Frankie & The Heartstrings

Frankie & The Heartstrings

To my ears the Sunderland / Durham / Newcastle accent when sung by male indie groups sounds the same. I know this is ridiculous but perhaps I am so swept away by the romance of a NE accent that I totally forget to listen for any defining qualities. Maximo Park were noticeably not The Futureheads because their music was much spikier, but when new Sunderland band Frankie & The Heartstrings came along last year I had a quick listen to their not very interesting debut single ‘Fragile’ and promptly put them into my forgettable, I’ll just listen to the Futureheads if I want that, box.

The first disappointment came because it’s very easy to assume things based on the first things you see about a band which are normally their name and their first promo shot. The worst thing at the moment is every band under the sun sending over some glitzy, polysexual photo that inspires you to click on their myspace, only to discover utter twaddle when it comes to the music. For Frankie & co, there was an awful, although at least not faux-gay, promo shot (see above) but the name conjured up images of beehives, quiffs, a rock & roll high school and soaring strings. ‘Fragile’ totally didn’t tick that box.

It’s good work on their part then that their second single ‘Tender’ is much more exciting and retro sounding complete with point winning hand claps. Dancable and infectious, the video totally endears them to me and the idea of someone who ‘feeds you milk and gives you wine’ sounds like a winning combo. Plus I love a frontman who doesn’t have an instrument to hide behind, yet has the ability to jump about looking silly and like he’s actually digging his own music. Can someone organise a Frankie vs Friendly Fires’ Ed McFarlane dance off please.


(It still sounds like The Futureheads)

Hockey – Song Away

Where Too Fake was quite an exciting debut single, the next single from Hockey is total run of the mill, could be Razorlight, could be Jet, 80s influenced indie. I just can’t get enough of it though. There’s something about ‘Song Away’ that fills me with utter bliss and the newly released video has made me feel even more so. It’s like Michael Cera trying to romance Ugly Betty. I love the notion that ‘tomorrow is just a song away’ and am trying to hammer the face off this at Popstarz. It went straight on the Radio 2 A list as their song of the week, although is R1 is yet to pick it up. Love, love, love.


Review: The Long Blondes – Singles


Far more glamorous than your average indie band, there was a time when it looked like The Long Blondes were going to make it big. NME and Radio 1 loved them, three singles from Somebody To Drive You Home went top 40, and ‘Once & Never Again’ was the soundtrack to every indie disco. Then came Couples; album number 2; and everything seemed to unfairly dry up.

So, presumably to renew some interest, the band are going back to basics with Singles – a compilation of their first four 7″s released on small labels like Thee Sheffield Phonograpic Corp, Angular and Good & Evil, and thus essential only for your most die-hard fan.

Like so many Sheffield bands before them, Kate Jackson and her fellow scarf wearing pals make intelligent indie music with some of the wittiest lyrics in town. Now we hear them at their rawest form, before the likes of super producer Erol Alkan got hold of them and added unnecessary whizzes and bangs.

The very first releases New Idols and Long Blonde are, in fact, so rough and ready that the distortion hurts your ears. But Autonomy Boy soon presents their delicious melodies that we that made us love them so, with the original versions of the complicated ‘Giddy Stratospheres’ and ‘Lust In The Movies’ a definite highlight. On the flip side, the shoutier riot grrl side of the Long Blondes blasts through on tale of heartbreak ‘Separated By Motorways’.

Distinctly English with tales of Peterborough and darts, The Long Blondes should be a national treasure. Despite having lost their way, this compilation shows that going back to basics isn’t perhaps the step backwards it might seem.

Originally published at BBC Music

Of course, having a promo copy, little did I know that once you took the CD out of the case underneath it said ‘We have split’. Here’s the sad story.

Review: Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke

Want to be the coolest kid on the block? Next time you get asked who you’re loving, Ladyhawke is the answer. Wobbling on that titchy kerb between underground and mainstream that the likes of MIA hover, twenty something New Zealander Pip Brown is the latest cool female chick to release some amazing pop music that will unfairly sell about 700 copies.

Signed to ultra hip label Modular, Ladyhawke has taken the best bits of the 80s and re-imagined them for 2008 with the likes of Stevie Nicks and Cyndi Lauper all in the mix. There’s a dance feel to most of the album with the Pascal Gabriel produced ‘Magic’ pounding it’s way into your brain –  it’s powerful chorus reminding us of Ladytron’s criminally ignored ‘Destroy Everything You Touch’. This and the similarly urgent sounding ‘My Delirium’ are stadium sized pieces of pop rock that make you want to hit the dancefloor and own it.

More intimately, the likes of former single ‘Back of the Van’ and the funky ‘Paris Is Burning’ show off Pip’s knack for writing instantly memorable lyrics.  ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ is like catching Peaches on a happy day, with it’s pulsating beats and bells oozing unnerving East Berlin vibes, while ‘Professional Suicide’ mashes CSS style guitars and drums with a hypnotic vocal.

Ladyhawke‘ is a rare case of the real thing living up to the hype. This shouldn’t be an album just for bloggers to swoon over, it’s good enough and mainstream enough to be huge.

Originally published at Orange Music

Ben Folds – You Don’t Know Me

‘You Don’t Know Me’ is the super cute first single from the new Ben Folds’ album ‘Way To Normal’. It’s jaunty, bouncy and makes me think of something you might hear on Avenue Q / Sesame Street (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing). A duet with Regina Spektor, it’s the kind of pairing that geeky indie kids everywhere will be swooning over. It’s impossible not to go all gooey particularly with the little talky breakdown bit towards the end. I heart Regina’s “say it!”. The official video sucks so I want you to watch this sweet fan made one instead.