Radio Khartoum: sophisticated left-field pop, imaginary soundtracks, graphics by Bügelfrei, and the occasional off topic rant. US distribution for a few select items from Vespertine & Son, Friendly Noise, and Quince Records. French travelers should note that it’s "Radio Khartoum" and not "Radio Karthoum".
The Hepburns: In the Mean Time

That’s not a typo in the title, and the cats on the cover are neither hep nor kind.

“What it all comes down to is anger. The new Hepburns album is also given to joy, humour, and deep reverence for life’s in-between moments—but its heart is full of rage. Against the prejudice which fostered Brexit and Trump, yes; against the plutocrats pulling the strings, yes; but above all against the fact that, mean as these times are, one day we will have to leave it all behind.” —Matt Jones

Think of a late-’80s British guitar-pop band interpreting late-’60s to early-’70s easy listening, TV and film themes (Alan Hawkshaw, Bert Kaempfert, Ronnie Hazlehurst, Roy Budd), with lots of brass, accented with organ, vibes, and flute. Tying these 16 new songs together and infusing the lot with an awareness of mortality is Matt’s use of a 1960s Italian-made Contessa semi-acoustic guitar that belonged to the group’s late drummer, Pat Grover (to whom this album is dedicated). Speaking of the drums, Les Mun, who last appeared on 1988’s The Magic of the Hepburns on Cherry Red, is back on the job.

Sunshine pop of the palest order. Small-town tales of disintegration, existential limbo, and the dismantling of the welfare state glide on a languid and blissful projection of Bacharachian lightness and easy-listening charm. Produced by Anthony Rochester.

 

THE HEPBURNS: butterfly fish T-shirt

Click on the images for a larger view of the artwork.

Screen printed on “navy”, “red” and “natural” American Apparel “2001” cotton tees. The blue and red versions have silver and white printing; the “natural” is off-white organic cotton and has aqua and red printing.

American Apparel shirts are cut like 1970s tees and run smaller than other (modern) brands. If in doubt, order one size larger than you usually wear. Or click here for size chart.

The Hepburns at their cattiest. Classic Welsh guitar pop in celebration of civil servants, hack writers, sexual anoraks, glowering cashiers, Mrs Rochesters and other personae non gratae.

“A mosaic of witty, fantastical, individualistic songs that sound well alone and collectively form a breathtaking panorama of lyrical imagery and eclectic sound. I don’t know where this work stands in today’s polluted pop waters, but I fancy that back in the more bracing airs of 1981 it would have been celebrated as the major achievement it surely is.” —Mike Alway, él Records »Listen here.

CAVIL: Mares’ Tails

Lullabies of everyday betrayal and yearning after migratory geese, airborne plastic bags, aeroplanes, train whistles, and other phantoms of freedom. From the dark, wet pavement of a Pennine town to the waltz-infested waters of “Piranha Canal”, these folk nocturnes from Northern England will sit nicely next to your Tindersticks and Montgolfier Brothers records.

“Swims somewhere in the same sea with Ben Watt’s North Marine Drive or Beaumont’s No Time Like the Past. A melancholy, almost spiritual album. A very personal joy. Something you might be tempted to keep all to yourself…” —Corey W. Schmidt, Central Services »Listen here.

 



Recent arrivals

in the Friendly Goods dept.:
 

ORWELL: Exposition universelle

Europop 2000 (France)

Airy, orchestral-pop brilliance from Jérôme Didelot and friends, propelled by guitars, piano, strings, brass, vocal harmonies, vibraphone and vintage electronics (Optigan, Mellotron, etc.). Richly arranged, but ever ready with the odd synth, tuba, backmasking or unexpected chord to pierce the mix, Orwell’s fifth album is a return to French after the English experience of 2011’s Continental. Vous ne parlez pas français? No worries! Sunshine pop and baroque rock are the lingua franca here. Vinyl version includes a download code.»Tracklisting.

THE OCEAN TANGO: s/t

Wonder (UK).

2010 collaboration between Testbild! and Louis Philippe, available on these shores for the first time ever, thanks to poor planning and no distribution. Lovely, orchestrated stuff. Besides the above-mentioned musical luminaries, recording personnel includes Danny Manners, Sean O’Hagan and the Covent Garden String Ensemble. »Tracklisting.

STERNPOST: s/t

Kalligrammofon (Sweden)

Six moody, piano-driven, vocal pieces from Testbild! founding member, Petter Herbertsson. Long since sold out at Kalligrammofon, but appearing here now thanks to a shipping snag. »Tracklisting.

THE HAPPY COUPLE: Into the Woods

Félicité Records (UK)

Félicité Records (UK). Johanna Maier and Tom Hilverkus have re-consummated their long-distance songwriting relationship as The Happy Couple and I am very happy to have the result spinning on my turntable. Into the Wood, their first proper full-length, is folkier and darker than their previous singles and EPs (there was a CD on Quince). Indiepop roots are still apparent, but so are the effects of serious record-collecting habits, specializing in the late-sixties folk, psych and electronics departments. What raises the album above the sum of its influences, for me, are Jane's broody lyrics. Quiet piano melodies, guitar noise, and bleeps of all kinds are entangled in unusual song structures to create a sound that is restrained yet exuberant, complex yet accessible. About leaving, coming home, and the journey in-between, Into the Woods reveals its subtleties with repeated listenings. »Listen here.

A lovely, mostly-instrumental album by Seattle-based storytellers, Mr. and Mrs. Muffins. The music here moves effortlessly from the simple and unsophisticated (a melodica or a toy piano picking out a melody) to very accomplished string passages and multi-layered soundscapes with airy choral arrangements that give me the chills. These recordings originally featured as interludes on the Muffins’ first two audio books, and the child-like sensitivity that pervades the album is tempered by longing and just the right shade of melancholy. It’s a winning formula.

“A very, very touching piece of music, just on the right side of melancholy” —Louis Philippe

“Dreamy soundscapes, unconventional harmonies and friendly surrealism, strange instrumental songs that don’t sound like anything else?—Perfect!” —Petter Herbertsson, Testbild! »Listen here.

TESTBILD!: Barrikad.

Kalligrammofon (Sweden)

For this album, Testbild! have switched to singing in their native Swedish, and as you stare at the credits you are likely to discover the Swedish words for many different kinds of horns, harpsichord, church organ, string drum (whatever that is), along with more familiar instruments like guitars, glockenspiel, and yes, more toy piano. Gentle, organic dreamscapes under a cloud of falling folk and volcanic ash…

Vinyl-only release. Includes download code and a poster.
»Watch the video for “En kartbild utan sand” here.

RK Newsletter:

 

New Release Forecast:

Testbild!: The Lolita Wagner Case

The Hepburns: Where the Missing Words Live

The Hepburns: Insomniac’s Lullaby

Cessna: Bordeaux (vinyl reissue)

 

RK Playlist Nov 2018:

Sternpost: Anti-Clock

Morane: Everyone Is Like You

Neoangin: Hug the Enemy

The Gist: Holding Pattern

Pacific: Sea Of Sand E.P...

The Hepburns: In the Mean Time

Anthony Rochester: Sings for You

Maximum Joy: I Can't Stand It Here On Quiet Nights: Singles 1981-82

Dominic Frontiere: On Any Sunday