One of the best albums of 2011 comes from a sextet from Newcastle; Lanterns On The Lake, even the name of the band conjures up a haunting feel. Fragile vocals and words, fused together with widescreen guitars and instrumentation. 

Following on from some lovely EPs, which came out earlier in the year with handmade covers and a wax seal (how do you actually open them, without spoiling the effect?) comes the debut album, ‘Gracious Tide, Take Me Home’.


This is one of those very rare albums that lifts the hairs on the back of your neck, and from the first listen sounds just perfect. The Last Town Chorus had a similar effect back in 2006, with the ’Wire Waltz’ album.


Hazel Wilde is Megan Hickey this time around and a Laura Marling-esque figure she is too. Adam Sykes shares vocals and between both of them they cast a magical spell along with Paul Gregory’s soaring guitar.


‘Lungs Quicken’ opens the album with an ambient feel before Hazel’s sublime vocals take effect. Adam takes lead vocals on ‘If I've Been Unkind’. After these ten minutes have passed free free to fall in love with this record on ‘Keep on Trying’.


Don’t think the whole album is celestial either. ‘A Kingdom’ is an up tempo song even though it is inspired by a book of letters sent home by WW2 soldiers. The album actually contains eleven wonderful songs for you to curl up with on a cold winter’s dark night, in the warmth of your favourite chair.


By rights, with this album and the constant touring the band seem to be undertaking, they should be enormous this time next year….well at least headlining the Shepherds Bush Empire!



It is not often you find someone so adapt in the movie world that they can switch and make such good music outside the regular day job. ‘A False Parade’ has a dark Warren Zevon esque approach and packs a varied pace.’ The Emperor’s Old Clothes’(ballad) and Atmosphere’ (rocker) are cases in point early on. 

The record’s focal points are Johnny’s gravelled vocals and scorching guitar solos. The said guitarist is Kevin Armstrong who, is a true Master of his trade then there is, Quillon Larratt on drums, Rob Lucas on bass, Andrew Spooner on keyboards and Christine Lockhart, Vashti Gleave and Laura Matthews on backing vocals.


With such heavyweight backing the songs struggle to remain sparse, which may have suited some of the arrangements more, however, take it as it comes and you have a winner on your hands, The record was written and recorded over the last two years in gaps between screenwriting and film-making which, must has given a wide ranging perspective to the song writing.


As a debut it is impressive and I think a ‘grower’. Another idea would be an acoustic / electric gig, covering the album in both styles and, a bonus disc of acoustic demos!






1. Shoot You Down

2. The Emperor's Old Clothes

3. Atmosphere 

4. A Roll Call   

5. Anthem (For Wasted Youth)

6. First Blood to the Young One

7. America Sleeps

8. Wrong Man (In the Wrong Place)

9. Vincent

10. The Virus   

11. Wrecking Ball



When you hear that an album has a ‘big sound’ you generally know what to expect. But Odonis Odonis have actually delivered a debut album with a gigantic sound.  The band from Toronto covers the spectrum of Garage, Psych, Goth and Post Rock all in one go.


Formed in 2009, Odonis Odonis started out as the solo vehicle for Dean Tzenos who recorded demos with Colin Stewart (Black Mountain). Then the band was formed and we now have the hot property debut album ‘Hollandaze’, which starts with a rasping guitar followed by a rockabilly twang accompaniment to a cacophony of sound.


That same guitar twang flows throughout. 'Busted Lip' (or busted ear drum if you play it too loud) is a glorious assault on the senses in a Black Angels/Wooden Shjips type of way. White Flag blows the garage (rock) doors off with added punk attitude. There is variation too. The slightly slower paced Horrors-esq 'Blood Feast' for example.

I was able to pick up this album in a hand crafted sleeve at Rough Trade Records in London recently. I had already heard some of the songs and came to the impression that the album would require some concentrated attention to fully appreciate it.


With the CD in my hand, I was not quite prepared for the spine tingling hit that this unique record gives to the senses with first comparisons in the Gillian Welch, Joanna Newsom, Joan Baez range.


Instrumentation is excellent and is recognisable from Jocie’s full time role in the Low Anthem. There is piano, double bass, oboe and that instrument that looks like a harp on its side that Jocie plays with a bow at Low Anthem shows.


The album grows to become an infectious listen with beautiful songs. The strings and oboe on Chastity are quite sublime. The variety of a Low Anthem record is there, the storytelling is there, the beautiful voice is there. Just immerse yourself.

I have now lived with this record for around a week and can say that Ryan Adams is back and on (Ashes and) Fire! Solo start and nice acoustic song ‘Dirty Rain’ is in Heartbreaker vein, but heck, really it’s just a classic Ryan ballad. Title song Ashes and Fire has a slight Dylanesqe feel. and the band kicks in from’ Do I Wait’ but overall this is a solo record and although the Cardinals may be sorely missed, Ryan has delivered yet another gem of an album.

It’s his first record released on his own PAX-AM label and Sony’s Columbia Records. The album was recorded in LA at Sunset Sound in Hollywood and produced by Glyn Johns who was a regular in the production chair during Ryan’s early albums, including the (still) magical Heartbreaker.

(Tom Petty) Heartbreakers, organist, Benmont Tench appears on Ashes and Fire alongside Norah Jones who sings backing vocals to great effect.

I don’t hold much faith if the recent press headlines around this record, ‘Ryan reborn’, ‘Best since Heartbreaker and Gold’, ‘Ryan rediscovers his muse’ etc. I really don’t think deep down that Ryan ever lost his muse. Yes he took a long break (who wouldn’t if they could from the day job), He filled his time and random projects and archive releases. He played the odd shows and also this summer, played an acoustic tour of Europe this year.

So it’s another Ryan record and yes it is on par with his other output of which, the majority is excellent. There are plenty of (eyes shut) magic moments on this record so perhaps, like people discovered Ryan at the time of Whiskeytown and then after that via, Heartbreaker and those early shows, a new generation will now latch on as the journey continues.





Dirty Rain

Ashes & Fire

Come Home


Do I Wait

Chains Of Love

Invisible Riverside

Save Me


Lucky Now

I Love You But I Don't Know What To Say


A lovely record from Leslie Feist. Metals is her second album under the Feist, moniker and it is another gem. A whiff of Americana on opener, ‘The Bad in Each Other’ followed by, ‘Graveyard’. You know the album is a winner when someone can make a song called ‘Graveyard’ sound joyous.


There are heart rending ballads, electronica, pop and indie on this record and unlike the rather bleak album cover the album itself is warm and rich and very listenable on the ears.


‘Caught in the Wind’ has a Kate Bush like grandeur and a soul vibe kicks off ‘How Come You Never Go There’. So as you can see that the album has a varied pace.


It could I guess be considered a pop record but, Leslie Feist comes from the (recently disbanded) indie playground of Broken Social Scene, just listen to ‘A Commotion’, her indie song writing credentials, laid bare.  


From 'Anti Pioneer' the album takes a Jazz, Blues feel then onto those ballads mentioned before. This is first and foremost an album of finely crafted original songs which should be welcomed into any collection,




The Bad in Each Other
Caught a Long Wind
How Come You Never Go There
A Commotion
The Circle Married the Line
Bittersweet Melodies
Anti Pioneer
The Undiscovered First
Cicadas and Gulls
Comfort Me
Get it Wrong, Get it Right

This has album has been a regular visitor to my headphones for the past couple of months, so it must be time to award it a review. Starting with the gently parping horns of 'Dark Horse' you are immediately drawn into the world of Other Lives - slightly mysterious, slightly ethereal, but a world that's as warm and inviting as a womb. 'As I Lay My Head Down' has a slightly Eastern European feel to its rhythms and backing, and then the brilliant 'For 12'  swoops in on a cloud of swirling strings with an  almost spaghetti western feel to the guitars. 

The title track is next, with some bar-room piano beginning the song, which continues with a melancholy air, and then 'Dust Bowl III' starts with a simple acoustic guitar before turning into something much grander, with rhythmic drums and a swell of instruments. 'Weather' is an unusual track, feeling unstructured and loose but with vocals and instruments harmonising, it rises and drops through the song, winding its way through your head.  

'The Future' is the new album from duo Brad and Jessica Lauretti from Brooklyn, New York. Sounding much more like lovers than brother and sister, their second album is warm and touching with just the right amount of pathos. Recorded in an old school house in Wassaic (upstate NY) with engineer Justin Pizzoferrato, there's an intimacy and empathy in the music and lyrics that draws the listener in. If the occasional track veers a little to closely to the country border (I'm looking at you 'Key West') there's enough rough edges on some of the other tracks like 'Space Baby' and 'Just Because' to ensure that your attention remains. The melancholy vibe is at times reminiscent of some of Richmond Fontaine's quieter moments, and there's a nice emotional edge to Brad's voice. 

In some ways this is almost an American alt country version of the Big Deal album 'Lights Out' that came out in the UK a couple of months ago - it's got the same deceptively simple air that draws the listener in, and there's plenty of musical variation to be found behind the simple acoustic facade. And while ultimately it might not be quite as satisfying as the Big Deal record it's still got enough talent and charm to make it worth recommending. The band played the End of the Road festival last month, so if you were lucky enough to see them there then well done, the rest of us will just have to hope they return to these shores soon. 

This band had a lot of mystique and intrigue about them after the release of their debut album ‘Survival’ in 2009, which included Sharon van Etten on guest vocals. The sound was mature beyond the band’s years and carried a really thrilling air about it (much like Wild Nothing recently). The sophomore album from Forest Fire, ‘Staring At The X’ does therefore have something to live up to.


No worries on that score however, as the album should spread like a…err…forest fire. It’s a big, big sound from these young merchants of sophisticated and measured noise.


The guitar is magnificent throughout with flashes of the riffs of Television’s Richard Lloyd and Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour.


Eight songs and that 'big sound' surrounds you from the off, on 'Born Into'. The song for all its emotion and musical complexities finishes abruptly after three minutes when really it could go on for another three.


‘Future Shadows’ with those aforementioned guitar riffs and forward looking electronics changes the pace. Same thing with 'The News' - Roxy Music sax, nice guitar riffs and punctuation, yet just as the guitar gets magnificently intense the song finishes, after just two and a half minutes. Frustration is growing but let’s hope the live shows bring some extended solos.


Don’t be discouraged by just eight songs, there is a great deal of technical musical accomplishment in the music on the record, the climax of which is the seven minutes (!) plus, ‘Visions in Plastic’ which ends the record on a mighty fine note.

On 10th October, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside will be releasing their debut album, Dirty Radio via Fargo which is a raw, sweet, crisp, clear gem of rockabilly and blues.

Sallie Ford comes into the Imelda May league, very distinctive and powerful with a voice to fill a room without doubt. Hailing from Asheville, North Carolina, and now based in Portland, where the band earned major fans in The Decemberists and The Avett Brothers”, you really get a live feel from the album all the way through.


Slow dark beginning on ‘I Swear’ much like a dark scene in a western movie then, like a rattle snake coming into view, Sallie’s vocals pierce the air and grab your full attention immediately. 

SuperHeavy; A new group with a guy who knows his reggae, a lady with a fabulous voice and vocal range and a man who should really be fronting a rock n’ roll band with, his raw intensity, as he spits out the lyrics. Actually not so new, after all, the Super group that is SuperHeavy is Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, A. R. Rahman, Dave Stewart and Damian Marley but for a moment, disregard the heavyweight members and give the music a listen.


A record packed to the brim with music, nothing wasted or lacking in the production, musicianship or presentation. There is a budget here but, with that budget comes pressure. These guys could has just as easily tripped themselves up and produced a lemon, but this record has all come together.


First bands that spring to mind when listening to Widowspeak are Camera Obsura,The Bookhouse Boys and Wye Oak. 

For opener ‘Puritan’ the guitar whips around Molly’s dreamy vocals. Reverb guitar with that ethereal voice, on ‘Harsh Realm’ and you just can't go wrong and the album is set on it’s path. 

‘Nightcallers’ sparks the image of a flowing red dress, the maiden hanging onto the mic for all she is worth as the guitars loop and swoop around her. 

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