The NBT Review 54

Across The Atlantic – Sarah MacDougall (Copperspine Records)

Her voice on the radio, the only companion in the loneliness of the long distance night. She tells of the girl and the train and when the song transforms, enfolds into its self then shudders sweetly outward, then the girl is her, the girl is us. WE now jump into this adventure. It is delicious the way her voice strolls slow, even hesitant, as the music rambles along jolly clitter-clattering down the tracks.

The theme of moving, out, away, stays with us. Here is a song for a hitchhiker standing in that wondrous painful delicate quiet, that elastic time between the departure of the last kind car, and the arrival of the next headlights of some new hope.

Her world is full of dishonest romantics who have love on their side anyway, and strong protectors who find their strength in the ones they rescue. Her world is not in black or white and certainly not grey, it is in the colour of mist and running water and twilight and whispers.

Stand out track for this listener is the beautiful title ballad. Home is where the heart is, sometimes… not always… sometimes your heart stays, ‘Across The Atlantic.’

The arrangements, the production of these 10 songs, keep them swaying from clear alt country, into sharp focus pop, and back into atmospheric roots rock, never muddy, never lazy, instrumental voices often slyly shyly fading in, twisting the girl here then there, never distracting from the sound of the TRIO, this is after all their music and they delight in sharing it.

You can hear tracks from this album in April on the NBT Podcast

Lyrics from Across The Atlantic featured on the NBT Portal website

The NBT Review 41


Here She Comes a Tumblin’ – BirdEatsBaby (Birdeatsbaby)

Once there was Cat-Scratch Glitter and wounded cabaret howls, charged shots of glowing liquid poured across lips of the harshest red. Everything shuddered, everything shivered, and the laughter was strange and sometimes cruel.

It was beautiful.

Now keeping those thrills, but adding extra dimensions, comes this collection.

Bravely, we are now not only shown the garish stage and the freaks, puppets, divas, exhibitionists, scary sexy monsters but… the quiet bedrooms, the rumpled beds where partners may or may not sleep, the view of empty streets from its lonely windows.

We are made curious about the sadness, the stillness that may go on BETWEEN these songs.

Make no mistake this is still a thrill ride, full of carnival hipsters hustling supreme, and frantic punters screaming along with the dangerous rides, but here, and there, and here again, not so hidden away, the girls and boys dare to show their tenderness, even their dreams, unfolded carefully and placed in our grubby hands.

On one page selling this CD they are described as emo, but please don’t be fooled, there is no soft boy rich kid pampered star angstNwhines here. The lipstick is smeared from the sheer exuberant kiss and the eyeliner stains are from tears arrived honestly from fits of giggles and tears that fought hard to escape the calm internal.

There are pop songs to be sung loud by party girls, alive and free holding tight to the simple expectation of a great night out, and there are lullabies of the crooked kind that soothe and push the soul into a welcome unease with extra measure.

There is magic here. Give it a listen to.

Karkari –Mammut (Record Records)

I could tell you that Mammut sound like a frosty and refreshing mix of the best of those American 4AD groups (Belly and Throwing Muses) a bit of Bjork, a spoonful of Sonic Youth twisted into the pop sensibilities that Catatonia got so right. I could tell you that the band has had (already)  three number one hits in their native Iceland and managed to cause a stir at the SXSW festival. I could leave it at that, and move on, pretty happy that you curious gentle reader, will go seek out the band and their music. Or you could think I am spitting out (politely of course) a bunch of facts and you will remain sadly disenthralled.

I shall instead shake the songs up in a virtual hat of the finest cloth, and let them hit the senses, and report what occurs.

I am reminded of old toys, cherished by teenagers in smiling nostalgia for their innocent child hood, toys that are still picked up and loved and kept in view as new makeup is applied and new adventures of the heart dreamt about. These plaything have an endearing roughness to them, all is not shiny shiny and plastic disposable.

I think of glam rock bands strutting their stuff on small Televisions in untidy sitting rooms early Friday evenings, the smell of dinner overpowered by the sweeter smell of the night (clubs) ahead.

Some songs make me think of mosh pits and bodies and beer bottles disengaging themselves from sweaty hands and crashing kamikaze to the pavement to join the wrecks of their fellow soldiers. Some songs make me think of almost empty studios, musicians huddled in the centre of a landscape of once twisting now still cables and wires and leads.

Some songs make me close my eyes and fall back, not thinking of the getting UP. Some songs make me want to grin and cook and dance and shop.

See what they do for you


Catch both bands on this NBT podcast

With much more to come.

The NBT Review 36


Heart Anchors  – Dune Tran (Independent Release)

Think of a movie. The beach at dawn, the film sped up, the sun thrown UP out of the darkness into the sky, the waves crashing senseless lonely.

Think of this movie. The 1st track of this tender collection is the soundtrack to that movie.

The movie slides into sepia crackle, and we see a young girl skip, dance kinda innocent, then falter walk backwards, the weight of the questions push at her, almost stop the shimmy, too much passion here though, the dance continue, the kites fly.

She can’t help herself she wants to always to hop, canter, swing herself around, then the Internal of the song takes her, things get slower, she allows herself to fall, hoping no, knowing, the music will catch her.

Time shifts, TimeChanges, this is sparkles, sparkling in the darkness illuminating lost lovers sitting quiet on cluttered couches, memories craving release.

Her songs are complicated things who wear a subtle orchestration, they are ballet dancers, half child half ghost.

Imagine another movie. A window, a fluttering curtain, the night sky, now here, now hidden.

She sings from another room, where moonlight shines through another window.

She invites you to dream.

Find out more here

My Blacks Don’t Match – Darren Gaines and the Key Party (Independent Release)

Oh I adore this dirty Swing.

Gaines takes his ragged words and pokes them into the skin of proudly bruised songs, howling poetic, scaring the neighbors while seducing their daughters.

Track ‘She Says She Does’ is a poker game between Jim Carroll and Lou Reed, the shock sweetened by jiving horns and vocalist/violinist Sara Syms adding grace to the battle.

This is an alternate universe’s Blues Brothers, who kept their love of classical soul, but shared a beer or twenty with Joe Strummer and played messy and murky with Patti Smith.

While the swagger is infectious, this music has heart too, huge beating bleeding wanting pounding.

There is a true sense of urban epic in these songs that match a beautiful and honest story telling, images, harsh, vivid, intensely moving, completely unforgettable, spill out of the tunes and skitter restlessly around the listener’s soul.

Already, for me, an album of the year.

Find out for yourself

Hear Darren Gaines and the Key Party on this episode of the NBT Podcast

and Dune Tran on this weeks broadcast (either Thursday or Friday)

The NBT Review 35


As NBT head honcho Martin Smit is down with the Flu this week,( yes summer flu in a heat wave, not wonderful!)  He just reviews Tag by Adriana, second in command William Elliot takes the reigns for Nick Daugherty

Movin’ Higher – Nick Daugherty (Sky Rocket Records)

The title track sets the mood, a song for flying, for those thoughts that touch a soul as you travel to a loved one, a gentle gliding melody full of bright easy harmonies.

This is summer drenched pop, evoking the same laidback rock and jazz tinted soul journeys that Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson often take, and in the track ‘Out of My League’ Nick even adds a hint of cool gospel.

The album is full of accomplished emotional ballads like ‘A Thousand Times Tonight’ and ‘ Please Come back Home’ showcasing a heartfelt vulnerability  counterpointing the amiable swing of other tracks, during which Daugherty invites you to slow dance the humid sultry night away with him.

All is not just unruffled and dreamy though, in standout track ‘Staring At The Sun’ Nick allows his voice to get a bit rougher, and rocks out with the best of them.

This is a fine pop album of the sort that will always be full of sweet summer breeze, that was made for lazy Sunday afternoons, and that brings a little bit of California to the room where ever it is played.


Tag –Adriana (Independent Release)

This collection is sneaky and delightfully seductive, it is wicked, human, and heartwarming, sometimes all these things resting gleefully together in one song.

It carries a European chill into the sweaty jungle rhythms, an ice cream swirly centre covered by day-glo  PoP Art laughter.

It slinks along, big back cat like, growling, purring, elegant and oh so  deliciously dangerous.

Adriana refines what worked so well with her previous band Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and disregarding nostalgia, she slips and slides onto wry modern dance floors, letting the words bite and kiss as the beat clitterClatters ambiguously across the dancers’ bodies.

Best of all, there is nothing shallow about these nightclub confections, layered in between the loops and licks  is the soul of the edgy, the thoughtful, the ironic and the daring.

An album that subtly surprises with every new spin, gently hypnotizes and revamps, rejuvenates the tired listener.

Get your own seduction here


Catch both these artists on this week’s NBT Podcast

The NBT Review 31


Echo Slightly reviewed by Martin Smit

Greg Copeland reviewed by Alexandra Smit-Stachowski

Birds Fly South  – Echo Slightly (NonExistent Recordings)

We are wrapped nostalgic as the electronics sigh into focus, synths shuffle slide across the tracks caressing, covering the delicate vocals.

We are sucked into this ambiguous calm, only to find the dance storm growing in strength, the drums skitter clean industrial, guitars swoop in like sexy fighter planes and all is popSwirl, PoPSwaY.

Each ballad is merely an entry into the rampage, the sky bleeds gothic colours, the metal twists and grins are barely restrained.

Tightly wound, the explosions are suggestive, the tension delectable.

There are Robyn like CandyMusic nuances, and the band gaze back into the 80s darkly, for every shiny moment, there is shy shadow.


Find out more here:

Diana And James  – Greg Copeland (Inside Recordings)

Greg Copeland’s debut album, ‘Revenge Will Come Back’ in 1982 was produced by school friend Jackson Browne, the album made an impact and tracks were covered by Joan Baez, Browne and David Lindley. Copeland then disappeared from view – 25 years later, he returns with ‘Diana And James”, again executive produced by Browne.

 “There oughta be a law,“ sings Copeland on the opening track, too true – those keen on good music should be legally bound to listen to albums like this one. Packed with great violins and nyckelharpa (a traditional Swedish instrument), the title track sees Greg play electric, acoustic and baritone guitars producing dreamy twangy sounds.

 Heather Waters does harmonies with Copeland to lyrics including gems like: „Dear Reader right about now we’re tearing up our tickets for your long black train.“

 The melodies are gorgeous – this is story music that you need to listen to over and over again and each time you’re bound to hear something you missed, it’s that layered.

 Copeland sounds like he could be Mark Lanegan’s older brother – both have blood-soaked lyrics with the same type of vocalising.  The ghost of Hank Williams is in the guitar-playing of the song, “The Only Wicked Thing“ while the track, “Between Two Worlds“  brings to mind memories of lazy autumn days with leaves blowing.

The 25-year break in between records didn’t harm Copeland, he’s used the time to explore his darker country roots. The music sounds like it would have been a good soundtrack to HBO’s ‘Deadwood’ series about legendary gritty cowboys in America’s early days.

 Backed by many Californian musical heavyweights including Jay Bellerose, Gabe Witcher, Bob Glaub, Patrick Warren, and Phil Parlapiano– Copeland plays with violinist Carl Kihlstedt who sings with him on ‘Count the bodies on My Crown’.

 Listening to this album and the lyrics – you’re left wanting to see the accompanying music videos, the songs deserve a visual backdrop to complement them further.

 All in all, this is a beautiful album which should be critically-acclaimed by the mainstream music press but I have the overwhelming suspicion it has been unwisely ignored. Music will out and if justice serves, ‘Diana and James’ will get the credit it deserves.

 Find out more:

You can hear tracks from both of these albums on the NBT Podcast

The NBT Review 30


Shotgun Daisy – Stacie Rose (Enchanted Records)

She is not going to wait around while we wake up, in her driving harmonic bittersweet world, she believes and sings for the strong, the ones that will find their way aided by a giddy mix of the ragged poetic and the sleek rock n roll.

Her instincts tell her, that love saves, that her tunes can be played without compromise floating subtle on summer TV screens broadcasting emotional misadventures.

She left turns into tales of break up, twisting the confession/recollection by getting Shawn Mullins to join in the chorus, adding dimension, deliciously distorting the point of view.

Sometimes the words tumble out double speed like school kids as the bell rings, sometimes the words sigh and float, stretched across the music like torch songs refugees that have found their hook.

Sometimes this all happens in the same song.

 She is comfortable with soul ballads and country raunch.

She is Stacie Rose and this is Shotgun Daisy

Find out more

The Big Pretend – All Day Sucker (Trademark Entertainment/ big WOW music)

Outside while the wannabe starlets hustle and the cool boys glide, where the Eagles and America are NOT the wild bird and country, but the larger than life glossy surreal epic music groups, all is hot chaotic, beautiful and lost.

Inside the theatre lights dim and the movie begins. The Big Pretend begins.

First, there is car chase, Hollywood love letter style, driven by ‘Who’s Next’ keyboard riffs and frantic country rock vocals.

Then wry prayers, soaked in harmonies that even a cold lost European will know and love as Californian, and then baked in the POP oven Warren Zevon was known to use.

These are often sunny, sun glare bright stories, waiting while in midst shimmer, to flip over to the darkness of the over populated, ultra lonely big city night.

All Day Sucker love, have been seduced, have been hurt, scarred, saved by their city, and these are the songs, the films of the mind, that show it.

And in Riddles and Rain, this sensual tryst ‘tween the cinematic and the closely observed, transforms into a subtle classic that Brian Wilson and Craig Finn would be  proud of.

Find out more here

Hear both of these bands and a lot more on the NEXT NBT Podcast 26th April 09

The NBT Review 29


Springboard –The Water Callers (Independent Release)

And so we shuffle soft into the music, watching the couples sway lightheaded, giddy, entranced by the rhythms of a ‘Night Like This’ and ‘Mama’

 We are soon to discover that this is not JUST a dance band fashioned old.

As we are seduced by the sparkles of reflected mirror, polished hazy from times somewhere long ago, we are startled by what seems to be the ghosts of the Band when Levon Helm took them to a rougher sweeter darker place. This is the Duo, The Water Callers, who initiate this sound, these voices that sometimes wrap warm and bright, sometimes pulse desolate.

Not dusty sepia antiquated, this music still is not afraid to take you back to less rumbling shallow times, though there is an ambiguity in the harmonies offering both honey covered Hope, and frissons of ambrosial Peril.

And as the Lullaby morphs onto cinematic swaggering Ballad, and the Electric kisses and nibbles dirty into the Acoustics’ ear, we walk out into the comfort of the full moon, the music refusing to let go,

Get caught up for yourself

One Thousand Words – Jenny Gunn (Independent Release/Asoma)

Slip into the Dreaming here, the place of the flickering restless shadows, where the flute, carnal, strangely skittish, reverberates around the voice of the magic maker, the seeker of the secret inside the heart of the incorporeal.

This is the mystical other world, the world that overlaps ours, full of the grey brash ordinary, coated with the reds and blues and scares of her imagination.

She is the Monster-Finder, the Creature friend, who sings in fairy tale sighs. She will be compared to Joanna Newsome or Victoria Williams, but as her name suggests she is her own real spirit, forged in the harsh modern but free to fly, sidestep, into this agitated wonder reverie.

Never has the storm been so soothing while it frightens.

Jenny Gunn’s dream world opens up here

Hear both these artists on the NBT podcast this Friday 17th April