Gloucestershire

Stephen Morris' top ten Gloucestershire bands of 2011

2011. The year when the news just didn't stop.

EgyptHackgateRiotsTunisiaJapaneseEarthquakeAmyWinehouse NorwegianMassacreSteveJobsDiesBinLadenkilledRoyalWedding OccupyprotestsLybiaKimJungIldiesImminentfinancialcollapseinEurope.

Did I miss anything? Quite probably.

Meanwhile, back in Gloucestershire, amongst stories of washed up giant fish and library closures, the county was brimming, as ever, with fantastic music.

Here, as is traditional, is my list of the ten best bits from the Gloucestershire music scene for the year just gone.

10. Jet-Pack

Image caption Jet-Pack formed whilst the four guys were at university in Cheltenham

Thrashy angst-ridden emo rock.

Jet-Pack (from Stratford-upon-Avon and, more importantly for our purposes, Cheltenham) are never happier than when they are absolutely miserable.

"We're going nowhere fast," runs the opening line of Salt of the Earth. It is a good taster of what is to come.

Stand out track: We All Start Again.

Read the review here and find out more from their website.

9. The Suspectors

Image caption Cheltenham-based The Suspectors are a four piece rock/alternative band

The influences of British Sea Power, The Manic Street Preachers, Leonard Cohen and David Gilmour are blended together with an impressive effect in the music of The Suspectors.

While their name suggests the sounds of late 70s new wave, the music reflects a much broader palette.

Stand out track: Echoes.

Read the review here and visit their MySpace page by clicking here.

8. Loftbeat

Image caption Loftbeat are a five piece rock and roll band from Cheltenham

While The Suspectors may not be a New Wave band, Loftbeat definitely are.

Just one listen to the Joy-Division-plays-Heroes-by-The-Stranglers-with-a-bit-of-Monaco-thrown-in sound of Hysterical will prove that.

Loftbeat's music is thick, intense and fast moving.

Stand out track: Hysterical.

Read the review here and visit their Facebook page by clicking here.

7. The Roving Crows

Image caption The five piece band from Cheltenham describe their sound as 'gutsy Celtic fusion'

The Roving Crows star continues in the ascendant.

From a fantastic performance at the Wychwood Festival in 2010, the Crows are now constantly touring - as evidenced by this writer catching them play a pub in Rochester, Kent.

The Roving Crows, now aided and abetted by trumpeter, Greg Wilson-Copp, play their original songs steeped in the rich tradition of Irish folk.

The songs go from fast and furious, complete with frantic fiddling, through to more thoughtful, tender numbers.

Absolutely fantastic, whatever the speed.

Stand out track Long Time Dead.

Read the review here and find out more from their website.

6. Stressechoes

Image caption Stressechoes are a four-piece unsigned band from Cheltenham

Folk-tinged acoustica has been on an unstoppable rise for ages now.

Not just in Gloucestershire but everywhere.

Edd Donovan and the Wandering Moles, Aspen Sails and Juey are three such examples from this writer's archive of reviews.

Stressechoes' songs are tender, honest, dark and witty.

And you will find no better evidence than in their stand out track, Being a Man.

Read the review here or see more via their MySpace profile.

5. The Flex

Image caption The Cheltenham-based band, formerly Dress To Kill, are preparing for their second album

The artists formerly known as Dress to Kill have come back, big and strong as The Flex.

Theirs is an urgent sound, with nods to Maxïmo Park scattered amongst the summery off-beats. Rather splendid indie pop.

Stand out track: Desire.

Read the review here or visit their Facebook page.

4. Check Da Cone

Image caption Check da Cone, a three piece band from Gloucester, formed in 2010

Beneath the veneer of an odd name with a cheeky logo, Check Da Cone are a sensitive band with a lot to say about fear - the fear of getting old, the fear of being lonely, the fear of not making the most of their lives.

And boy, do they say it well.

Stand out track: Bright Lights, Big Nights.

Read the review here and find out more on their Facebook page.

3. Sundae Club

Image caption (From l-r) Ray Cathode, Hamstall Ridware and Dr C.D. Mille form Cheltenham's Sundae Club

Sundae Club released an EP this year.

This should come as no surprise to regular readers of these pages. Sundae Club are forever releasing EPs, albums and single-track trinkets.

As ever, the quality on Eclectic Electric was outstanding with Stereolab-ish sounds emerging on Picasso and tributes to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (home of the original Doctor Who theme tune) on Or a Mix (complete with tap drips).

There was also the delicious What About Martian? in which chilled out beats are laid out beneath samples of a man who claims to be able to speak Venusian and Plutonian but for whom Martian is a little too difficult.

Stand out track: quite obviously, What About Martian?

Read the review here or visit their website for more info.

2. The Cadbury Sisters

Image caption Cheltenham's The Cadbury Sisters aim to give people a 'special experience' with their music

This year I've been introduced to some excellent female folk groups, The Webb Sisters (who have recently worked with Leonard Cohen) and Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo (check out their theme tunes to both Wallander and The Shadow Line) being just two.

More locally the female-fronted folk phenomenon appears in the form of The Cadbury Sisters whose gorgeous close harmony singing could just make you melt.

They sound absolutely gorgeous. You will love it.

While the music sounds dreamy, the lyrics are very much grounded in reality.

Stand out track: The Sea Has No Back Door.

Read the review here and find out more from their Facebook profile.

1. The James Lovett Trio

Image caption The Forest of Dean's James Lovett Trio describe themselves as 'bluesy alternative acoustic folk rock'

Brooding bands are ten-a-penny these days.

Then again, music will always make way for morose, gloom merchants. It was always thus.

But few bands can hold a candle to the brooding (and entirely genuine seeming) James Lovett Trio whose Over My Sight is heartbreakingly beautiful.

Rather than simple songs with even simpler lyrics, JLT (just one letter and a whole universe removed from four of Cowell's plastic proteges) produce deliciously melancholic novellas of songs designed to tear you apart from the inside.

Listen to them and weep.

Stand out track: Over My Sight

Read the review here and find out more from their Facebook profile.

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