Neon Filler was created in 2009 by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers. Since then it has grown to include articles by our wonderful bunch of contributors, regular Top 10 features and in 2011 we published our Top 100 Indie and Alternative Albums list. Indie Music UK is the home of indie and alt music website.
What an enviable position The Mountain Goats are in. Beloved by fans and garnering new ones with each release. The band – of songwriter and singer John Darnielle, bassist Peter Hughes, drummer Jon Wurster and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas – can essentially do as they please.
This time around, on The Mountain Goats In League with Dragons, they are exploring some familiar themes of recent releases. As on All Eternals Deck ( 2011), Beat the Champ (2015) and Goths (2017) celebrity looms large. But this time around the icons are not the likes of Judy Garland, Charles Bronson or Chavo Guerrero. Instead, for some tracks at least, they are the wizards and characters of the game Dungeons and Dragons. Is there any real difference?
To produce, The Mountain Goats have enlisted Owen Pallett – the multi-instrumentalist who used to record under the name Final Fantasy and wrote a similarly obscure and wonderful rock opera of his own dedicated to ‘fantasy’, called Heartland (2010).
It’s a perfect blend with Pallett giving The Mountain Goats room to go off on their flights of fancy. Pallett, who has worked previously with Darnielle and co, even allows the pitch perfect country number Waylon Jennnings Live! to shine.
He also draws out the fine melody of each track with An Antidote to Strychnine and Scilian Crest among many high points.
John Darnielle, by Joe Lepper (2015)
Is there a good single? Not really, The Mountain Goats have never really been a singles band, although Cadaver Sniffing Dog is a close contender. But those that adore the soft folk/rock, pop, celebrity and piano of recent album releases will find a lot to love here. As said, an enviable position to be indeed.
By Joe Lepper
For more information visit here – The Mountain Goats In League with Dragons.
The annual three day mega feast of new music that is Dot to Dot returns over three dates in three cities. May 25th Manchester, May 26th Bristol and Nottingham May 27th .
For the price of a couple of London pints you can spend the day in the company of The Slow Show, Crystal Fighters and up and coming King No One.
There’s Brooklyn based Miss Grit to savour, also our favourites Crow and The Viagra boys who you simply must see live. In fact you’ll be spoilt rotten for choice, check out the website and top up the car, get on it.
After a two-year gap to let the fields and staff re-energise, Glastonbury Festival is stretching its legs and travelling its unhurried route towards the end of June. The Pyramid stage is clad; resale tickets have sold out (in the customary few minutes); and the live finals of the Emerging Talent Competition has awarded its £5,000 PRS Foundation grant and its coveted main stage slot at arguably the world’s most famous music festival.
The Emerging Talent line-up is always diverse and rarely puts a foot wrong providing great performances. The variety makes getting into the judges heads tricky, but if there is a trend in recent years we have seen more MCs in the final, without any yet breaking through to win top spot.
Like the last event, in 2017, when Josh Barry’s vocal performance enticed the judges’ ears, this year they went for another stand-out singer. However the judges: Michael and Emily Eavis, representatives from the PRS, Glastonbury’s seasoned bookers, plus BBC Radio’s Huw Stephens – favoured a more melodic voice this time around, with Marie White clinching enough votes to take top spot with her two bitter-sweet compositions.
Aided by songs that suited the slightly subdued crowd that comes with an early start, Marie coped well with being first up. Tracey Chapman comparisons were made as part of her introduction, and her performance was authentic and moving. The tone and delivery of the second song ‘Out of time’ bears comparison with one of Adele’s tales of heartache and longing.
My personal on-the-night favourites were Liines and Che Lingo. Liines are in the middle of supporting Sleaford Mods, and are surely making fans with their challenging post-punk bursts. Extra points to them for rocking the “double-black Gene Vincent for the new millennium” look. Che LIngo didn’t disappoint, he was charismatic and confidently owned that stage. At times he picked up the baton that Dizzy Rascal dropped a while back, and “Same Energy” had attitude to spare and unexpected layers that touched on A Tribe Called Quest.
The two representatives from the West Country are both well equipped to fill bigger venues. Iiola followed Marie White with another powerful vocal performance. The song ‘Sickly Sweet’ has a chorus to stick in the head and got the crowd bobbing; whilst Bristol’s Swimming Girls – the first band to fill the stage – added some polish and indie pop/rock to the night. They have some Simple Minds pomp and singer / bassist Vanessa has a distinctive delivery, a healthy sneer, and a hint of Ciccone. Clearly experienced and gig-ready, their sound is waiting for an anthem to take hold.
Whilst remaining totally unbiased, the first Neon Filler pick to make it through the final – Roma Palace – did themselves enormous credit. Their infectious guitar-led indie had echoes of Blossoms early outings, and entwined influences from beyond the shores of their current Brighton home.
Everyone is a winner on a night like this so Yamaya and Shunaji – get honourable mentions for their respective afrobeat fusion and jazz-influenced hip-hop outings. Both these acts chose to showcase just one song in their sets which left me, and possibly the judges, wanting to hear more to get a more rounded view of their repertoire.
Another good night to see some of the musical talent from across the nation and I for one will look up at least four of the acts at the main festival in June. Still no Hip Hop / MC winner though, but Flohio from the 2017 final is proving that just getting to the final can be enough to herald a growing career.
Words and pictures by Matt Turner
For more information about the competition and live final click here.
When I first saw Martha play at Indietracks about six years ago they didn’t make a huge impact on me. Don’t get me wrong, they were great, it was fun and the crowd loved them, but I didn’t come away with a strong picture of what kind of band they were. I certainly never suspected that they’d later produce an album as good as Love Keeps Kicking.
Listening back over their albums it is clear that they started good but get better and better with each release. The previous two albums were great, with some excellent stand-out songs, but on this release they’ve raised the bar and produced an album that hits home with very track.
They play a power-pop-punk that has a lot of American influences, Ted Leo springs to mind, but they bring some real personal sensibilities to the songs. I think that most of the band contribute vocals and they all sing in their own voice, no fake American accents on show here. This gives their songs so much more personality than if they’d embraced the affectations that so many British bands playing this kind of music fall foul of.
Lyrically they wear their heart on their sleeves, these are open and honest songs that don’t shy away from the personal, or the difficult, issues around love and relationships. It is a difficult line to walk but Martha, like so many of my favourite bands, manage to balance these lyrical themes against some really uplifting and energetic music.
If you want hear some great hooks, some blistering playing and some lyrics from a young band with something to say then you could do a lot worse than heading to your local record shop, or the their Bandcamp page, and picking up this release.
We are delighted to announce that Roma Palace, one of our three long list entries for the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent competition, has made it through to this month’s finals.
“Brighton based Roma Palace impressed us with their fresh take on indie pop and rock, with a slice of blues thrown into the mix,” said Neonfiller co-editor Joe Lepper, who is one of 30 music writers to help compile the 90-strong longlist for this year’s competition.
“The band’s strong vocals and a pop sensibility, reminiscent of the likes of Phoenix, further add to their appeal.”
Commiserations to our other two choices, Saachi and Laura Goldthorpe, who also submitted very strong entries, as well as the other long-listers who missed out.
Roma Palace will now compete with Che Lingo, iiola, LIINES, Marie White, Shunaji, Swimming Girls and YAMAYA in a live finals on April 27.
A playlist of tracks from all the finalists can be found here
The winner will earn a main stage slot at this year’s Glastonbury Festival a well as a £5,000 Talent Development prize from PRS Foundation.
Two runners up will also each be awarded a £2,5000 PRS Foundation prize.
Robert Rotifer’s latest is one of those while you were out collections , offering up versions of two recent, less conventionally released albums you may have missed.
In both Brexit looms large – with his love for Britain and Europe and crucially a Britain in Europe the key emerging theme.
The first of this two disc collection from the Austrian born, long time Kent resident is an English version of his his 2017 German language release Über uns.
This is a calming friend of an album, with gentle guitar picking backing his melancholy take on a Britain that is departing Europe. We Have Lost, which opens the album perhaps best exemplifies this.
As for his love for Britian, this comes across most strikingly on Westgate Towers, which features some of the most beautiful parts of Canterbury, where he and his family have lived for many years. Who would not want to lie in the sunshine in the gardens surrounding the Westgate, after listening to this?
They Don’t Love You Back
The second album, They Don’t Love You Back, sees last year’s 77-minute long stream of consciousness, charity release about Brexit converted into a more straight forward release with separate tracks.
A detailed review of They Don’t Love You Back can be found here. If you want to take advantage of the separate track listings to dip in, we recommend the first Psychedelic folk opener and the title track (track 10).
With a 16-minute medley of They Don’t Love You Back at the end of About Us added on, there are plenty of options to choose from when listening to Rotifer’s most recent work.
Speaking of options, as I write MPs are set to vote on yet another range of Brexit possibilities. As the right wingers and centrists alike step into the lobby I can only hope that the real, human side of Brexit, as featured on these two albums, is considered.
The 90 acts vying for a main stage slot and a £5,000 prize in the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition 2019 have been revealed.
The successful acts were chosen by 30 music online music writers, including Neonfiller’s Joe Lepper. Each writer selected three acts, with Joe picking singer-songwriter Laura Goldthorp, Brighton band Roma Palace and London jazz pop act Saachi.
The acts will now be whittled down to an eight-strong shortlist, who will compete in a live finals next month in Pilton, near to the festival site.
Main stage prize
The winners will earn a main stage slot as well as a £5,000 PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development prize. Two runners up will also each be awarded a £2,500 from PRS for Music Foundation.
ETC 2016 winners She Drew The Gun
Previous winners have included She Drew the Gun, who scooped the prize in 2016 and impressed recently during their UK tour. Declan McKenna is another notable winner, signing for Columbia shortly after winning in 2015.
It’s not often that reignited 1970s singer-songwriter John Howard gets compared to the late great Mark E Smith’s band The Fall. In fact this may well be the first time.
But John Peel’s quote about each new release by Smith and co is particularly apt here as Howard’s albums are also “always the same, always different”.
What is always there is his songwriting prowess and wonderful vocals, preserved during a two decade or so hiatus between his aborted 1970s career and his recent comeback. The defiant sense of independence in the stories he tells is also present.
But each time there’s a difference. On 2012’s You Shall Go To the Ball we found out that his home recording skills included an expertise in creating trippy soundscapes. On his John Howard and the Nightmail collaboration with Robert Rotifer, Ian Button and Paul Weller’ bassist Andy Lewis, he added a strong slice of 1960s pop to the mix. And on Across the Door Sill a delicacy of touch in production came to the fore, on this largely vocals and piano release.
His latest, Cut the Wire, though sees Howard create a collection with a far greater focus on his 1960s and 1970s influences. The result fits wonderfully somewhere between the Beach Boys and English whimsical pop.
French Likely Lads
Opener So here I go, with accordion intro and playful pop, sounds like the perfect theme tune to a French version of The Likely Lads, should Probablement les garçons ever be made.
In contrast, Pre-dawn sees Howard at his most McCartney-esque., with strings and Eleanor Rigby feel.
Becoming is one of a number of perfect pictched melancholy piano ballads that are pure Howard before the album goes full Wilson brother tribute towards the end. On We are Howard’s admiration for Denis Wilson is clear for all to hear and will please those, like this reviewer, who consider 2012’s revisting of The Deal as one of Howard’s finest moments
Nod to the Wilsons
Brian Wilson gets a solid nod and a wink on the penultimate track of Cut the Wire Jean Genet Just Imagined. This and We are are perfect together and showcase how far Howard’s production skills have come.
To finish it off he simply eases out a six minute epic Long Since, as you do.
Cut the Wire’s extra focus on paying tribute to classic pop maestros of the 1960s and 1970s adds something more into the mix for fans and looks likely to attract new admirers too.
Singer and songwriter Louisa Roach’s stage presence and beautiful vocal performance, combined with political lyrics aimed firmly at disaffected youth, ensured their victory.
She Drew the Gun’s Louisa Roach
On the evidence of their sold out show in Bristol, She Drew the Gun have clearly put their prize of a £5,000 development grant from PRS for Music Foundation and the kudos of a main stage slot at the festival to good use.
Now their live set is bigger and bolder. The political edge has increased, unsurprisingly after three years of the grimmest current affairs imaginable, from Trump to Brexit. The sound is also fuller, with an extra guitar added and the synths made chunkier. They also have far greater command of the stage, with their latest visual show really adding to their live set.
Revolution Of Mind
Poem, the song that so impressed ETC judges was great. But the real highlights came from their second album, last year’s Revolution Of Mind.
This offers a great range of tracks that are even better live, with the 1960s guitar pop of Something for the Pain sounding even brighter and lead single Resister even more powerful and edgy.
Best of all was Wolf and Bird, which has a Portishead feel to it and is shaping up to being a live highlight of their set for years to come.
Speaking of 1990s influences, the encore included an excellent version of The Beloved’s Sweet Harmony. This somehow fitted perfectly among, what Roach refers to as, the band’s main business at hand – producing “three minute deconstructions of capitalism”.
Support for She Drew the Gun included a blazing set from Warrington’s Man and The Echo, another act with a strong political edge.
By coincidence we also saw them live back in 2016, when they impressed supporting Billy Bragg in the Leftfield Stage at Glastonbury Festival.
Man and the Echo
Here they showcased some fine new tracks such as Capable Man as well as older songs, including Operation Margarine and I Don’t Give A F**k What You Reckon. We thought they were a great live band three years ago and they are even better now, with echoes of the likes of XTC, Fatima Mansions and Teardrop Explodes throughout their confident and fun set.
Along with 29 other music writers, my task is to help whittle down 5,500 entries to a 90 strong long list from which eight acts will be chosen to compete in a battle of the bands contest in April.
With a main stage slot and a £5,000 PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development prize up for grabs this is one the best talent competitions around for aspiring artists.
As with previous three years I like to focus on some of the acts that have caught my attention so far during judging and are in contention to earn a chance to appear at the Glastonbury Festival.
Here are some that have grabbed my attention so far:
Laura Goldthorp – Candy Shops
Laura Goldthorp entered the competition as a singer/songwriter and she has nailed it on both counts. Her song Candy Shops is a ready made pop classic, with instant radioplay appeal. Her vocals are superb too with this fine song delivered beautifully in the live clip she submitted. Why is she not already a household name? She very well may be if she makes my final three and can progress all the way to a main stage slot at the Glastonbury Festival.
Laura Goldthorp - Candy Shops | Sofar Winchester - YouTube
Roma Palace – Take My Heart Away
I’m a sucker for some funky guitar playing in my pop music, which meant Roma Palace from Brighton instantly made an impression on me. Smart harmonies at the start of this track also impressed.
Roma Palace - Take My Heart Away (Live at Brighton Electric Studios) - YouTube
Saachi – Raw
This London based jazz/pop group’s lead singer Saachi Sen is enfused with the spirit of the late great Laura Nyro. This clip also shows that sometimes clips filmed in a living room can be the most attention grabbing. Their recent single Redcoat is also worth watching.