The Just Played Verdict–Frankie & The Heartstrings ‘Hunger’

Shameless jangly indie is a good thing. A charismatic frontman with a distinctive yelp seals the deal. Now that we’ve escaped the new year’s hype wagon of gobshites with bad hair, it’s time for the pure pleasure of a debut album by one of last year’s most promising bunch of slow-burning, guitar-wielding upstarts. Imagine the Housemartins doing a cover album of Strokes singles and you’ll have some sense of what ‘Hunger’ sounds like.


The whole record oozes that raw, manic indie sound which has been one of the main forces in popular music’s alleyways and backwaters, with a brief outpouring in the mid-Nineties, for over thirty years now. Yep, it’s more music about love chased, lost and briefly enjoyed, delivered by lads in skinny black trousers. Continue reading “The Just Played Verdict–Frankie & The Heartstrings ‘Hunger’”

New Music Monday – Tom Williams Interview

Regular readers will no doubt recall the numerous mentions of Tom Williams & The Boat on this blog. Recently, ‘Concentrate’ was a Song Of The Day, last August they were featured in the inaugural FUTUREMUSIC and as far back as the summer of 2008 I was wittering on about this fantastic new band I’d heard on 6 Music.

My, how they’ve grown! Today, Tom Williams & The Boat released their debut single proper, ‘Concentrate’, via iTunes and on hand-numbered limited edition 7” vinyl. It seemed only right that Just Played should mark the momentous occasion and, thankfully, Tom was happy to talk about the single release, the forthcoming album and the current musical climate. Click play on this video to have a listen to the single while you read the feature below, then you’ll find handy links to allow you to purchase this beautiful track at the end of the interview.

For those of us who bought the early EPs through your website it’s pretty exciting to see you having a national single release. How are you feeling about ‘Concentrate’ being unleashed on the public?

It’s really exciting! It’s the first step of a long journey to hopefully drag us into the national consciousness!

The re-recording has a more dense sound than the original on the ‘Doing My Best’ EP. Is this an indication of where your sound is headed?

I think it’s just recorded in a better studio with better producers etc. but, yeah, we are getting heavier. The new stuff we’re working on now is really leaning away from that ‘folk’ tag which has been irrelevant for a while now. We’re getting into gloomy Radiohead, Grinderman, Bad Seeds territory with the new stuff!

When can we expect a full album and will any more EP songs be featured in re-recorded forms?

The album will hopefully be out in the summer after another single or two…it all depends how it goes. We really want to give this a go, and make sure we do our best to make sure there’s an audience waiting for the record. The album serves as a ‘greatest hits’ so far of sorts. So, yeah, some re-records but also new stuff!

You’re pretty excited about releasing ‘Concentrate’ on 7” vinyl. Even though you’ve provided plenty of free downloads on your site over the last couple of years, is the physical product an important factor in making and releasing music for you?

Yes, very, and especially vinyl. For me it’s the most generous format, physically it feels great in your hands, it sounds better than CD (the sound file is double the size) and also the artwork is glorious in that size!

You’re in the final twelve of Q Magazine’s competition to win a slot at Glastonbury. Obviously, Just Played wants you to win. Is this just about the music out there or does Glastonbury have a special significance for you?

For us it’s the best festival in the world, but also, the kind of classic rock references that drive us also drive Glasto: Springsteen, Neil Young, all that stuff…we’ve got everything crossed for the summer!

What can Just Played readers expect from the Tom Williams & The Boat live experience?

It’s louder than you thought it would be! Someone said the other day that we were more ‘muscular’ than he expected, so there you go! More muscular! We’re six, with violins, saxes, pianos and harmonicas so it’s a big noise with lots of sweat!

How did the moniker of ‘The Boat’ come to be applied to the other five members of the band?

It came very early on, I just wanted an unusual name that’d prick the ears up, but also a collective noun and a vessel seemed like a good idea! (I still maintain, as I said in the summer of 2008, that this is a top band name.)

What music would you say influences the sound of Tom Williams & The Boat?

Loads of stuff: Dylan, Springsteen, Neil Young, The Beatles, Elliott Smith, Pavement, Radiohead. Ah, it’s endless! I can’t think now you know but those are probably a top seven of sorts.

You were one of this blog’s new music tips last August – could you tip some current music for readers to investigate right now?

At the moment I’ve got the new Gil Scott-Heron on repeat, along with the Swanton Bombs album ‘Mumbo Jumbo and Murder’ and Cash’s ‘American Recordings VI’.

You’ve been quick to express your dismay at the intention of the BBC to close 6Music. This blog discovered you through your performance on Steve Lamacq’s show. How important is it as a station and do you have a rallying cry for those who haven’t yet expressed their concern at this news?

I think it’s absolutely fundamental to the survival of independent labels and artists but also it’s one of the only surviving stations that ALWAYS play you something you’ve never heard before…and that’s priceless.

What are you reading right now?

A poetry/photography mash up with lost Dylan poems from the mid sixties written for the photographs of Barry Feinstein

Any good?


If you had to summarise what it’s like starting out in the music industry in the 21st century in one sentence, what would you say?



The nigh-on essential ‘Concentrate’ 7”, at a very reasonable £4 delivered, is available to order direct from Tom’s site by clicking here or you can purchase the single digitally via iTunes by clicking here. It’s a great track and I can’t even begin to express how excited I am about the prospect of the forthcoming album. I implore you to do your bit for splendid new indie by purchasing this mighty single and rewarding Tom’s endeavours to date.

2010 on the record

Futuremusic 2010: A Little Bit Of Soul


Sixties girl group pop is rightly revered by many music fans. It’s overtly saccharine, almost disarmingly chirpy and always sounds loud, no matter what volume you have it on at and yet it just makes you feel good. Just like proper pop music should. A few years ago, it looked like we were on the cusp of a whole glut of acts adopting this sound and it was genuinely rather exciting. But things seemed to fizzle out a little and of the two most promising groups, The Pipettes fizzled out and had almost as many line-up changes as the Sugababes, while Lucky Soul didn’t quite capture the public’s hearts in the way I had rather hoped they would. ‘One Kiss Don’t Make A Summer’, from their debut, ‘The Great Unwanted’, was a compilation perennial for me for some twelve months after if first appeared and is as joyous a slice of pop as you’re likely to hear any time soon. Come the start of April and their second album, ‘A Coming Of Age’, will be released and it’s a likely contender for the end of year lists. As a result of its release date getting pushed back a bit, I’ve been listening to this record since November and I happy to report that it is somehow both immediate and a grower.


That Sixties stomp is still there but the songs themselves are much stronger, resulting in a consistently delightful listen. Recent single ‘White Russian Doll’ a fair representation of the more upbeat numbers on ‘A Coming Of Age’, opener ‘Woah Billy!’ possibly just topping it for sheer exuberance. Singer Ali Howard has an absolutely adorable voice, knowing exactly when to go through the gears and when to rein herself in. It would be grossly unfair on those four blokes above with nice hair to say that it is Howard’s voice that makes this band truly exceptional – the music more than plays its part – but her pipes make her one of my very favourite contemporary singers and her performance on this record is, at times, breathtaking.

lucky soul great unwanted

The pop influence shares the billing with some luscious, 70s singer-songwritery sounds like ‘Warm Water’ and the euphoric swing of ‘Southern Melancholy’. Add in the full blown country work out of ‘Love³’ and the sway-a-long splendour of ‘Upon Hilly Fields’ and you have a complex collection of emphatically ‘up’ classic pop.

lucky soul white russianDon’t think it’s only the music that makes this one to soundtrack the not especially sun kissed summer days. There are some disarmingly honest lyrics across the twelve tracks on ‘A Coming Of Age’, along with evidence of a bitingly sharp sense of humour. If ‘some say I’m schizophrenic, but I walk in single file’ is bettered this year, I’ll be surprised. Straddling, as they do, the worlds of indie and vintage pop, it’s hard to imagine this album sitting comfortably on the supermarket shelves alongside the usual suspects but I can’t help thinking that if more people heard these wonderful songs, the success they deserve wouldn’t be all that far behind. As it is, I’ve no idea how the album will do, but I do know that I will cherish every last note on it and if it’s not in my Top 20 list at the end of the year, feel free to call me a slightly naughty name. I’ll deserve it.

lucky soul coming of age



2010 on the record

Futuremusic 2010: A Little More Lively


A new indie band is born every six seconds. The midwife squeezes them all into skinny jeans, combs their hair to make them look like right twats and teaches them how to look at a camera as if they’ve got lemon juice in their right eye. After a quick lesson in rudimentary instrument technique, they are provided with their required reading list and a small selection of ‘classic’ records and sent off to become interesting. And, the majority of these largely tedious arseholes get nowhere. Thank fuck for that, eh? Thankfully, it still seems like the good stuff can rise to the top, even if the people at the top have jizzed all their money away on promoting greatest hits albums by former reality TV show contestants who only had half a dozen hits in the first place and now can’t really afford to do much for new bands.


Frankie & The Heartstrings have not only risen out of the self-castrating trouser pool, but have recently put out a single of Rough Trade and seem to be drawing attention to themselves rather effectively. I recently posted the A side of that debut 7” as part of the Song Of The Day feature after reading a wonderful interview with them in the NME. I know I shouldn’t really recycle content, but I’d swiped it from that NME interview in the first place, so I don’t think I ever had the moral high ground. It was this comment, from drummer Dave Harper, which drew me in: “I could walk 50 yards from here and find 10 musicians who are a million times better than us, but fuck me they’re boring. There’ll be a band in Newcastle one of these days with so many fucking delay pedals you’ll have to stand in Hartlepool to hear them.” If there’s one thing Frankie & The Heartstrings are not, it’s boring.

From the ‘fuck it, let’s dance’ school of indie pop, they already some splendidly chaotic tunes to their name and I don’t doubt that they are capable of delivering a debut album to cherish. They’re not big but they are clever; Harper’s blog posts are capable of raising a smile from a manically depressed, long-term unemployed undertaker. Their own PopSexLtd imprint awards catalogue numbers to things with almost as much reckless abandon as Factory Records – the latest ‘release’ appears to be a drumstick. You can, however, download odds and sods, enter draws for gig tickets or plead for copies of incredibly rare mixtapes if you’re beady-eyed and a frequent enough visitor.

I would recommend grabbing yourself a copy of their self-released, six track live EP from the arse end of last year which comes in a tote bag with a fanzine, badges, a postcard and, an actual 10” piece of vinyl. It’s chaotic, it’s ramshackle and it’s the most fun I’ve had listening to an early recording of a promising new band since the Arctic Monkeys appeared. And I don’t think I liked them as much as this lot. There’s a bit of Roxy Music in the wavering vocal but also the astute, razor sharp pop sensibilities of Franz Ferdinand at times. Add in a bit of the early 90s navel-gazing, tinny indie ‘sound’ and you’ve really got something worth your attention. These delightfully generous chaps are actually happy giving away their music and if you go to their Myspace you’ll find an email address from which to request some music. It works! If you’re after either the live 10” or the debut single, I wouldn’t hang around: they’ll not be around for long. Unlike the band, I suspect.

2010 on the record

Futuremusic 2010: Ever onwards


Train journeys are tricky things to soundtrack. A lot of it hinges on the weather and the accompanying view. If, in addition to this, you’re bloody knackered then this also has a pretty crucial bearing on this. I tend to gravitate towards the more acoustic end of my collection when in these situations, despite the fact that quieter music doesn’t tend to fare all that well when put up against the many and varied noises emanating from most of the East Midlands Trains stock. Still, I endeavour to find that precise sound that will fit.


Kris Drever’s music deserves to soundtrack those deeply intimate, private moments when your eyes lock on to something arbitrary in the middle distance and your brain switches to somewhere between autopilot and shuffle, churning out random thoughts, one after another, spring cleaning through the humdrum detritus that builds up over the course of an average day. The musical accompaniment needs a voice which sounds suitably lived-in, a voice which is actually singing the words rather than raspy talking or laconic drawls and a voice which can transport you just as much as the train in which you sit. Drever is absolutely the man for the job.

I came to his first album entirely by chance. It was put out by Reveal Records, the label which grew out of the excellent, but now deceased, independent record shop of the same name in Derby. As I’ve mentioned previously, I would frequently pick up those early releases on the label simply on the basis that I knew Tom, shop and label boss, wasn’t likely to be trying to shift something that wasn’t up to scratch. The fact that the vinyl came with a free CD was the clincher and I soon found myself listening to ‘Black Water’ at fairly regular intervals. I recently deployed ‘Honk Toot’ as a Song Of The Day and it’s that track which really caught my attention and drew me into the record further. It is, as I said a week or so ago, 21st century music that happens to use traditional sounds rather than traditional music trying to sound contemporary. The recordings are completely uncluttered and sympathetic to the attentive ear.

Drever’s particular gift comes in term of the arrangement, not actually writing all that much of the material on either of his two albums. Whether reimagining old folk numbers of putting his stamp on the work of friends and label mates like Boo Hewerdine, Drever’s performances are imbued with a true spirit and passion, ensuring that once his music has clicked with you, it’s hard not to feel a little protective of this beautiful secret you have. His new album, ‘Mark The Hard Earth’ picks up where ‘Black Water’ left off, filling out the sound a little without overcomplicating matters and offering some more assured vocal performances after the tentative steps of that debut release.

On top of all of this, Drever is also a member of increasingly revered – and rightly so – folk group Lau, who only two days ago received the Best Group award for the third year running at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Their music, while different to these solo recordings, is a logical step for anyone sold on ‘Black Water’ or ‘Mark The Hard Earth’. I should also quickly mention the album he released along with Roddy Woomble from Idlewild and John McCusker, Drever’s producer. Going by the name of Drever, McCusker, Woomble (I know, inspired) they released ‘Before The Ruin’ back in September of 2008. It slipped by unnoticed but it’s yet another cracking record worthy of your attention.

Having said all of that, this piece is about Kris Drever’s solo work and, with ‘Mark The Hard Earth’ out next month, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you end reading rather more about him in the coming weeks. Pick up the debut for a very reasonable price direct from the source and get your iPod kitted out ready for your next experience traversing the country by rail. I should point out, his music works with other forms of transport too. And at home, obviously.

Spotify – ‘Black Water’

Advance copies of ‘Mark The Hard Earth’ available here while stocks last.

2010 on the record

Futuremusic 2010 – Day Two


Five songs, that’s all I’m basing this on. And one of them is forty seconds long. So, we’ll say four, really. But what magic is contained within those four songs. Under Alien Skies are two lads, David and Danny from Prestatyn in Wales. That’s about all I know at this stage and their minimal web presence isn’t much help when trying to find out a bit more about them. Which just leaves the music on the ‘Powder’ EP for me to talk about.


Fans of the spaced-out, dubby wall of sound style backdrops so beloved of everyone from Animal Collective to Grizzly Bear of late, will likely take to this instantly. Opening track ‘Fyodor’ almost oozes through the speakers, so ‘big’ is its sound. Judicious application of echo makes it feel like you’re lost somewhere deep in the middle of the song itself and yet the vocal, a precisely enunciated croon, is crisp as you like atop this aural tapestry. This really wouldn’t have sounded out of place on ‘Veckatimest’, and not only that, it would have been one of the finer moments on the record. Insane hyperbole though this may seem, it really is that good.

Bloodsport’ sounds, at least in part, like Animal Collective after they’ve been introduced to the idea of verses in songs. Ludicrous degrees of repetition are avoided and, instead, the track goes through several phases, gradually slowing to cascading harmonies over a stuttering beat and little bleepy computer noises. It’s a luscious end to the song and it’s made to seem all the more dreamy and delicate by the whirling, careering, largely instrumental closing track, ‘Amine’, the danciest (yeah, I know, but a better word currently escapes me) thing on the EP.

Thoroughly nice bloke and underrated radio broadcaster of great quality, Adam Walton was the one to tip me off about this lot and he wrote an impassioned and possibly even more excited piece about this EP on his BBC Wales music blog in early January. His particular favourite track is ‘Cracks’, by far the most schizophrenic song of theirs I’ve heard. It starts off sounding like two different songs playing at once before gradually coalescing into a curiously mournful sound. Imagine the Beach Boys having to record their vocals just after watching their cat get knocked over by a passing driver and you’ll be somewhere close. Add in a twirling Spanish guitar sound and you don’t know whether to smile or cry. As the music gradually retreats, you’re left with the sounds of nature and a high-pitched loop slowly ascending to a better place. I think ‘Fyodor’ just about edges it for me, but I hear why Adam was so immediately head over heels with it. Even the forty second piece, ‘Caller ID’ is a strangely swelling piano interlude, maintaining the atmosphere and further diversifying the sound of this almost impossible to categorise EP.

I await even greater things from this lot. They’re not, as far as I’m aware, even signed up yet and their aforementioned scant internet presence makes it tricky to get a handle on exactly what we can expect from them and when. You can download the EP for free by clicking through from the picture above, where it’s available for free from Bandcamp, even in lossless if you like it that way. I cannot emphasise how enough how much I urge you to do that. It’ll be some of the most intriguing, engaging and frankly different music you’ve heard in some time.

2010 on the record

Futuremusic 2010 – More New Music


I’m already slightly giddy about the amount of wonderful new music arriving in 2010 and we’ve only just finished the first month. As a result, here’s 2010’s first burst of Futuremusic, which long-time readers will remember was a series of features on exciting new stuff that ran in August of last year. Five more tremendous purveyors of musical goodness who haven’t quite snuck above the radar coming up, some of which I would imagine you’ll be familiar with, others less so. So, without further ado…


Gene spent much of their career trying to shrug of the tag of ‘Smiths copyists’, a label which I never quite understood. Certainly, there were occasional musical echoes and Martin Rossiter did manipulate and molest his vocal chords into certain Moz-like directions from time to time, but I always felt there was a not inconsiderable bit of The Jam in there as well and I couldn’t really grasp why it was The Smiths that the press was always so keen to bang on about. Not that it should really have been a hindrance. The Smiths were fucking marvellous and the enduring appeal of those albums is proof enough that their influence on music lovers the world over is considerable. What exactly would be so bad about sounding like The Smiths anyway?

So think Northern Portrait. The band name could be a wry wink in that direction, as many of their, frankly wonderful, songs display a sizeable love of all things Morrissey and Marr, but for the fact that they claimed in an interview last summer to have only recently heard of The Smiths. I bow down before Gideon Coe for this one. One evening in the summer of 2008, I was listening to his peerless 6music late show when he played a track from the band’s ‘Fallen Aristocracy’ EP. I remember thinking, ‘sounds a bit Smithsy, I’d like to hear that again’. Within fifteen minutes, I’d sent a pifflingly small amount of money via Paypal to US-based Matinee Recordings. Soon after, the CD arrived, delivering on that early promise with four wonderful indie-pop tunes contained within artwork which even had that mid-Eighties indie release feel to it. I was in for the long haul and kept an eye on the Matinee site, waiting for another EP. ‘Napoleon Sweetheart’ followed and a similar approach was adopted – dated sleeve and jangly indie of the highest order.

This Danish band have a finely honed sound and, as is so often the case with debut albums, they’ve whittled down their early songs to the very best they have to offer and have just released them for the world to pass judgement. Or just have a little listen. You really should. Second track, ‘When Goodness Falls’ highlights the Moz influence with the gloriously embittered lyric, “I’m so glad to disappoint you”, bouncing along with shimmering guitar lines which leave you pondering just how charming the man singing really is. Do you see what I did there? Do you? Ok, I’ll stop now.

The album in question will be available in the UK from March, but you can already order it direct from Matinee Recordings at a very reasonable price and I can’t think of any reason not to. Its title, ‘Criminal Art Lovers’, could be taken as a further acknowledgement of the heavy debt their music owes to various musical forefathers and the title track has a hint of Just Played faves, Trashcan Sinatras about it, while ‘Life Returns To Normal’ brings to mind a slightly subdued Housemartins. You must be sold by now, surely?


Crazy’ was on that first EP I ordered after Gideon’s airplay and it sounds glorious, sandwiched within all of this new material. Indeed, along with a couple of other tracks on ‘Criminal Art Lovers’, it also brings to mind the aforementioned Mr Rossiter. Oh, the irony, a Smithsy band who actually sound really rather like Gene. ‘The Operation Worked But The Patient Died’ is another title that Steven Patrick Morrissey would be ever so charmed by, but the musical affectations on this one definitely evoke Gene from their epic, ‘Drawn To The Deep End’ phase. No bad thing again.

Album closer, ‘New Favourite Moment’, is a wonderfully catchy way to wrap things up and if you don’t find yourself singing along with it soon after its first play then you have clearly lost the ability to enjoy yourself. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you can’t find something to like in this song then I’m not sure we can ever truly be friends. In truth, the entire album is littered with hooks and I’m struggling to think of a duff song to mention in the well-it’s-not-perfect-bit-before-I-wrap-things-up-on-a-positive-note section. The album’s mastered quite loud. That’s about the only thing I can think of to moan about right now.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed explaining why I love this band. I’ve recently written a brief review of the record for publication in March in which I overplayed the comparisons with The Smiths in order to hammer home the point, but there’s plenty more going on in these songs and if even one person clicks through from this site to order the album after reading these words, I’ll be chuffed. Literate, emotive indie is often hard to find and when another band pop up delivering captivating songs to such a high standard it’s cause for celebration.

The good folk at Matinee Records are happy for me to share a couple of songs from the record with you, so treat yourself by right clicking and saving from these two links.

Northern Portrait – New Favourite Moment

Northern Portrait – Criminal Art Lovers

And now, thoroughly convinced as I’m sure you are, click here to purchase the album, and the early EPs if you’re so inclined, direct from Matinee.

2010 on the record