“And square one’s looming dangerously”

Today I received my copy of Frankie & the Heartstrings‘ debut album Hunger in the post.

The album, released by the indie label Wichita, cost a mere £4.99 (inc. postage) from HMV.com and seemed a worthy buy, particularly as the band managed to get into the Top 40 last weekend.

Apart from wanting a hard copy of Frankie & Co’s summery Pop tracks, I felt duty bound to buy the album as guitarist Mick Ross once made me a spectacular tofu curry. Plus, at less than a fiver the album is cheaper than a lot of gig tickets (but longer lasting, for the materialist out there.)

However, I have another reason to campaign for the band’s mainstream chart success. Back when I lived in Birmingham I became acquainted with a band with a fantastic guitar Pop band called Envy & Other Sins. After seeing them at a gig (one of the first after their T4 mobileAct Unsigned win) I became quite taken with their sound, which was a refreshing return to a form of more traditional, unpretentious Pop.

The band had won a £60,000 record contract with Simon Gavin at A&M Records, yet the expected promotional drive for the album, the brilliant We Leave At Dawn, never came. Although keeping venues busy on tour, the album lacked the support a competition like mobileAct Unsigned seemed to guarantee. Eventually the band split up (although singer Ali and drummer Jim are now musically reunited as the brilliant Malpas).

I still listen to We Leave At Dawn. For me the album is sheer pop brilliance, packed with catchy tunes and credible lyrics that never fail to raise a smile. It’s not all fun and lightness however – a deeper sense of shade is provided by tracks such as my personal highlight Don’t Start Fires.

The abundant joy of Frankie & the Heartstrings’ tunes remind me of the Envy & Other Sins sound. They’re different in the sound of their tunes, with the former being more fifties influenced and sparsely produced by Edwyn Collins, but they have both produced Pop independently before taking it to a national level. Frankie & the Heartstrings have worked incredibly hard, building a fanbase with stellar live performances and their own Pop Sex Ltd. imprint.

I feel a bit like preaching along the lines of ‘The People’s Supermarket’ right now (i.e irritating) but I do feel it’s a bit of a ‘use it or lose it’ situation. In other words, support your favourite bands, or mourn their loss a little earlier than expected. It kind of reminds me of the Envy & Other Sins lyrics from their debut single Highness – “Square one’s looming dangerously”

You have been warned. Got £4.99 to spare?


Must-hear viewing

“Must-hear you say? But these are videos I see below…”

Yes that is indeed correct, but they’re music videos so I hope you watch them to hear them… if that makes sense? Basically they’re videos that if you haven’t seen, you should, and if you have I heartily salute you with my well-bitten fingernails.

Firstly I present to you the wonderful Leeds-based solo artist James Owen Fender. I truly love this artist: Awesome voice, sensational tunes. Also check out his video for former single The Cloud.

Next, here’s lovely songwriter Martin Longstaff, performing live for Amazing Radio as The Lake Poets. This was recorded exclusively for the station at Newcastle’s Blank Studios. I wrote an article recently predicting big things for The Lake Poets in 2011, and Martin will be a guest on my Amazing Folk Roots Show this Sunday from 7pm.

Now I’ve been meaning to post this next video for far too long. It’s Newcastle four piece Grandfather Birds recording in The Amazing Sessions for Amazing Radio. This video was created by the lovely Paul Alton, who often attends local gigs armed with a video camera. (The song’s pretty sensational too).

I wasn’t too big a fan of previous effort Ungrateful, but I have a huge soft spot for this number, Hunger, by Wichita label act Frankie & the Heartstrings. It’s a fantastic video starring Robert Popper of BBC comedy Look Around You and features a particularly fine performance from keyboardist/guitarist/all-round-legend Mick Ross.

Finally I’m not sure if this is an official video. but we’re loving Kyla La Grange at Amazing Towers right now. Her voice might be too sugary for some, but this song, Walk Through Walls, is epic.

So what do you think? Any new acts I should check out?