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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

    1.Intro
    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

      All formats come with a free Piccadilly Records EOY Sampler CD whilst stocks last.

      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

        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!

        L. Pierre

        1948 -

          THE ALBUM IS SOLD NAKED, WITHOUT ANY SLEEVE WHATSOEVER.
          180G VINYL.
          THE LAST EVER ALBUM FROM L. PIERRE
          NO DIGITAL DOWNLOAD CARD / NO DIGITAL DISTRIBUTON OF THE MUSIC AT ALL.

          In late 2016 L.Pierre (aka Aidan Moffat) posted Melodic this letter below along with a dublate of the his new album '1948 - '

          David Cooper
          c/o Melodic


          Hi Dave,

          Surprise! This is a new – and final – L. Pierre album, which I’m hoping you and the Melodic team would like to release. Rather than send you MP3s and emails and all those ones and zeroes, I thought it best to post you a dubplate in exactly the way I’d like to see it released. There’s some background to this one, so here you go …

          You’ll notice that the record labels state that all the samples I’ve used are from Nathan Milstein’s version of a Mendelssohn concerto – this is what was on the very first 33 1/3rpm long-playing 12” record in 1948. (There was a 33 1/3rpm 10” by Frank Sinatra first, but that was technically a compilation; Milstein’s was the first proper 12” album as we came to know it.) These samples from the original 1948 release were all ripped from YouTube, the biggest free music streaming platform in the world.

          I want to release the album as you have it right now: a vinyl-only LP, no digital whatsoever – indeed, upon the release date, I want to delete all the digital source files and any online promo streams we might do (we’ll have to advertise it in some way, of course). And on top of that, I want to release it with no sleeve. There are a few ideas here. Firstly, I don’t want a pristine, digital document that could last forever; I want the music left to the elements, I want it to live and scar, with each record’s acquired crackles, pops and scratches making them unique and identifiable to their owners. And while the natural thing to do with a naked record is protect it, I think it could be interesting to see how folk respond when we hand that responsibility over. Also, the sleeveless LP will look like one of those dusty, vulnerable strays you find in charity shops, which is precisely where L. Pierre began.

          Another thing I’d like to do is have a locked groove at the end, adding another wee element of interaction – the album won’t stop until the listener decides it should (which also works as an analogy for the resilience of vinyl in our digital age). And because the death of the album is proclaimed every few months these days, I wanted it to sound like a sort of ironic requiem. The title’s an unfinished tombstone with no date of death: “1948 – .”.

          If we do this, it will absolutely, definitely be the last ever record from L. Pierre (there’s that requiem echo again). The End.

          Anyway, hope you like it, and I do realise that a vinyl-only, self-destructive dialogue on the value of music and its new platforms, culture’s cyclical nature, the supposed death of the album – and the seeming immortality and inherent nostalgia of vinyl – doesn’t sound like the most lucrative of ventures, but I hope it’s an idea that a few folk might connect with. And I think it sounds quite lovely too!

          Cheers,
          Aidan



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