After several mentions on “the Independent Ethos” about the work of Reading, England’s Pete and the Pirates and progress on the band’s sophomore album (Pete and the Pirates release new single; Pete and the Pirates offer free mp3s), the album is complete and already streaming live in its entirety. You can hear all of One Thousand Pictures on NME.com.

The album will have its official release on May 24, and so far seems to lack US distribution, as Amazon.com lists it as an import (Support the Independent Ethos: buy the album on Amazon via this link). Too bad for Americans who will have to pay import prices on this album, as the band has long deserved more exposure. The band’s first album, Little Death (Support the Independent Ethos: buy the vinyl on Amazon via this link), came out in 2008. Since hearing, P&P’s first album, I always thought the group had the rough edge of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah blended with the brashness of Franz Ferdinand and the catchiness of both. Now, the band seems to be growing into its own sound.

Nearly three years after Little Death, the passage of time between the two album shows, as One Thousand Pictures reveals a more developed sound. They enlisted producer Brendan Lynch, who, according to the NME link above, has worked with Paul Weller, Primal Scream and Ocean Colour Scene. The result is a more bombastic, polished sound that also has the band diving into some heavy effects, adding a dynamism lacking from Little Death.

What does remain, however, is the band’s knack for crafting catchy, clever hooks. The band’s first official single from the album, “Come to the Bar” features a luscious, loud synth line, and “Winter 1,” which follows “Come to the Bar” on the album, bounces along on a rubbery bass hook filled with reverb. A savvy sense of the post-punk influence also shows in the final product, from a reference to Blondie in the lyrics of “Come to the Bar” (“1979 and ‘Heart of Glass’ is playing.”) to the amorphous shifts in tone of “Things That Go Bump” that recalls Magazine, which I wished lasted longer.

One Thousand Pictures is one of those rare albums by an English band deeply rooted in both the rebellion that spawned a characteristic sound out of the UK in the late seventies that also looks forward to the alternative rock sounds of today.

There is a limited edition vinyl version of the album, which you can purchase direct from the band’s UK-based record company, Stolen Recordings (Buy it here— they take Paypal, which makes it easy to US-based customers). But, as it sometimes plagues vinyl versions, the manufacturing of the record has been delayed, and no definitive ship date has been provided, as of the publication of this post.

Pete and the Pirates have already released three videos for songs on the new album. Most recently, they issued a call out for cat videos from fans to come up with the video for “United,” the most recent official video from the album (you can find the prior two videos for “Winter 1” and “Come to the Bar” in the P&P links above on the Independent Ethos). Here’s the result of the cat video compilation, which seems to beg for the attention of those cat video lovers that prowl YouTube:

Finally, animals seem to be a recurring theme in P&Ps videos, as can be seen by the appearance of a chicken in this early video for “Mr. Understanding,” the catchy single off Little Death:

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Ahead of their long overdue sophomore full-length album, Reading, England-based darlings, Pete and the Pirates released their lead single off their new album yesterday. “Come to the Bar” is a digital-only single, and you can get it from iTunes as well as their UK-based label Stolen Recordings right here.

Stolen Recordings have placed one minute previews of both the A-side and B-side on its website, or you can watch the official video for the A-side here:

It’s a long song for P&P, and I’ve been following the band since I heard singer Tommy Sanders’ debut solo album, Lanzafame, under the moniker of Tap Tap, back in 2008. I first wrote about Pete and the Pirates late last year. Sanders’ solo work was not that far a departure from the music of P&P, so a shining to both projects seemed inevitable. Now arrives “Come To The Bar,” the first single from the new album, One Thousand Pictures (due for release on May 23).

I first heard P&P were working on this album back in early 2009. My anticipation waxed and waned over the years. A so-so Tap Tap album offered a hold over, not to mention a dip back into the band’s back catalog, which covered their acclaimed full length debut Little Death (support this blog by buying the CD on Amazon) and several singles and EPs that date back to 2005.

During that time, and based on what I hear on this new track, P&P have turned a corner. Their catchy guitar hooks are still there, but there is also an electronic element that offers a nice decor and gloss to the songs that I have so far heard. If their sound could have grown more luscious, it certainly has. Partial credit should go to producer Brendan Lynch, who has worked with Paul Weller and Primal Scream, among others.

At the end of last year, stranded by a snowstorm that interrupted plans for many in Europe, Pete and the Pirates filmed a video for another song off the new album, “Winter 1.”

It again features a lush quality, this time in the super-affected bass line that anchors the track. The band has made the track available for free on their site. You can still get the mp3 by signing up for their mailing list on the band’s homepage.

I am also familiar with the B-side of “Come to the Bar.” Based on what I hear in the preview for “Good Girl” on the Stolen website, this is a new recording of a song I first heard in 2009, when Pete and the Pirates made their first appearances in the US and recorded some radio sessions. Your can hear how “Good Girl” sounded in 2009 by downloading the mp3 of the cut the band performed for WOXY FM.

Finally, I end this post with the tracklisting for One Thousand Pictures:

Can’t Fish
Cold Black Kitty
Little Gun
Come to the Bar
Winter 1
Washing Powder
Blood Gets Thin
United
Shotgun
Motorbike
Things That Go Bump
Reprise
Half Moon Street

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

The little known but incredibly talented Pete and the Pirates, a quartet of rockers from Reading, England, have announced a newly redesigned website ahead of the their long overdue second album. Yesterday the site went live offering not one… not two… but a total four free new songs for anyone to download. They called it the “Precious Tones” EP, and you can either download mp3s of each track or stream the whole thing by going here.

Their debut album came out in February of 2008, entitled Little Death. I first went to it after hearing Tap Tap’s first album, Lanzafame a side project from Pete singer Tommy Sanders because I had read David Bowie endorsed the first track on the album, “100,000 Thoughts.” Sure enough, a Bowie-esque sensibility of intricate melodies charmed me immediately. I also heard Lanzafame was a great example of vinyl manufacturing, and it certainly delivered (it even has a bonus track not on the CD), hence my link to the vinyl version above. But there is also a CD and mp3 version available for the vinyl-impaired.

Both albums are immediately arresting in their catchiness and complex melodies, and both Pete and the Pirates and Tap Tap both sound like neater versions of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah mixed with the bravado of Franz Ferdinand. As a result of being no less than blown away by the consistency of both albums, I went and bought and downloaded anything I could find from the group. Their label’s website has a comprehensive discography of both P&P and Tap Tap for purchase. You can puruse Stolen Recordings’ catalog here.

I first heard about this second album before Tap Tap even released its second album, On My Way, which was sometime last year. It’s good to hear its closer to release. So far no title, but I’ll keep you informed, hopefully with a review of the vinyl.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

This morning, I received an email from an indie label based in England simply titled “Fires.” Stolen Recordings, a wee label, which I don’t even believe has proper U.S. distribution lost a good amount of inventory, many limited runs of vinyl CD, in a fire that burnt down a warehouse owned by Sony Music (I have written about their band Pete and the Pirates several times).

The latest news is that police have arrested three teens in connection with the fire, according to Spinner.com (Read here). Kenny Gates, the Founder & CEO of [PIAS], an umbrella distributor of many smaller indies, said in a statement: “Sony DADC have been remarkably quick and efficient to put together a contingency plan that should allow us to ship to stores sometime next week” (Read the full message).

Most recently, [PIAS] established a fund to help the indies affected by this loss music and art. Here’s part of that statement: “Labels and artists affected by the destruction of the Sony DADC warehouse are faced with incredible pressures on their businesses in respect to the re-manufacture, re-supply and marketing required as a result of the fire. Whilst it is expected that insurance will cover the lost stock, the reality for many labels is that they will not be compensated or insured for an interruption of trade or the additional capital to reproduce the stock that they have lost and the promotion in which they have invested.” Information about donating can be found in the full statement. Finally here is a list of [PIAS] labels affected by the fire (see here), though I have read as many as 150 independent labels were affected.

Worst of all, these riots of cost lives. Today, news broke that three men were killed in Birmingham trying to protect their shop from looters (here’s the BBC report). I’ve heard and seen the interviews with these rioters who are setting fires to buildings, including homes, cars and buses and beating people in the streets, not to mention looting shops, including mom and pop businesses. These offer such deep reasoning for their actions like “We do it because we can,” “it’s the government’s fault” and “because everyone else is doing it.”

Anarchy is just an idiot’s form of hypocrisy. The truth is there are complicated circumstances that lead to such boiling over of violence. Race and class divisions are probably the larger issue, and the state indeed deserves some blame with their polices, including taking away medical and education benefits for the public who had come to take it all for granted. Maybe if these punks would have been better educated they might understand the lives and livelihoods they are affecting. However, this is no way to get back at “the man” because, you ultimately only affect your neighbor.

I’ll leave you with a free mp3 sanctioned for download everywhere, from one of those band’s affected by this fire:

Download Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s “Ffunny Ffriends”

The Unknown Mortal Orchestra‘s new self-titled album (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon) has a wonderful retro feel, that’s at once dreamy and progressive. The Portland-based band know how to stick an ear worm in their songs, which often have a knack for making the most of the unappreciated fade-out coda, where the song seems to tease to so much more. At once grungy and psychedelic, UMO remind me a bit of those electronic sixties pioneers Silver Apples, but also bring to mind the prog side of Ween and Kraut rockers like Can. They probably fit best alongside contemporary celebrators of psychedelia like MGMT. But the fuzzy, flat production quality that permeates the new album adds a deeper side to their retro feel.

As far as human tact, though. They seem a bit contradictory. Yesterday, UMO actually tweeted: “All our albums got burned up. Stop coming up with “hot summer album” puns TARD BRAIN”

So, indeed, they suffered losses to their most excellent record, pictured above. Still, a few hours later, UMO tweeted: “I don’t mean to offend anyone when I say this but was anyone else happy about how powerless the police were in those riots?”

So there’s even some hypocrisy there. Sheesh.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Wait a minute? Isn’t it supposed to be Vol. II? Well, I did create that disc, but it wasn’t as cool as my more recently created Vol. III. And today, with the release of Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, all songs on Volume III are now officially available.

I am a strong believer of balance on a mix tape/disc/playlist or what have you. You can’t just slap together the hippest or most popular tracks of the day and call that a mix. It has to have flow, and it’s not just in the songs you pick, but in how you arrange them. Another thing you have to account for is the technical sound quality when you are mixing tracks from an array of sources, across many years of mastering techniques. CDs have simply grown louder over the years.

That said here is the ideal track list for this compilation, which spans the late 60s to today:

Pete and the Pirates – Jennifer
Broken Social Scene – Texico Bitches
The Clean – Drawing to a Hole
Stereolab – Jenny Ondioline (single edit)
Radiohead – Bodysnatchers
Broadcast and the Focus Group – How Do You Get Along Sir?
Mercury Rev – Senses On Fire
Pulp – Like A Friend
Broadcast and the Focus Group – The Be Colony
The Jesus and Mary Chain (Featuring Hope Sandoval) – Sometimes Always
Serge Gainsbourg with Brigitte Bardot – Bonnie and Clyde
Portishead – The Rip
The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio
Charlotte Gainsbourg with Beck – Heaven Can Wait
Grizzly Bear – Fix It
Arcade Fire – Ready To Start
Fanfarlo – Luna
Trans Am – Television Eyes
Starflyer 59 – First Heart Attack (Old Album Version)
Stereolab – Narco Martenot

And here is where you can download it all.

Some thoughts on the song order:

When I started this mix, it sprang from where all my mixes come from: catchy songs. The first five tracks definitely fulfill that. But then something magical happened as I continued to arrange the songs. I slipped in a strange, angular piece from Broadcast and the Focus Group, only because of a brief musical bit that appears and slips away before you hardly notice. The din then gives way to the dreamy swell of Mercury Rev’s “Senses On Fire,” which really lifts the compilation to a more interesting realm of music.

Randomness does account for an important springboard to creativity, no matter what you are sculpting. When creating a mix, I begin with that, throwing certain songs I like into a folder and seeing how my computer arranges them. That was the starting point here, but I almost threw out the late sixties era track from Serge Gainsbourg with Brigitte Bardot, “Bonnie and Clyde” because the mix was so weak next to some tracks, it killed the flow, but it sounded just right behind the low 90s-mixed era song– another duet– this one from the Jesus and Mary Chain featuring Hope Sandoval, “Sometimes Always.” That song also appeared behind another Broadcast and the Focus Group track, this time with vocals, “The Be Colony,” which had an appropriate retro vibe and faded quite softly, though suddenly.

The Gainsbourg duet went on to inspire the inclusion of his daughter’s new song featuring Beck. So, indeed, there is a good mix of new songs in here too, some very buzzy like “Bloodbuzz Ohio” from the National and Arcade Fire’s “Ready To Start” (which sounds amazing in the context of their new album as well, as it swells out of the fade out from the opening title track). In this mix, Fanfarlo appears right after the Arcade Fire song because they definitely provided the cure for the three-year wait between Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible and the Suburbs. Then I also chose the obscure single “Fix It” from Grizzly Bear ‘s first full-length. I think in some ways it is a better song than what they have composed recently, some of which has been whored out to sell stuff on TV, including an original new song for Canada’s lottery.

The mix ends with the quiet noise of what sounds like an operating room that closes Starflyer 59’s “First Heart Attack (Old Album Version),” which suddenly cuts to the swooshing layers of more old school Stereolab on “Narco Martenot,” which seems to capture what it might sound like to slip away into the after world.

OK, so I’m proud of this mix, as I am most proud of the musicians who came up with this music, so download the tracks and follow the playlist order. Also, don’t hesitate to follow-up on the appropriate albums where some of these tracks came from. Finally, let me know if the track listing really flows or not.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)