Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Former Coral guitarist Lee Southall announces debut solo LP!


If you’ve been wondering what’s been keeping Lee Southall busy all this time, you’re about to find out. On Iron In The Fire, the former The Coral guitarist brings the outside world in through quality songmanship – showing that whichever paths our lives may take, our exposure to the elements will remain the same.

“I worked building dry stone walls on the moors,” Lee reveals of his whereabouts. “Living up there, the weather is always a big issue. There’s been a few emotional storms in my life over the past few years too so I guess the landscape got into the songs in some way. Iron In The Fire is about change, transformation, something being melted down and re-shaped.”

Taking an alternative path to each of his Coral cohorts, when the group disbanded in 2012, Lee left behind his native seaside town of Hoylake on the Wirral, and moved 75 miles inland to the ‘tops’ of Hebden Bridge. In search of a fresh start, the dramatic wind-beaten and changeable landscape gave Lee time and space to craft Iron In The Fire but equally, it lingers like the taste of the salty air hanging above the coast. “I’ve lived by the sea and watched weather roll in, but it's the same in Hebden, watching storms roll over the moors,” Lee says, who wrote the majority of the album in his new hilltop dwellings.

The album is very much the sound of Southall standing alone on his own two feet. “Music's in my blood, it's all I know how to do. The decision to work on my own album felt obvious, natural. Iron In The Fire feels like something I've been waiting for.”

The Starlights' Sound - Out Over Nothing

Music to daydream to. An ambient mix of shoegaze, deftly fingerpicked acoustic folk, and synthy soundscapes.

It's always a good day when the postman delivers a piece of vinyl to Harmonic Distortion HQ. A couple of weeks back this LP by The Starlights' Sound arrived unexpectedly. I must admit the name wasn't familiar and the sleeve held no clues to what kind of music lay within its grooves. Which is fine by me! So with an open mind and open heart I placed it on the turntable and lifted the needle into place...

What followed was most welcome; eight tracks of mostly instrumental, meditative music, somewhere between shoegaze, deftly fingerpicked acoustic folk, soundscapes and ambient music. A little digging on the web led to their Facebook page where they've described the record as “a collection of sonic environments designed to promote relaxation, visualization and lucid dreaming.” Which is pretty much spot on.

The project (that feels more apt than band) is based in San Francisco and was put together by Steve Perrone and Doug Hilsinger. Instrumentation includes guitar, bass, drums, organ and synths, but it's the addition of violin and cello that adds a reflective, melancholy edge to certain tracks. Listening to Out Over Nothing is like taking a peak into someone's private notebook. The tracks have an open-ended sketch-like quality to them as if they've been jotted down in a daydream to capture a mood rather than any specific thought. An album with a sphinx-like mystery attached to it, and all the more welcome and likable for that.

The album is available on vinyl (which is recommended!) or via the Bandcamp/Soundcloud links below. Interestingly The Starlights' Sound have made a video to accompany 'Pictures', a track from the album. I've placed the link below, find a quiet moment, shut out any distractions and enjoy.

Click here for The Starlights' Sound on Facebook.
Click here for The Starlights' Sound on Bandcamp.
Click here for The Starlights' Sound on Soundcloud.
Click here for Planet Seven Recordings.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Lancashire Hustlers - Adventure

Brent Thorley and Ian Pakes return with the final part in their trilogy of pop operas.

The previous LP from The Lancashire Hustlers, 2015's What Made Him Run, was a distinctly British concept album of sorts which focused on the corrupting nature of ambition and rampant capitalism. This time round the London-based duo turn their eyes outwards towards the wider world with a globe and time-straddling travelogue. Whereas What Made Him Run had a small screen kitchen-sink feel, Adventure has a broader cinematic quality to it. A kaleidoscopic musical journey, its juxtaposition of styles and textures acts as a soundtrack to an as yet un-made movie, taking in soul, psych, rock, country and more, all held together via the pairs' pleasing vocal harmonies, and a loosely themed narrative.
The are songs about the Titanic ('White Star Liner'), the points where science and politics meet ('An Expert Dies'), camper-van road trips ('Desert Drive') and plenty more besides. This concept of travel and pioneering permeates all the songs not only lyrically but musically too. A rich expensive tapestry of sound woven by an exotic range of instruments. Indian tamboura, autoharp, African Kalimba, lap-steel guitar and Metallophone all make an appearance. (Yes I had to Google the last one too!)
As this is the third and final album in their trilogy of “pop operas” it's unclear what The Lancashire Hustlers plan to do next. One can only hope they'll continue working together. Time will tell but in the meantime, feast your ears on their releases so far.

Click here for The Lancashire Hustlers' website.
Click here for The Lancashire Hustlers on Facebook.
Click here for The Lancashire Hustlers on Bandcamp.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The Creation Factory - Let Me Go / You Got It (Ltd. 7")

Limited edition 7” from LA's hottest underground psych band!

In a week where, on both sides of the Atlantic, the political shit heads towards its proverbial fan, it's reassuring to know that America still makes great music. And it's similarly reassuring that a small record label on our side of the pond is willing and able to press this music onto black vinyl. The Creation Factory are the latest Los Angeles band to have the kudos of a 7” release on Market Square Records, the small but perfectly formed bespoke label based in West Sussex.

The band's sound harks back to an earlier period in the city's musical history, a time when fuzzy guitars, reedy organ, three chords and a whole lotta snotty attitude was the order of the day. The A-side is pure riot on Sunset Strip, the sound of US teens' take on Them & The Rolling Stones. (Who were themselves imitating US blues musicians! Hell what's the point in nativism and shoring up borders when internationalism sounds this good!) Shot through with that garage-punk vibe we all dig, the track culminates in a band freak-out complete with wailing police sirens. Get diggin' it!

The flip-side is an altogether different beast. A dancefloor instrumental containing funky drummer beats, organ and guitar solos. A surefire smash down your local garage club-night. Don't leave it too late to bag a copy of this 7”, it's limited to 300 copies only and I'm not having you coming round here a-cryin' on my shoulder if you miss out!

Click here for The Creation Factory's website.
Click here for The Creation Factory on Facebook.
Click here for Market Square Records.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Interview with Sheila Burgel

(This feature originally appeared in issue #57 of Shindig! Magazine. To read the full interview click over the jump.)

DJ Sheila Burgel talks about the enduring appeal of '60s girl-pop.

One point missed by many commentators on Prince's recent death was how much he championed female singers and musicians. A point not missed by DJ Sheila Burgel who dedicated part of her Sophisticated Boom Boom show on WFMU to highlight some of Prince's lesser known girl-pop moments. It was an affecting and insightful tribute, put together by someone who knows a thing or two about female-fronted music.

“When I first heard British singer Maxine Darren’s “How Can I Hide It From My Heart?” off the first Here Come the Girls compilation in 1995,” says Sheila explaining her eureka moment. “That shrill vocal! Those melodies! That bizarre arrangement! It completely floored me. Soon after the gates to girl-pop heaven opened, Francoise Hardy, France Gall, Sandie Shaw, the Cookies, Billie Davis, Twinkle, the Exciters, Dorothy Berry poured in….and my life was forever changed.”

Sophisticated Boom Boom features an eclectic mix of predominately female-fronted sounds and airs on WFMU out of New Jersey each Friday afternoon. When asked for a mission statement for the show Sheila says it's “restoring gender equality with the toughest, dreamiest, sweetest, sassiest, most infectious, hook-filled, girl-fronted pop from yesterday and today, and from all over the world!” Don't be surprised to hear '60s beat, yé- , Brill Building sounds and Japanese Pinky records alongside shoegaze, metal and gritty R&B. “Melody. Hooks. Magic,” says Burgel explaining what holds it all together, ”which is why I can love the Shangri Las, Alan Parsons Project, Janelle Monae, Megadeth, Lou Christie, Big Maybelle, Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, the Orlons, Slowdive, and so many more. It’s what they all have in common.”

WFMU is a beacon of music-led FM broadcasting, whose ad-free stance
has gained the station a worldwide audience. Its commitment to specialist knowledge and passion also gives its presenters the chance to share their vision with that audience. “With Sophisticated Boom Boom and all that I do, I am showing that female-fronted pop music is as valid, worthy, important, and enjoyable as many of the (mainly male) acts that are so fawned over by the rock establishment. Long ago, the rock critics somehow decided that Led Zeppelin are extremely important and worthy of our respect and that the Shangri Las are not, and I have a problem with that judgement.”

Aside from the radio show Sheila can be found DJing every third Friday at Our Wicked Lady Club in Brooklyn. Europeans will also get a chance to hear her club selections as she undertakes a two-week European DJ tour in August with dates in Helsinki, Copenhagen, London, Paris, and Montenegro.

Having put together the Nippon Girls and Love Hit Me compilations on Ace Records, Sheila's quest to bring us the best in rare records shows no sign of letting up. “I just took on an enormous compilation project producing four volumes of '60s girl-pop. The access I get to photos, master tapes, and recording information is just unbelievable. And I get to select and sequence the tracks, write the liner notes, and art direct, so it’s a dream job, really.”

Sophisticated Boom Boom airs each Friday 3pm – 6pm (EST) on WFMU with shows archived at

Nippon Girls Vol 1 & 2 and Love Hit Me: Decca Girls 1962-66 are available from Ace Records.

For more on Sheila Burgel visit 

Ryley Walker & Danny Thompson, Meg Baird - Ropery Hall 21/2/16

(This review first appeared in issue #55 of Shindig! magazine)

Ropery Hall, Barton-upon-Humber

Tonight's venue sits a stones throw from the Humber Bridge, formerly the world's longest single span suspension bridge. Inside the hall it's continental and generational gaps that are being spanned, not rivers. Despite the 50-year age difference, the Walker/Thompson pairing is for many a dream billing.
Completing tonight's constellation is Meg Baird, whose opening set holds the audience in rapt awe. A drizzly night outside, “I love the rain... don't take your water for granted” she tells the audience before a stunning version of 'Don't Weigh Down the Light', a song written during California's recent droughts. Bless the weather indeed!
Though it's Sunday evening Walker takes a Saturday-sized swig of whisky before an hour-long set of mostly new material. At 76, Danny Thompson's hard drinking days may be over but his playing is as masterful and fluid as ever, his treasured Victoria bass as majestic live as on those classic recordings. His playing proves the perfect foil for Walker's fervent freewheeling. There are familiar tracks – 'Primrose Green', a reworked 'Summer Dress' and an encore of 'On the Banks of the Old Kishwaukee', but it's the new songs that impress most; whether exploring a young man's blues on 'Sullen Mind', the dark side of bar room life on 'Roundabout', or reflecting on relationships on 'Funny Thing She Said', signs look good for that third album.
Walker is visibly thrilled to be accompanied by the legendary double bassist, with Thompson equally happy to be back out on the road. “Beats watching Flog It!” he deadpans. Amen to that!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Us and Them - When I Was Walking / Green Couch (Ltd. 7")

Ultra rare 7” of modern day acid-folk!

Hot on the heels of their recent Sandy Denny tribute EP on Fruits de Mer, Us and Them release this brand new 7” on the equally fab label Mega Dodo Records. This time round they've featured two of their own songs – 'When I Was Walking' and 'Green Couch'. The Swedish duo don't disappoint. Soft, beautiful and timeless. Two tracks that could melt the iciest of hearts. As the world heads into the unknowable and unpredictable future it's comforting to have such stellar music. Check out the video for 'When I Was Walking' and lose yourself in its beguiling power.

It's a very limited release so if you want to get a copy don't hang about! Available as a limited edition of 150 green vinyl copies for Mega Dodo Singles Club members with another 150 copies on black vinyl for everyone else.

Click here for more on Us and Them.
Click here for Us and Them on Facebook.
Click here for Mega Dodo Records.

When I Was Walking
Green Couch

The Orange Drop - Stoned In Love

Blissed out psych-rock from Philadelphia!

It's been a busy time recently at HDHQ, which means I haven't been able to post as often as I would have liked. With Christmas, work and family commitments, a couple of bouts of man-flu my little music blog has been a little neglected of late. But with a new year comes a new start, and a firm promise to myself that I'll make more time for writing. There's so much great music around at the moment. If I can help in some small way bring it just a little more recognition then it's well worth it. Which brings me to this fine record that came out in November last year. It's been a favourite on my listening pile for the last couple of months.
Not an album that you could easily pigeonhole into a recognisable genre (but hey, ain't they often the best?!), this sonically beautiful set of songs has elements of pop, shoegaze, indie, dream-pop and acid-rock yet is not restricted by any of these labels. The album opens with 'Juniper Pearl', sadness tempered with melody and marked out by the vocals which bear an uncanny likeness to those of a young Bobby Gillespie. 'The Curse Of Kukaku' features Dave Gilmour-esque gilded guitar which takes of into the space-rock stratosphere and into the track's hypnotic coda. Tasty!
'Make It Her, Forever' begins with a portentous eastern drone. Its use of quiet/loud dynamics and guitar tremolo. 'Julia Dream' is like a lost Lennon White Album out-take, with a slightly sinister nursery rhyme vibe to it. Simple but enhanced by trippy studio effects. That's it till the end of side one but there's plenty more sonic joys to be had – the dubby beats on 'Substance B', the funky bass and fuzz guitar of 'Hey Man' and the more garage-rock stylings on 'If You Feel It'. Fans of Spiritualized, Heron Oblivion, Ultra Vivid Scene and their ilk are well advised to seek this LP out.
The band are from Philadelphia. There seems to be a happening neo-psych scene there at the moment. You should also check out Shadow Band, who have more of an acid-folk bent rather than the new psych-rock sound of The Orange Drop. But it's interesting to note both bands are mining yesterday's sounds and making something new, vibrant, and very enjoyable. Go check 'em out!

Available on limited edition orange vinyl (250 copies) and CD.

The Orange Drop are -

Marc-Andre Basile – vocals, guitar
Anthony Bove – drums
Matt Calhoun – bass
Peter Stanko - guitar

Click here for more on The Orange Drop.
Click here for The Orange Drop on Facebook.
Click here for The Orange Drop on Twitter.
Click here for Mega Dodo Records.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Mojo Brothers - Don't Lie To Me/Marie Ann (7”)

Garage brudders debut 7” - OUT NOW!

Currently taking pride of place on my turntable is this stomping 7” from Mojo Brothers, a two-piece garage band outta Germany. While a claim to be the world's smallest garage band may be disputed by The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Cowbell et al, they may well be the loudest! And unlike The White Stripes they can truthfully claim to be siblings. In your face Jack White!
Raucous fuzzy soul is the order of the day on the single's A-side, all pounding beats, snarly guitar and the pair's trademark harmony vocals. Imagine if the Everly Brothers had been punk rockers and you get the idea. Flipside 'Marie Ann' taps into a more '50s rock 'n' roll vibe complete with mid-song guitar wig-out.
So how do they manage live as a two piece? Well the drums and organ sound all come from Roman's keyboard. Neat huh! Anyways check out the video for 'Don't Lie To Me' below and head over to their lablel website to order a copy of the vinyl. Rock on!

Mojo Brothers are -
Roman (Drums, Bass, Organ, Vocals)
Matthias (Guitar, Vocals)

Click here for Off Label Records.

MOJO BROTHERS - Don't lie to me from MOJO BROTHERS on Vimeo.

Us and Them - Fading Within The Dwindling Sun (10")

Swedish duo's tribute to Sandy Denny!

This coloured 10” vinyl is out now on Fruits de Mer Records. It's a five-track tribute to Sandy Denny featuring three Denny-penned tracks and two more songs she made her own. Anyone doubting that Us and Them can due justice to the music of Sandy Denny need only check out the 7” they released a couple of years back which contained a sterling cover of 'By The Time It Gets Dark'.

As we approach the solstice, the sun is dwindling it does indeed get dark early. I can't think of a better soundtrack for to accompany the midwinter stillness. My advice – avoid the High Street madness, do your shoppong online (from Fruits de Mer reputable mail order service), find a quiet spot and let this music take its effect. It's a perfect piece of wintry folk, and another jewel in the Fruits de Mer catalogue. Just right for those moments of quiet reflection, when you take stock of the preceeding year and charge your batteries for the next 12 months. Have a great solstice everyone.

Winter Winds
Farewell, Farewell
Next Time Around
Banks Of The Nile
Take Away The Load

Click here for more on Us and Them.
Click here for Us and Them on Facebook.
Click here for Fruits de Mer Records.

The Karovas Milkshake - In The Shade Of The Purple Sun

(This review first appeared in issue 54 of Shindig! magazine)

In their home city of Yekaterinburg, east of the Ural Mountains, The Karovas Milkshake have concocted an aural love letter to '60s UK psychedelia that should appeal to fans of the original genre as well as those of its recent torchbearers (The Bees, The Coral, Temples et al.)
Standout track 'Purple Sun Of Glastonbury' is a seven and a half minute sitar-driven freakout which conjures images of rituals, standing stones and the dark spirit of Brian Jones, complete with a searing backwards guitar section.
Light relief comes via the Austin Powers-y pastiche of 'Zombie Wok' and the jaunty continental pop of 'Cryptique'. There's also room for some Bolan-ish folksy warble (Apple Pie) and Barrett-fronted jug band blues (Sugary Life).
It's all executed with a playfulness that raises it a notch above most time travelling psych-pop. Yekaterinburg may not share a ley line with Glastonbury but on this evidence you'd believe it could.

Click here for The Karovas Milkshake website. 
Click here for The Karovas Milkshake on Twitter. 
Click here for The Karovas Milkshake Facebook.  
Click here for The Karovas Milkshake Bandcamp.

Bananas Magazine - Issue #14

Latest issue of the coolest zine around! Garage, punk and psych inky available from all good stores & distros!

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been a heinous beast of a year. Brexit, Trump, all those deaths and the murder of a forward-thinking, kind-hearted MP. A seismic year, the effects of which have yet to truly affect us. Where the hell do we go from here?! It's a point well made by editor Christophe in his column of the latest issue of Bananas Magazine. What we do need to do is pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and continue to stand up and fight for what we believe in. As a musical community, (especially one as uniquely small yet global, as the garage scene is), is to keep the "citizen of the world" ethos alive, despite what Theresa May and nativist politicians the world over want to do. Hey, maybe here's not the place for politics but I just wanted to get that off my chest and try and remain positive.

Anyhow, one bright spot at the tail end of the year is issue #14 of the best garage 'zine around, a timely reminder that there are still good people, good events and great bands. If Ian Dury was around today it would be one of his reasons to be cheerful. Packed as usual with interviews, reviews, awesome illustrations that'll have even the most rural dwellers hip to the scene. Grab a copy from your local store or distro, or via the mag's website. And also check out their latest online comp, (see embedded player below). A soundtrack for your New Year's Eve party. Here's to 2017, stay strong brothers and sisters!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Beckies - The Beckies

(This review first appeared in issue 52 of Shindig! magazine)

Hampered on its initial 1976 release by a refusal to tour and the feeling of it being a major label take on the new wave zeitgeist, this sole eponymous album has aged well. Marked by its warmth and pure joy of (power) pop, it may have been at odds with the prevailing AOR professionalism of the era but forty years on reveals itself as a lost gem.
Founding member of The Left Banke, Michael Brown had a genius knack for delicate melodies and classical influenced arrangements which sat well with the power pop brio of his newly found bandmates, who'd learned their craft in Chessmann Square, a journeyman group founded on a love of harmony-rich British Invasion bands.
The Beckies would turn out to be Brown's last release on a major label. This first time on CD reissue is a fitting tribute to the man, whose talents gave so much and deserved more in return.

Herbcraft - Wot Oz

(This review first appeared in issue 52 of Shindig! magazine)

Experimental rock trio Herbcraft continue to make music that challenges and compels in equal measure. For their fourth LP band mainstay Matt Lajoie and new recruits Joe Lindsey and Aaron Neveu have released an improvised rehearsal tape where ambient dub rubs up against mutant-funk and Sister Ray style jams. From the primordial soundscape of 'We're Gonna Make It', into the focused art-rock of 'Fit Ur-Head', learn to expect the unexpected.
'Push Through The Veil' is an uncompromising take on Afro-funk with rolling bass, drum clatter and unhinged but murky vocal wailing, whereas 'No More Doors' is a more abstract, swampy affair, all voodoo drums and interplanetary guitar scales.
'Bread Don't Rise' is the closest track to traditional rock, albeit with undecipherable lyrics and primal scream delivery. If you're looking for music on rock's outer reaches, music that's devoid of cliché and unafraid of experimentation, here it is. One for the heads.

Click here for Herbcraft on Bandcamp.

The Green Pajamas - Death By Misadventure

(This review first appeared in issue 52 of Shindig! magazine)

For a band with a back catalogue large enough to rival Grattan, (Sears if you're in the US), it's surprising that this Seattle-based group are not more widely known. Even more of a mystery given the strength of Jeff Kelly's songwriting on this vinyl reissue of their 2012 album. Though they may have strayed from the psych-pop/Paisley Underground roots of their DIY cassette releases of the mid '80s, their current brand of intelligent guitar-based pop for grown ups more than compensates.
The music veers from taut and muscular indie rock, through lilting piano ballads and McCartney-esque pop, to songs owing more to European gypsy music than they do Anglo-American rock. Despite such musical variations the album is held together by being a two part song-cycle that reveals depth and intrigue with each listen. If dark storytelling is not to your taste there's the upbeat 'Carrie', a true hit single in waiting.