Album Review: Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves Of Destiny – ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’

With the British folk scene almost completely controlled by the Communion crowd, it is refreshing to hear something new and quirky, Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves Of Destiny are just that. Their name may be a mouthful to say, but their debut LP is truly magical. Driven by harmonious vocals, backed glorious yet chaotic instrumentals, ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’ is a great album.

Beth Jeans Houghton is different and odd, there is no denying that. From the bizarre video for ‘Sweet Tooth Bird’ to dreaming about 12-sided polyhedra in ‘Dodecahedron’, the album proves it is not ordinary. But while you can’t take it totally seriously, you can respect that the music is brilliant. Take ‘Nightswimmer’ as an example. The lyrics are about getting rather sweaty at night, but if you forget about the words’ meanings you are left with a beautiful, graceful song. Luckily, some seriousness can be found in the song ‘Humble Digs’. Starting out as a marching beat and simple piano notes, it escalates into an epic crescendo, with Houghton’s angelic vocals perfectly contrasted by a choir of deeper voices.

If you can handle its quirks, ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’ is an amazing album. Even though it is peculiar in name and nature, the music it contains is different in a good way. Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves Of Destiny may of created the best alt-folk album of 2012.



This Week’s New Band: Big Scary

I am very sorry for the lack of posts recently; I am still at school and have had to put work before writing. I am in the process of writing new content that should be going up over the next few weeks. I also apologise for not doing a ‘This Week’s New Band’ post last week, I did start to write one, but it did not get finished in time so I just discarded it. I will try to be more reliable in the future and keep a steady stream of posts coming. Anyway, enough of me apologising and more music related scrawl.

The band that I found this week is called Big Scary. They are a duo from Melbourne and their music ranges from indie folk to a sort of garage rock. I first heard their song ‘The Apple Song’ last night and I quite liked it but wasn’t instantly won over. Then I listened to a few more songs and realised how amazing they are. They released their debut album, called Vacation, in Australia last year but it has not yet been released on iTunes so I am guessing it hasn’t been released in the UK either.

Big Scary’s music is generally indie pop though there are some rockier songs and some acoustic folk-sounding songs. I am not too keen on some songs, like ‘Tuesday is Rent Day’, but others, such as ‘Thinking About You’, are absolutely amazing. I think it is worth checking out the song ‘Microwave Pizza’ because, as well as being generally brilliant, it is the only song I have heard Jo Syme, the drummer, sing in and her voice is beautiful.

Alessi’s Ark: Argh! Too Good!

I first heard Alessi’s Ark at the end of 2010. She was supporting Villagers in Exeter, about ten of us stood around a tiny stage, in a room that was higher than it was long. She didn’t even really need to use a microphone. We were captivated by the simple notes and harmonic tones she was producing.

Now, just over a year later, I am still captivated. Her most recent album, called ‘Time Travel’, was one of my favourite albums of 2011, and I am really enjoying her first album, ‘Notes from the Treehouse’, that I only bought last night.

One song that has really caught my eye, or ear, is ‘The Asteroids Collide’; her singing in it is very almost rap or poetry, with amazing, flowing lyrics. The whole song is built on top of a simple drum beat that sounds drum machine generated, and there is some piano in there somewhere as well. It may be my favourite song by Alessi.

On top of this, the video is really cool, I like animations. It is made in association with ‘Lomography’, a certain experimental ‘retro’ style of photography, and I count myself as a bit of a ‘lomographer’. I love every single aspect of this song. I still listen with the same awe as that first encounter.

Johnny Flynn: Folking Great!

I hope you all have had a good start to 2012, I have had a few days break from writing. Sorry I still haven’t got round to doing the album reviews; I have decided that there is not much point in doing reviews for some of the albums because I have already written a lot on them in other posts. This post is one that I have had saved as a draft for a while; I could never think of what to write but I have finally conjured words from the air and assembled them in the format of a blog post.

If you had asked me who Johnny Flynn was before his second album was released I wouldn’t have had a clue. It may surprise you that, before last year, I never invested much time in music. I have always loved music, yet I always relied on the rest of my family to find out about the bands. My sister got me into Johnny Flynn; I remember always asking for ‘Barnacled Warship’ to be played in the car on family outings. I never knew that there had been an album before ‘Been Listening’. Then after seeing him live I found out about ‘A Larum’, and I was so happy, and annoyed that I never found out about it before.

‘A Larum’ has now become one of my favourite albums of all time; there is nothing I can say to fault it, both lyrically and musically it is sublime. Johnny Flynn’s songs are thoughtful, deep and poetic; it does not surprise me that he has cited his influences as W.B. Yeats and Shakespeare. There is not a bad song on either of the albums, but ‘Leftovers’ and ‘Amazon Love’ have to be my two favourite songs. Try not to be a fool like me and leave it a year before you realise quite how good Johnny Flynn is. I left it a year too long.

Jay Jay Pistolet: The Ghost Of Vaccines Past

You may or may not have heard of The Vaccines. I am not a fan of them and you would never see me in one of the crowds of screaming teenagers. They annoy me, they gained success a few months after forming, mainly because of NME and the rest of the musical press decided they were cool, yet other brilliant bands may never get the same coverage even after years of playing. There is a reason I have brought this up; Justin, the lead singer, used to have a solo project. He used the name ‘Jay Jay Pistolet’ and toured with people like Laura Marling, as well as being a part-time member of Mumford & Sons. He stopped a few years ago to form The Vaccines, and stopped writing some of the most amazing songs to have graced my ears.

I found out about Jay Jay Pistolet far too late. I only heard his voice on a Mojo CD about the Communuim record label earlier this year, about two years after he stopped. He was a folk singer-songwriter and he wrote lyrics of love, loss and little else. My favourite song is probably ‘Holly’: a saddening story that leaves you slightly depressed and with an aching heart. I struggle to comprehend how such a great lyricist managed to write a song called ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ in his next band.

I have spent a good deal of time searching for Jay Jay Pistolet songs; I have bought all the available EPs and regularly scan eBay for a CD of unreleased tracks that he sent to fans when he finished the project. The songs I have got have been played more times than a lot of my music library combined. At the moment I find myself thinking: ‘All I want for Christmas is the reincarnation of Jay Jay Pistolet’. If Jesus came back to life then it can’t be too hard.

Peggy Sue: Indie? Folk? Or Just Pure Brilliance?

Sorry for the lack of posts the last few days, I have not been at home, or at a laptop, thus I have not been able to write anything meaningful. I hope the following post makes up for my lack of commitment.

As the winter winds howl in my ears, and the cold rain fills the air with a blanket of icy needles, I put on some suitably wintry sounds. I’m not talking about that Christmas rubbish, admitted there is now some good stuff, but some atmospheric moody music that comes in the form of a band called Peggy Sue. They are a three-piece indie folk band from Brighton. They have released two albums but their most recent one, called Acrobats, is the only one I have heard. The album is slow-paced, with repetitive rhythms that are almost ritual-like. The way the vocals are harmonised creates quite a chilling effect, put these on top of the hypnotic music and you get the soundtrack to my winter.

The song below is called ‘Song & Dance’. It was not my first choice of song, but the ones that I would have liked to have posted were not on YouTube. I really like the guitar sound, and the beat makes you go into a kind of trance, swaying with the music. Enjoy it, and I may post a few Christmas songs over the next few days to get everyone in the festive spirit.