Crazy! Horses!

Sweden’s I Break Horses tick lots of my boxes. Swedish. Named after a Smog song. Purveyors of dreamy psych-pop. Errr…..that’s about it. I’m easily pleased.


Except I’m not that easily pleased, of course. It’s just that they are quite good1. Having heard some demos last year and liking them, I’m glad to hear they have an album out this month, named Hearts. Here’s a track from it, named “Winter Beats”. In typical L&L fashion, I heard this a while back and forgot to post it. Along with my M Ward and Low live reviews. And other stuff. Bah.

Looking forward to this album, I must say.

1 I can just see some eager PR jumping all overthat quote. “I Break Horses are Quite Good” – Loft and Lost. Go for it, folks.

MP3: Winter Beats by I Break Horses
Pre-order Hearts here.

Will You Say Yes?

Oh you’ve got to love those garrulous folk over at Labrador Records. Not content with releasing some damn fine records over the last few years, such as The Radio Dept’s marvellous “Clinging To A Scheme“, they’ve decided to release a quite fabulous 22 track compilation featuring all the artists they’ve released records for over the past three years.

Called, cunningly, “Stockholm Belongs To Us”, it’s free. And full of Scandinavian indie-pop brilliance. What more can you ask for?

Other than looking up their address in Google Maps, and finding that there’s an impossibly skinny blonde smoking a fag1 outside their office.

I'm Smoking A Fag

Ah, Sweden. Cracking indie-pop, cooler-than-solid-nitrogen blondes, and all the herring you can eat.

MP3: Heaven’s On Fire by The Radio Dept

MP3: 1983 (Pelle & Sebastian) by Pelle Carlberg

1 I realise this means something entirely different in America.

The Artistic Roll-Call

Reading an interview with attempted miserablist Swedish electro-poppet Lykke Li t’other day, I came across her justification for appearing as one of the “faces” of Levi’s new ad campaign. Having heard chunks of her new album “Wounded Rhymes”, having seen the ad at bus-stops on Putney Bridge, and having read comments from her about how sad she is and how lonely and how blah-de-blah-de-blah, I have to say I find the whole thing somewhat comical.

Life's Too Short To Be A Corporate Shill, I'd Have Said

I mean, how can you sell yourself as a sensitive, tortured soul, then suddenly go “Hey, free jeans, you say? W00t!!!”? Whilst I don’t quite subscribe to the Bill Hicks attitude, that it’s impossible to advertise and still be on, what he called, “The Artistic Roll-Call”:

(at 1:55)

…I have to say that, if you’re the kind of artist that pretends to be all sensitive and lonely and tortured and whatever, then don’t go round shilling any old product that comes your way. This is a credibility thing. Whether you like it or not, your music is inextricably linked to your face, your body, you. Saying that advertising jeans is nothing to do with your music is just kidding yourself, love.

Still, nice song, eh? Even if it is a bit maudlin-Scandi-electro-pop-by-numbers.

MP3: Love Out Of Lust by Lykke Li

Buy Wounded Rhymes Here

Review Of 2010 – Albums, Two

So, following on from yesterday’s first part, featuring all the records I was disappointed or just a bit meh-d with, here’s my list of ones I liked. Like I said yesterday, no absolute favourites, but some of the songs on these albums will live with me until my brain finally dissolves through alcohol abuse and Alzheimers.

(Part three is here)

The Best Album Of The Year By A Band Half My Age Making Music For People Half My Age


Avi Buffalo
Beach House


Avi Buffalo – s/t

Now this one came as a surprise. On the first couple of listens, Avi Buffalo seemed to be one of those records that had a couple of good songs and one absolutely great one (“Truth Sets In”). The rest was, frankly, a bit annoying, from the stupid song titles to Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg’s annoying yelp. But with more time, the record slowly unravelled to show itself as being a work of a rare talent. A great example being “Remember Last Time”, a seven minute long track that feels far too short, growing and swelling and suddenly shrinking again, before one final, two minute long cascade of guitar solos and general wigging out. It’s clear to me that Avi is a brilliant guitarist with a huge talent; if he can produce a more focussed record next time, and gives his bandmates more time on the mic, he could produce something very special indeed.

MP3: What’s It In For by Avi Buffalo

Buy “Avi Buffalo” (CD)

The Best Album By Kerazy Kanadians

The Besnard Lakes – Are The Roaring Night

2010 the year of The Return Of Half-Decent Shoegaze, and this record was more than half-decent. I wasn’t expecting great things after “…Are The Dark Horse”, but my word, did this lot deliver. “Albatross” demands to be played loud, loud, loud, and the rest of the album follows suit. Superb stuff.

MP3: Albatross by The Besnard Lakes

Buy “The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night” (CD/MP3)

The Best Albums by Previously Unknown Bands

Bullets in Madison – We Became Your Family When You Died

Came across this lot whilst just browsing some good music blogs. Lovely, and a brilliant example of how you can find music in the most random of ways. The way “Animals” slowly coalesces into lovely, glorious dream-pop is still wonderful, nearly a year after I first heard it.

MP3: Animals by Bullets In Madison

Buy “We Became Your Family When You Died” here.

The Best EP by a Previously Unknown Band

Bright Spark Destroyer – Holy Yell EP

Previously Unknown, because this is their debut. And what a debut. Thrilling, evocative, exciting, with just the right amount of that The Bends-era Radiohead stadium bombast to make them a dangerously promising tip for the future. If they aren’t on everyone’s 2011 end of year lists, I’ll eat my hat1.

MP3: A Feeling of Health by Bright Spark Destroyer

Buy “Holy Yell” EP here.

The Best Scandinavian Album (combined with the Nice Dinner Party Album award)


The Tallest Man On Earth
The Radio Dept
The Kissaway Trail


The Radio Dept – Clinging To A Scheme

Lovely. This year’s Bibio. Saying that a record is great to have when you’re doing the washing up is a major compliment, by the way.

MP3: Heaven’s On Fire by The Radio Dept

Buy “Clinging to a Scheme” here (CD/MP3)

The Best Indie-Pop Album Unfairly Maligned By The Meedja

Freelance Whales – Weathervanes

Soundtrack to the first few months of the year, I was convinced this lot were going to hit the big time, Arcade Fire style. But no. Some harsh reviews, some intimations of lack of imagination, and their fate, if not quite sealed, was made far harder. Shame, as this really is a charming and beguiling record that deserved a far, far larger audience.

MP3: Hannah by Freelance Whales

Buy “Weathervanes” Here

The Best Female Singer-Songwriter With An Obsession With The Natural World

Laura Veirs – July Flame

Just had to be, didn’t it? This one nearly slipped me by and I’m glad it didn’t. Perfect at gazing out of a window at drizzle whilst a roaring fire roars away in the background, as your loved one roasts a chicken.

MP3: I Can See Your Tracks by Laura Veirs

Buy “July Flame” (CD/MP3) Here

Albums From 2009 That I Identified In Last Years End Of Year Review As Might Be Good And Were

Twilight Sad – Forget The Night Ahead

Ok, so it’s only half a good album. But its heights – “I Became A Prostitute”, “Interrupted” and “Reflection of the Television” are as good as anything on their debut. Well, almost.

MP3: I Became a Prostitute by The Twilight Sad

Buy “Forget The Night Ahead” (CD/MP3)

Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs

Identified last year as something I’d listen to this year, and nice to see I was right. Great album, this, and it’s got me to search back into their catalogue and find all those gems that have passed me by. And thanks to all the readers with suggestions of which albums I should try next!

MP3: Avalon Or Someone Very Similar by Yo La Tengo

Buy “Popular Songs” (CD/MP3)

The Yo La Tengo Award For A Band I’d Previously Discounted As Twee Nonsense Before Realising Belatedly That They Were, Like, Great

Belle And Sebastian – Write About Love

Just had to be, didn’t it? The first thaw in the huge icy wall around my heart came with Stuart Murdoch’s “Another Saturday” on 2009’s Dark Is The Night compilation. Realising that a man that could write something of such gentle, enormous beauty must be quite the talented sort, I gave Write About Love a go. Doesn’t quite reach the heights of “Another Saturday”, but now I’ve melted that iceberg of disdain I’m going to enjoy running through their back catalogue.

MP3: I Want The World To Stop by Belle And Sebastian

Buy “Write About Love” (CD/MP3)

That’s it for this post. Join me tomorrow for songs, gigs, and other gubbins.

1 Hat may be made of cake.

Are Eggs Funny? No.

Regular readers will know I am a huge fan of Danish prog-pop-rockers Mew. Why? Well, because they are great, that’s why.

If you’re not so sure about their brand of hugely tuneful and equally hugely complex Scandi-psych-pop then they’ve made your life easy by releasing a compilation, cunningly entitled “Eggs Are Funny”. Look, at least it isn’t called “No more stories Are told today I’m sorry They washed away No more stories The world is grey I’m tired Let’s wash away”.

At Last, A Mew Record Cover That Doesn't Make You Want To Claw Your Eyes Out

You can’t argue much1 with the track listing either, nor the fact that there’s a DVD thrown in for good measure. If you want an introduction to the marvellous world of Mew, you can’t get much better than this:

1. Am I Wry? No
2. Snow Brigade
3. Beach
4. Introducing Palace Players
5. Silas The Magic Car
6. Wheels Over Me
7. Saliva
8. She Came Home For Christmas
9. Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy
10. Do You Love It
11. Eight Flew Over, One Was Destroyed
12. 156
13. Special
14. The Zookeepers Boy
15. Comforting Sounds

Go. Go buy. Now. Don’t make me come and beat you.

1 What, no “Hawaii”?

MP3: Do You Love It by Mew

A Work Post (Of Which There May Be More)

Wandering into The Boss’s office fairly early a few days ago to discuss something or other, I was struck by some music playing from his PC. “What’s this?” I asked of him. “It’s Icelandic”, he replied. “Oh, is it Ólöf Arnalds, by any chance?”. “Yes, how did you know?”.

Well, because I’m a fan, of sorts. At least I quite enjoyed her last album and had never got round to listening to the new one, entitled “Innundir Skinni”. No, me neither. So finding The Boss listening to her – a man who I’d never guessed would be listening to semi-obscure Icelandic artists – was a bit of a surprise, and a pleasant one. Having had a good listen we had a bit of a chat, and he mentioned how the title track had completely entranced him. No shock there; the song is frankly gorgeous. The rest of the album is good, too – having more of a band has helped her move on from “Við Og Við”.

Of course, her voice does take a little getting used to, but if you’re not scared of the likes of Joanna Newsom or Bjork (who features on the album, natch), you’ll find precious little need to acclimatise to her somewhat more gentle tones. Lovely, crystal-clear music, perfect for these shortening and coldening days, perfect for warming chilly toes and colder hearts.

A firm recommendation, then. From me, and The Boss.

MP3: Innundir Skinni by Olof Arnalds

Buy “Innundir Skinni” (CD)

Customers Who Bought This Also Liked

Back in the dark, dim mists of time (oh ok then, April), I mused away on some bad reviews Pitchfork had given two artists – Freelance Whales and The Kissaway Trail. The former had released one of my favourite records of the year, and the latter had piqued my curiosity thanks to a little (or rather quite long) tune named “SDP”. Which, I have been reliably informed, is not about David Owen’s lot.

So, fast forwarding half a year, I hadn’t really got round to listening much to The Kissaway Trail’s album that much. Stuff got in the way, you know. But I remembered how Pitchfork said that they were just like The Arcade Fire, only worse, and how I thought Arcade Fire’s new album was like “Funeral”, only worse. A little lightbulb went on in my head. Going back to “Sleep Mountain” might cure those Arcade Fire blues. And guess what? They did.

Because they aren’t just a cheap pale Scandinavian Ikea pine copy of Arcade Fire’s expensive mahogany Habitat coffee table. Not at all. There’s lots more going on under the surface, lots of little touches and details that Scandinavians seem to be excelling at. If anything, there’s more Mew to them than anything; and a hefty dose of fellow Scandis Aerial and Mixtapes and Cellmates. The album’s been keeping me company on my long commute for the best part of a week now, and is safely ensconsing itself into the nascent Albums Of 2010 list slowly forming in my head.

So, feeling not quite enraptured by Arcade Fire’s latest? Try The Kissaway Trail. It might be just what you’re after.

MP3: Beat Your Heartbeat by The Kissaway Trail

MP3: We Used To Wait by Arcade Fire

Amazon’s The Kissaway Trail Store

Amazon’s Arcade Fire Store

Tonight I’m Shoegazing On My Favourite Island

What with the likes of Galaxie 500 re-releasing old records, My Bloody Valentine doing sporadic live shows, and newer bands like School Of Seven Bells releasing dreamy psychedelic pop, you could say Shoegaze is making something of a revival. When I say revival, I of course mean Shoegaze has come shuffling in, mumbled something about it being too early and there’s too much light coming through the curtains, and then shuffled off again.

Along come new Bella Union act I Break Horses1 with a demo of their new track “Wired”. As a commenter on Soundcloud states, it’s certainly got a tinge of late-’80’s 4AD act Lush. No bad thing, of course. Bella Union certainly seem to be going through a purple patch at the moment, what with Department of Eagles, Wavves, Midlake, The Kissaway Trail, Beach House and loads of other great bands on their roster. Nice to see Simon Raymonde keeping himself busy, rather than spending his time looking over at Robin Guthrie thinking “I wish he’d lay off the coke”.

Those of you wondering where this lot got such an odd name from can check out this remarkably worrying song by Loft and Lost favourites Smog, here:

Cheery, eh? Written about at some length here, in case you’re interested, which you’re probably not. Anyway, I Break Horses look like a good tip for the future, don’t they?

I Break Horses – Wired by Bella Union

Soundcloud: Wired (demo) by I Break Horses

MP3: I Break Horses (Peel Session) by Smog

(Note: this post is a little bit of a test of whether Soundcloud links post correctly in Hype Machine. Not even remotely interesting, unless you’re a music blogger. And it’s not even that interesting if you are, in fairness)

Amazon’s Smog Store (I Really Have Seen It All Now)

1 Holy crap, I just realised they are Swedish. For fuck’s sake.

Midyear New Music (Part Two) – Club 8

“Right, here’s another chirpy indie-pop number from Sweden”
“Sweden? Again? All you ever bloody write about is bloody chirpy indie-pop from Sweden
“That’s not true. I write about plenty of other bands. Like Mew, for example”
“Mew? They are from Copen-bloody-hagen. If you go to the top of the Carlsberg building you can see bloody Sweden”
“Ok, Metric?”
“She looks a bit Swedish”
“That doesn’t count! Anyway, this lot, called Club 8, have made this lovely afro-beat tinged single called “Shape Up”. It’s great”
“Yes, it might be great, but it’s still bloody Swedish. Pack it in”
“No! I like Swedish music. It’s certainly better than the dross coming from Britain at the moment. It’s like they still haven’t got over The Bloody Libertines yet. Or it’s all annoying shouty electro-pop which sounds like some early-90’s Agit-prop band falling down the stairs.”
“Fair point. But no more Swedes, ok?”
“Oh…ok….” *hides the Sambassadeur record*

MP3: Shape Up! by Club 8

Buy “The People’s Record” (CD/MP3)

Clinging to the Radio (Dept)

Some albums are lovely to just have around, playing in the background whilst you’re doing the washing up, or playing on your headphones on a crowded Tube trying to read. Last year it was Bibio’s “Ambivalence Avenue”, this year it’s shaping up to be The Radio Dept’s “Clinging To A Scheme”.

I first wrote about these gentle Swedes back in February, and since then the album has been a regular on my torrid journeys to and from the barren, corporate wasteland that is Canary Wharf. And funnily enough, just today I was thinking “Ooh, I really ought to post something about them again so people might go and buy the record because it’s damn fine”. Serendipity being the thing it is, tonight I get the news that they’re releasing “Never Follow Suit” as a single soon. For a song that is, frankly, reggae-lite, it’s quite remarkably pleasant. And even more remarkably, it’s nowhere near the best song on the album.

Cheer Up, You're Not In The Twilight Sad You Know

The single is out on Labrador Records on June 16th, backed with two exclusive b-sides, and the band are busy touring Europe (including two dates in London, which I am sad to say, I can’t be at. Bah!). What on earth are they putting in the water in Sweden these days, anyway?

MP3: Never Follow Suit by The Radio Dept

Buy “Clinging to a Scheme” (CD/MP3)