Wednesday, 23 July 2014

My Crooked Teeth - Watch The Darkness Stumble Home

Watch The Darkness Stumble Home cover art

We're midway through the week - which means we're closer to the weekend then we were yesterday. This is cause for celebration (in thegeneral's case a second cup of tea). Gentle readers of my blog, you know I always try and come up with the goods for you and I'm not going to let you down as we celebrate the eve of the eve of the weekend.

This week has been a maelstrom of DIY, of spending money and of other things which I cannot possibly tell you about without making you blush. In the midst of all this, I was delighted to get an email from PinDropPublicity's fantastic Seb, asking me to review this great new EP from My Crooked Teeth and that's what I'm going to do now.

First of all, you need to know how and where to listen. So, wend your weary souls over to the bandcamp page:

...and listen to the sounds.

"Watch The Darkness Stumble Home" is a beautiful collection of songs. Simply stunning. My Crooked Teeth is the solo project of Jack Olchawski, an Oxford based singer songwriter, who truly does have a unique and emotionally stirring voice. This EP is a labour of love, lovingly crafted and gently honed songs that have the power to really captivate. Its sound is a cross between alt-country and folk, it seems to straddle the two genres neatly, and it's the kind of music that demands you sit and listen to the lyrics just as much as you listen to the chords and guitar picks.

I know I'm reviewing this on Wednesday, but to me this is perfect Saturday-night-at-home music. It's the kind of thing you'd curl up and listen to with, with the person you love. It's got that kind of intense feeling to it. Opening song "A Better Edit" is a slow burner, a lovely way to start. Don't mind admitting that the lyrics did move me to tears at one point - "So tell it to me slowly, and I'll try not to flinch, when you get to that part about the people you miss, 'cos I've seen death at my window but never in my home, and arms length seems foolish, when you're praying for a moat"

Third track "Bullet Bill" is a rousing, strong number, it's the most stirring song on the EP, for me, anyway. That said, it's still lullingly gentle enough not to be intrusive.

Final track "Nightshift" to me, feels like the most country-fied song of the collection. It's the one that strays most away from folk territory and it feels like such a nice way to end the EP. It's a strong enough finish to leave you feel like you want to hear more.

I didn't want to start to make comparisons - it's something I really don't like to do if at all possible, but often I do, and to say the material is Dylanesque seems to just be so obvious a statement to make, but it is. And it is in the finest way. It isn't just carbon copy folk/country, however, it's original and sparky and has enough vibrancy about it to make it feel like it stands out from other acts who just seem to want to copy rather than develop.

If you want some stirring, rousing, yet moving and emotional music to listen to this weekend then you really have to look no further than My Crooked Teeth. It's well worth a download.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Rob Reed - Sanctuary

Happy Tuesday evening to you all. Yet again we're almost mid point in the week - and though the urge to kill everything with fire (or gin) is very strong, it's nothing a packet of ready salted and a strong cup of tea won't fix.

I'm absolutely super super super excited to be writing this latest post and so you'll have to forgive me if it seems like I'm falling over and frothing like a Victorian lady with a corset that's too tight and no smelling salts within fainting distance.

Regular readers of my blog know that I am huge fan of Mike Oldfield. In fact, if you really want to, you can go and read my previous posts on him HERE. My dear old Pa, alongside weaning me on folk music, also made sure I had a very healthy dose of Mike's music thrown into the mix. I've always loved him and always will and there's not a thing you can do to stop me.

This weekend, as sometimes happens, you come across something that really does stop you in your tracks for a moment. Facebook, for all it's faults, does sometimes throw up the odd gem - and on Saturday, I was lucky enough to come across this video. It's an edited excerpt from a brand new album called "Sanctuary" by Rob Reed. I now actually do demand you go and listen to it now.

"Sanctuary" is a brand new composition, that has been put together as Rob's way of honouring Oldfield's legacy to music and in particular the album that everyone probably knows him best for - "Tubular Bells". I first heard this album when I was 8 years old. I'm now almost 35 and it has captivated me ever since. It never gets old, it never feels dull. It always gives me goosebumps. 

Rob, according to the album blurb wanted to make sure that he did not slip into pastiche with this album, and he hasn't. Whilst there are many remarkable similarities to Oldfield's other albums - including "Incantations", "Ommadawn" and "Hergest Ridge" in there, the work still feels fresh, unique and exciting. Reed is also a multi-instrumentalist and whilst he produced the album himself - it was mastered by two of Oldfield's collaborators Tom Newman and Simon Heyworth, who produced "Tubular Bells" in 1973. 

You can hear Rob talking about the album here:

"Sanctuary" is an absolute must for any fans of Mike Oldfield. It's also a must for anyone who likes really good, solid, well thought out multi-layered music that has the ability to hook you in after just one listen. 

I was wary and wondered whether I would like it or not, but I found it an absolute joy. thegeneral's father also played it and loved it straight away. In fact both of us have put the CD on pre-order and, so should you...

You need to know the necessaries. If you'd like to make a purchase then please go to Rob Reed Official to buy. You will not regret it! It's out on 21st July. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Rainbow Reservoir - 400 Imperfect Rhymes - Special "Sounds Like" Feature Interview

400 Imperfect Rhymes cover art

Good evening. Or if you're reading this tomorrow - press fast forward. I look better on high-speed. Welcome to the weekend and also welcome to a brand new feature on the blog. Today thegeneral is launching the "Sounds Like" series, which, hopefully over the coming months will burgeon into something that rivals either the NME, or the free local paper (you know the one, it comes with the adverts for takeaways and sanitary belts).

"Sounds Like" is going to be an occasional feature in which I interview a great singer/band/act and feature their latest releases. It's also hopefully going to be a chance to delve deep into their psyches and find out whether or not they secretly like Val Doonican or not.

I'm really starting in style with a fantastic act called Rainbow Reservoir - from Oxford. Rainbow Reservoir is the brainchild of extremely versatile singer and instrumentalist Angela Space. "400 Imperfect Rhymes" is the latest release and comes out on 14th July (this coming Monday). Before you go any further, hoik your lapels over to their bandcamp page and take a listen:

Now, come back and read my interview with the lovely Angela:

1.) Angela, congratulations on not only a wonderful new EP but on also having the dubious distinction of being my first interviewee on the blog. This is a momentous day indeed. I'd really like it if you could tell me a little bit about the new songs - there seems to be a real diverse mix of subject matter here, yet the tracks meld together beautifully...?

Very excited to be your first interview!  

I read this thing that Andrew Bird once said about how sometimes the only thread between some of his lyrics within songs is the fact that he wrote them all.  I like that.

Four of these songs were written all around the same time during and after a trip to Germany.  A trip to the Nibelungenlied museum inspired "Siegfried! Oh, Siegfried!" and both "400 Imperfect Rhymes" and "City Bike" were written after a weekend in Berlin.  I guess for me they all seem like they fit together really well because they are all from a specific point in time.  I also liked the idea of having the Valkyrie and Judith together.  

2.) You're described as a multi-instrumentalist (as oppose to me, who is just a mentalist). Do you feel that that gives you more creative freedom, or do you think it turns you into a much more "controlling" musician?

Band bios make me laugh.  The truth is I'm not the greatest singer and an even worse guitarist.  My creative freedom comes from the fact that I don't think anyone is listening and even less people care.  And just so you know, I asked Oli, and he says no way am I controlling.  (Not sure if you can put an emoticon in an interview, but there would be a smiley face there.) (note from thegeneral, it's my blog and of course you can have a smiley face - here it is :) )

3.) I found your first EP from 2012, "Love Me" very emotionally moving. Those songs felt very personal indeed, yet you still retained a wonderfully verbose and witty style. This really appeals to me - I wondered if that was how you were in real life or whether you find it easier to communicate in this way through your music?

I like your question, but I don't want to answer!  I don't know what I'm like.  I think that is what I'm like around certain people.  Although in general I will say that more people tend to laugh at the things I sing than the things I say even though I'm fairly certain I am equally funny in both methods of communication.

4.) Oxford seems to have such a very diverse pool of musical talent and I've been featuring a lot of acts from the area just recently - is there something in the water?

For a town it's size Oxford has lots of people making music and, probably even more important, it has lots of people willing to listen. 

5.) The EP is out on 14th July, could you tell my readers if you've got any gigs planned to promote it and when and where they are?

We've got the EP launch gig at the Jericho, July 11 with support from Tamara and Billy T'rivers.  It's gonna be a great night.  We also are performing on the Charlbury Riverside Festival on July 27 and at the Wheatsheaf on August 29.  

6.) What's next for you?

Ageing and ultimately death.  In the meantime we are going to kick out the jams.

7.) Finally, a random one. You're holding a dinner party for a select group of five people who have influenced your musical life. Who are they? Why are they there - and will they like the cheeseboard?

I'd say the Ramones - Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny, Tommy, plus Michael Jackson.  They are there to cook, clean, serve me drinks, entertain me and make me laugh.  I don't know about them, but I don't like cheese.

So you've read the interview, now please go and buy the EP. It's an absolute work of art and quite unlike anything else you'll hear all Summer time. I hope we get to hear more from Rainbow Reservoir soon and I'd like to thank Angela for her time and Seb from PindropPublicity for organising the interview in the first place.

If you've read this and you're in a band - and you think you'd like to be gently probed by me - thegeneral, then please contact me at  

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Joe Allan - The City Ate My Brains

Joe Allan - September (DEMO)

Good of the afternoon, bitches. It's been another long while hasn't it? Yes, it has. What can I say? As always I could tell you where I've been and what I've been up to, but it might make you blush. In fact I know it would. You'd never look at a courgette in the same way again.

I'm back on this lovely Sunday afternoon with a follow up blog post that I've been looking forward to doing for some time now. Way back in November last year I featured a wonderful, wonderful musician called Joe Allan - you can read that post and listen to the song I reviewed here. I really recommend you do.

Joe promised he'd be back in touch when his EP was finally ready for release and true to his word, he did. "The City Ate My Brains" is due for release within the next two weeks and oh my absolute gosh, it truly is a masterpiece.

Here are five songs of immense strength, beauty and courage. The title belies just how moving the tracks are. It of course features "September", the track I previewed last year, which is just stunning - I can never forget a song which starts with the line "fuck you, everybody". However, joking aside, from the outset it's clear that Joe is an incredibly skilled songwriter and musician. These are songs with real emotional depth - they are tempered and downbeat, the slightly muted way in which he sings adds real pathos to both the lyrics and the music.

The opening track "The City Ate My Brains" sets the scene for the whole tone of the EP, soft and delicate, repetitive, lulling guitar picks combine with his fantastic vocal style to create a set of tracks which feel like they could become real classics.

On tracks like "Sisters" he uses sampling to really good effect, drawing the listener in from the start and piquing your curiosity with what's to come.

Standout song for me is "Youngster". Purely for the guitar alone, however, it's the most emotional piece on the EP for me. The vocal combines with the guitar in a slightly alt-country way and it really see-saws your feelings.

When the EP is released properly I'll update the page to let you all know, as this is something none of you should miss out on. Joe Allan is definitely one to watch and someone you need to have in your lives...