Posts Tagged ‘James Hoare’

The Proper Ornaments – “Black Tar”

James Hoare is a busy artist and its good to see him pop up wherever he might be. Of all of his endeavors The Proper Ornaments seem to always be bubbling just below the surface, a calm respite of tranquil indie-pop with a heavy heart. The band is back for their fifth album, having now picked up new bassist Nathalie Bruno and the first cut from the LP is the slow narcotic foam of “Black Tar.” The song is draped in melancholy, a velvet and paisley comedown from the chaos that’s aloof on the surface but reaching out for solace at its core. Mission Bells finds its way out February 28th from Tapete. Mark your calendars.

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East Village Reissue on Slumberland

Slumberland is rolling out the essential reissues of late. Alongside their recent Springfields retrospective they’re reissuing a previously CD-only singles collection from late, great jangle-pop band East Village. The band showed up in these pages a while back as a Hidden Gems pick from James Hoare, but that album is only half the picture. The band’s album was released posthumously after they broke up on stage, but they’d left a catalog of singles up to that point that finally found a collective home on Summershine Records, but it has remained an ellusive pickup ever since its 1994 release. Great then to have Slumberland issue this on LP for the first time, giving the band another day in the sun. If you’re unfamiliar, I’d recommend letting James give a few reasons on what the band is all about or take a listen to a couple of singles tracks below.



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Pete Astor

Without a doubt, I was enamored with Pete Ator’s last solo record. Naturally there were high hopes for an artist whose roots lie deep in the Creation Records back catalog, marking time with both The Loft and The Weather Prophets, but his solo work finds grace in letting jangle pop age without feeling like it slips into stuffy adulthood. Astor’s an ace songwriter, but some of the secret to the youthful glint in the eye of his productions on Spilt Milk lie with the involvement of perennial RSTB favorite James Hoare (Ultimate Painting, Veronica Falls). Hoare’s production and arrangement fingerprints are all over both the previous album and One For The Ghost. Again Astor finds a winsome ease with an album that leans into ennui (though a bit less so than his last) and blends bittersweet odes with driving jangles and memorable hooks.

If the last record had Hoare as secret weapon, this one pulls a few more into Astor’s corner, adding Franic Rozycki and Jonny Helm from UK gems The Wave Pictures and Pam Berry of indie legends Black Tambourine. The resulting album works its way through wry wit and genuine moments of transcendence. Astor’s quietly building a latter day catalog of pop treasures that start with the germ of jangle-pop but explode the genre into threads of psych, blues and folk that all seem like natural extensions of Astor’s soft-padded approach.

Despite a pretty solid critical reception to the last record, I always feel like there should have been more fanfare about such a venerable artist returning to bridge the divide with some great upstarts. Two records in such short succession proves it’s no fluke or creative flash. Anyone who had Spilt Milk in their headphones throughout 2016 would do well to return for another dose.




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Ultimate Painting – “Not Gonna Burn Myself Anymore”

Few records in the past couple of years hold up to the the bittersweet pang of Ultimate Painting’s last album, Dusk. It was a study in melancholy wrapped in appropriately lush production and marked by the brushstrokes of two of indie’s great new voices. The band now makes a jump from their home at Trouble in Mind to Bella Union and while the songwriting and production remains intimate and confessional, the tone takes a tip upward towards the light, as the album’s title, Up! might attest. “Not Gonna Burn Myself Anymore” is haunted by all the familiar ghosts of Ultimate Painting’s sound – wistful delivery, gently knotted guitars and a somber swoon that’s tempered just a tad with Cooper’s slight smile on the vocals. It’s a promise to keep expectations in check and be a bit selfish for self-preservation’s sake. For two musicians with busy schedule’s its probably a hard pill to swallow but it comes together nicely on this first single.

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The Proper Ornaments

There has been quite a shift in sound on The Proper Ornaments second album for Slumberland. They’ve wiped away much of the thick, bilious clouds that previously wafted into their jangle pop, giving them a bite of shoegaze among the bittersweet strums. On Foxhole, constrained by a necessary move to a home studio and and 8-track setup, they pare down their sound finding a core cleanness that’s drawing off of classic melancholy pop records, with flecks of everything from late period Big Star to Elliot Smith’s piano purr circa Figure 8.

The piano actually plays a key role in the shift made by songwriters James Hoare and Max Oscarnold, as both acquired new instruments prior to the recording of the album and let the keys lead them into a more serene headspace on Foxhole. As such, the album tends to have a more contemplative mood than their previous outing. Though that’s not to say that they’ve chucked their guitars in the bin, they still know how to weave a softly gnarled jangle around a melody and both artists’ penchant for the rosy hues of ’60s pop still colors the album. Its hard to imagine a band named after a shared love of soft psych band The Free Design wouldn’t hew a bit close to the jangles that built Britain’s stronghold on guitar pop. Though its evident here that they’re not really mining the poptimism of the ’60s beat set as they are the dour, more reserved notions of say Nick Garrie or the soft shimmer of Food.

The album winds up as a rather nice counterpoint to Hoare’s darker undertones on last year’s Ultimate Painting highlight, Dusk. Its a mature and misty album that’s finding solace in ennui and a comfortability in contemplation. The mood suits Hoare and Oscarnold well, and while it doesn’t always have the fuzzy bite of their debut, its an undeniably well-crafted album of drizzle-coated jangle.


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James Hoare on East Village – Drop Out

For the latest installment of Hidden Gems I asked James Hoare (of Ultimate Painting, Veronica Falls, Permanent Ornaments) to pick a lost piece of his personal music landscape. As always, Hidden Gems is based on the idea of those records that are found along the way in life that you can’t believe you never heard about, the ones that just blow you away on first listen and seem like such a find. They’re the kind of records that get left out of all the essential decade lists and 1001 records you need to hear before you die type of listicle… the ones that truly got away. For this installment in the series James picked overlooked UK jangle gem Drop Out from East Village. I asked James how this lovely record came into his life and what the record means to him.

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Ultimate Painting

Three albums in Ultimate Painting have proved that they are not a band who burnt their wick in the short term. Refining their melted horizon vibes over the last two albums, they come fully into their own on Dusk. James Hoare has always been a secret weapon in Veronica Falls’ roster, with a beyond-his-years aesthetic that’s given pathos to his own songs and seen him pair up recently with luminaries like Pete Astor (The Loft, Weather Prophets). Now, along with Jack Cooper, he’s creating a bummer vibe that’s picking up pieces of The La’s, Dios (tell me that “Song For Brian Jones” doesn’t have a bit of “You Got Me All Wrong” in its bones and I’ll call you a liar), The Free Design and Heatmiser. Where they earned their VU fan club card on the first album and traded it in for a Teenage Fanclub badge on the second, they’ve come fully into their own on the third, synthesizing their love of pop both contemporary and on the dour side of the ’60s cannon this time ’round.

They’ve found a bittersweet comfort in pop’s arms, never showy, never overplaying their hand. There are scads of indie bands that will fill you full of bright strum, jangled choruses and twee notions but what’s great about Ultimate Painting’s realization of character is that they know they’re not a bolt of sunshine and they couldn’t care less about your reaction to their vibe. James and Jack have created a constant comedown, a space of perfect sighed bliss and reticence. I’ve been waiting for the band to find this balance, this refinement, and on Dusk they become the band they’ve always threatened to be. They’ve longed to be your resigned exhale into the cold air, the musical equivalent of frosted breath on a November morning, curling ever into the ether. They’ve left in the imperfection of tape hiss, giving the album a feeling of confessional beauty, frayed, but at the same time obviously pored over with a meticulous comb and ordered by two songwriters who have spent years finding their voice. This is the best that Ultimate Painting have presented and its one of the most autumnal records to slide out this year, fully formed and hugging the listener like a friendly shoulder.

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Ultimate Painting – “Song For Brian Jones”

Ultimate Painting have steadily smoothed their sound, found their footing and arrived at the autumnal opus that is Dusk. Standout elegy for troubled Rolling Stones member Brian Jones is pretty indicative of where the band have taken their sound for this album ironing out their VU love and wandering closer to the sunset psych of aughts mainstays like Dios (Dios Malos if you want to get litigious) or the less cavernous moments of Beachwood Sparks. The song is a fitting tear shed for Jones and as strong and argument as you could ever make for getting James Hoare and Jack Cooper together. The clip is appropriately swimming in double imagery and softly psychedelic shots of Hoare’s studio and a verdant landscape. Its not the most groundbreaking visual but its a nice accompaniment to the band’s pop flutter. Between this and the Pete Astor album, it seems that James Hoare is making himself responsible for some of my favorite moments of gentle pop hum this year. Here’s hoping he keeps it up.



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