Jan 22 2013

Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2012: Passion Pit – ‘Gossamer’

Passion Pit Gossamer

Starting off almost by chance as a one-man-project and rapidly growing thanks largely to internet buzz, Passion Pit have finally released their second full length. ‘Gossamer’ proves their ease in churning electro-pop gems such as the super “I’ll Be Alright“, “Take A Walk” and “Constant Conversation” said Mario.

Thom continued “I don’t think anyone doubted that ‘Manners‘ was a once off. Michael Angelakos‘ ear for a melody and soulful falsetto tones meet shimmering retro synths on ‘Gossamer’ and was more than a few steps forward from where’ Manners‘ left off. The intro to “Take A Walk” is an inspired and deserved stand alone intrumental even before the track gets going.”

Cougar‘s own Jazmin added that “it may have been a long wait between ‘Manners‘ and this second Passion Pit album, but it was most definitely worth being patient. ‘Gossamer‘ is undoubtedly one of the best albums to have come out of 2012, with brilliant singalongs like ‘Carried Away‘ and a perfect combination of electro pop. Any party that this album is playing, I’ll definitely be dancing“.



Gossamer - Passion Pit


Jan 8 2013

Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2012: First Aid Kit – ‘The Lion’s Roar’

First Aid Kit The lions roar

First Aid Kit started very young and were only 19 and 17 when they released their first LP. The Swedish siblings have evolved over time and teaming up with producer and Bright Eyes member Mike Mogus has seemingly brought increased focus to ‘The Lion’s Roar‘ making it a timeless record.

Olivia added ‘The Lion’s Roar‘ to her top 10 saying “I’ve followed First Aid Kit ever since hearing their cover of Fleet Foxes‘ beautiful song ‘Tiger Peasant Mountain Song‘ back in 2008. What instantly appealed to me was the maturity and sincerity of their lyrics, the fact that they appear so young and innocent, but manage to convincingly sing about sombre ‘adult’ themes and, in general, convey sadness/pain.  I’ve enjoyed their development but this album is by far their best achievement; it’s simply better, more polished, more mature; and their already near-perfect voices sound steadier, more consistent“.

Jazmin agreed commenting “Dreamy Scandinavian indie pop is pretty much one of my favourite things, and this First Aid Kit album is a beyond perfect example of that. The kind of album that’s perfect in summer or winter, with amazing vocals and beautiful melodies. Plus I pretty much could listen to ‘Emmylou‘ on repeat for forever“.

Nicole also included this album in her top ten describing them as “young folk duo, these sisters out of Sweden offer easy listening, nostalgic of simpler times. I’ve always got room for more of this in my repertoire“.



The Lion's Roar - First Aid Kit


Jan 7 2013

Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2012: Japandroids – ‘Celebration Rock’


Returning after their 2009 make-or-break album ‘Post-Nothing‘ there was always danger that, stripped of their initial survival impulse, the energy of Japandroids would somehow be diluted. There was really no need to worry; ‘Celebration Rock‘ takes the groundwork previously set by the Vancouver duo and blows it into the sky in an explosion of energy and sound.

Jazmin included ‘Celebration Rock‘ in her end of year list commenting: “I loved Japandroids first and second albums a whole bunch and I love seeing the band live. But none of that prepared me for just how brilliant ‘Celebration Rock‘ would be. This is just a superbly fantastic album that takes the band’s punk roots and mixes it with awesome catchy choruses. And the more you play it, the better it gets. the true sign of a classic album!

Nicole commented “first of all, ‘Celebration Rock‘? Yes, please. Second, I know this is a polarizing reference, but these guys almost sound like Blink 182 grew up. It’s a more mature take on adolescent punk rock. If you’re in need of a personal anthem, and who isn’t, “House That Heaven Built” is a must-hear“.




Oct 11 2012

Blur live @ Hyde Park, London

In the past two years, I have witnessed pretty much every single band that I loved between 1995 and 2004 embark on some kind of reunion or comeback. Some have been nostalgic fun, some have been ‘just okay‘ and others have been lacklustre and trampled over their legacy. Then there has been a very,very slight number which have been so awe-inspiring and loveable that you wonder how you survived 10 years without them. Blur, the musical love of my life and band who got me into guitar music in 1994, are most definitely in that exclusive bracket.

After their gloriously triumphant return in 2009, there was a slight concern that the band couldn’t put on an exact replica in 2012 – headlining Hyde Park– without it seeming tired and un imaginative. Turns out that they could and any cynicism needed to be swiftly dismissed. Perhaps we got it wrong all along, it wasn’t the release of self titled album ‘Blur‘ that was the start of the band’s “second act“, it was in fact in 2009 when Graham Coxon rejoined the band. Because Blur now very much seem like a band that have rediscovered their energy. Just as they we’re back in the days of ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish‘, they are once again a band that are playing because they want to, with each other because they enjoy it- not because they are on an epic promo schedule where they have to play every night to whoever they are told to.

And so to this Hyde Park show-although officially billed as the Olympicsclosing ceremony‘ concert, this was 100% all about Blur. Classics such as ‘Tracy Jacks‘ and ‘Jubilee‘ were still played with hyperactive gusto, and epics such as ‘Tender‘ sounded even more magnificent to the backdrop of tens of thousands of people. Ultimately really, it was the encore consisting of ‘End of a Century‘ and ‘The Universal‘ that made this gig so gutwrenchingly brilliant- heartwarming, show stopping ballads played by a band that still seem to invest so personally in each song, 22 years later.

When looking back in 2005, it did at times feel difficult to even remember when bands such as Blur and Oasis were so that they made it on to the 10pm news. In 2012, reflecting back on this Hyde Park Show , none of that seems so strange, more absolutely comprehensible. With the energy they still show live, and their wondrous recent single ‘Under the Westway’, it seems Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave are still only part way through building their legacy and there are doubtless lots of people waiting eagerly for their next move.


Post by Jazmin / @Jazmin_Burgess




Sep 23 2012

Refused live @ London Kentish Town Forum

Fourteen years after the release of ‘The Shape of Punk To Come‘ and their collective disbandment, it was hardly cynical to wonder whether the 2012 Refused reunion could cut it. A band who are now all pushing 40, coming back together to resurrect a legacy that was built on 20-something youth, hyperactive live shows and revolutionary politics? Really? Can this actually fly?

As it turns out, it really could.  As someone who has seen plenty of shows at London‘s Kentish Town Forum, I’m definitely of the opinion that it’s an increasingly rare occasion to see a band give it beyond their all and exceed expectations. Refused did exactly that, with every song sounding note perfect and even better than on record, and front man Dennis Lyxzen showing exactly what killer dance moves look like.

Songs such as ‘Summer Holidays Vs Punk Routine‘ sound as passion filled and exuberant as they did back in 1998, and with guitar riffs still have the same level of excitement and the ability to stop you in your tracks. Moreover, when they finally got around to playing ‘New Noise‘ it was apparent that this, arguably one of the best punk songs ever written, is still an anthem for scores of 30somethings and a whole new generation too.

 But perhaps what was most evident from the whole night was that so much of Refused‘s passion and energy was stemmed from the fact that they are clearly enjoying playing together-  the chemistry that made them so fantastic back in 1998 is still there and beating strongly . And it turns out, in a year when there have been countless bands reforming with little enthusiasm to basically ‘cash in‘, this is somewhat of a to be treasured rarity.

As they wrapped down their set, Dennis Lyxzen urged the crowd to ‘stay hungry‘ – what he’s maybe not aware of is that Refused are still head and shoulders ahead of anything that came after their break up, and will probably continue to be in the future.  Whether they stay together or not past this reunion tour, It seems that ‘the shape of punk to come‘  will still continue to be dominated by it’s Swedish heroes from the past.


Post by Jazmin / @Jazmin_Burgess




Feb 28 2012

Craig Finn live @ Rough Trade East

In my head, record shop instores are meant be like the final scene of Empire Records– with a band playing on the roof and slackers rolling kegs down the street. In reality, this never ever happens, and perhaps that’s a good thing as no one really ever wants to see Renee Zelwegger sing more than once in their lives. And in spite of my shattered teen movie dreams, sometimes, in record stores, with their poor sound systems and randomly congregated audiences, in stores can be truly quite remarkable gigs. Craig Finn’s recent performance at Rough Trade East definitely falls into that category.

As a huge Hold Steady fan, I did (wrongly) wonder if Finn’s debut ‘Clear Heart, Full Eyes’, was just going to be an album of ‘not making the gradeHold Steady outtakes. Instead, it is full of wonderfully unique country-esque songs, with simple guitars focussing topics such as on punk rock wisdom (‘No Future’) and the dying days of a relationship (‘Not Much Left of Us’)- much more contemplative than some of the party tales of The Hold Steady but with all the lyrical brilliance.

Playing at Rough Trade with just a slide guitarist as back up, to a small audience of pre-sale album buyers, journalists and the odd hipster who had stumbled in off Brick Lane, Craig Finn still managed to bring new beauty to stripped down versions of the highlights from ‘Clear Heart Full Eyes’. Songs such as ‘Sarah, I’m Surrounded’ sounded beautifully melancholic, and ‘My Friend Jesus’ provided a humorous interlude.

Considering this, perhaps then the main outcome of the Rough Trade East, is actually something quite awe-inspiring: whilst The Hold Steady are undeniably one of the greatest live bands around, this short set demonstrated that with a very different set up, with a different array of material, and without a full band, Craig Finn still has the ability to host an enchanting live show. It’s not just the party soundtrack of The Hold Steady he has up his sleeve, but now its an album and live show of truly beautiful, enigmatic songs.

I’m pretty sure no one from the cast of Empire Records couldn’t even come close to that achievement.


Post by Jazmin / @jazmin_burgess



Craig Finn – Honolulu Blues

Clear Heart Full Eyes - Craig Finn

Feb 10 2012

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2011: Jazmin’s Top 10

1. The Decemberists- The King is Dead

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

2. Beirut- The Rip Tide

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

3. Death Cab for Cutie- Codes and Keys

I have been a Death Cab super fan since about 2001. ‘We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes’ is one of those albums that stopped me in my tracks, and ‘The Photo Album’ will always be one of my favourite albums of all time. However, whilst Death Cab’s quirky under the radar indie sensibilities may have been what won me over in the first place, I am unashamed in saying that indie rock pop songs (such as 2005’s ‘Plans’) are often when they’re at their strongest. Which is exactly why ‘Codes and Keys’ is so fantastic- tracks such as ‘Stay young, go dancing’ and ‘Portable Television’ are perfect indie pop for the Portland generation.‘Codes and Keys’ basically solidified it for me: Death Cab For Cutie are most definitely the band that I will never fall out of love with.

4. Bon Iver- Bon Iver

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

5. Braid- Closer to Closed

Okay, so it was only an EP, but if 2011 can be remembered for only one thing, it has to be the welcome return of Braid and their melodic pop accompanied by Bob Nanna’s distinctive vocals. This 4 track EP is hopefully the shape of what’s to come from a full length in 2012- Kinsella-core style tunes with heartbreaking lyrics. Roll on that 2001-era emo comeback..

6. Surfer Blood- Tarot Classics

Another EP, but one that is too good not to mention. Surfer Blood’s follow up to their 2010 debut ‘Astro Coast’, is all kinds of wonderful. ‘Tarot Classics’ is 4 brilliantly upbeat Beach Boys-esque tracks- the kind of songs that make you want to do spontaneous handclaps as you listen along. Main single ‘Miranda’ is Surfer Blood showing they can take the sound they encapsulated on their debut to the next level- polished hyperactivity if you will. With their second full length due next year, Surfer Blood well and truly remain ones to watch.

6. The Horrible Crowes- Elsie

Filling this year’s Hold Steady/Gaslight Anthem void in my life, The Horrible Crowes debut album oozes Jersey and Springsteen sensibilities. This is the kind of record that is made for dive bar jukeboxes, soundtracking ill advised all night whiskey drinking (the above may or may not have been based on personal experience). Brian Fallon’s vocals sound just as affecting as they do on Gaslight Anthem records, but yet benefit from the stripped down simplicity of The Horrible Crowes’ recording style. It’s a rare thing when side projects contain enough good songs to stand along, but ‘Elsie’ most definitely slots into that elusive category

7. Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

8. Bright Eyes- The People’s Key

Made the Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011 list here

9. Mister Heavenly- Out of Love

An indie-rock supergroup comprising of members of Modest Mouse, Unicorns, Man Man with Michael Cera on touring bass, Mister Heavenly had pretty good odds in producing one of the albums of 2011. Bursting full of upbeat style indie-pop, accompanied by 1950s influences, ‘Out of Love’ is a must listen for anyone who has a remote leaning towards catchy indie rock that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And if that’s not enough, their biography states that Mister Heavenly are ‘very excited by the prospect of their music being used in a big-screen, teen romantic comedy’, which is pretty much all I could ever want from a band’s press release. Instant scene points? Yeah, I think so.

10. Alex Turner – Submarine (Original Movie Soundtrack)

Movie soundtracks aren’t often strong contenders for albums of the year, but Alex Turner’s self composed soundtrack to Richard Ayoade’s ‘Submarine’ is more than worthy of a place in the list. As a huge fan of the book, the songs that Turner produced for the film managed to perfectly encapsulate the melancholy and quirkiness of the story, whilst also showing that there is more to his musical repertoire than just the Arctic Monkeys. All haunting vocals, slow beats and acoustic guitars,especially on stand out track ‘Stuck On The Puzzle’, this a mini album that is most definitely one of the best things to emerge in 2011.


The Decemberists – This Is Why We Fight

Beirut – Santa Fe

Death Cab for Cutie – You Are A Tourist

Calgary by boniver

Braid – “Universe or Worse”

Surfer Blood – Miranda

The Horrible Crowes – Behold the Hurricane

Fleet Foxes – Bedouin Dress

Bright Eyes- Shell Games (k-noble booty folk remix)

Mister Heavenly “Hold My Hand” Live at KDHX 11/12/11

Alex Turner – Stuck on a Puzzle 

Jan 26 2012

Cougar Microbes Top Albums of 2011: The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

 It feels like it was only yesterday that we started hearing about The Decemberists. It amazes me to think that the band has released six official studio albums earning a spot amongst indie rocks biggest success stories. Cougar writer Emily added them to her list describing ‘The King Is Dead‘ as “A folky album with well-crafted song after well-crafted song; it is the quiet and beautiful dark horse in my collection this year“.

Jazmin mused that ” Something that makes The Decemberists one of my favourite bands is their ability to make each of their albums so very different but yet distinctively Decemberists-esque. The folk undertones of ‘The King is Dead’ are absolutely no exception.

Perhaps their best album since ‘Your Majesty’, ‘The King is Dead’ is the perfect mix of beautifully crafted acoustic melodies such as ‘June Hymn’ and singalong anthems such as ‘This Is Why We Fight’. If the best bands are those that keep evolving, The Decemberists’ 2011 outing is a case study in why they’re already a step ahead of the rest“.


The Decemberists – This Is Why We Fight