Treasured Memories of Alan Smith
In which our reviewer hot knives some sounds

Tin Man - Parallel Lives
This is cyber indie apparently, which is a dance/guitar crossover. I'm confused, as I thought this was what new rave was. No matter, this is neither. This is indie of the slightly above average variety. The catchy lyrics and frantic in-your-face-pace does enough to make it stick in your head. The title track is a little too repetitive really, with "parallel, parallel, parallel, parallel lives" the constant refrain and it doesn't really progress. However the b-side, Elephant, "there's an elephant in the room, and she's smashing up the furniture", is much better and would work better as an attention grabbing single. But it's still nothing much to shout about.

Larsen B - The Treasured Memories Of Cecil Element
I'm hoping this band named themselves after the lovely British Sea Power song, but I doubt it. This is like BSP if they went sailing, bought a banjo, stole the singer from The Flaming Lips and introduced harmonies and a little extra jollity to their songs. So not really much like BSP at all, except for the same sense of randomness, bizarre originality and carefully crafted alternative songs. It's pleasant enough but has a slight sense of being background music and little more. I can't imagine anyone saying "I know! Let's listen to Larsen B!" unless they were on exactly the right drugs. But they do leave me in two minds as there is something quite beautiful about their songs that I can't quite put my finger on, with Old Rope in particular being more than a little pleasant. So perhaps there is more to come from them. Time will tell.

Bright Eyes - Hot Knives
Bright Eyes, you probably already love him or hate him. I love him, although not quite enough to actually go out and buy his albums. I probably would if there weren't so many to choose from. This is the new single from yet another (his seventh I think) new album, Cassadaga. This is one of his "loud" songs and is inevitably wonderful. I suppose it could be pretty easily labelled as somewhere between Dylan and Arcade Fire, but if you've heard Bright Eyes before you'd expect this to be the case. And the slower b-side If The Brakeman Turns My Way is good enough to be a single itself. The single does enough to convince me I really should get round to buying some Bright Eyes, and if the rest of the album is as good as this single, which it probably is, it's probably a good place as any to start.

Simon Kent - Spaced Out Refugee
From the first chord I just know this is going to be horrid. And when Simon's voice comes in all my worst fears are confirmed. It's so MOR it hurts. Actually it's worse than that. His gentle and monotone voice is SO irritating as he never puts in any effort at all and he just allows the song to drift by in a wave of nothingness. Appalling.

First Among Equals - T.G.I.F
This is pretty reasonable, mind you after the last track even Hard-Fi would be a relief. Quite what T.G.I.F, the repeated shouted chorus of the title track, stands for I'm not really sure. But I like a bit of mystery. Is it Thank God Its Friday or something different or maybe even rude or naughty? Actually I don't think I care. I'm rambling, this lot sound like a youngish band still finding their way, but their pictures suggest this isn't the case. It's not bad but it's unlikely to take the world by storm. But if they already know this then that's fine, they'll probably be playing toilet venues forever, but the people they play to will probably have a good time as they thrash out respectable rock music that probably only really works live.

BC Camplight - Lord, I've Been On Fire
This is a bit of a quirky one from the not entirely stable Brian Christinzio, the awful and amateurish cover of which meant I'd be avoiding giving it a listen. But the music is quite polished albeit a bit too Beach Boys shiny-happy for my liking. That's shiny happy as in high pitched and jolly sounding, however the lyrics are actually much much darker which is an interesting combination. It doesn't have a memorable chorus or any real hooks which would be fine if the music still managed to be at least slightly hard hitting but it isn't. It's just too sugary sweet for me to enjoy as there isn't really any depth or warmness too it and there are simply too many bands of this genre I'd rather be listening to than this.

Paperlung - Balance
Balance is the not exactly highly anticipated return of The Boo Radleys singer Sice with his new band Paperlung. And it's pretty much what you'd expect, fairly unadventurous but perfectly enjoyable. It's probably too stuck in the 90s to generate much success but for those of us who can see through music fads and fashions this is well worth picking up. If you're too young to remember The Boo Radleys, they were a bit like The Bluetones. Who you won't remember either. Basically you're looking at Britpop without the unique selling point that made other bands such as Blur so huge. The tunes are upbeat, melodic and above all "nice". Naturally there's no huge hit a la Wake Up Boo on here but times have changed and although this is a new band they are already very much in middle age, peddling pop gems to a select audience who wonder why you just don't get this type of music very much any more. It's certainly refreshing to hear something devoid of aggression or excessive emotion for a change.

No Machine - EP
iTunes seems to think this is a CD by The Black Eyed Peas which couldn't really be much further from the truth. A distinctly American band, No Machine produce vaguely dark music complimented by a strict black only dress code for the band. The single is Tell Me, one of the more gentle and ballady tracks on here. Generally their music is a bit too earnest and showy for my liking but I can see the appeal and I'm sure many people will lap this up. It's all been well structured and carefully delivered, a bit too much for my liking as there doesn't seem to be much attempt to break the mould. To be honest this is probably best suited to the American market than to us snobbish and hard-to-lease English folk who always demand that little bit more that I don't feel this really delivers.

Hyperbubble - Airbrushed Alibis
Hyperbubble are the bastard lovechild of Goldfrapp and Ladytron, which I'll admit doesn't produce a unique offspring but still one of some inbuilt credibility. This sort of hypnotic electro isn't really an area I'm very familiar with, and I can't really tell the difference between this and some of this crazy modern funky stuff I've heard on the wireless. Which may mean it's really good, or I'm just out of my depth and its big pants. But the album is fairly varied, with catchy lyrics with a robotic feel that nobody could help but enjoy. It's also filled with humour and maintaining it's tongue in its cheek means that you never go weary of the music or feel like they are trying to be anything other than what they are.

Silverfall - Sampler
This is deceptively enjoyable. The opening track, Don't Cry Michael, is a slow and gentle and really not very complex at all but works quite well despite dragging its heels a little by passing the 5 minute marker. Perhaps too mushy for some, but singer Jenny's voice is certainly impressive. Hey Now is more upbeat although a bit whiny. It does showcase their musicianship better and coupled with the preferably vocals from the first track would be quite impressive. I think I'll be in the minority amongst the Repeaters liking this band as they are so pop it nearly hurts, but I think this sampler shows some talent.

Ben Lee - Ripe

This is possibly the most inoffensive CD of all time and he is so radio-friendly they probably taken their relationship to the next level. Second track repeats "I'm watching American television" as a chorus which is utterly devoid of any real message and slightly nauseating. Despite this, the more the album goes on the more you become accustomed to it and you find yourself almost enjoying it, but luckily I managed to snap out of this malaise and escape with my credibility almost still intact. Literally bog-standard this is shit, but dangerously listenable shit. Please ensure you don't get sucked in.

50 Hz - Here Goes Everything
I really really want to say this is so good it Hertz. Or that I hear this kind of thing with great Frequency. Sadly neither of those statements are quite true, but this is a good piece of music. They are currently being groomed for success by EMI, having recently appeared on a compilation alongside big hitters Radiohead and Coldplay. This has a similar sense of atmosphere to those bands, but they are more of an archetypal rock band with Panic Attack a polished and formulaic (in a good way) worthy lead single. They flit between piano driven ballads and guitar based indie numbers like a down to earth Muse or a less depressed Interpol simultaneously reminding me a lot of the underrated The Stills.

Zaum - I Hope You Never Love Anything As Much As I Love You
Clearly this won't win catchy album title of the year, and neither will the songs win any catchy music accolades. It's kind of improvisational jazz, although jazz is probably too strong a word for music that has a very slow tempo and is remarkably freewheeling with songs trundling along for up to 15 minutes without much sense of purpose. It's a sparse instrumental piece far removed from anything else reviewed in this batch. Sadly as someone who finds anything even remotely drawn out in a Pink Floyd way rather dull it isn't my kind of thing but minimalist fans (if they exist) will no doubt lap it up. Slowly.

Pieta Brown - Remember The Sun
Oh dear. How very depressing it is to find myself enduring another dreary faux country turd incomprehensibly shat out into public despite having nothing original, unique, exciting or emotional to offer. You can't help but wonder what she thinks she is giving the world. Even more depressing is the thought that their may actually be people out there who'll enjoy this. It's a bit like KT Tunstall but without the pop hooks.

Low In The Sky - We Are All Counting On You, William
This has been lurking at the bottom of my "to do" heap for some time mainly due to its impenetrable plastic wrapping and unappealing artwork. It's another one of those layered-percussiony-instrumental entities which seem to be cropping up more and more. This is frustrating as they can be somewhat hard to distinguish and identify, and therefore hard to review. There is nothing here to pick out particularly, but it's far better than Zaum as it does at least have a sense of direction in its songs. I'm using the word "it" as it really feels like a "thing" rather than a band, which I guess it a good thing in this single driven world. It comes across much like the more low-key instrumental Sigur Ros songs and is generally a pleasant experience albeit an impactless one.

12 Stone Toddler - Candles On The Cake
New favourites 12 Stone Toddler are back with their second single which is thankfully another thumping tongue in cheek faux-prog delight. It swaggers like Queens Of The Stone Age if they were to ever lighten up just a little bit. It's not as immediate nor as daft as debut Twang and is all the better for it as it still manages to be light-hearted but being less daft makes it less of a novelty tune.

By Alan Smith

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