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Formal Sppeedwear

Formal Sppeedwear EP

    From the furnaces of Stoke-On-Trent comes the super-limited debut EP from Formal Sppeedwear, a wonky new wave teacup ready to be sipped.

    Taking creative cues from Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies and Conny Plank’s experimental recording techniques to flesh out synthpop-oriented melodies, the EP stomps along with Scary Monsters-era Bowie guitar lines, early 80s Numan basslines and surreal lyrics - “Ready, set on my mark: Tesco Extra, Marks and Sparks” cries Clewlow on 6 Lofty Ash. There’s a versatility to the tracks; with the jolting staccato of The Line counter punched by EP closer and highlight Dismount’s soaring synth slow burn.

    Defying the seas of young musicians moving to London and Manchester to find their path, Beck Clewlow (Bass, Vocals, Synthesisers) Charlie Ball (Guitar, synthesisers), and Connor Wells (Drums, Guitar, Synthesisers) stuck it out in Stoke, using the city as a blank canvas - devoting their spare time to writing and experimenting, building their own studio out of charity shop finds and cash-converter synths and recording equipment.

    Out in the creative wilderness of Staffordshire there’s a healthy DIY scene brewing with bands waiting to make their mark; fly posting their own shows, making one-off merch for each gig, sharing lineups with one another. “There is no sense of geographical confinement here, there’s a wealth of talent who act indifferently to their surroundings. It’s particularly nice that some of our friends from here are starting to receive attention from elsewhere” say the band. As fellow locals University and Christian Music start to garner attention from the rest of the UK, it’s time for Formal Sppeedwear to follow suit.

    Stoke-on-Trent might not be the first place you’d look to find your favourite new band - The Bootleg Beatles are one of its finest exports if you ask Google - but Formal Sppeedwear are here to show you the kilns are alright.


    1. Bunto
    2. 6 Lofty Ash
    3. The Line
    4. Dismount

    Shirley Hurt

    Shirley Hurt

      Temple, Bassey, MacLaine and now, Hurt; in a world of Shirleys, the name Sophia Ruby Katz has chosen for her music is perhaps prophetic as it captures her stunningly emotive vocal approach. And whilst Shirley Hurt might be the perfect nom de plume for the creative Toronto-based artist, it’s her self-titled debut album which positions her as protagonist of her own universe.

      Traversing sonic landscapes, Shirley Hurt’s vocals ebb and flow like lyrical Ley lines tracking the contours of her own well-travelled map. By the age of 18, Hurt had travelled extensively, having lived in upwards of 20 different apartments and houses, as a result never really feeling “at home” anywhere. At this age was when Hurt found herself in New York, dipping her toes into various scenes and musical realms. The first and only place she ever felt at home, and a partial home-base for her, she travelled between Toronto and New York until the age of 26.When the project she was working on in New York reached a dead-end she returned West, moving in with musicians Harrison Forman (Hieronymus Harry, Zones) and Patrick Lefler (Roy, Possum). Being surrounded by their improvising at all hours, a new approach emerged. “Harrison is a virtuosic guitar player, and I hadn't picked up a guitar in any serious way since I was 16,” she says, “by osmosis I started playing again for fun.” Without agenda, the process grew organically from there.

      Hurt and Forman decided to travel across the US and Canada in a trailer for half a year, with the entire album written in the final months of their trip. Hurt had been writing loose ideas here and there but felt blocked creatively. When the pair reached Berkley, they wound up house-sitting for a tuned-in friend who recommended she pray, in a very direct way, to remove the block. “I took her advice and to my surprise it worked. The album was conceptualized and finished within a couple of months.” Shapeshifting in tone and phrasing, Hurt’s music alchemizes the furthest corners of experimental indie folk, pop, and country into a singular sound with elegant unpredictability.

      Whilst Shirley Hurt’s lyrical and structural ideas may have emerged on the road, the album was self-produced and recorded at Joseph Shabason (The War on Drugs)’s Aytche studio in Toronto’s West End. It was engineered by Nathan Vanderwielen and Chris Shannon (Bart), and Hurt enlisted collaborators Jason Bhattacharya, Nick Dourado, Patrick Lefler, and Harrison Forman to hone her vision. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with the songs until we returned to Toronto,” she recalls. “Joseph and I had been talking about working together after sending across some demos and Jason happened to recommend his studio at the exact same time, so everything came together naturally at that point.”

      Whilst her most recent adventures may have seen Shirley Hurt bound for Texas as an official SXSW artist (hand-picked by Gorilla Vs Bear to perform at their own showcase), she currently resides in her native Canada, more specifically rural Ontario, close to friends and family, and is already working on her second album. The ties to lineage are interwoven in the fabric of the music. Hurt’s mother, artist Leala Hewak, instilled a lust for life and innate value of creativity in her from a young age as she explored the role of gallery owner, vintage jewellery show host, mid-century modern furniture expert, real estate agent, painter. Hurt’s father, a civil litigation lawyer and new-wave obsessed music lover with an extensive vinyl collection, introduced Hurt to a wide-range of artists at a young age such as Nina Hagen, Laurie Anderson, Tom Tom Club, and endless others.

      In her video for ‘Problem Child’ Hurt’s grandmother walks her through a generationally revered pie-making process. One would be tempted to hear this, and other songs, as autobiographical. Yet, Hurt’s lyrics are rarely pulled from her relationships or personal history––at least not consciously. Rather, they arise from somewhere less tangible or defined. “Lyrics tend to come to me when I am doing non-musical things - washing dishes, brushing my dogs, walking to the grocery store. I have a lot of voice memos on my phone and half-filled notebooks and when I hear something, I have to stop what I'm doing to get the idea down. Usually it’s bits and pieces. It's rare a full song comes to me in one go, but it's great when they do, and those are often my favourites.”

      Carving out a space of her own in an all-encompassing universe, Shirley Hurt is the introduction to a long artistic story, and if the journey so far is anything to go by, it will be stippled with evermore unpredictable chapters.


      1. The Bells
      2. Problem Child
      3. Let Me Down Easy
      4. All Looks The Same To Me
      5. Empty Hands
      6. Pendulum
      7. Smile
      8. Charioteer
      9. Pulse

      Strawberry Guy

      F Song & Mrs Magic (Strings Versions)

        Stepping out of the bedroom and into the Real World, Liverpool’s Strawberry Guy headed down to Peter Gabriel’s idyllic Real World Studios with Manchester’s Northern Session Collective in tow and set about trying to soften and expose the bare bones of his two biggest streaming tracks 'F Song' and 'Mrs Magic'.

        Stripped of drums & synths, the music is pared down to piano and romantic new strings arrangements, bringing the careful melodies & indrawn lyrics to the fore.

        Having recorded the original tracks in his Liverpool bedroom, swapping the originals’ string samples for their real-life counterparts lends the tracks an even more ethereal quality than the self-produced originals. The trip to Real World marks a first foray into studio recording for Strawberry Guy, and a new high-fidelity direction for the project, as he begins the process of making his sophomore album.

        The vinyl edition of these new songs is out November 10, and features the two new strings versions along with the originals of both tracks, meaning fans can finally get their hands on a physical version of early single “F Song.”
        While the music of Strawberry Guy favours a hermetic, headphones-forward sound lying somewhere between Bryter Layter-era Nick Drake, The Clientele, Slowdive’s Pygmalion, and the psychedelic 70s output of fellow Liverpudlian Paul McCartney, it’s nonetheless become a smash on TikTok and streaming services with a fanatical young and diverse fan base.


        A1: F Song (Strings Version)
        A2: Mrs Magic (Strings Version)
        B1: F Song (Original Version)
        B2: Mrs Magic (Original Version)

        Dark Dark Dark / Nona Marie Invie

        Something Was There

          Fans of contemporaries Weyes Blood (of which DDD multi-instrumentalist Walt McClements is now a full-time member) and Angel Olsen (in whose live and studio band Invie is now a staple) will find much to love in these songs, as well as the b-side, Invie’s solo piece, “For Now” which, not unlike Invie’s 2017 solo release under the moniker IN / VIA, makes use of seamlessly interwoven piano and swelling, liquid synthesizer.

          Invie sounds a bit like an alternate dimension Sharon Van Etten here and elsewhere. The three song set has the understated intensity of Nick Cave’s The Boatman’s Call and the promise of emotional liftoff that characterizes Kate Bush’s The Sensual World.

          Dark Dark Dark’s rich history is punctuated by house shows and train hopping; touring as support for The National in Portugal;
          playing both the National and TV on the Radio’s ATP Festivals, and years of indefatigable coast-to-coast U.S. touring. It’s a
          history rich with recordings, including a pair of celebrated full-lengths produced by Tom Herbers (Low, The Cactus Blossoms),
          three EPs, and a feature film score. Now, ten years later, –– surprise –– a new 10” single.

          In 2013, when Dark Dark Dark released the What I Needed EP, anyone might have guessed it was a bridge between the previous year’s lauded LP Who Needs Who and the next big venture. The band had closed out 2012 as part of Australia's touring Harvest Festival, during which they stepped up to fill an unexpectedly vacant slot much later in the day, enchanting thousands of unsuspecting festival goers. Alas, after that, the band went silent.

          The release of these new songs is certainly delightful and perhaps startling, as is the promise of more solo work from singer Nona Marie Invie. On the gorgeous and stately “Didn’t I Try,” Invie’s voice is elegant as ever, couched in the familiar sounds of Marshall LaCount’s distorted banjo and Mark Trecka’s rolling drums. The loping and haunted “Something Was There” follows –– a staple of Dark Dark Dark’s live sets in the last year of their touring.

          Considering this band's history, their distinctive and dramatic sense of identity, this music is really and truly for fans of Dark Dark Dark.


          A1: Didn't I Try
          A2: Something Was There
          B1: For Now

          Strawberry Guy

          Taking My Time To Be - 2023 Repress

            Long awaited repress of sell out debut Mini-LP. originally released in 2019.

            When Alex Stephens (A.K.A. Strawberry Guy) self-released his debut single last year, he was merely doing it out of a love for songwriting. What he wasn't expecting was a million Youtube streams and an avid fanbase. Now, the South-Wales born, Liverpool-based songwriter is ready to release a full EP of his compelling, lushly produced dream-pop.

            Born outside Cardiff, Strawberry Guy moved to Liverpool to study music and grow as a writer. 'I knew that it was a very artistic city with all it’s creative history, it seemed like the perfect place to move to.' he says. Whether it's playing keyboards in The Orielles or just being part of the city's growing musical scene, Alex plays music for the love of music, something that heavily translates into his adept songwriting.

            The intense emotional feel of the tracks he writes is down to Alex's songwriting process, recording the entire EP in his bedroom & producing it himself. 'I feel that it’s important to me to only write/record when you’re channeling some kind of emotion, so I would only work on it when I was in the right mood to do so.' He answers when asked about the isolated environment into which he put himself for the recording process.

            Much of the inspiration for Alex's work comes from experience rather than other artists. 'When something significant happens to me, all I want to do is make music.' In terms of musical touchstones however, there's the obvious dream-pop contemporaries such as Beach House and Weyes Blood, coupled with great songwriters of old like Nat King Cole or Harry Nillson. Sonically, a blend of orchestral & synthesized melodies layer together to act as a platform for his heartfelt lyrics.

            Opener 'Without You' is a fine example of this, a break-up song of sorts, with an infectious keyboard melody and swirling synths over which Alex contemplates whether it's even possible to find lasting love. The lyrics 'Do you really have to talk about the things you do with him? Do you really have to talk about your love?' hit particularly heavily.

            Contrast this with the final track, the titular 'Taking My Time To Be', a powerful song of self-discovery. Beginning with downtempo piano and drums, the song breaks out into a saxophone and synth solo that wouldn't go amiss on a Badalamenti soundtrack. 'The song is about me learning to be comfortable with myself, but then wondering if I'll be accepted for being myself' Alex imparts. It's a fitting closer to a EP driven by emotion and experience.


            Shapes & Colors

              If you find the time, please come and stay a while in abracadabra’s beautiful neighbourhood; a magically wonky wonderland where strangers leave as friends to a block party soundtrack as eclectic as it is infectious. The California duo’s album ‘shapes & colors’ is a dazzling collage of psych-fuelled synthscapes and contemporary Baroque-pop of anti-capitalist movements and escapism, precisely pieced around their own working lives in a blue-collar town. In the heart of Oakland’s industrial Jingletown above a former auto-repair shop in what was once a mechanics’ break room where poker rounds ensued, Hannah Skelton (Vocals, Synthesizers) and Chris Niles, (Bass, Synthesizers) constructed the angular 80s-tinged anthems (think John Hughes montages to Talking Heads) of their new album, to positively offset the pandemic’s amplification of dysfunctional society. “It reflects our current reality: a huge mess that is systematically broken but isn’t entirely lost,” Hannah tells. “We’re inviting listeners to conjure up every drop of hope and willpower left inside them, pour that into the giant vat of anger and frustration bubbling inside us all, and with this potion collectively enact the necessary change to bring love and light into this dark space.”

              When Covid forced Hannah from her salon in San Francisco to become a backyard mobile hairdresser, what she saw inspired them both and the lyrical foundations for their new record. “I’d drive to mansions and people would complain about how hard the pandemic had been next to their swimming pool and tennis courts.” First meeting after the album’s co-producer Jason Kick (Mild High Club, Sonny and the Sunsets) recruited the pair for a Halloween band covering Eurythmics’ art-rock debut ‘In The Garden,’ the pair hit it off and shapes & colors is a product of the years that followed. It combines Chris’ own rhythmic demos following years on the road touring and opening for Amon Tobin, Matthew Dear and Generationals in Maus Haus with Hannah’s lyrical musings honed from project Cassiopeia, so even when topics are as heavy as the beats, they’re met with luminously positive arrangements of hope and warmth.

              The by-product of a psychedelic New Year’s Eve escaping a monotonous 2020 reality, the title track itself captures fireworks over East Oakland as viewed from the pair’s couch whilst listening to Mort Garson’s Plantasia for 6 hours straight. The daydream collage of ‘inyo county’ is “a little souvenir taking me back into the bottled-up essence of a slow lazy morning, waking up in bed far from home,” Hannah tells recalling those enforced stay-at-home days. “It fell out of me because I was craving that blissful flavour.” Meanwhile ‘dawn of the age of aquarius’s new parallel reality evolved from a happy accident when their demos had reset to a drone which Jason reworked into a Laurie Anderson-esque breathy vocoder effect. Even bloops and beeps from a forgotten recording session at the Vintage Synthesizer Museum in Emeryville can be heard, where the pair used Mini Moog, Fairlight EMI and ARP 2600 to arrange their sound into shapes whilst distortion and dirt from mixing on 1979 Neve 5313 Console added to the recordings’ color.

              Casting a brighter rainbow still, in all its pastel-hued glory, Hannah, also illustrated a self-portrait of the band for the album artwork. “It reflects our makeshift recording studio to encapsulate all aspects of that time and space,” she shares of their abode where, over an intense two-week period and fuelled by the aroma of fermenting vino from the winery below, their single chord, bass and drum-heavy, groove-first momentum took them on an unexpected journey whilst the next-door couple would fire pizzas in their yard and a grandfather across the road would sweep the street clean. “We’d drink coffee and start the day, consistently working, without interruption,” Chris tells of finding their flow. “The loft is a cool space with skylights, tall ceilings and no shared walls so we could be as loud as we wanted to be.”

              Just as well. Diving into decades of electronica and crunchy sound effects, field recordings and animal sounds, blended with an infectious Latin influence, shapes & colors is bolstered by live percussionists Greg Poneris (drums), K. Dylan Edrich (Vocals, Percussion: congas, bongos, chimes, cow bells and wood blocks, tone drum and tri-tone whistle) and Tom Smith (Guitar, Synthesizers, Vocals). It shimmies with the charismatic energy of ESG, Tom Tom Club, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, and the dub hits of King Tubby, the melodic sensibilities of Prince, Stereolab, and idiosyncratic Deerhoof offering an ornate alternative to traditional guitar pop chord progressions as they layer wrecking ball-sized danceable motifs to rumble the dust off the cars on the street from the nearby concrete factory. “We take some big swings to create interesting moments,” Chris explains. NIMBY crews grab those earplugs now. abracadabra is your new noisy neighbour, and there’s no turning this party down.

              TRACK LISTING

              Side A
              1. Talk Talk
              2. In A Photo
              3. Telling Time
              4. Swim
              5. Inyo County
              Side B
              6. Don't Like U
              7. Impactor
              8. At The Zoo
              9. Shapes & Colors
              10. Dawn Of The Age Of Aquarius


              The Official Bog-Set

                At the beginning of the year it was reported that Tesco was phasing out CDs and DVDs in its UK stores, with plans to stop selling physical media altogether by the end of February 2022. So obviously the time is right to finally commit Bog Shed's recorded output to CD (and digital platforms) for the first time.

                The band formed in 1983 and over the next four years released their debut EP Let Them Eat Bog Shed, followed by two albums; Step On It and Brutal, as well as a compilation of their John Peel Sessions (Tried & Tested Public Speaker, originally a 6-track EP). The version of Tried and Tested Public Speaker released here features 20 of their John Peel session tracks, 14 of which have never before been released.

                Mike and Mark were born in Liverpool in 1961 but met at school in Ormskirk aged 9. Their 70s were T.O.T.P, Top 20, Fluff Freeman, John Peel, Probe, Eric's and the peculiar hippy/ punk crossover of the free festivals. Every Saturday they would play rubbish guitars through a home made amp. After leaving Polytechnic Mike and Mark moved to Hebden Bridge soon to be followed by Phil who moved into Northwell Cottage in Heptonstall. This was an ideal space to play and rehearse. Stone-built and clinging to a hill with the toilet in a shed down a steep path next to a well for your water.

                Drummers were tried, but were either temporary or just plain wrong. Tris, who befriended the others drinking in the Trades Club, got the job having never played the drums. The Bradford gig on Who Scoffed The Trill? was 2 weeks later and these live songs are early tunes that never got recorded. There were many more, but C90's got recycled and we will never again hear Open Up In The Name Of Fred Feast or I saw Cleo Laine In A Phonebox. Who Scoffed The Trill?'s 22 tracks are exclusive to this box set and won't be available on streaming platforms.

                Their debut EP Let Them Eat Bog Shed was released on John Robb's Vinyl Drip label in 1985 and led to their track Run To The Temple appearing on the NME's now-legendary C86 cassette. However, this was the age of DIY and Phil decided they should be even indie-er and start their own label, Shelfish, having declined offers from the Creation and Abstract labels.

                Phil was technically the best musician in the band, he could play and sing every Beatles song. John Robb describes him and the cottage, 'A total one-off, Phil was a Stanley Baxter lookalike with flared nostrils and a flared mind who was funny as fuck and had a brilliant quirky worldview. His house was an extension of his unique personae. Every morning at breakfast a horse from the neighbouring field would poke its head through the kitchen window and nibble bits of toast and listen to the clatter of cans being swept up.'

                Phil still organised gigs in Britain and Europe but the well-known stresses of travelling in the back of a van for miles and miles to be manic for an hour started to tell. What had been creative tension just became tension So in 1987 it stopped. Phil died of throat cancer in 2006 having fallen out with Mark and Tris. Tris went on to play with A Witness before joining Jackdaw with Crowbar. He played in many side projects on a variety of instruments until he died of brain cancer in 2008. Mike still draws and came up with the new sleeve artwork.

                TRACK LISTING

                CD1 – Let Them Eat Bog-Shed
                1 Panties Please
                2 Spencer Travis
                3 Fat Lad Exam Failure
                4 Slave Girls
                5 City Girls
                6 Hand Me Down Father

                CD2 – Step On It
                1 Mechanical Nun
                2 Run To The Temple
                3 Adventure Of Dog
                4 Tommy Steele Record
                5 Jobless Youngsters
                6 Tried To Hide But Forced To Howl
                7 Packed Lunch To School
                8 Summer In My Lunchtime
                9 The Fastest Legs
                10 Oily Stack
                11 Hell Bent On Death
                12 Can't Be Beat
                13 Little Car
                14 Morning Sir
                15 Story Of Bogshed

                CD3 - Brutal
                1 Raise The Girl
                2 Geoff's Big Problem
                3 Old Dog New Dance
                4 No To Lemon Mash
                5 I'm The Instrument
                6 Opportunatist Knocks
                7 People Equal Greedy
                8 Sing A Little Tune
                9 C'mon Everybody
                10 Uncle Death Grip
                11 Spring
                12 Loaf
                13 Excellent Girl
                14 True Rope
                15 Stop Revolving
                16 Your Science My Sound

                CD4 – Tried & Tested Public Speaker
                1 Packed Lunch To School
                2 Oily Stack
                3 Hell Bent On Death
                4 Can't Be Beat
                5 Fastest Legs
                6 Adventure Of Dog
                7 Morning Sir / Little Car
                8 Summer In My Lunchtime
                9 Tried And Tested Public Speaker
                10 Champion Love Shoes
                11 Little Grafter
                12 Raise The Girl
                13 I Said No To Lemon Mash
                14 The Gourmet Is A Baby
                15 Loaf
                16 From The Stubble
                17 Six To One And Likely
                18 Into Me
                19 Duck Fight – US Bands – Wally Wallah

                CD5 – Who Scoffed The Trill?
                1 Budgies
                2 This MUST Be Taken Seriously
                3 Necktie Murder Shopping Trollies
                4 Gathering Change
                5 Proper Music
                6 You Are This
                7 Too Many Personalities
                8 The Amazing Roy North Penis Band
                9 Hardly Manky
                10 I Feel Like A Thing
                11 Are You Alive
                12 Thankyou Horse
                13 Pain Is Nice
                14 Lodger Problem
                15 Piano Vocal Easy Organ
                16 I Taste Little Windmill
                17 I Prayed In Your Parlour
                18 Monument
                19 Soon To Exist
                20 Oh Regulation!
                21 Sunday Man
                22 My Little Heart's In A Whirl
                23 Simple Spinal
                24 Runner On A Blunder

                Nyx Nott

                Themes From…

                  “A rather gorgeous and engrossing collection, that borrows stealthily from a rich history of sound effect and soundtrack to build a tender poem to the night time.” - CLASH.

                  “The plan was to make twenty 90-second tracks designed as TV themes,” says Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat, of the initial thought behind his new instrumental album as Nyx Nótt “But it wasn't a satisfying listen, it was too gimmicky and silly.”

                  So instead, Moffat decided to stretch the idea out, plunge deeper, and expand the music into full tracks, “making some of them quite long and dramatic, with the odd swift turn here and there.” In fleshing these tracks out into more fully realised songs he began sourcing samples from professional TV and film music libraries. “The focus then turned to making a proper album out of these modern library sounds,” he says. “I decided to stick with the Themes From title and named the tracks after the sorts of shows they made me think of when I listened back.”

                  The result is a record that explores genre themes such as: ‘Thriller, ‘Porno’, ‘Caper’ and Swashbuckler’, and acts as an audio equivalent of channel hopping through a unique TV station programmed by Moffat. “I still wasn't sure about all this until I did the album cover, which brought it all together,” he says, of the artwork that places an old smashed TV unit front and centre with a woman perched on top. “It has echoes of old TV compilations but is pretty cheeky and slightly sexy in that old 70s compilation style. I wanted this one to look a bit more fun than the last one, as well as hopefully sound a bit more fun too.”

                  Aside from being a fun experience, it is also a stirring and immersive listen, one that allows the listener to imagine their own accompanying visual scenarios to each musical theme. The opening ‘Docudrama’ marries a gently creeping beat with strings that glide from tense to sweeping, while ‘Porno’ is all seedy smoky jazz that feels plucked right out of Travis Bickle’s late night trips to porn cinemas in Taxi Driver.

                  Touches of jazz pop up in other places too, on ‘Hardboiled’ this merges with subtle pulses and gargles of electronics that build to a rousing crescendo of horns and bleeps, and on ‘Caper’ there’s a vivacious full jazz band skip to the lively swinging rhythms. “There's a few more jazzy elements here,” Moffat says. “Although I'm not quite sure where that came from. Although, like everyone else, I've had plenty of time to be introspective recently, so I decided the next Nyx Nótt album should be more upbeat and encourage some occasional foot-tapping.”

                  However, what becomes apparent, the longer you spend in the world of Themes From, is how singular and unique the tone of each composition is. “Each track has its own individual feel,” says Moffat. “The idea was to sound like a different composer and band throughout.” It’s a stylistic leap that continues Nyx Nótt’s trajectory as one that shares no direct link to Moffat’s other projects. “I approach them in completely different ways and with a different purpose in mind,” says Moffat. “I don't think Nyx has ever heard of Arab Strap, and certainly doesn't own any of their albums.” It’s also a notable shift from the debut album under this moniker, and suitably given the theme, Moffat has created a visual comparison between these two sonic worlds. “If the first Nyx Nótt album was like looking out on dark prairies before dawn, this is more like a walk through a neon Soho after a few cocktails.”

                  TRACK LISTING

                  1. Docudrama
                  2. Porno
                  3. Thriller
                  4. Caper
                  5. Swashbuckler
                  6. Hardboiled
                  7. Tearjerker
                  8. Actioner

                  The Cool Greenhouse

                  Sod's Toastie

                    With Sod’s Toastie, Tom Greenhouse and his intrepid band of sonic explorers are more assured and confident than ever throughout this sublime sophomore album.

                    While frontman Tom Greenhouse’s off-kilter observations and bizarro anecdotes remain front and centre, this time round the band up their game with a more vigorous sound that keeps pace with Greenhouse’s wholly distinctive lyrical style. Greenhouse continues to revel in telling increasingly surreal short stories, rejoicing in the power of the deadpan one-liner and bedecking his songs with far-flung cultural references. But now the band employ a variety of techniques with improved production, from the impulsively bashed keyboards and jubilantly repetitive guitar stabs that have become their trademark, to flirtations with–heaven forbid!–melody, chord progressions and arrange- ments which elevate their tried-and-tested blueprint into a more exciting and cohesive whole.

                    Opener Musicians is the perfect embodiment of this conscious development. Here, Greenhouse recounts a sarcastic tale of half-truths that see him galavanting around town trying to put a band together. Sonically, it begins with a caustic callback to the group’s first EP Crap Cardboard Pet and its über-minimalist aesthetic. But by the end of the song a joyous festival of afrobeat-inspired instruments including samba whistles, bongos and saxophones are added to the mix as the frontman, ironically, fails in his mission to recruit more players.

                    With Get Unjaded, the band have somehow conjured something close to pop, without abandoning the repetition and wit that’s relished by their early fans. I Lost My Head also adopts a jangle-pop sheen with a luscious synth melody, as the frontman ditches the spoken-word for a surly croon (his first known attempt at actual singing!) that provides a welcome breather from the onslaught of dense recantations that are the band’s bread-and-butter.

                    While the lyrics here are still often humorous and political, Greenhouse has also notably expanded his interests on this album to include a new host of topics. The influence of extraterrestrials, for example, infiltrates the subject matter frequently. On The UFOs, the mysterious protagonist Blinkus Booth’s isolationist lifestyle is apparently interrupted by the spectres of otherworldly visitors, while closer The Neoprene Ravine feels like an extract from a deep space rock opera. Here, jaunty and angular instruments pile-on as we are fed images of an interstellar Spinal Tap, the titular fictional band “The Neoprene Ravine” who are “the alien equivalent of the Velvet Underground” and include an alien Lou Reed yelping “too busy sucking on my little green ding dong!”.

                    Meanwhile, Hard Rock Potato is propelled by a vortex of keys and synths, a real noise-pop gem comprised of real guitar chords (!) and rock-orientated riffs. Here the stream-of-consciousness lyrics take shots at the sinister financial industry, and include one of the many top-tier one-liners on the album: “It’s not gambling if you’re wearing a tie (even if you’ve got no trousers on)”.

                    On Sod’s Toastie, The Cool Greenhouse have pushed their distinctive flavour of post-punk to the point of perfection – their incongruous riffs, alchemical instrumental chemistry, and irreverent spoken-word vocals are a delight throughout. Sod’s Toastie is hilarious at times, and at others just hi- lariously good – a not-so-difficult second album. 

                    STAFF COMMENTS

                    Barry says: Angular instrumentation and wry social commentary form the backbone of this soaringly clever and brilliantly dynamic second album from The Cool Greenhouse. It's full of sweet melodies and wonderfully vivid real-life tales, both smooth and surprising at points, a fun listen.

                    TRACK LISTING

                    1. Musicians
                    2. Sod's Toastie
                    3. The UFOs
                    4. Get Unjaded
                    5. I Lost My Head
                    6. The Next Stage Of Destiny
                    7. Hard Rock Potato
                    8. Get Deluded
                    9. Y.O.L.H
                    10. The Neoprene Ravine

                    Strawberry Guy

                    Sun Outside My Window

                      Tiptoe between the toadstools of Liverpool’s city parks, and amongst the foliage you might find a Strawberry Guy, contemplating his next chord-progression. Composing hi-fi symphonies from within his humble abode, the Welsh-born songwriter is ready to share the fruits of his labour with debut album Sun Outside My Window. A timeless vista of ethereal balladry looking towards 19th Century musical maestros and works of art, it brings new meaning to the term ‘Modern Classic’ and is the most optimistic of lockdown records yet.

                      “It’s about seeing the simple things in life and them making you happy,” tells Alex Stephens, the Guy behind the Strawberry. “I remember this day when I was really down… looking out the window, the sun beaming in was beautiful, it made me want to go outside – it was simple but made me so happy in that instance.”

                      A one-man impressionist, painting majestic soundscapes, Strawberry Guy blends truthful lyrics with lush arrangements to conjure new emotive worlds. Inspired by composers of the Romantic period, or Debussy, Ravel, and other classical artists of the 1800s, his wonderland moves like a Monet painting where arpeggios dance between meadows of dazzling dynamics and dramatic key changes. As former keyboard player of The Orielles and Trudy and The Romance, the light through his floor to ceiling windows has caused a dramatic Greenhouse Effect and now ripening on solo terms, his innocent uploads of ‘Without You’ and ‘F-Song’ comfort 2 million Spotify listeners a month. ‘Mrs Magic’ has received 40 million streams, landing at #13 in its chart and countless fan-created videos have appeared on YouTube. “Throughout history composers have tried to capture emotion, painting their own impressionist pictures with musical brush strokes… I guess I’m just trying to do the same and people enjoy that,” he suggests modestly.

                      Named by musical friends Her’s after his impeccable taste in milkshakes, Strawberry Guy upturns ‘bedroom artist’ perception, as each idea is crafted into a widescreen wonder where vocals tag-team instrumentals and countermelodies flourish within the Georgian walls of his Liverpool flat’s small space. “I want it to sound like I’ve squeezed an 80-piece orchestra into my room, and for listeners to wonder how all those strings got there,” he says. “Working on the 4-part harmonies, the orchestra became real; I began believing in myself.”

                      Imitating nature’s effect on emotion, like 70s songwriters, or the fantastical soundtracks accompanying vibrant scenes in the Japanese animated Studio Ghibli films and video games, landscape is brought to the fore. Monet’s picturesque Meadow at Giverny features as the album’s accompanying artwork – perhaps a reminder of the rural Welsh countryside views through his childhood home’s window; “I was inspired by how calm and peaceful the image felt. Its painted lines show real-life scenes in a magical way, which to me reflects my music.”

                      Just as the first Strawberry Guy EP Taking My Time To Be offered a slowing down for the soul, Sun Outside My Window is musically unhurried, written and recorded over 2 years. “Recording as a lone berry meant I could run with my emotions in the moment and deliver something true; it would have been an entirely different album had it been recorded in a studio,” he says.
                      Modern Classic? Only time will tell. For now this Guy’s happy-sad world is here to get the juices flowing and with, pandemic permitting, a US tour in 2022, life looks a whole lot sweeter. Until then, take it slow, be at one with the wilderness and remember, when life gives you lemons, swap them for Strawberries.

                      TRACK LISTING

                      2. When Morning Comes
                      3. Stay In This Moment
                      4. I’ll Be There
                      5. Company
                      6. As We Bloom
                      7. Sun Outside My Window
                      8. Back On My Feet
                      9. Believing
                      10. A White Lie

                      Strawberry Guy

                      Taking My Time To Be - 2021 Reissue

                        When Alex Stephens (A.K.A. Strawberry Guy) self-released his debut single last year, he was merely doing it out of a love for songwriting. What he wasn't expecting was a million Youtube streams and an avid fanbase. Now, the South-Wales born, Liverpool-based songwriter is ready to release a full EP of his compelling, lushly produced dream-pop.

                        Born outside Cardiff, Strawberry Guy moved to Liverpool to study music and grow as a writer. 'I knew that it was a very artistic city with all it’s creative history, it seemed like the perfect place to move to.' he says. Whether it's playing keyboards in The Orielles or just being part of the city's growing musical scene, Alex plays music for the love of music, something that heavily translates into his adept songwriting.

                        The intense emotional feel of the tracks he writes is down to Alex's songwriting process, recording the entire EP in his bedroom & producing it himself. 'I feel that it’s important to me to only write/record when you’re channeling some kind of emotion, so I would only work on it when I was in the right mood to do so.' He answers when asked about the isolated environment into which he put himself for the recording process.

                        Much of the inspiration for Alex's work comes from experience rather than other artists. 'When something significant happens to me, all I want to do is make music.' In terms of musical touchstones however, there's the obvious dream-pop contemporaries such as Beach House and Weyes Blood, coupled with great songwriters of old like Nat King Cole or Harry Nillson. Sonically, a blend of orchestral & synthesized melodies layer together to act as a platform for his heartfelt lyrics.

                        Opener 'Without You' is a fine example of this, a break-up song of sorts, with an infectious keyboard melody and swirling synths over which Alex contemplates whether it's even possible to find lasting love. The lyrics 'Do you really have to talk about the things you do with him? Do you really have to talk about your love?' hit particularly heavily.

                        Contrast this with the final track, the titular 'Taking My Time To Be', a powerful song of self-discovery. Beginning with downtempo piano and drums, the song breaks out into a saxophone and synth solo that wouldn't go amiss on a Badalamenti soundtrack. 'The song is about me learning to be comfortable with myself, but then wondering if I'll be accepted for being myself' Alex imparts. It's a fitting closer to a EP driven by emotion and experience.

                        TRACK LISTING

                        1. Without You
                        2. Mrs. Magic
                        3. Intermission
                        4. What Would I Do?
                        5. Birch Tree
                        6. Taking My Time To Be

                        A lot’s happened since W.H. Lung’s debut shot to the top of our hallowed chart in 2019, not least my high definition fade (courtesy of the good people at Rusholme’s New Style Barbers*), and the Mancunian unit wear the changes well on their sophomore album. Brewed under the expansive skies of the Calder Valley and the mind expanding experience of the mighty Wet Play, Vanities marries the confidence of Incidental Music with a new found maturity, dialing back on the tension to deliver a series of optimistic electronic anthems rendered in a high gloss sheen.

                        Driving their DeLorean from 70s Düsseldorf to noughties Cologne, motorik rhythms evolve into the sleek beats of micro-house, deftly repurposed into the firm foundations of a festival-sized sound. Gone are the angst-laden yelps of their debut as vocalist Joe explores the full versatility of his range, building from a tender coo to ecstatic outpouring on the gospel flecked “Gyd Time” or taking a brief diversion into Jimmy Sommerville register on accomplished opener “Calm Down”. There’s still a little post punk grit lurking in the glitter though, most notably in towering single “Showstopper”, an astounding new-new wave masterpiece which propels the thrust of Grauzone’s “Eisbar” into the skyscraping grandeur of Depeche Mode’s ’87 vintage.

                        But Vanities is unashamedly ecstatic, and as such is expressed in the language of the hedonist, whether it be Bobby Orlando melodies, Michael Meyer sequences or the unbridled exuberance of highlife guitars, all lovingly referenced and reimagined by the group’s Tom Sharkett. Sinbad from Brookside once said “escapism is the elixir for uncertain times”, and that’s certainly the case here. W.H. Lung may be Manchester’s third best Chinese superstore, but they’re still the city’s best band.

                        *Piccadilly Records does not condone or approve this product placement.

                        TRACK LISTING

                        1. Calm Down
                        2. Gd Tym
                        3. Pearl In The Palm
                        4. Ways Of Seeing
                        5. ARPi
                        6. Showstopper
                        7. Figure With Flowers
                        8. Somebody Like
                        9. Kaya

                        The Cool Greenhouse

                        The Cool Greenhouse

                          Those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but The Cool Greenhouse are about to shatter glass ceilings with their self-titled debut LP.

                          “I wanted to hear repetitive music that wasn’t pretentious” tells the band’s voice Tom Greenhouse of his personal agenda to inject some pop sentimentality into the rock’n’roll textbook. “The mission was to make long, repetitive pop music that wasn’t boring. I soon realised I could do that through focusing on the lyrics.”

                          With phrases culled from the pages of his many notebooks, Greenhouse has a way with words. Exploring Rotary Club jumble sales and mausoleums or making futuristic voyages into musical VR, his songs dig at the gammon classes and scoff at the stupidity of society alongside pop punches about female harassment. Inspired by conversations and magazine articles he narrates upon the world as he sees it, preferring wise-cracks and judgement to merely passing comment. “At school I wrote a story about a whale that fell in love with a submarine and tried to have sex with it which almost caused a serious nuclear meltdown; it won a prize. As a teenager I thought I was Arthur Rimbaud so moved to Paris and wrote terrible poetry.”

                          Down and out in Paris and later, in London, Tom got skint fast so headed to the sticks of Norwich. Sitting in his garden, inspired to turn scripture into song and record it on a friend’s tape recorder, he began penning the album between writing clickbait articles to get by and turned to humour to express his deeper thoughts; “A lot of punk is on the nose like “fuck the Tories” but I’m not that hardcore. Humour is good for talking about serious things without getting too sentimental.”

                          Encouraged by The Shadow Ring’s Graham Lambkin (“I wrote to him asking whether it was worth the bother. He sent a really nice reply. He probably doesn’t remember, but it spurred me on.”), Tom took to the live circuit, but his solo backing track performances needed a fuller sound. Ahead of securing a show with The Stroppies, he turned to the talent of guitarist Tom O Driscoll, bassist Thom Mason, drummer and percussionist Kevin Barthelemy and Merlin Nova on keys and synths, harmonium, melodica, violin and backing vocals. “We practiced the songs and played that first show; we did a good job and Melodic signed us! Those guys are crazy,” Tom says. Perhaps not; also championed by DIY it could be a sign of things to come as the band prepare for their Great Escape debut.

                          Discovering The Cool Greenhouse’s first 7” (which coincidentally mentioned his own surname) ace producer, sound engineer and mixer Phil Booth (Sleaford Mods, Jake Bugg) invited the group to his JT Soar studio in Nottingham. The old potato-packing warehouse offered an idiosyncratic working method for the band, who recorded the album over 7 days as live between kipping on its couches, 4am whiskey-soaked sessions and Mario Kart ’64 on demand. “Phil’s got all the kit and know-how, but the studio is rough around the edges with great character,” Tom tells. “There were weird little synchronistic miracles… discussing a song then seeing its title on a shop window, finding things in pubs straight out of our songs… these zapped me onto some sort of Jungian plane where I didn’t need sleep and knew just what to do.”

                          Blissfully instinctive, Tom’s lexicon flies across the album with the agitation of an internal monologue that won’t quit. From pop culture to cautionary tales, anything deemed too musically extravagant was swiftly removed before being mastered by Mikey Young (Bodega, Amyl and the Sniffers); “we added a tympani and clarinet but ended up taking it all off again” At times the Truman Show-trappings of ‘Trojan Horse’ or ‘Gum’s unsettling cowbell hint at the motoric. For now, whatever it is that gets you going, let’s just call it The Cool Greenhouse effect.

                          TRACK LISTING

                          01 The Sticks
                          02 Cardboard Man
                          03 Gum
                          04 Life Advice
                          05 Dirty Glasses
                          06 Smile, Love!
                          07 Trojan Horse
                          08 4Chan
                          09 Prospects
                          10 Outlines
                          11 The Subletters Pt 2 (Ft. The Shifters)

                          THE PICCADILLY RECORDS ALBUM OF THE YEAR 2019.

                          W. H. Lung’s arrival at their debut album has been less conventional than most. A trait shared with the music they make, which weaves between shimmering synth pop and the infectious grooves of 70’s Berlin. The band never had any intention of playing live when forming, aiming instead to be a primarily studio-based project.

                          That approach was challenged when they released their debut 10” ('Inspiration!/Nothing Is') in 2017, which meant that they were quickly in demand. Booking requests started to flood in and W. H. Lung found themselves cutting their teeth on festival stages that summer. Though whilst some new bands may have let that interest change the course of the project, W. H. Lung stayed true to their original reticence and worked mainly as a studio band with their formidable live shows kept sporadic.

                          W. H. Lung have allowed this album to naturally gestate over the course of two years . The result is a remarkably considered debut - the production is crisp and pristine but not over-polished, the synths and electronics radiate and hum with a golden aura and the vocals weave between tender delivery and forceful eruptions. There is a palpable energy to the songs, as experienced in 10 glorious minutes of opening statement 'Simpatico People'.

                          “I think it’s important to erase the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture,” states Joseph E. This colliding of worlds not only exists in the potent mix between whip-smart arrangements, lyrics and seamlessly danceable music but also in the fact that they are named after a cash and carry in Manchester.

                          STAFF COMMENTS

                          Emily says: Around this time last year I found myself in Soup Kitchen’s basement with the rest of the Piccadilly crew, absorbed in what was unfolding onstage. A magnetic frontman was delivering half sung, half spoken vocals over a kaleidoscopic haze of synths and a propulsive motorik beat. It seems fitting that the group we were watching, W.H. Lung, are now sitting at the top of our chart a year later. The homegrown Manchester trio have coalesced a series of hypnotic, synth fuelled krautrock grooves into their first full length release ‘Incidental Music’. In it, they strike a perfect balance between taking reference from the past and keeping their gaze tilted towards the future. Well worth a listen!

                          Mine says: Possibly one of the most anticipated albums of the year here at Piccadilly (we wouldn't interrupt our Christmas do for just anyone but if it clashes with a W.H. Lung gig then that's where we end up!)... Like a joint effort from Talking Heads and NEU! thrown head first into 2019 with an extra portion of shimmery beats and hooks. PLAY IT LOUD!

                          Darryl says: One of the most assured and confident Mancunian debuts of the past few decades, ‘Incidental Music’ is a dream of a Piccadilly Records album. With its sparkling synth laden grooves, motorik beats, sweeping electronics, crisp guitar lines and a hazy psychedelic soundscape it’s no surprise that it’s united both the indie and dance staff divide and taken the number one spot this year. Two years in the making, this is a euphoric and fully-formed masterpiece.

                          Barry says: It's clear from the first moments of 'Incidental Music' that the title couldn't be any less true, moving from soaring echoing kosmische into a groove-led psychedelic soup in the blink of an eye. Rich in rhythm but still undeniably melody-led, W.H. Lung are at the top for the important reason that they are something different to everyone, and everything they are is undeniably brilliant.

                          TRACK LISTING

                          1. Simpatico People 
                          2. Bring It Up 
                          3. Inspriation! 
                          4. An Empty Room
                          5. Nothing Is
                          6. Want
                          7. Second Death Of My Face
                          8. Overnight Phenomenon

                          Glass Vaults

                          The New Happy

                            If you want to know the secret to happiness, look no further than transcendental psychedelic pop outfit Glass Vaults. The New Zealand via Berlin band led by Richard Larsen, Rowan Pierce and Carpark Record’s signee Bevan Smith, create a unique concoction of joyously uplifting pleasure in their sonic laboratory and The New Happy is the result – an exploration of the euphoric sensations associated with Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).

                            Glass Vaults' sophomore LP was recorded and mixed to seduce. ASMR, otherwise known as a “brain orgasm,” is an aurally triggered euphoric experience characterised by a tingling in the scalp which travels down the neck and spine and The New Happy was specifically mixed to elicit an ASMR effect. “We focused on retaining short high frequency transients and worked on modulating and panning certain sounds to induce goose bumps and shivers when listened through headphones,” Smith explains of the record’s atmospheric ambiance. “It looks not to emulate a sexual high, but a deeper, euphoric wave, that washes over the body in feelings of comfort and security… a new kind of happy.”

                            “We have always considered Glass Vaults to be an extension of our larger artistic interests and process,” Richard reveals. “One thing which has never changed is our goal of creating music that fully immerses those who experience it. We’re creating worlds and stories to fully transcend the audience.”

                            Whether it’s capturing the feelings brought about by recollections of the pair’s pre-teen days chatting with friends on MSN and downloading music from Napster (‘Savant’) sitting on Manhattan rooftops (‘Brooklyn’) or watching the sun rise after a long cold winter (‘The New Happy’), each song is a shot of serotonin to the synapses. Speaking of the title-track Larsen says; “I was interested in creating the feeling of the classic New Zealand summer. When I listen to this song I imagine a Fruju iceblock advert shown there in the 90s. Young beautiful people jumping off a boat, eating ice blocks and singing “Ooh Aah!”

                            Not stopping at physical pleasure, The New Happy’s absorbing soundscapes delve deeper into the unconscious by exploring nostalgia and dreams; ‘Rewind’ was inspired by a dream of hitting rewind on life whilst ‘Mind Reader’ refers to the way dreams linger, well into waking hours.

                            The New Happy sees the band peeling away at a once hazy veneer to reveal vibrant and colourful majestic pop moments crafted with precision and clarity. “The New Happy is a sonic departure for us… where once we would have relied on large crystalline reverbs, this record takes cues from intimate spaces, percussive rhythm and groove to elicit a different kind of transcendence.” Glass Vaults’ unique brand of dreamy psychedelic pop has wowed capacity crowds everywhere from drained swimming pools and humid forests, to New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S.A.

                            TRACK LISTING

                            1. Mindreader
                            2. Ms Woolley
                            3. Brooklyn
                            4. Savant (NOT ON VINYL / CD ONLY)
                            5. Sojourn
                            6. Rewind
                            7. The New Happy
                            8. Bleached Blonde
                            9. Halaah Ha!

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