I should stop this now. Anyway, it's Tuesday and we're almost teetering on the precipice of it being half way through the working week, but not quite. So what we all need is a shot of adrenalin to carry us over and see us right.

What have I got? I've got a mug of tea and my shattered dreams. That's it. Oh and I do have another excellent new musical offering for you.

I'd like you to take a moment or seven out of your boring days to have a listen to The Knievel Dead. First of all, hoik your gussets over to their bandcamp page:

...and have a listen.

Now then. Aren't they good? And I have to be honest (and I also have to stop starting sentences with "and", it's fucking annoying) totally not what I was expecting either. When the band kindly got in touch and sent me the link to their soundcloud page and their website, I was expecting something -  in the words of Monty Python - completely different to what I got.

I love this EP. I love it. It's just the right side of being too heavy, it's haunting, it's dark and and it's scuzzy. The opening track "Psychosis" (also their new single) is a real interesting juxtaposition - brilliant fuzzy guitars, a proper PROPER catchy hook, matched with a really surprisingly muted and beautiful vocal. I think that was what took me by the lapels and shook me the most, how the vox and guitars seemed diametrically opposed, but worked so well together.

The Knievel Dead seem to have a real great knack of nailing brilliantly catchy riffs, each song on here has them and they feel so natural, very progressive and easy. The final track on the EP "Coming After You", to me, in it's style had an almost mussed-up-glam-rock feel to it. It felt recognisable, as if it had come from that time, but the sequins were peeling off and the eyeliner had smudged - a bit dirtified (but nicely so).

So I urge you to go forth and buy their EP. I also heartily encourage you to visit their website and find out a little more about them:

And I also hope they come back very soon into the new year with more of the same. And now I really am going to stop starting sentences with "and".

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Ideas - Kicking Up Stones

The Ideas’s avatar

Yo! We've made it through Monday and not killed anyone with fire. I'd say that deserved a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake, don't you? There's always time for tea and cake. Always. Anyone who says otherwise needs a right good kick in the flaps.

Monday night is a great time for discovering a new band don't you think? I do. I have one to introduce to you today and I'm proud to be doing so. In fact I think this may very well be the newest band I've written about on this blog to date. Who are they? They are The Ideas. Co-incidentally they are also the last of my features on new music from Oxford and they are ending the series on a high.

First of all, here is the link to their great new song "Kicking Up Stones"

So go go go and have a listen.

Now come back to me and sit cross legged on the floor, otherwise there'll be no story before home time. Fingers on lips. On your own lips...cheeky.

"Kicking Up Stones" is a great number. It is, to my mind, a pure out and out classic with incredibly catchy lyrics and vocals. It's nicely lo-fi in feeling, it doesn't sound overly produced, it's got nicely chime-y guitars and it breaks into something that has great style and rhythm.

While you're there, click on the link above and listen to "Between The Rain" a gently haunting song that will get under your skin straight away. Highly recommended listening.

The band are planning on releasing this as a single, hopefully in February 2014 through a newly formed label called "Chilli Rose". It'll come out as a digital download first, then physical hard copies will follow in March. Both will be worth the wait - and I'm reliably informed that the band are also working with Chris Brown (not THAT one...) who mastered The Beatles Anthology and has also worked with RADIOHEAD (swoooon) and Rod Stewart.

So, I heartily urge you to keep these guys in mind as I've a feeling that they will make big waves over the coming months. They've a genuinely great sound and to cap it all off are jolly nice people to boot. You may well have heard them here first - so take them and run, run like the wind my children. The Ideas. Give them some.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The August List - High Town Crow

The August List High Town Crow

Well well well, what's all this then? Well you know damn well what it is, it's a final blog post before we wave out Sunday and flip the bird at Monday (from behind the wall obviously, don't want to hurt its feelings too much).

Of course, you'd expect nothing less from thegeneral, but we really are going out on a high with something refreshing, different and oh so lovely.

So, for the final installment of my features on acts supported by PinDrop Publicity, please to be very much welcoming you with The August List.

Now this really is somewhat of a departure for me - because as yet I don't think I've featured a truly out and out alt-country act on here yet, something for which I should hang my head in shame, because it is a bit of an overlooked genre all told.

So what can The August List offer you? Well, how about you have a look at their soundcloud page to see what all the fuss is about...

...see what I mean? They're great. bluesy, country-y, vocals to DIE for and outstandingly clean guitar sounds, that turn into something outright dirty half way through.

I was blown away by this track and so, naturally decided to investigate them further. Here's what I found, if you can please make your way over to their bandcamp page:

You'll find their first EP from earlier this year and I HIGHLY recommend you give it a listen. It's four tracks of similarly bluesy-rocky-country-y tinged delight - there is something quite heartbreaking and yearning about the lyrics and the way they're performed. The songs all feel like instant classics, proper foot tappers - you really can actually pick them up after one listen and find yourself humming the melodies and they're a duo you feel really ought to go places with just the right break.

Standout tracks from this EP for thegeneral are "Death Penalty" and "Forty-Rod Of Lightning". They offer something intense, brooding and emotionally charged. Simply a great sound.

So, my final clarion call - please go investigate The August List, download their music and give them your time. If you like alt-country with balls, you'll love this duo.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Grudle Bay - Colder

Colder EP cover art

Welcome to Saturday - and a second blog for the weekend. I know. I like you to all think I've got some semblance of a life, but the reality is quite the opposite. Today has mostly consisted of flat-hunting and trying to actually figure out what planet estate agents actually frequent (answer - not earth). So to say I'm feeling a bit fracticatiously overwhelmed is an understatement. Fracticatiously is another word I've just invented. No, there's not a thing you can do about it.

I am therefore in need of some music to really cheer me along and I believe I've found the very thing to share with you. This is the third in my mini series of posts showcasing PinDrop Publicity and it features another Oxfordian band called Grudle Bay.

First of all - here's their bandcamp page:

Which contains their mighty fine EP called "Colder", which was released in October. So, please hop on over there and give it a wee listen.

I lamented earlier on in the week that I didn't cover much electronica on these pages - so this has come at the right time. Although I LOVE my guitar music and am a big folk fan, there is something to be said for the delicate persuasion of anything dancey tinged in thegeneral's eyes. Although this isn't entirely electronic, it has got one foot firmly in the pop/upbeat/dance category and it's a perfect example of a record that explores both genres in a worthy and workable way.

This three track EP is really great. The opening track "Colder" is so reminiscent of everything that was great about 80s music, yet retaining a distinctly up to the minute feel. Although the name doesn't suggest it, it's the kind of track I'd imagine listening to in warm Summer sunshine, lying back on the grass and feeling happy. Well, that's how it feels to me brought a bit of cheer to a chilly, dark early evening.

The second track, "Running" is mellow, harmonious and a delight. The vocals are floaty light and dreamy. In some ways, I'd compare Grudle Bay to another one of my favourite acts, Scottish popsters Django Django, especially with regard to this song - they've got that same way of creating tight harmonies that really seem to draw you in and make you focus on the lyrics.

Final track "Fool Around" is a great way to end the selection. It is a gentle, breathy effort, with a kind of circular feel to it, it's calm, its relaxing and again with a real nod to the 80s. In fact, here, have a look at them performing it live


..and you'll see exactly what I mean...

So there you go. Grudle Bay. Another excellent act from Oxford to look out for on your travels. In the meantime, get on over to bandcamp, download their shizz and give them a lift...aye thank you.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Toliesel - Contours

Contours cover art

Not to shout, but IT'S FRIDAY. Yes, yes it is. That statement was brought to you by the Ministry of Stating the Obvious, now back to your regular, scheduled programming.

If, like me, you're that tired you could snort Nytol off the convent railings with gay abandon then you'll be needing summat quite nice to see the evening in with. As per I've got just the thing and again, it involves another great act from Oxford/London based PinDrop Publicity...

Here they are, they're called Toliesel, they are from Oxford, and this is their latest EP, called "Contours". First of all, here are the necessaries you need. The link to their bandcamp page:

What can I tell you about this EP? It's polished, it's slick, it sounds pretty damn fabulous and it really is the perfect antidote to a week of mither and maul.

Immediately, I was struck by the purity of the vocals on the songs, they're beautifully clear - folky sounding without tipping into arran sweater and cords territory (not that there's anything wrong with that), but they're alt-country tinged, and have a really nice Americana feel to them, that's not forced. In fact, the band do describe themselves as being of that ilk.

There are great, tight sounding harmonies on these tracks and combined with the sharp guitars and wispy percussion it makes for a very engaging and different listen. Standout tracks for thegeneral are the opener "Whispered Half Asleep" and the deceptive "Brothers" which is a song of great contrasts, gently tender, with a rock hard centre that then softens again and chimes out at the end.

It's un-indie, it's different, it's poignant, focussed and is probably a bit different to many of the other things I've covered on here before. And that's a very good thing indeed. Toliesel are a band to watch over the coming months if this EP is anything to go by. My clarion call is as always, give them a listen, give them your support...and enjoy...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Flights of Helios - Star//Crows

Star//Crows cover art

Are you absolutely bloody shattered and can't wait to crawl into your bed? I am. It's not even approaching duvet time yet. If you're feeling tiredfractiousmondayesque then what you need is some lovely music to make it all better and, would you Adam and believe it - I've got JUST the thing.

First of all, a speshul announcement. Over the next week or two thegeneral is running a series of posts in conjunction with PinDrop Publicity. You can have a look at their interwebspage HERE. I've been lucky enough to be sent four absolutely cracking acts to share with you - each of them very different, so hopefully there will be something to suit the musical tastes of anyone who reads these pages. Unless you only like Val Doonican. Then you're possibly a bit fucked.

Anyway, tonight I'd like to share with you the first of these acts and we're starting on a right big high, so we are.

Flights of Helios. There we are, straight in...first of all the necessaries. Here's the link to their bandcamp page so you can check their music out for yourself:

The band describe themselves as "ambient cosmic folk drone pop" and yep, that's really pretty apt. These two songs are pretty glorious and kind of provide a nice backdrop to a chilled out evening if you've been feeling a bit brittle and worn out.

The first track "Stars" is an ethereal stonker. The vocals and harmonies work so well together - there's a nice feeling of space, of dream like trippinesss to it as well. It's nicely paced and you feel like your shoulders are going to drop when you listen to it, like you can breathe properly and shut your eyes. I often feel that on here I don't cover enough electronica - and it's a genre of music I really adore. This kind of nicely addresses that.

The second track "Crows" follows in a similar vein, of the two tracks, it's got a slightly more insistent percussive element to it, an industrial feel - kind of like a mellowed out Cabaret Voltaire. Half way through it picks up pace and turns into something a bit more unexpected, it opens out, it gets noisy, frantic and becomes a harder soundscape. A nice contrast to the opener.

Of course, you know what I'm going to say - you need to give these guys your support. If you buy this single from bandcamp they'll put the proceeds towards creating their debut album and I think that's a great thing that really should be encouraged. So, Flights of Helios, I insist you put them on your to-listen-to-list. Go go go.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Broken Broadcast - How Not To Cut A Buffalo

How Not To Cut A Buffalo cover art

Howdy, bitches. I know, two blog posts in one weekend? Aren't you a lucky set of buggers?

Keeping the momentum going before Monday kicks us all in the capri pants and flings us headfirst into yet another week of terminal decline and tea breaks.

Today's feature is about a release from earlier this year - a record that was put out while thegeneralmusicblog was on hiatus (thegeneral herself is still on a hiatus from life, but that's a whole other story, for which you'll need a family pack of Mars Bars, Valium and earplugs). However, the band in question very sweetly tweeted me last week and asked if I'd be willing to give their latest gramaphone record a listen and I heartily agreed.

Now then.

The Broken Broadcast. How Not To Cut A Buffalo. Well first of all, how could you not love an album with a title like that? You're already onto a winner. But of course, it's the music. It's all about the music. So what can this treasure trove offer you?

Quite a very big lot as it turns out. It's such a warm  record with a very good vibe to it. Vocalist James Riggall's voice struck me straight away - reminding me immediately of the not-very-often-mentioned-but-should-be Andy Spearpoint from the late, lamented 1980s Madchester outfit New Fast Automatic Daffodils. Such a chilled out, laconic sounding voice which marries really well with the great musical mash-up of guitars/bass/drums/brass and glockenspiel/cello.

The music is inventively chippy, intrepid and swingy. Some of the songs - I'm thinking in particular of "Swim" here, have a delightfully childlike insouciance to them, helped along with the gently tinkling percussion and again, by the lulling juxtaposition of the vocal performance, which gathers in strength and power as the song progresses.

Stand out tracks (for thegeneral) are the abovementioned and also the second track "This Is My Wilderness", which has a belter of a guitar part, quietly driving percussion and really actually quite moving lyrics. The nicely harmonised "Silence is golden when I'm with you" is the take home line, repeated throughout, to great effect. A wise sage once said to the thegeneral that you know you've cracked it with a member of the opposite sex when you can sit in silence with them, it feels comfortable and doesn't matter that you're not nattering ten to the dozen. However, that's all by the bypass, but the line did strike me as prescient.

Each track, in it's own right has something special to offer - whether it is folky banjos (not a euphemism), lo-fi indie style or moving pianos (as in the case of mid point track "Sea Coal Collectors").

So, although this album has been out since the Summer, I'd really recommend you hopped on over to the band's bandcamp page here:

And checked out what they have to offer, because as I always say, you won't regret it. And as anyone who knows me, knows - I'm very rarely wrong, and even when I am, I'm still usually right.