series two records, who i’m just familiarizing myself with now, is releasing an ambitious 4-cd compilation with artists ranging from Anthony Rochester, a Radio Khartoum alum that has released two albums of intricate pop songs only one of which i have(sadly), to The Dreamers, whose album, Day for Night released on Friendly Noise, is usually in rotation at the Home on the Fringe household. In addition to some well-known bands, there are a number of newbies just waiting to be discovered. The set will be released this month and you’d better act fast because there will only be a 100 of these available.

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it seems fireflies, who i’ve written quite a bit about in earlier posts, has an excellent new ep out entitled Strange. not only it is a great addition to the fireflies canon, it can be yours for free courtesy of the good folks over at Lavender Recordings.

here is a video of july skies performing a gorgeous song that is not from the new album. at youtube it’s called ‘lulworth cove’, which i’ve never heard of before. excellent nonetheless.

two releases have been getting played non-stop in the home on the fringe offices: July SkiesThe Weather Clock and Our Sleepless Forest’s debut self-titled record.

i first came across july skies through some article on some website written by some author, it might have been an interview for all i know. it isn’t important, but what is important is that at the time i was, and still am, heavily into slowdive, especially their Pygmalion album, and i was looking for like-minded artists. as i recall, july skies, otherwise known as antony harding with occasional appearances from epic45, was born out of an affinity for that dreamy aesthetic many of us have come to love but without the sweeping, epic structure many bands that are influenced by slowdive tend to adopt. july skies focuses on the personal and intimate moments that are most often ephemeral and are always touching. for the past few years, july skies has released records that draw from childhood memories, deja vu, english countrysides, radio program chatter, and the old adage that everything used to be so simple. when you’re young, everything is so new and fresh you don’t question the validity or the weight of any particular thing. for instance, my recollection of camping as a young child is so pronounced that to return to that place would not be as poignant as to recall with fondness specific moments of those trips. whether it be the songs that played on the radio, certain smells, old photographs, or speaking with my sister or my parents about our time together, there are specific things that will trigger those feelings of being there without having to go there. i believe this is what july skies sets out to do; to capture the sense of being somewhere you’ve been or someone you’ve known without having to go to that place or see that person and to simply rely on what memory or idea of a memory you have left. The Weather Clock is carries this idea even further and, i believe, is his best album yet. i would advise people to pick it up as soon as possible from makeminemusic records because the first 350 copies come with a free EP that includes some demo versions of songs and some other great songs not on the album. not only is it the perfect accompaniment to a great album, it also works as a separate entity that should be listened to independently.

on the other hand, Our Sleepless Forest have embraced the sweeping, epic structure of slowdive but only as inspiration. their record, which is self-titled, involves a smörgåsbord of influences that all seem to come together at once to create a beguiling sound that follows no known path. i’ve read that the band consists of three young gentlemen that were originally supposed to release this record on Type, one of my all-time favorite record labels in the history of the world. what happened is anyones guess, but it is also Resonant Recordings‘ gain. although Resonant has closed up shop(scroll down a bit for a post about their demise), at least for the time being, they are ending on a very positive note with this and an album of Port-Royal remixes entitled Flared Up.

for the past few months, i’ve been moving away from the ambient soundscapes i surrounded myself with for most of last year, towards more pop-oriented songs that usually don’t reach the four-minute mark. there’s been a influx of excellent jangly, dream-pop, and ethereal lo-fi pop that makes my heart flutter with excitement. in past entries i’ve mentioned fireflies, pants yell!, and moscow olympics, and all of them have reinvigorated my sense of escape in the pop song but not to the point of total abandonment as with the wordless ambient soundscapes i’ve become accustomed to.

fraction discs, who have given us the wonderful debut by moscow olympics, have also delivered the unassuming listening public (unbeknownest to me when it came out last year) the wonderful debut album by the Swedish duo, Tillmanns. A Careless Lifestyle consists of ten songs that remind me of radio debt. caught in a murky swamp. the vocals seem like they’re recorded miles away from where the music is being played, which is excellent by the way, as if felt had ever decided to go “electro” and maurice deebank and martin duffy fought over who should be playing the keyboards. i’ll have to track down the couple 7″ singles they put out prior to the debut album because this is just the kind of thing we need during this miserable last stretch of winter.

sorry for the delay. there are no good excuses other than laziness and neglect, coupled with a new job and uninspired writing. i have risen from my slumber to mention a nice little band out of sweden called days. they’ve just released a wonderful new record on shelflife , who have really taken the ball and run with it with exquisitely crafted releases that present a cd and 7″ record in a neat cardboard book. the new Days release, entitled downhill, marks the third entry in this limited format and i hope they keep rolling these things out. i picked up the very first release in the series by a wonderful duo from italy called warm morning, and this new release is even better. reading up on Days, it seems they’ve made many many songs over the years and when it came time to release some of them (7 for this release), it took ages (many days) to make the selections. not one minute is wasted on any of the songs presented here, especially on the title track, which you can listen to via their myspace page. it’s too bad that every time i’ll want to listen to this album i’ll have to take the sleeve out of the frame i’ve put in it, which hangs above my door. according to shelflife’s official site, each release will be part of an exhibit that will be nowhere near where i live. i wish every label would take the time to present a record that at least tries to match the beauty of the music.

there’s one proclamation i never got to make in 2007, which at this point seems quite fleeting now that it’s past, and that is the best song of the year:

moscow olympics – still

although the song has been available for quite a long time on their myspace page, the good folks at fractions discs have released the best pop song i’ve heard in eons, pressed on a 7″ slab of vinyl, which is the way it was born to be heard. combining the wonderful jangle of blueboy’s “popkiss” with the pitter-patter Animal (of The Muppets) drumming of the wild swans (mk. 1), “still” is the song many of you will have in your playlist for years to come. not many songs have that timeless quality that make you thank your lovely stars music was created in the first place, but “still” manages to do just that every time i listen to it. the b-side, “talk like this” is a wonderful complement to the immediacy of the a-side, with ethereal vocals that ooze from your speakers, and a stargazing aesthetic that spirals you away into the ether.

 

resonant recordings, who specialize mainly in ambient and electronic music, are calling it a day. this is sad news for those who are big fans of this particular genre because resonant are one of the leading lights of the ambient world. with artists such as port-royal, library tapes, stafraenn hakon, yellow6, and more, resonant fulfilled a very large niche in a genre that tends to fall through the cracks of the more mainstream publications such as pitchfork and popmatters. this year has seen the label at its most productive with excellent releases, one of which by port-royal was one of my favorites, and it turns out that before they call it a day, resonant will release a port-royal remix album featuring the likes of manual and ulrich schnauss, as well as the debut album by our sleepless forest, which i’ve been waiting a long time to finally hear. follow the link to their myspace account and you’ll be treated to some great ambient textures that churn and morph before your very ears.

i hope anyone that’s reading this has a wonderful new year. i have a problem of never making plans and i think that might hurt me again this year. either way, new year’s eve is a fun celebration no matter where you are or who you’re with (then again, i’m an optimistic person and i know some people get an overwhelming sense of sadness with the coming of a new year). what better way to celebrate (or not) than by listening to Friendly Noise’s newest and last installment in their free mp3 releases, which i’ve written about in length down below. their newest release is quite fitting since it’s titled “New Year’s Eve” and it’s by the very excellent Testbild!, who are definitely no stranger to this column. the song is a lullaby for those stranded in their thoughts, wondering just what will happen when the clock strikes twelve and whether their dreams are just hopeful pennies that fall to the bottom of the pond. the line “gliding lanterns of imploded dreams” is quite succinct in addressing the hope of a new year. i for one will not be making any resolutions, but that doesn’t mean i won’t plant any wishes.

sadly, this brings an end to Friendly Noise’s MP3 Releases. i implore the one or two of you reading this blog to venture forth and get them all before they’re gone forever. hurry!

this time of year in my part of the world we are usually cold, tucked in neatly under our covers and cowering in front of our space heaters soaking up all the warmth we can get. i can tell you, as i sit here, my house is at least 100 years old, which means that over those many years wood has shifted, cracks have expanded, and insulation wasn’t a thought in our forefathers’ minds when the house was built. in short, it’s cold inside and out.

usually, my taste in music is dictated by the seasons. for instance, in the winter you can find me embracing my desolate surroundings with wondrous ambient music by the likes of say, Stars of the Lid, or, more recently, Peter Broderick, who has generously offered up a free download of his excellent European Tour EP. winter brings a sustained hush over all that i do. it’s a fact that when you receive very little sunlight over a period of time, it affects your genuine outlook on life. whether you wake up ready to begin the day or struggle to toss the sheets off, the temperature in your home plays an important role in that decision. winter also has a way, through forced migration, of increased reflection, and records such as Goldmund’s new ep entitled Two Point Discrimination is perfect for your slumber.

following up from his 7″ release, The Heart of High Places, which consisted of 6 short piano pieces, goldmund a.k.a. keith kenniff, otherwise known as helios, concocts a wonderful collection of 11 short pieces that each manage to create nuanced little worlds in which to inhabit. each piece sounds painfully constructed with delicate and subtle movements over the keys. as one song flows into the next, our ears are so close to kenniff’s piano that you can hear the tufts of cotton tamp the strings. a friend of mine likened the sound of the record to being swallowed up by the piano, where every little noise you hear is amplified to the power of ten. if you want the creaking of the piano bench, the smell of the varnish, or the sustained shake of the foot pedals, it’s all here. goldmund uses the piano as a conduit to the heart, every note is accounted for and never wasted. i’d be hard pressed to find a record that reaches the level of intimacy that Two Point Discrimination does. you can share in its warmth while you’re cosying up next to your heater and wondering when the ice will melt.

on the opposite side of the spectrum, if you’re looking for a record to immediately break you from your slumber. a record to shatter the ice, warm the spirit, and impress your friends at your annual holiday gathering, Alison Statton by Pants Yell! should no doubt do the trick. i was already familiar with Pants Yell! through last year’s release entitled Recent Drama, which was a quick exercise in pop songs that do not last longer than 3 minutes and raises the question of whether or not they should in the first place. this familiarity, however, did not prepare me for the giant step forward that is Alison Statton. this name may be recognizable to some as one-third of the legendary Young Marble Giants. statton is also well-known for fronting the short-lived and sadly under-appreciated Weekend, as well as releasing records on excellent labels such as Les Disques du Crepuscule (their Ghosts of Christmas Past collection is great for this time of year by the way) and Vinyl Japan under her full name that have been re-released on the wonderful LTM record label.

complete with a horn section and embracing the recipe of jazz-pop fusion, Pants Yell! seem to draw more inspiration from Statton’s Weekend records than the YMG minimalist aesthetic. though the songs tend towards the sub-3 minute mark, each song is filled to the brim with melody. there is a pervading sense of youthful exuberance running throughout each song, with wry and witty lyrics that put a smile on even the most curmudgeon fellows.