Tag Archives: Fierce Panda

The Crookes – Soapbox Album Review

Sheffield’s hard-grafting purveyors of incisive indie pop The Crookes have announced the release of their new album Soapbox on Monday 14 April via fierce panda records on CD, LP and digitally.

The Crookes consist of George Waite (vocals /bass), Daniel Hopewell (guitar), Tom Dakin (guitar) and Russell Bates (drums).

The Crookes

The Crookes Soapbox album artwork

Soapbox saw the band forego the studio-related home comforts of South Yorkshire and instead drive their gear and recording facilities to the Alpine wilds of Italy at the start of winter. If these pleasures were a wayward distraction then the band’s sense of isolation manifested itself in Soapbox, a record which is littered with put downs and push offs.

The album kick starts with recent single release, Play Dumb. Play Dumb has a brilliantly crafted chorus, “I’m under your thumb/I’m trying hard not to play dumb/But I don’t need you no more/I’m waking up dumb…” The thumping drum beat introduces the track and is bound to get you moving. Play Dumb is worthy of being a single release; its upbeat, fast tempo makes this song instantly irresistible.

Don’t Put Your Faith In Me has a slightly darker tone than the previous track. The vocals are more paramount on this track and the music more simplified. The bass riff carries this song. There’s a little bit of doo-wop style in this song. It sounds like a 1950s diner ballad.

The next track Echolalia has a 1980s sound to it. The music has a lot of 80s influences giving it that old yet modern soundscape style. The rhythm guitar is minimal whereas the bass is pushed to the forefront giving it that punch. Echolalia has layers of instrumentation which keeps this song interesting. The way Waite sings “Echolalia” is beautiful.

Before The Night Falls has influences of Pete Doherty in Babyshambles in the vocals. The Crookes’ indie sound is mixed with a doo-wop style and dramatic chorus making it the perfect indulgence. It has drama and emotion as well as a dance-able beat.

Holy Innocents is the ballad of the album. The vocals are accompanied by a simplistic yet tear-jerking piano melody and sad vocals where Waite’s voice cracks occasionally. The lyrics are beautiful and tell a narrative, “Maybe I remember every word you ever said/As day bled to night from the corner of your bed/I swear to God we were holy innocents/Your friends all bore me why can’t we be alone/I don’t want to speak to no-one else/I just want to hide like holy innocents/I met you at the fountain outside the station/Nothing else matters except dull conversation/Our whole world and holy innocents…” This song is entirely different from the rest of the songs on Soapbox and is a true representation of this band’s musical abilities and variety.

Marcy is the rockiest track on the record by far. It has punch and energy. The vocals have a distorted effect giving it that rock edge. The vocals are much less controlled than on the previous tracks, “Marcy my dear you got me strung out”. You’re bound to love this track instantly.

Soapbox, the title track of record, ends the record and what a song to go out on. Its fast tempo and high pitched, scattered guitar riffs bring energy and life to the end of the album. The guitar riffs almost sound like improvisation which gives Soapbox a unique feel.

Soapbox is a wonderful album full of lows and heartache yet the songs’ upbeat tempos and summery vibes help to give this record a pleasant feel. There’s a lot to be said for The Crookes’ sound. You’ll find something to love here.

The Crookes’ new album, Soapbox, is due out on 14 April via fierce panda records.

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Fierce Panda To Release Compilation CD To Celebrate Twenty Year Anniversary

The fierce panda record company turned 20 years old on February 24. To mark this somewhat surprising event the label is releasing an 18-track compilation comprised of some of the weepiest tunes it has released over the past ten years.

Due for release as its own separate entity on Monday 7 April, the album is called endangered: fierce panda 2004–2014 and will be given away to anyone and everyone who buys a record from the online shop at www.fiercepanda.co.uk.

The endangered: fierce panda 2004–2014 track listing is below:

WOODPIGEON The Saddest Music In The World

MILO GREENE Son My Son

GOLDHEART ASSEMBLY Last Decade

THE WALKMEN In The New Year

THE HOSTS Would You Be Blue

THE CROOKES Howl

ACRES OF LIONS Collections

DINGUS KHAN Made A List

ART BRUT Rusted Guns Of Milan

THE RAVEONETTES Last Dance

HATCHAM SOCIAL Sidewalk

DEPARTMENT M J-Hop

HEY SHOLAY The Bears The Bees The Clocks

THE SPINTO BAND They All Laughed

MELANIE PAIN How Bad Can It Be

TOM HICKOX Let Me Be Your Lover

I LIKE TRAINS A Rook House For Bobby

ULTRASOUND Sovereign

In 1994 fierce panda records was invented by three NME journalists in The Blue Posts on Tottenham Court Road. Their intentions were clear: to release the Shagging In The Streets EP, the double-vinyl six-track tribute to the magnesium flare which was The New Wave Of New Wave, and then call it a day – you don’t call yourself something as trite as fierce panda if you intend to make it to Christmas. That day was February 24 and would never be the same again.

Time, as tends to be the case, has moved on: The Blue Posts is now a Boots chemist and The New Wave Of New Wave is now a footnote in the NME scene-inventing filing cabinet. Unbelievably however fierce panda has survived against several odds, flourishing throughout the end of the previous century with a cavalcade of cheery one-off singles and cripplingly cheekily-titled compilation EPs like Mortal Wombat and Otter Than July. And Songs About Plucking. And Screecher Comforts…the list is endless.

Indeed, in 2004 fierce panda records released decade: ten years of fierce panda, a compilation album which hauled together a savvy selection of those pivotal singles and early nuggets from the likes of Placebo, Ash, The Bluetones, Idlewild, Coldplay, Keane, Death Cab For Cutie and – but of course – Winnebago Deal.

Time, as still tends to be the case, has moved on again. Having retired from the world of one-off singles in 2006 fierce panda has been attempting to make some kind of sense in a music industry gone mad. There is fierce panda songs for publishing, there is fierce panda management for managing, there is even fierce panda books for, umm, booking. And there have been fierce panda albums. Lots and lots of lovely great big grown up albums.

Which bring us rather too neatly to endangered: fierce panda 2004–2014, a compilation album which starts with The Saddest Music In The World by Woodpigeon and ends with one of the saddest songs in the world in Sovereign by Ultrasound. In between is a gentle, genteel and occasionally very grumpy emotional rollercoaster ride through the past ten years of slow-moving independent chaos. The artwork is cribbed from The Hurting by Tears For Fears. The vibe is taken from a deserted old man’s pub in the middle of a long, lost afternoon. All 18 songs are culled from the multitude of fierce panda albums and mini-albums released since 2004.

Perversely, for a record which pertains to be a Best Of… collection, several of the tracks on the compilation were never released as singles because they were too long, too languid or just too damn lovely. Even more perversely, some of these languid, lovely, too-long tracks were actually released as singles. What fierce panda do know is that, far from those early snotty New Wave Of New Wave-raving days in The Blue Posts, two of these bands have recently been playlisted on the comfy airwaves of Radio 2 and another six of them should have been.

Terrible sacrifices have been made. Because all the tracks are off albums, they’ve had to leave behind classic fierce panda one-off singles from Battle, The Maccabees, Boy Kill Boy and Dead Disco. Because all of the compilation tracks are endeavouring to capture a sense of slow-moving sadness, they have had to leave out the heavy monster sounds of Hawk Eyes, The Blackout and The Computers. And how How Come You Don’t Hold Me No More by Welsh Wonders The Hot Puppies – who put the ABBA into Aberystwyth – isn’t on here only the traumatised compiler knows.

endangered: fierce panda 2004 – 2014 sees the record label going from Shagging In The Streets to sobbing under the sheets. It’s been one heck of a journey. endangered: fierce panda 2004 – 2014 will be released on 7 April.

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Felt Tip Release Second Single, Milk & Honey

Felt Tip are set to release their second single Milk & Honey on 24 February via Fierce Panda/Giant Haystacks.

Felt Tip are a band who have spent the past six months foregoing the perilous delights of the facebook and twitter world and therefore floating around the indie ether in a fug of mystery. What we know is that Felt Tip has three members and that English bassist and drummer duo James Tyler and Tom Rapanakis met volatile French guitarist Anton Trampon in London after he left an ad in their studio listing Television, Ennio Morricone and “everything at DFA Records” as influences.

The London indie/new wave popsters follow up their debut single Love or Pity with 6Music-infiltrating second outing, Milk & Honey.

Milk & Honey features vocals that resemble those of Brandon Flowers, making this a song that Killers’ fans may well like. While Love Or Pity showcased vocals similar to Julian Casablanca meeting Jeff Buckley, Milk & Honey has another sound altogether – it’s slightly darker and more sincere. In fact, it almost feels like an insult to call this band indie – their style is much more advanced than this.

Milk & Honey will be released on 24 February via Fierce Panda/Giant Haystacks.

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Department M Release Live Video Of Forthcoming Single, Miscellany

Department M are to closely follow up their self-titled album with single, Miscellany, out digitally via Fierce Panda on January 20. Led by ex-Grammatics main man Owen Brinley, the band have posted a lovingly-filmed live video version of the song.

Miscellany begins with classical compositions introducing a completely sombre side to the band but this soon changes. The odd drum beat kicks in against the melodic vocals – at first it sounds like nothing on this song compliments each other but eventually it all sinks in together building a fantastic song for releasing as a single. It’s a quirky song. It’s completely chaotic but not unlikeable. Brinley’s vocals during the chorus are particularly clever – he uses his voice’s capacity as much as he can to create another layer to this song.

Department M play a special free entry launch party this Friday 10 January, headlining The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch (stage time 10.30pm). They’re also playing Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on 24 January. Visit their website for more details.

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Department M Album Review

Department M recently released their self-titled mini album through Fierce Panda. Led by Owen Brinley, formerly the front man of Grammatics, the Leeds-based quartet fully explore their expansive indie/electronic palette over the eight tracks on offer.

As part of Fierce Panda’s Pandamonium festival, Department M are headlining a special free entry show at The Old Blue Last on Friday 10 January. They are also giving away a free MP3 of the song J-Hop from the album over on SoundCloud here.

Ostensibly a creative vehicle for Owen Brinley, Department M have spent the past year cautiously yet crunchingly developing a fascinating, fizzing sound which combines the heroic synths of yesteryear with a cutting contemporary electro sensibility. Depeche Mode, Air, Talk Talk, Cabaret Voltaire and – of course – ELO are just some of the names referenced in their company, and fair play too – Owen Brinley is decidedly not a man afraid of a saxophone solo. Bolstered by a four person-strong live line-up this is an act which can straddle the divide between the shiny retro-obsessed Classic Pop magazine and the cool dark alleyways of modern East London.

In March Department M released the I’ll Fax You An Apology/Black Boutique single on local label Hide & Seek. In June, they released the The Second Prize/Absentia single through Too Pure. This handy Department M mini-album brings together most of the songs on those first two releases, throws in future single Miscellany – due out in January 2014 – adds a couple more toweringly sombre tunes and waits for the light to come pouring out of the sky.

Department M

Department M

Visitor is a scene builder for the album; it’s dramatic and dark. It’s shortness adds to the tension just as short sentences add to the drama in a book. pHARMACY on the other hand resembles an 80s pop song spin off. There’s your echoing drum beats, dramatic synths and soft, feminine vocals which all make this song sound like something that’s been futuristically transported from the 80s to now. The vocals are particularly soulful and melodic on pHARMACY.

I’ll Fax You An Apology is a song with swooping, emotional vocals mixed with electronic rock style music. It really is a unique sound.

J-Hop is the latest track to be given away for free by Department M. J-Hop starts with angelic harp sounds and relaxing synths before the dramatic drum beat is introduced alongside the vocals which are full of attitude, “We ply/By the logic of the reasoned minds/And one last time I’ll come to your body/What do you need?” The chorus on J-Hop is brilliant. The lyrics “If I could keep you closer” are accompanied by disorienting synths and chaotic melodies and drum beats which add to the tension and climax.

The Second Prize changes the tone of the mini album – the offbeats introduce a happier, more upbeat tone despite the lyrics in the first verse which juxtapose the upbeat melodies, “We’re alive by the second prize/You mirror me fucking bleach the lies/So dry/So dry/So dry”.

Miscellany is the next single to be released by Department M in January 2014. It begins with classical compositions introducing a completely sombre side to a previously hectic album but this soon changes. The odd drum beat kicks in against the melodic vocals – at first it sounds like nothing on this song compliments each other but eventually it all sinks in together building a fantastic song for releasing as a single. It’s the quirky song on the mini album to say the least. It’s completely chaotic but not unlikeable. Brinley’s vocals during the chorus are particularly clever – he uses his voice’s capacity as much as he can to create another layer to his songs.

Absentia is based around a flowing over-driven hip-hop drum loop and smooth swathes of analogue synthesiser. This is a track that uses space as an instrument. The swooping vocals of “I’m breathing out/I’m breathing in…” and the dramatic drum beat juxtapose the floating noises of the synths. It has a mystical sound that will have you hooked in a second.

SleepWalker uses Brinley’s vocals as the main instrument which hasn’t been done on the rest of the songs on the mini album. The cascading synths compliment Brinley’s feminine vocals and the superb harmonies heard on this track. This is a track that uses absence as a positive rather than a negative. Brinley’s vocals shine – they are angelic, soulful and full of emotion. This is the underdog song on the mini album.

Department M’s self-titled mini album is out now.

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Introducing…Felt Tip

Felt Tip are a band who have spent the past six months foregoing the perilous delights of the facebook and twitter world and therefore floating around the indie ether in a fug of mystery. What we know is that Felt Tip has three members and that English bassist and drummer duo James Tyler and Tom Rapanakis met volatile French guitarist Anton Trampon in London after he left an ad in their studio listing Television, Ennio Morricone and “everything at DFA Records” as influences.

Felt Tip

Felt Tip

We also know that Felt Tip are named after a song by Swedish indie-popsters Love Is All and that Love Or Pity is their debut single.

The London indie pop trio recently launched their debut single Love Or Pity via Fierce Panda/Label Fandango. Think skeletal guitars, neatly-balanced rhythms and excitable rushes of melody and you have Love Or Pity. The vocals are a little bit Julian Casablanca in style mixed with a little bit of Jeff Buckley in songs such as Last Goodbye and Lover, You Should’ve Come Over. In fact, it almost feels like an insult to call this band indie – their style is much more advanced than this.

Love Or Pity is out now.

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