album list


Justin Brogdon  (US)

Justin Brogdon  (2007,  49.34)  **½

Justin Brogdon plays a kind of mildly unpalatable indie/Americana crossover, the former successfully neutering the latter, while Don McCollister's background 'Mellotron' strings on Tangle Up and Regarding Jamie quite certainly aren't.

Brokeback  (US)

Looks at the Bird  (2002,  39.24)  ***

Brokeback's third album, Looks at the Bird, is a mostly instrumental Stereolab-type indie record, embracing strands of electronica and jazz, not a million miles away from Tortoise's quieter work (they even cover that band's The Suspension Bridge At Iguazú Falls). The 'dance-lite' beats that pervade several tracks are a bit of a distraction for this reviewer, though; why are these things necessary? They add nothing to the music and can actually subtract from it in some cases. Not only is there no Mellotron credited, there's no mention of keyboards at all, apart from regular and reed organs, but the strings on The Suspension Bridge At Iguazú Falls are definitely sampled Mellotron, as against the real strings on the rest of the album. Overall, then, an album of quietitude, far more palatable than many similar I've heard, though probably not something to make the average Planet Mellotron reader's heart sing with joy.

Broken Dagger  (Sweden)

Chain of Command  (2007,  49.13)  **½

I think you can probably guess into which overall genre Broken Dagger fall. Clue: it's not sunshine pop. It's a pity they have to use a moniker which has fascistic overtones, although I'm sure that wasn't their intention, as they don't give the impression they're church-burners. Chain of Command (more macho pseudo-militarism, sadly) is, frankly, a truly ridiculous album, albeit a surprisingly melodic one, full of massed male vocals, wild screams, Yngwie-alike guitar work and more blastbeats than you can shake a drumstick at. I've no idea if there's some kind of concept held within (sorry, slipped into Broken Dagger's histrionic vocabulary there for a moment), but they're getting terribly excited about something and I just heard the phrase, "Penetrates his chest", so I think it's safe to assume the lyrical content has little in common with affairs of the heart, unless it involves cutting it out. Urban Måsby plays keys, including samplotron, with strings on opener An Unwanted Child and closer E.B.E.N., the album's various choir contributions sounding either generic or real. One for the clenched-fist brigade, I think. And I bet they're insanely proud of that 'explicit content' sticker, too.

Broken Harbour  (Canada)

Gramophone Transmissions  (2011,  64.49)  ***

Gramophone Transmissions is a drifting, ambient work, with something of a 2001 theme going on; to quote the sleevenotes: "Source material is comprised exclusively of processed samples and loops derived from classical vinyl records and choral, mellotron and piano recordings", which sounds about right. I can't spot where the Mellotron string parts have been sampled from (assuming that's what they are), but that's probably what was intended.

Broken Social Scene  (Canada)

Presents: Kevin Drew - Spirit if...  (2007,  65.20)  **
Forgiveness Rock Record  (2010,  63.08)  **

Broken Social Scene are a Toronto-based collective, grouped around the duo of Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, leading to the confusing situation whereby the band have released four albums to date, while Drew and Canning have released one each under the banner of Broken Social Scene Presents... Drew's Spirit if... is the first of these, a thoroughly ordinary modern indie album, if truth be told, overlong as a result of a) too many tracks and b) an unwillingness to edit. To add to the misery, Drew's voice is a whining, tuneless thing, while the vocal melodies are too poppy for comfort, in the manner of most indie nonsense. Charles Spearin adds 'Mellotron' to Bodhi Sappy Weekend, with a nice flute part opening the track, carrying on under the synth brass, although that's your lot. In direct contrast, 2010's Forgiveness Rock Record is, to my knowledge, the fifth BSS release 'proper', although, sadly, it's no better than Drew's offshoot album, another overlong effort filled with energetic-yet-redundant indie drivel. The nearest it comes to highpoints are the sitar on Ungrateful Little Father (although the rest of the track is ruined by its plinky-plonky rhythm and irritating vocal) and the bit on Water In Hell where it suddenly picks up the pace. Slim pickings, eh? Drew plays 'Mellotron' this time round, with distant flutes on Sweetest Kill.

Broken West  (US)

I Can't Go on, I'll Go on  (2007,  44.11)  ***½

The Broken West are essentially powerpop, although several tracks on their debut, 2007's cryptically-titled I Can't Go on, I'll Go on (a Samuel Beckett quote, apparently), contain hints of current US indie and even folk, unfortunately diluting their overall sound a little. The upside of this is that the album's a little more diverse than most of the Big Star-alikes, however good they may be, who clutter up the field. Best tracks? Probably the joyous So It Goes, Brass Ring and the 12-string-fest of You Can Build An Island, but nothing here actually disappoints. Guitarist Ross Flournoy allegedly plays Mellotron, but given that the vibes on So It Goes are real, I have absolutely no idea where. Don't let that put you off a decent album, though (like, it was going to?); powerpop fans should go for this, even if some of its contents sit on the borders of the genre.

Bronnt Industries Kapital  (UK)

Häxan  (2007,  75.22)  ****

Bronnt Industries Kapital is the musical nom de plume of Bristolian Guy Bartell, whose second album, 2007's Häxan (Hexan, or The Witch) is not merely inspired by the classic 1922 Danish silent film (a combined documentary/dramatisation of the mediæval phenomenon), but is actually intended as a new soundtrack for it. While soundtracks have been written for the film before, not least Geoff Smith's contemporaneous one for hammer dulcimer, I doubt whether any of them quite conjure up the menace of the period to the same extent as Bartell's; this really is a triumph of modern soundtrack writing, eschewing the ludicrous melodrama of Hammer's '60s and '70s output for the quiet horror of synthesized drones, electric pianos, organs and surprisingly menacing glockenspiels. Picking out individual tracks is almost pointless; this really needs to be listened to as a whole and, despite its length, it doesn't drag, possibly due to the amount of timbral variety on offer. Mellotron use has been rumoured, but you have to wait until track twenty-five, Endless Pressure, until a haunted flute part rears its head, at which point suspicions are aroused that it all sounds a little to 'regular' for its own good. While not being able to prove it's sampled, it seems the most likely option, so it stays here until/if etc. etc.

The Bronx  (US)

The Bronx  (2006,  33.43)  **½

Confusingly, The Bronx have opted to name their first three albums eponymously, in true Peter Gabriel style. 2006's version is the second of the three and is probably best described as modern US punk with a weird country edge, notably on closer White Guilt. But is it any good? I expect they and their fans think so, but it left me stone cold, to be honest, but what do I know? Joby J. Ford is credited with Mellotron, but I've absolutely no idea where it might be used. what's the point, eh? What's the point in using something, then keeping it so low in the mix that it's inaudible? Totally pointless. So; a punk album with no obvious Mellotron. That's it.

Jonatha Brooke  (US)

Careful What You Wish for  (2007,  42.31)  ***½

After playing in The Story with Jennifer Kimball, Jonatha Brooke went solo in the mid-'90s, 2007's Careful What You Wish for being her fifth release. Awash in a sea (sewer?) of brain-dead, corporate 'adult pop', Brooke's thoughtful, intelligent material stands out like the antithesis of a sore thumb, songs of the quality of Keep The River On Your Right, Hearsay and Forgiven telling us, perversely, exactly why she was dropped by a major label. She even sings one song in French (Je N'Peux Pas Te Plaire); could it be said that speaking even a little of that language (native French-speakers disqualified; sorry) is almost a definition of 'cultured', particularly in a country where it isn't routinely taught? Brooke plays samplotron, with a backing melodic string part on I'll Leave The Light On and distant strings on Hearsay.

Brooklyn  (US)

Blue Skies Await  (2007,  34.07)  ***

Brooklyn appears to be Brooke Mackintosh's alter-ego, her Blue Skies Await being a mildly eccentric singer-songwriter album, shifting between piano-led material (Journey, Scared Of Love), kind-of Celtic rock (Believe) and orchestrated balladry (Clipped Wing, If You Try). Sven Erik Seaholm's 'Mellotron' consists of sampled background strings on opener Change My Mind and a flute line on Clipped Wing.

Brooks & Dunn  (US)

Red Dirt Road  (2003,  56.49)  **

Brooks & Dunn are apparently huge in the world of country, which shows just how out of touch I am with that oeuvre. Thankfully. I mean, Americana/alt.country can be fine, but the full-blown Nashville variety either bores me to tears or turns my stomach. Maybe surprisingly, the duo's 2003 offering, Red Dirt Road, isn't too bad for a few tracks, but its (fairly minimal) appeal wanes as it ploughs through its near-hour length. Its most tedious features are semi-God-bothering lyrics like the title track or the openly offensive Holy War, not to mention their 'I'm just a country boy' schtick (although, in fairness, they are). It's not all awful, but it goes on rather too long and refuses to step outside its genre in any way, shape or form, for better or worse. Steve Nathan supposedly plays Mellotron, although I have absolutely no idea where, as it's entirely inaudible, so 'samples' it is. Which means... (you guessed it) don't bother.

Brookville  (US)

Wonderfully Nothing  (2003,  58.23)  *½
Life in the Shade  (2006,  59.54)  **

Brookville is essentially Andy Chase's solo project, a kind of post-rock/pop crossover thing, at least on 2003's Wonderfully Nothing, replete with a pre-psych '60s influence on several tracks. Unsurprisingly, I hate it, material like opener Fleet and Fais Dodo really getting my hackles up with their cheesy dreariness, overlaid with Chase's wispy voice. At whom is this actually aimed? Anyone? I'm all for artists following their muse (if not actually following Muse), but this vaguely Stereolab-lite stuff seems utterly pointless, which clearly shows how little I understand it. Good. To add insult to injury, this nonsense is almost an hour long. Mellotron? Not actually credited, in fairness; Sample From Heaven's title may well be the giveaway here, as the 'Mellotron' flutes running right through the track clearly aren't. We get them again, with strings, on Shine, plus string swells on Justine, This Is How It Ends and, distantly, on a couple of other tracks.

Three years on, 2006's Life in the Shade displays little obvious improvement, although it's perhaps a shade (ho ho) less infuriating. Just a shade, mind. It's also slightly longer than its predecessor (the Japanese version nears seventy minutes), which is far too long for this kind of stuff. Chase and Jeremy Adelman are both credited with Mellotron this time round, but you'd have to do a load of studio work on the 'Mellotron' strings on Break Yourself to make them sound that drifty, so my vote goes for samples, the same going for the flutes on Shadows and Today and strings on Hey You Hang On. I cannot overstate how much I urge you not to bother hearing Brookville. Awful.

Cary Brothers  (US)

Who You Are  (2007,  43.56)  *½

Cary Brothers (an individual, not siblings) is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who doesn't play country, which you may take to be an advantage until you hear him. His debut, 2007's Who You Are, is one of those horrible, insipid modern indie/singer-songwriter efforts, like the wettest end of Daniel Powter, say; even when it picks up the pace (the title track, The Last One), it just sounds sub-U2, which is never a good thing. Greg Collins plays 'Mellotron' strings on the title track and flutes on The Glass Parade, while Chad Fischer adds flutes to Loneliest Girl In The World, none of it to any great effect.

Brothers Keeper  (US)

Todd Meadows  (2014,  49.41)  ***½

Two of Brothers Keepers' three members have played in John Oates' band, although the new outfit's style leans more towards the rocky end of Americana on their 2014 debut, Todd Meadows. It's a fine example of the genre, featuring a fair few guest players, top tracks including Keep On Burning, the funky Cold Rain and Nothing To Do, closing with a blistering version of The Band classic The Weight. Jason Crosby is credited with Mellotron, but the strings on Bring The Man Down, well down in the mix, sound more like samples to my ears. A decent effort, then, keeping Americana alive and kicking without descending into mainstream nonsense.

Barbara Brousal  (US)

Pose While it Pops  (2000,  41.14)  ***

Pose While it Pops sits at the country end of the singer-songwriter spectrum, at its best on Soap & Water and closer Breathing Down Your Neck. Rob Arthur's Mellotron credit seems to consist of a brief burst of sampled strings on I Wish.

Marc Broussard  (US)

Keep Coming Back  (2008,  46.57)  **
Marc Broussard  (2011,  43.16)  **

Although Marc Broussard's style is supposed to reference funk, soul, blues and other genres, his fourth album, 2008's Keep Coming Back, is a spot-on copy (or pastiche?) of '70s pop/soul, sounding like all those cheeso artists you hoped you'd never hear, or even hear of again. You know, England Dan & John Ford Coley and their horrid ilk. To be brutally honest, I really can't think of anything nicer to say about this than that, other than its rating is as high as it is due to its sheer professionalism and nothing else. I really hope I never have to hear this again, though. Calvin Turner plays samplotron, with a chordal flute part on Why Should She Wait, although all the album's strings appear to be real. 2011's Marc Broussard is, essentially, a re-run of Keep Coming Back, its best track being 'hidden' acoustic closer Gibby's Song, although it's not even given its own track on the disc. Jamie Kenney plays vague samplotron flutes on Let Me Do It Over, but that seems to be your lot.

Findlay Brown  (UK)

Love Will Find You  (2009,  34.51)  ***

Findlay Brown is a contemporary British singer following in the footsteps of, say, Richard Hawley, in his veneration of the pre-psych '60s in general and Scott Walker in particular. His debut, 2009's Love Will Find You, is a lush, epic, romantic album, stuffed with ballads such as Teardrops Lost In The Rain and closer I Had A Dream sitting alongside the more uptempo All That I Have and That's Right. But is it any good? Depends whether you like Scott-esque material, I suppose; Brown sounds nothing like Mr. Engels vocally, but the material's spot-on. Richard Norris adds samplotron choirs to All That I Have and strings to Teardrops Lost In The Rain and Holding Back The Night. If you just can't get enough of pompadours, orchestras and overblown ballads, there's a good chance you'll love Findlay Brown.

Julia Brown  (US)

Strange Scars  (2008,  52.33)  ***

Strange Scars is a quirky singer-songwriter album, at its best on haunted opener Sunday Streak, the gentle Hole and the final, hidden track, maybe. Irwin Fisch's Mellotron? Aside from a couple of non-Mellotronic string parts, I have no idea.

Rachel Taylor Brown  (US)

Susan Storm's Ugly Sister & Other Saints & Superheroes  (2009,  24.09)  ***

Susan Storm's Ugly Sister is an album of sparse, strange little songs, typified by the likes of the rather strange title track that opens the record, the handclap-driven Zoe Of Rome and closer Giovanni Bernardone (St. Francis). Brown is credited with Mellotron, but the background flutes on Zoe Of Rome are quite clearly sampled.

Zac Brown Band  (US)

Jekyll + Hyde  (2015,  66.10)  **

One of the joys (?) of running a review site is the leap into the unknown: what will this sound like? Will it be any good? Occasionally, this pays off. Usually it doesn't. In the case of the Zac Brown Band's Jekyll + Hyde, it doesn't. With bells on. Their Wikipedia entry describes them as 'alternative', although there's clearly a sizeable country component in their sound, neither of which excuses album opener Beautiful Drug, which sounds like someone trying to ape - I dunno, One Direction? R'n'b drumming, one of those hideous modern pop vocal lines... There is absolutely no excuse for dross like this.

If I were to say that things subsequently pick up, it would only be because they couldn't get much worse. In fairness, the album's nothing if not eclectic; it shifts through fiddle-driven hoedown Loving You Easy, the pseudo-gospel Remedy, country-rocker Homegrown and the brassy swing-era jazz of Mango Tree in quick succession, making Heavy Is The Head's alt.rock something of a relief. Bittersweet's a typical country ballad, Castaway channels '50s calypso (!), we get 'epic country' in Dress Blues, Junkyard borrows heavily from something on The Wall... As I said, nothing if not eclectic, also nothing if not pretty awful, too. Clay Cook supposedly plays Mellotron. Where, Clay? Those vaguely background strings on Young And Wild? The cello on the acoustic version of Tomorrow Never Comes? I don't think we're hearing anything more authentic than some software-generated samples buried deep in the mix.

Duncan Browne  (UK)

Songs of Love & War  (1995,  55.11)  ***½

Duncan Browne's career has already been partially detailed on this site, so I shan't go over it again. 1995's Songs of Love & War consists of demos recorded across several years, pieced together by producer and ex-Steve Hackett keys man, Nick Magnus, after Browne's tragic and untimely death in '93. Unsurprisingly, the end result lacks cohesion in places, but, by and large, Magnus has done an incredible job of salvaging an album's-worth of material, albeit with help from various musicians, not least ex-Zombies vocalist Colin Blunstone, who stands in for Browne on a handful of tracks. Highlights include Suddenly Last Summer, solo classical guitar piece Bercuse and Journey '93, a re-recording of Browne's lone hit from two decades earlier. If I have a criticism, it's that, in the way of many singer-songwriter releases, the album suffers slightly from its time of recording, many of the keyboard sounds and production tricks now sounding distinctly dated, but let's face it, that's hardly restricted to '80s/early '90s recordings.

Nick adds Mellotron samples to a couple of tracks, with distant choirs on Suddenly Last Summer and strings on Rainer. This is also the only entry (to my knowledge) in the samples section to features a real Mellotron on one track. Huh? The Wild Places is taken directly from Browne's 1978 album of the same name, with minor studio tweaking, so although Tony Hymas' Mellotron choir is clearly audible, the track's already available on another album. This is apparently now quite difficult to get hold of, although the limited demand presumably isn't enough to warrant a reissue. Duncan Browne's talent is still little-recognised outside his core fanbase; despite being slightly 'of its era', Songs of Love & War is a valuable addition to his small catalogue. Hear it if you can.

Hans Brun  (Denmark)

Under Stjernerne  (2006,  40.16)  ***

Hans Brun is such a determinedly non-international artist that finding out anything much about him at all is a bit of a task. I'm sure, however, that he's released more than the one album listed on Discogs, Under Stjernerne, a mainstream, Danish-language Americana-infused pop/rock effort, entirely harmless, if a little dull, especially if you don't know what he's singing about. Morten Maltesen's barely-audible 'Mellotron' flutes on Du Er Min Pige sound sampled.

Brunettes  (New Zealand)

Structure & Cosmetics  (2007,  38.48)  **

The Brunettes are the rather twee indie duo of New Zealanders Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield, whose third album, 2007's Structure & Cosmetics, is a rather undistinguished set of songs of the kind that keep indie fans happy, but few others, although its predecessor, 2004's Mars Loves Venus, is a slightly better proposition. I'm sure it's perfectly good at what it does, but it all sounds a bit dreary to these jaded ears, with a lack of particularly memorable melodies. Bree is credited with Mellotron, but the flutes and/or strings on most tracks have that ring of 'not quite rightness' about them, not to mention the overuse which marks out probable sample use. So; twee indie, fake Mellotron, why bother?

Carla Bruni  (Italy)

Quelqu'un M'a Dit  (2003,  37.16)  **½
No Promises  (2007,  34.40)  ***

Is this the same Italian-born virtual Frenchwoman Carla Bruni who is currently cavorting with (OK, now married to) a certain far-right French politician? 'Fraid so... We all know what he's getting out of the deal, but what about her? I doubt if it's anything to do with his pleasant nature, liberal ideals or riveting personality, that's for sure... 2003's Quelqu'un M'a Dit (Someone Told Me) is a heavily chanson-influenced album, making it fairly impenetrable to non-French speakers, but then, that's who it's made for, so fair enough, really. My problem with the album doesn't lie in its chosen language, but in its tedium; I'm sure it's perfectly good if you're into the style, but I found it utterly tedious, not to mention wearing, almost entirely due to Ms. Bruni's vocals being so high in the mix that you sometimes have trouble hearing the acoustic instruments accompanying her. Louis Bertignac plays vague background samplotron flutes on L'Excessive.

On 2007's No Promises, Ms Bruni sings in English, principally because the lyrics are all English-language poems set to music, authors including Yeats, Auden, Rossetti, De La Mare and Emily Dickinson. Although the album finds her deep in the clutches of the French political system, it's made no obvious difference to her music. Her voice, however, is starting to show the effects of years of Gitanes abuse; why do some people find cigarette-ravaged tones sexy? Bizarre. This could actually be a lot worse; a lot lot worse, actually, which is why it gets a rather surprising three stars. Bertignac on samplotron again, with quiet, yet pervasive flute parts on the title-influencing Promises Like Pie-Crust and closer At Last The Secret Is Out, plus an uncredited part on Before The World Was Made.

Jim Bryson  (Canada)

The North Side Benches  (2003,  39.46)  ***

I'd be lying if I said that Jim Bryson's doing anything new, but The North Side Benches does that Americana thing with aplomb, if little originality, while the chordal 'Mellotron' flutes on Somewhere Else are clearly sampled.

Buckcherry  (US)

Time Bomb  (2001,  41.49)  ***

Buckcherry's second album carries on in pretty much the same vein as their first; an unholy cross between AC/DC and punk, with more guitar than you can shake a stick at. Now, I'm not saying this is bad. In fact, it could be really good, but Time Bomb just doesn't excite me in the same way that (for example) Let There Be Rock still does. Maybe I'm just old and jaded. Basically, it's a dozen tracks of raucous rock'n'roll, which you'll probably either love or be completely indifferent to, as I'm afraid to say I was. Surprisingly, session man Jamie Muhoberac plays samplotron on the album's two more balladic moments, Helpless and You, with strings and maybe a touch of choir on the former and strings treated so heavily that they could be generic samples on the latter.

Budapest  (UK)

Too Blind to Hear  (2002,  47.21)  *½

Oh God, Leamington Spa's Budapest's Too Blind to Hear is a load of dreary old cock... Well, that's a way to start a review, innit? Wikipedia describes them as 'melancholic post-grunge'; I'd describe them as 'wishy-washy non-rock drivel', but then, years of listening to crap bands has reduced my tolerance threshold to somewhere near zero. Essentially, it's an album of heartfelt, mid-paced semi-orchestral dullness; 'orchestral indie', if that helps. I thought I was going to get away with it, but Chris Pemberton (presumably) plays sampled Mellotron strings on closer Nothing New, which has precisely one good thing about it: it's the last song on the album. It seems original guitarist Mark Walworth committed suicide after recording his parts; tragic though this event was, I have to wonder whether the record's determinedly downbeat approach had anything to do with his state of mind at the time? Anyway, I doubt if you want to hear this any more than I do.

Bug!  (US)

Bug!  (1994,  53.19)  **½

Minneapolis natives Bug! played largely mid-paced pop/rock on their eponymous debut (and lone release?), at its least dull on the poppy Monday Morning, Minute and It Always Happens. Bassist John "Strawberry" Fields is credited with Mellotron, but the flutes on closer Airport Song are not only too clean, but shift way below the instrument's range.

Built to Spill  (US)

Untethered Moon  (2015,  45.54)  ***

Built to Spill's Untethered Moon starts well with the one/two of All Our Songs and Living Zoo, but dips somewhat as it progresses, especially on the rather bland Never Be the Same. The album's unevenness even applies to individual tracks, several of which start well then peter out, or vice versa; it all ends well with the eight-minute When I'm Blind, but it's a shame they can't be more consistent. Sam Coomes is credited with Mellotron, but the only even possible use here is something that might be background strings on So, so I think we have to assume samples.

Bullyrag  (UK)

Songs of Praise  (1998,  59.51)  **½

Bullyrag were a multi-racial British outfit, whose sole album, 1998's Songs of Praise (ironically named for a religious programme on the BBC, for non-Brits) is a kind of rap/rock/indie/electronica effort. A woozy, druggy feel permeates many of its tracks, the overlong whole possibly at its best on Summer Daze. Producer Chris Hughes plays samplotron strings on opener Jump Up In A Fashion and Summer Daze.

Enrique Bunbury  (Spain)

Radical Sonora  (1997,  50.44)  *½

Enrique Ortiz de Landázuri "Bunbury" Izardui (his nom de plume taken from Oscar Wilde) made his name in Héroes del Silencio, before going solo in 1997 with Radical Sonora. The album mixes rock and dance/electronica in relatively equal measures, while Latin pop influences are readily detectable, making this the kind of album with which Planet Mellotron readers are unlikely to engage. No, it has no best tracks. Although Bunbury's credited with Mellotron, the cellos on a couple of tracks and (especially) the flute and pitchbent string lines on Negativo sound well into the sampled sector to my ears. Believe me, you're not going to want to hear this to find out for yourself, anyway.

Bunky Moon  (US)

Schtuff We Like  (2011,  59.28)  ***½

Instrumental power trio Bunky Moon's Schtuff We Like concentrates on covers, also throwing a handful of originals into the mix. This approach works when they cover instrumental material (notably Crimso's deathless Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part 2), but Bowie's Space Oddity and Purple's Maybe I'm A Leo, to name but two, sound a little sparse. All in all, though, a fine effort; Floyd's Fat Old Sun gets a particularly good workout. Background samplotron flutes on Macca's Maybe I'm Amazed, for what it's worth.

Dec Burke  (UK)

Destroy All Monsters  (2010,  44.59)  **

Although Dec(lan) Burke is Irish, he moved to the UK in his teens, subsequently playing with neo-progsters such as Frost (irritatingly styled as Frost*) and Darwin's Radio. His solo debut (named for the cult Japanese film) is a typical modern neo-prog effort, all clattering rhythms, metal guitars and AOR choruses; as regular readers of this site may guess, it's not my cup of tea. Carl Westholm is credited with Mellotron on Promised, to which I can only say, "You must be fucking joking!"

Burnin Red Ivanhoe  (Denmark)

Miley Smile/Stage Recall  (1972,  38.25)  ***

Burnin Red Ivanhoe's last album was a bit of a mish-mash, being a 'live in the studio' recording of several new tracks and a handful of old favourites, possibly at its best on lengthy instrumental jam Bareback Rider. Its worst? A pointless, badly-played version of Johnny & the Hurricanes' Red River Rock, itself a rock'n'roll take on 19th Century cowboy song Red River Valley. And Karsten Vogel's 'Mellotron'? Nonexistent.

Burnt Noodle  (US)

Next Exit  (2004,  52.23)  ***

Six years on from The Noodle & the Damage Done (groan), Burnt Noodle's Next Exit is, if possible even more drifting and trippy, often to the point of dissolving into an ambient stew. Highpoints? Opener Bipolar summons up a little energy, while Day By Day's a (relatively) straightforward, acoustic-based song, but the last four tracks (of six) are all jammed-out psych, in a 'we've done all the drugs' kind of way. Good drugs or bad? Would we know? Paul Lamb's 'Mellotron' consists of distant choirs on Road Flip and massive (and massively unlikely) strings pitchbends on Uncap Your Brain, clearly sampled.

Butti 49  (Norway)

Habit  (2004,  70.19)  **

How to describe Norway's Butti 49? Soul? Funk? Electronica? 'Dance'? All of the above? 2004's Habit certainly contains elements of all those genres, mostly in a particularly irritating and long-winded way. Why is this album seventy bloody minutes long? It would've been stretching it to compress it to forty, frankly. About the only thing on it that caught my attention was the (credited, presumably real) sitar on Loving U, though that's not much of a recommendation, really. Øyvind Jakobsen's Mellotron strings and flutes open the album on Flying, but unless I'm very much mistaken, they've been nowhere near a set of thirty-five tapes and matched tape-heads. In other words, it's sample territory again. Or not? I reckon so and it's staying here unless I should find out otherwise.

Buurman  (Belgium)

Rocky Komt Altijd Terug  (2008,  63.54)  ***

Geert Verdickt's Buurman make soundtrack to films that haven't been made (if you'll excuse the cliché), their debut, Rocky Komt Altijd Terug, sounding more like a throwback to the era of Brel and his ilk then anything contemporary. Inexplicably, the hour-ish long album is spread over two discs (two movements?), Verdickt's weary, careworn, frequently spoken vocals tying what I presume is a concept together, along with an upright piano, jazz drumming and tasteful brass arrangements. Is it possible to nail any 'best tracks'? Not really, no, although the Spanish guitar on the two parts of Terrastake on disc two caught my ear. Koen Tote supposedly plays Mellotron, but the vague strings on God, Ik En Marjon and the flutes on one or two other tracks on disc one don't sound that authentic to my ears. To be honest, you're unlikely to get very much out of this without speaking Dutch/Flemish, as the album's main priority seems to be to tell a story, about which I can ascertain precisely nothing. But then, I'm not Belgian, so this isn't aimed at me.

Matti Bye  (Sweden)

The Phantom Carriage  (2003,  51.51)  ****

Matti Bye's The Phantom Carriage is a beautiful soundtrack piece for the DVD reissue of the silent Swedish cinema classic from 1921. Bye captures the spirit of the times in his gentle, yet ominous orchestrations for small ensemble, often no more than his own piano. However, I have no idea why Kristian Holmgren is credited with Mellotron.

The Bye Bye Blackbirds  (US)

Houses & Homes  (2008,  33.33)  **½

Oakland's Bye Bye Blackbirds (named, of course, in honour of the 1926 jazz standard) are a folk-influenced indie outfit, whose second album, Houses & Homes, starts well with jaunty opener The Ghosts Are Alright, but ultimately fails to deliver. William Duke is credited with Mellotron on Edge Of Town, but the overly-even strings (sounding quite looped, frankly), especially towards the end of the track, when they rise to the top of the mix, fail to convince.

Byfrost  (Norway)

Of Death  (2011,  37.39)  ***

I hear that Byfrost (named for Bifröst, the bridge into Asgard) combine black and thrash metal on their second outing, 2011's Of Death, but to my untrained ear, it's naught but good ol' 'eavy metal with a thrashy edge. Actually, I say 'naught but', but Byfrost have really got a handle on this stuff, managing to make an inherently silly genre ('extreme' metal) into something perfectly listenable to the old-school rock fan, better tracks including the mid-paced Eye For An Eye and Buried Alive and epic closer All Gods Are Gone. Yes, it's a bit silly, but they do it well. Someone plays a major 'Mellotron' string part on Sorgh, the album's quietest track (and one of its highpoints), although I'll be stunned if it's real. So; modern metal that succeeds in not entirely alienating anyone born before, ooh, 1994, with a bit of fakeotron to boot.

David Byrne  (US)

Here Lies Love  [by David Byrne & Fatboy Slim]  (2010,  90.06)  ***

David Byrne's latest project is a collaboration with British dance guru Fatboy Slim, otherwise known as Norman Cook, ex-indie wimps The Housemartins and The Beautiful South. Here Lies Love is, improbably, a double concept album based on the Philippines' infamous dictator's wife, Imelda Marcos, lady of a thousand pairs of shoes, clearly recognisable on the sleeve. Each of its twenty-two tracks sung by a different (mostly) female vocalist, including Tori Amos, Martha Wainwright, Natalie Merchant and others, while stylistically, it shifts between slightly '60s-influenced pop, Byrne's beloved Latin and Norm's programmed grooves, for better or worse. Mark de Gli Antoni is credited with Mellotron on Every Drop Of Rain, with a rather ordinary string part that doesn't actually sound like a Mellotron at all, so most likely isn't.

Jim Byrnes  (US)

House of Refuge  (2006,  51.57)  ***
My Walking Stick  (2009,  54.30)  ***

Although US-born, Jim Byrnes is now an honorary Canuck, known for both his acting and musical careers, having released his debut album back in 1981. Saying that, 2006's House of Refuge is only his sixth release; I presume his acting work has got in the way of the music over the years. It's a good album of its type, a reasonably appealing blues/country/gospel mix, better tracks including Running Out Of Time, The Death Of Ernesto Guevara and Last Fair Deal Gone Down, although there isn't anything here that made me cringe. Producer Steve Dawson is credited with Mellotron, with a cello line on the '40s jazz-inflected Stardust, quite clearly sampled. 2009's My Walking Stick isn't dissimilar to its predecessor, if perhaps slanted a little further towards the blues, the countryish Lonely Blue Boy (Danny's Song) being the furthest from that style. Dawson plays what he describes on his blog as a 'Mellotron vibrophone sound', which sounds a more than a tad suspect to me. Anyway, it can be heard in the quiet bit in Ophelia, which is quite enough to label it 'sampled'.