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Dancing On Needles To Kick Against The Pricks


Cat Tyson Hughes, Jamie Noone, junodream, Loveshadow, The Yellow Melodies

The Front Runners

Sunshine Pop : The Yellow Melodies

Never has a band name and album title captured the sound within so accurately. This delivers what it says on the tin and then some.

The Yellow Melodies are Spanish. When they sing in English, they sound very good. Their accents add a touch of exotica to otherwise commonplace songs. When they sing in Spanish they sound great, as if they’ve whisked you in a moment to a beach on the Costa del Sol. 

This is the pop of Smash Hits or The Multi Coloured Swap Shop. It’s a syrupy milkshake of a record, topped with marshmallows and made with condensed milk. You can’t live on it but who doesn’t enjoy a sugar rush once in a while?

Sunshine Pop is an album filled with sun drenched melodies soaking every song. The influences are everywhere. Sixties infiltrated C86 jangle pop is the bedrock, but over the top of that you can hear The Turtles (It’s A Good Day Today’), the power pop of Plastic Bertrand on ‘What I Do’ and ‘C86 e Indiepop’. There’s Baccara in the accents and The Rubette’s falsetto and rock and roll leanings in the mix of ‘Dance Party’. This is the distilled essence of every pop act that has disappeared from our daily memories, but brings an automatic smile every time they are resurrected on the radio.

Sometimes it’s twee. At other times it jangles like the indie kids of old. At all times there are so many hooks to snare you. Just one example - the guitar line on top of the melody mid way through ‘Importante’. These songs are so crammed with such touches there’s no space for them to be repeated, even within the same song.

It’s a long time since I’ve heard such a consistently strong collection of gloriously cliched, pure pop songs. Treat yourself this February with a splash of warmth and sunshine.

Taster Track : La Magia de Aquellas Noches

The Chasing Pack

Roses In The Casement Window : Cat Tyson Hughes

This is a deep ambient collection. It works - if you let it.

There’s a kind of almost music that promises an almost physical response to it, if you’re prepared to put in the required effort. This is one such album. It demands that you relax and allow yourself to sink under its influence. It’s music for flotation tanks and meditation. The rewards are a deep, restorative and personal sense of calm. If it doesn’t work for you though, it’s a kind of nothingness, abstract and background at best.

Cat Tyson Hughes’ pieces aim for warm, country, Summer evenings, surrounded by babbling brooks, bird song and natural beauty that take you to the cusp of drowsiness. So far, so new age bar the missing wind chimes. 

But this is more. The pieces drift into each other with little variance. Despite, or maybe because of, the absence of any of the usual elements that help us to engage with music - a tune, a beat or a rhythm -  the music becomes something that can wipe clean your accumulated stresses. 

If I can make this about me for a moment, there’s an issue arising from trying to review a record like this. You can’t give your full undivided attention to the music if you’re also trying to identify points to make in the review. I did my best. Midway through ‘Watercolours’ I turned down the lighting to soften the threat of distraction, only to squint at what i was writing to check it still followed the notebook’s lines. Four tracks in, and ‘Nature Play, begins to have the intended effect. Rather than seeking out witty insights, they came fully formed on the back of the music’s current. (I simply chose not to include them in this review.)

Once the drones wash over you and bathe you in their calm warmth, you’re lost. The moment that it all made sense came in ‘Silk Ruffles’. A sense of deep calm that lasted the best part of a minute suffused me. That may not sound much but, gosh, it’s addictive. It leaves you craving more. 

And in terms of commitment, you’re going to have to listen to the whole album because, it draws its strength from what’s around it. Every piece of every segment plays its part.

So, if this doesn’t help you to refresh and restore, then I’m afraid the issue may be you. Make ‘Roses In The Casement Window’ your drug of choice.

Taster Track : Silk Ruffles

Day Parade : Jamie Noone

Into every life a little self reflection and unhappiness, must fall. Jamie Noone has made a decent album out of that fact.

This album can’t help but feel downbeat. It’s music for coming off the motorway at 01:30. It’s been a long, stressful day. You should be heading for a warm, quiet, softly lit and comfortable home but then you’re alone with your thoughts. You might as well head for the all night drinking club and sit at the end of a long bar where a few drinks can keep your thoughts company.

This is an album that conjures up that atmosphere, but without forsaking the melodies that enable you to stay engaged and not turn away awkwardly. And the funny thing is, it’s a soothing experience, even with its overwhelmingly unhappy tones. You’re drawn deep into his life, particularly in the longer songs such as ‘Aura’ and ‘Waiting’ and in the nicely named subdued indie of ‘Living Fast, Not Living Well’ (Spoiler alert, he’s not proud of that!)

This is emphatically not a jazz record but if you heard late night jazz in the distance of say,’Aura’,  that wouldn’t be a surprise. It’s in the lounge piano and the flickering sax. Noone is originally from Dublin but now lives in Berlin. For literary fans, this would make a good soundtrack to James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners. For everyone else the black and grey tones of post war Berlin are everywhere, encased in the indie sensibility of say, David Kitt or Bell X1.

His vocals are a smooth baritone, spoken as much as sung, torch songs for a worn down and disappointed 30 something generation contemplating the wrong turn that they took at some distant point in the past. The one happy part of the album is the partnership between music and lyrics which creates a unified mood, reinforcing it throughout.

Jamie Noone - he’s no-one and everyone, and he’s made an album for a generation and their times

Taster Track : Living Fast Not Living Well

Pools of Colour : junodream

Here’s a debut album that draws influences from all the right pools but never loses sight that they’re rooted in pop.

It's exciting to come across a new band that stands at the threshold of being very good indeed, potentially the next big thing. I hope I haven’t cursed them with that prediction. There are more careers dashed on the hopes of  misplaced expectations than there is guavo on a rock in the mid Atlantic.

Let’s stay firm for now though because this is an album full of confident ambition. They claim influences from Pink Floyd and Spritualized. They’re tighter than the former and more melodic than the latter. They share the same anguished world as Doves, but they lighten in with pop touches - the keyboard on ‘Close Encounters’ and the slide guitar effects of ‘Happiness Advantage’. On ‘Lullaby’ they also draw from Radiohead, but it’s the Radiohead of ‘No Surprises’ and ‘High and Dry’, not Kid A.

They may deal in catchy, dream generated dystopia but this is still music that is happy to come from the pop world. It’s tight and melodic, the sound of a band that enjoy their music more than hating their world.

In ‘Fever Dream’ there’s something necessary, reassuring and attractive about vocals that remain accessible when the music turns weird. And if the lyrics are sometimes opaque, well, they’re only words and the vocals help to keep them from being the barrier that disconnects the listener from the song.

junodream are a cause for optimism in a world of music that sometimes seems to be teetering on the edge of implosion.

Taster Track : Death Drive

ll : Loveshadow

This selection of 80s influenced club funk is a disappointment.

It sets out its stall from the off, whisking you back into an 80s club. It’s a ponderous affair though, never approaching lift off. Some nights you remember for years. This is the soundtrack to the nights you don’t remember at all. It’s music for half full clubs and empty dancefloors. Bluntly stated, it’s an anti-climax.

To be fair, it successfully captures a certain type of 80s sound, all towering drumbeats and fully grown synth chords.It’s potentially a big, big sound but it’s never fully unleashed. This isn’t the joyful funk of Stevie Wonder although it’s hinted at on ‘Undone’. There’s no letting go, no hedonistic, carefree euphoria. They do let themselves go gently on closing track ‘Power Melts AWay’, but it’s the letting go of the Friday night scamper from the office - job done, let’s go.

Loveshadow are a duo but the impression I’m left with is of a vocalist surrounded be session musicians. They’ve learned the songs but they don’t feel the music. 

Anya’s vocals are a bright spot amidst the dancefloor gloom. They offer a lighter contrast to the music, moon walking in effortless strides across the music.

I’m afraid its main crime is simply that it’s workmanlike and dull.

(Usually, where an album hasn’t worked for me, I try to find a link online to a positive review for balance. I searched, but couldn’t find one.)

Taster Track : Earthen Track


As ever this week's Taster Track playlists can be accessed at or via the Spotify link on the Home Page.


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