Stornoway – Bonxie (Epic #274)

The Epic 2017 Project #274: 171001

Stornoway – Bonxie (2015)

Bonxie was the third and final album from Oxford’s Stornoway, released in April 2015 on ‘Cooking Vinyl’.

Stornoway were essentially singer, lyricist, and guitarist Brian Briggs; keyboard player Jon Ouin, bassist Oli Steadman and his brother Rob Steadman on drums. Their sound incorporated an ever-changing selection of stringed instruments and keyboards, supported by a typical pop backline of guitar, drums, and bass guitar.

Briggs and Ouin met during Freshers’ week at Oxford; Briggs thought Ouin looked like a member of Teenage Fanclub, a band both of them liked that became a topic of their first conversation. Soon after, the two began playing music together. They advertised for a bass player, and Oli Steadman was the only person to respond to their advert. Oli Steadman’s younger brother Rob Steadman later auditioned for the role of drummer.

The band is named after the Scottish town of Stornoway on the Hebridean Isle of Lewis, which appears on all British televised weather reports and shipping forecasts. The band had never been to Stornoway when they decided to name themselves after the town. They played their first gig there on 9 April 2010 and also signed their contract with label 4AD, a British independent record label part of Beggars Group, there as well.

In a 2010 interview with British music blog ‘There Goes the Fear’, Brian Briggs described the band’s hunt for a name…

“We were looking for somewhere that sounded a bit distant and remote and coastal. And it was a very long process, and quite a fun process that I think every band goes through trying to get the right band name. And we had a massive list, pages and pages, and the only thing that they had in common was that they were all slightly coastal or maritime-themed. So we were looking in books about knots and, I dunno, guides to natural history of the seashore. And we tried quite a few out and they all failed, and this was the only one that stuck, and it was reinforced by the fact that if you see at the BBC weather forecast, Stornoway is up there … so we get this wonderful free promotion every time there’s a weather report.”

In October 2016 the band announced that they would be splitting up after a farewell tour during spring 2017. Primarily because Brian Briggs was off to become the head warden on a nature reserve in Wales.

Stornoway played their final show in Oxford on 12 March 2017; we were fortunate enough to see them in Brighton two days earlier on 8th March.

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Jack Penate – Matinee (Epic #224)

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Jack Penate – Matinee (2007)

OK you lucky lot. Today you’re getting eight episodes of ‘Epic’ all on the same day; essentially because I’m away for a week with no possibility of updating blogs etc.

Next up is Matinée, the debut album from British singer-songwriter Jack Peñate. It was released on 8 October 2007 on XL Recordings. The album reached number one on the UK Indie Albums chart, and number seven on the UK Albums Chart. It also reached number 74 on the Irish Album’s chart. The song “My Yvonne” features backing vocals by a young and then-unknown Adele.

Kaiser Chiefs – Employment (Epic 2017 #137)

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Kaiser Chiefs – Employment (2005)

The Kaiser Chief’s debut studio album, released in March 2005 on B-Unique Records. Employment takes its inspirations from the Britpop and new wave movements, 1970s-era punk rock and Beach Boys-esque West Coast music.

The album originally charted at number three in the UK Albums Chart on 13 March 2005, but charted at number two almost a year after its release, due to the band’s success at the Brit Awards. Employment went on to become the fourth best-selling album in the United Kingdom that year

JJ72 (Epic 2017 #134)

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JJ72 (2000)

JJ72 were an alternative rock band from Dublin, Ireland. After forming in 1996, they signed to Lakota Records in 1999, releasing two hit albums before splitting in 2006.

The band was formed by lead singer and songwriter Mark Greaney and drummer Fergal Matthews, while studying at Belvedere College. Greaney grew up in Dublin, where for a time he lived next door to Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy). Matthews originated from County Meath. The name ‘JJ72’ derives from a window at Belvedere College made from 72 jam jars.

After auditioning several bassists they recruited their schoolmate Garvin Smith on bass in 1996. After a few early gigs, Smith left so following recruiting problems for a replacement, Greaney and Matthews entered the studio as a duo in early 1997 to record their first demo. They sent it to local record companies and media but with little response. In 1998 they started university courses, but shortly after starting they decided to concentrate on the band; They played a concert at Behan’s pub in Dublin, backed by a string quartet, and were asked to appear on local television. They then recruited Hilary Woods who, despite having only picked up bass recently, joined as the band’s bassist in January 1999. They recorded a second demo, and targeted the UK, playing several gigs there and getting a write-up in Select magazine This led to interest from the Dublin-based Sony sub-label Lakota Records, who signed JJ72 in mid-1999.

The début single “October Swimmer” was released in November that year, and was named ‘Single of the Week’ by BBC Radio 1 DJ Mark Radcliffe. They were given support slots with The Dandy Warhols and My Vitriol. The band’s first hit though came with “Long Way South” in May 2000, which peaked at number 68 in the UK, and they played at festivals including Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds later that year.

The band released their eponymously titled debut album in Summer 2000. A great critical and commercial success alike, the album has sold in excess of 500,000 copies in their native Ireland and in the United Kingdom, where it reached number 16 on the UK Albums Chart. The album spawned the singles “Snow”, “October Swimmer”, “Long Way South”, and “Oxygen”, and saw the band perform promotional tours in Europe and the US. “Oxygen” gave the band their first top 30 single in the UK giving them a Top of the Pops performance slot.

Following this and, after touring with Coldplay and Embrace, they set out on their own headline tour.They supported Muse on a tour of Europe, headlined the NME Brats tour, and played a few gigs in Japan. But several performances had been cancelled after Greaney lost his voice, and there were further cancellations in 2001 after Matthews was knocked off his motorbike, with Kylie Minogue’s drummer Bob Knight standing in for a few gigs. Matthews recovered in time for the festival season and support slots with U2. The band received an Irish Music Award for ‘Best New Band’ later that year.

Elbow – Asleep in the back (Epic 2017 #062)

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Elbow – Asleep in the back (2001)

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This was Elbow’s  debut studio album, first released in May 2001. The title track, “Asleep in the Back”, was only included as a bonus track on later editions of the album after it had been released as a single and became the band’s first Top 20 hit. The album release came in four different versions: the 12-track version, two 11-track versions only featuring either “Asleep in the Back” (later editions) or “Can’t Stop” (UK version) and a 10-track version including neither of them. The record was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize in 2001.

Though Asleep in the Back was the first Elbow album to be released, it was not the first to be recorded. An album’s worth of recorded material had been scrapped by the band several years earlier after they were dropped by their first major label, Island Records.

The Epic 2017 Project features several Elbow albums, some of which included some of that earlier scrapped material.

The Decemberists – The Crane Wife (Epic 2017 #052)

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The Decemberists – The Crane Wife (2006)

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The Crane Wife is an old Japanese folktale. While there are many variations of the tale, a common version is that a poor man finds an injured crane on his doorstep and takes it in and nurses it back to health. After he releases the crane, a woman appears at his doorstep with whom he falls in love and marries. Because they need money, his wife offers to weave wondrous clothes out of silk that they can sell at the market, but only if he agrees never to watch her making them. They begin to sell them and live a comfortable life, but he soon makes her weave them more and more. Oblivious to his wife’s declining health, his greed increases. He eventually peeks in to see what she is doing to make the silk she weaves so desirable. He is shocked to discover that at the loom is a crane plucking feathers from her own body and weaving them into the loom. The crane, seeing him, flies away and never returns.

This fourth album, released by The Decemberists in 2006, was inspired by this tale. It centres on two song cycles, The Crane Wife and The Island, the latter inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

The album cover was designed by the Portland artist Carson Ellis, Colin Meloy’s wife, who has created artwork for each of the band’s albums. Colin Meloy is the band’s guitarist and lead vocalist.