Tracks of 2016: #18 YJY


Backward to Track 17

Forward to Track 19

Altar Flowers, remember them from a number of tracks ago?

If you liked them…give “Summer Lifeguard” a go. Blimey Charlie this is good. It’s a touch of Wilco and Weezer, and a hell of a serving of the type of charming indie I thought had withered on the vine. It was an instant hit to my ears, and they’re sometimes very difficult to please.

Youthful attitudes, flippant  “Unless I’m drowning, don’t give a shit about me,” what a lyric. What else to do but smile? I don’t care that it hardly goes anywhere. Some of the best songs take a long time doing nothing. And when it’s this much fun, let’s get in the water.

Tracks of 2016: #16 Altar Flowers


Backward to Track 15

Forward to Track 17

Funny what the Internet can do.

There’s meeting people at gigs because they’ve not got a plus+1 and you have (waves to the person to whom this refers.) There’s meeting people for brief moments of pleasure (shrugs shoulders, I’ve only heard about this on the bus.)

And there’s finding a band who you don’t just really like, but who you end up chatting to about, er, Eurovision, if I recall. Hello Altar Flowers.

I can hardly deny liking Altar Flowers very much. As you may have noticed throughout this rundown, I’m a sucker for good old honest songs with heart and substance; maybe it’s the long lost 1980s goth inside me who never had the chance to develop who loves Altar Flowers’ retro touches. Melodies as strong as eye-liner is fundamental, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Tracks of 2016: #13 The Coral


Backward to Track 12

Forward to Track 14

A conversation picked up at work, I think from something I heard on the radio, about those albums released at the height of 1990s Britpop-infused guitar frenzy. Many of the albums which came from that period now seem awfully dated and “of their time”. Further, of course, many of those bands have either moved lightyears away from those Britpop chart-toppers (that’ll be your Blur) or disappeared through various ways and fashions (that’ll be your Pulp.)

Then there’s those whose albums seem to be watchwords for the 1990s and early 2000s who have carried on quietly, methodically and doing so with loyal fans in happy rapture (that’ll be your Gomez, your James, your The Coral.)

The lights may have faded, the live music shows have all been yanked off air or marginalised, music itself may have transformed into an unrecognisable industry, yet here these bands remain. In the specific case of The Coral, remaining with songs far removed from the quasi-Merseybeat image of their mainstream hits: this new material is broad and brashy and satisfyingly trippy. I’ll suggest very early “The Actor” era-ish Moody Blues as a companion piece.

Tracks of 2014 — #14 Altar Flowers “We Still Can’t Be Friends”

Tracks of 2014
<<<<Track 13
>>>>Track 15

Selling a bowl of Special K at £3.20 a pop is the work of deranged loony-tunes, as we all know, so for true vintage fun with a new age feel, don’t involve yourself with coiffured numpties with no care about the poverty on the streets outside their tasteless cereal flimflam, get your ears wrapped around Altar Flowers instead. (What do you mean, I’m making it obvious that I find horrific the idea that selling breakfast cereal at a hypergazillion percentage mark up is somehow acceptable in this day and age? No politics here, chums, I’m all about the music doncha know.)

Regular readers will doubtlessly know that my choices for Tracks Of 2014 are cut on a distinct bias. I ruddy love solid pop written with melody running all the way through like Blackpool rock. Not cheese (although heaven knows I like a slice of that) and not just taken from one style (because I’m open minded and don’t work for Radio 1). Altar Flowers’ “We Still Can’t Be Friends” is a great example of what I listen out for: rich and raucous and full of great pop sensibilities whilst carrying itself with more than its fair share of cool-for-school swagger. Altar Flowers have a certain curious side to their output I’ve liked for a while and there’s no suggestion yet that they’re about to turn away from this quite yet.

The former LVLS have been busying themselves with EPs and gigs of late, with more to come next year. “WSCBF” should help you get the feel of them while we’re all waiting for more: everything a neat little chart botherer should be without the danger of choking on a plastic toy at the bottom of the bag. YES I’M GOING ON ABOUT THAT DAMN CEREAL PLACE TONIGHT THANKS FOR POINTING THAT OUT.

Tracks of 2014 — #8 Beck “Blue Moon”

Tracks of 2014
<<<Track 7
>>>Track 9

As a bloke whose teenage years stretched across the action end of the 1990s, Beck was unavoidable. Every other video on MTV was Beck, and indie club DJs knew that a quick burst of Beck was always a banker. In preparation for this entry, I considered whether or not I actually liked Beck, then or now, and I am still chin-stroking. On balance, probably not, and that is despite trying really hard to ‘get’ him.

One great swathe of not thinking about him much at all, along comes “Morning Phase” and all is good again. I have pressed repeat many a times across this album, with so many strong and emotive songs in the country-blues style. I don’t know if this has been a route taken by Beck whilst I’ve noticed, but he’s bloody good at it, that much is true. This song in particular makes my heart jump, I love its temperament and emotion, coming (for me at least) from a very unexpected source.

I know that Beck has personal beliefs which are somewhat cuckoo-bananas, but for the sake of this track, and from this album, this song is worth looking beyond all that.

Tracks of 2014 — #5 Slow Readers Club “Forever In Your Debt”

<<<< Track 4
>>>> Track 6

A cheat, this one. When I wrote last year’s run-down I didn’t know this track was released. Now it’s being re-released, so in a way, it’s Fate and happenstance, rather than out-and-out cheating. Anyway, Slow Readers Club are criminally underrated and I think they ruddy well deserve highlighting every which way.

It is a little insight into my mind, this, but I like the different elements of the song as much as the whole; the bass chugging along, the lyrics (both in character and melody), the mood of indie sensibilities which remind me that, mercifully, there are bands out there who don’t sound like nampy-pampy boyband nonsense.

If you scoot about Souncloud you can enjoy a fair amount of live sets from them which should attract you to them even further. I will be, hem hem, forever in their debt.

Tracks of 2014 — #4 The Watchmakers “Illumination”

Tracks of 2014
<<<<Track 3
>>>>>Track 5

Turn up, chill out, get down; it’s the lads from Manchester (and, you might wag, from half-way through 1968) with an absolute cracker of a song. The Watchmakers make no bones about the sound they want to fill venues with, and Hell’s Bell’s, do they fill venues. They’re one of those old fashioned types who prefer to get up on stage and give everyone a real whammer of a finish, producing the kind of live gigs which get talked about, not just written-up.

I could name check everything they’ve recorded thus far, but I’ll highlight this cracker of a 60s wig out for my list. “Illumination” does exactly what its title suggests, although it’s more lava lamp than fog lights, if you know what I mean. The mainstream indie scene might whinge like a rusty gate but in bands like The Watchmakers, there’s something of great substance out there to be experienced.  In short: I am ruddy bloody shrubbery-heck mad for ’em.