Temples are a new British band from that centre of the rock'n'roll universe, Kettering, Northants. Their debut, 2014's Sun Structures, contains a sort-of indie/psych crossover; while far from classic, it's a vastly better proposition than the swathes of landfill indie that clog up the nation's charity shops. Starting well with the Byrdsian Shelter Song and the title track (straight out of 1966), the album takes a dip a few tracks in, becoming more of an indie record with psych influences than vice versa, sadly. Stronger tracks include Shelter Song, Colours To Life and gentle closer Fragment's Light, all wispy, late '60s vocals and strings, but, as with so many similar, the album could do with a good edit and a little tightening up all round. Adam Smith adds pretty ropey Mellotron samples to several tracks, not least the flutes on the title track and properly rubbish strings on The Golden Throne and Keep In The Dark. Y'know, chaps, if you want to use the sound, there are enough places that'll hire a real machine out for a couple of days... These crummy samples rather let the side down, although I realise that they're only one facet of the overall sound. So; not a bad effort, even if Noel Gallagher rates them. In fairness, he probably has more taste than talent.
Templo Diez' Crowheart EP followed two studio full-lengthers, since when they've released another three albums. It's one of those 'mournful, yet major-key' recordings that seem to be a branch of the indie mainstream; OK for a song or two, then the boredom sets in. Sorry. Pascal Hallibert supposedly plays Mellotron; let me assure you that the strings on closer Switchblade are not Mellotron.
The Tempo Toppers are a Norwegian rockabilly outfit, of all things. Well, I say that, but their Swedish neighbours have long been famed for their garage-rock output, so why not delve a few years further back? Anyway, 2004's Snapshot is a joyous burst of walking bass, twangy guitars and Tennessee-via-Trondheim vocals, although, if you're not into the style, the songs are largely much of a muchness, although Forgive This Fool caught this listener's ear. Cato Salsa adds samplotron flutes to the uncharacteristically quiet Little Butterfly, where the band suddenly lurch forward a few years and temporarily enter the psych zone. However, the other fifteen tracks here all sit solidly in 1958, only with better production, so I'd only bother giving this a go if that sounds like it might appeal.
Tennis play faux-pre-psych '60s stuff, only, of course, nobody actually sounded like this fifty years ago, as old-fashioned ideas such as, y'know, good songwriting still held sway at the time. Isn't it great that we don't have to bother with that nonsense any more, eh? Just stick an anodyne melody and some drippy lyrics over a bland, repetitious chord sequence and hey presto! A hit! The democratisation of songwriting, ladies'n'gentlemen. Anyone can write songs now, even when they lack talent as badly as do Tennis. Young & Old is quite awful: rhythmically slack, (female) vocals borderline out of tune, shonky 'songwriting'... The Small Sound EP's no better, frankly, aside from being half the length. Someone adds rather shrieky samplotron strings to My Better Self and Petition on the album and flutes to 100 Lovers on the EP. Absolute dross.
Jennifer Terran's fifth album, Full Moon in 3, is a rather beautiful, if mournful album, with the sparsest of backings for her haunted vocals, an approach almost guaranteed to get a thumbs-up from Planet Mellotron. Piano, bass and almost nonexistent drums accentuate her vocals, with occasional electronics and/or Mellotron (from Terran) to break what could become monotony in the hands of someone less talented. The occasional more rhythmic track (Multi Orgasmic 3, say) doesn't, at least to my ears, work as well as the subtler stuff, but I suppose they provide some variety on an album that would otherwise be relentlessly downbeat beginning to end. Opener Full Moon has a distant samplotron string part from Terran, arranged pretty much as you would a string section, while The America Song has flutes, choir and strings jostling for position, with near-atonal strings on Pomegranate Weed, more conventionally melodic ones in Tide and an orchestrated part in A Big Brown Trout Lives There.
Shades of Love isn't too awful at first, but the cheesy, mainstream pop likes of Open Wide, Sticks Over Stones and closer Temporary quickly drag it down. Mike Jinno's Chamberlin? I know Chamby samples can be difficult to spot, but the bland, faceless strings on opener My Reflection and block-chord flutes on the title track really aren't cutting the mustard.
J. Tex & the Volunteers's third release is a defiantly old-school Americana album, harking back to pre-C&W times through to old-time American folk, despite being Danish. Highlights? Opener The Ballad Of My Brother & Me and I Still Miss Someone, maybe. Carl Granberg is credited with Mellotron. Why?
Ariadna Thalía Sodi Miranda is a Mexican actress, Latin pop singer and former child star, whose 2013 release Viva Kids, Volumen 1, seems to be a kids' album. Its rock/pop moves are far less unpleasant than expected, although Amore Mio is your typical 'Latin pop for grownups' record. Our old buddy Armando Avila is credited with Mellotron on both, although the former's vaguely Mellotronic strings on El Piojo Y La Pulga and the latter's flutes on Sólo Parecía Amor are clearly nothing of the sort.
Det är Ni Som e Dom Konstiga det är Jag Som e Normal was Joakim Thåström's fourth solo album, combining elements of metal, alt.rock and even singer-songwriter stylings, at its best on opener Från Himlen Sänt, the punky En Vacker Död Stad and mournful, harmonium-driven closer Psalm #99. Henryk Lipp's samplotron seems to consist of no more than a descending string line on Två + Två. Mannen Som Blev en Gris is more of the same, which is no bad thing, highlights including Ungef?r S? H?r... and the epic H?l (Aftonbn). The credited Mellotron from the man himself on Bara När Jag Blundar is a clear non-starter. Skebokvarnsv. 209 (or Skebokvarnsvägen 209), titled for the house where Thåström grew up, indicates a change in direction, away from the more metal-influenced material on his earlier albums, to a more downbeat, piano-driven style, like a less melodramatic, Swedish Nick Cave, maybe. Fewer obvious highlights than before, although the overall mood is more consistent. Niklas Hellberg plays upfront chordal samplotron flutes on 619 Kilometer.
Theatre were an early-'90s one-off Italian outfit whose sole album, the curiously-titled No More Rhymes But Mr. Brainstorm is, sadly, typical neo-prog fare, about as original as just about anything else flying that banner. In fact, the most obvious comparison is the dreaded Marillion, with Fish-like vocals and Rotheryesque guitar (when he isn't being Hackett, that is). The first few tracks are very Marillion, until Grannies, which is a grotesque Cinema Show rip-off (Little Princess is pretty close to Broadway Melody Of 1974, too), but at least ripping off Genesis is preferable to bloody Marillion. Unfortunately, that's what the rest of the album sounds like, which is no particular surprise given a) the country, b) the label (Mellow) and c) the year. Silver Sancio plays mostly contemporary synths, though few really offensive sounds and quite a bit of piano, plus credited Mellotron, with distant choirs on several tracks, all sampled.
Apples in Stereo's Robert Schneider, also the public face of the Elephant 6 collective (Ladybug Transistor, of Montreal, etc.), has put together a completely non-psych, rocking outfit, Thee American Revolution, who seem to specialise in a kind of garage rock with, oh yeah, a slightly psychedelic edge. So I was wrong. Live with it. The chief impression you get while listening to Buddha Electrostorm is of a highly competent band playing deliberately way below their collective abilities for effect, although I'm sure the end result is the desired one, so what's the problem? Best tracks? Probably the raw feedback blast of Saturn Daze and Neil Young-ish closer In Your Dream/Japanese Clone, recounting Schneider's lonely adolescence and his first guitar (the 'Japanese clone'), which certainly struck a chord (ho ho) here. But what's with Grit Magazine and its Smoke On The Water rip, eh? Schneider's credited with Mellotron, but seemingly as with all Elephant 6 bands, fakery seems to be the order of the day; I mean, are those really supposed to be Mellotron strings on opener She's Coming Down, Blow My Mind and In Your Dream/Japanese Clone? Yeah, right. Anyway, garage rock from psych sophisticates, for what it's worth. Heard better, heard worse.
Based around founder John Dwyer, Thee Oh Sees (formerly The Oh Sees, so perhaps they should file under 'O') are a Bay Area garage outfit, although elements of punk and psychedelia, amongst other genres, are clearly present in their music. 2008's The Master's Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night in is the first album released under that exact nomenclature, although their seventh overall, a raucous effort, typified by opener Block Of Ice, the twisted rockabilly of Visit Colonel and Ghost In The Trees. Any highlights? Not as such; the album's pretty homogeneous, nothing standing out (at least to the non-fan) from anything else. Despite Dave Sitek's Mellotron credit, the flutes on Graveyard Drug Party are clearly sampled, if not merely flutes samples that have nothing to do with a Mellotron whatsoever.
Their thirteenth album in under a decade, 2011's Castlemania, is apparently their least freakout offering yet, actually consisting of recognisable songs, rather than jams with track markers inserted. Their overriding influence seems to be Syd's Floyd, their offbeat ditties to who-knows-what-or-whom sounding like Piper... outtakes, albeit without Barrett's genius, dragging on for what seems like far too long, despite the album's relative brevity. Despite a considerable Mellotron presence, I'd be amazed if it were real, to be honest. We get flutes on opener I Need Seed and Pleasure Blimp, tubular bells on Corprophagist (A Bath Perhaps), strings and cellos on Stinking Cloud, strings on Blood On The Deck, overt strings on Idea For Rubber Dog and similarly upfront flutes on The Horse Was Lost, so plenty of samplotron, if you're unbothered about the fakery. I'm sure there's a great album in Thee Oh Sees: unfortunately, this isn't it.
2014's Drop stays in psych territory, the band's garage past largely forgotten, it would seem. Better tracks include near-space rock opener Penetrating Eye, the lysergic King's Nose and Transparent World, overall, a definite step up from Castlemania. Dwyer and Chris Woodhouse are credited with Mellotron, but although the samples are better, they're still samples, with strings on Savage Victory, King's Nose and Transparent World and cellos on The Lens. The following year's Mutilator Defeated at Last seems to backslide somewhat, being similar to its immediate predecessor, yet also less interesting. In fairness, Withered Hand isn't bad, ditto Poor Queen and the acoustic Holy Smoke, but the bulk of the (admittedly very short) album seems to be retreading old ground, without adding to it in any meaningful way. Dwyer and Woodhouse's 'Mellotron', once again, isn't, being limited this time round to strings on Poor Queen and flutes on Holy Smoke.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra are apparently a Godspeed You! Black Emperor offshoot; while more experimental (not difficult, let's face it) on 2014's Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything, Godspeed's post-rock roots are visible across much of the record. Although its more dirgelike compositions came close to losing the album half a star, when the band let rip (opener Fuck Off Get Free, Austerity Blues), they shift into rather good transcendent psychedelic jamming territory, a long way from Godspeed's by-numbers crescendo rock. Efrim Manuel Menuck plays samplotron, with distant choir swells on Austerity Blues and wobbly string and choir parts on closer Rains Thru The Roof At Thee Grande Ballroom.
Prior to listening to Lemuria, all I knew about Therion was that they were a current Scandinavian metal band, sub-sub-sub-genre unknown. Well, now I know. Viking Metal, anyone? This is a truly ridiculous record, though sort of (but only sort of) wonderful at the same time, with its operatic female vocal contrasting with either a deep male counterpart (An Arrow From The Sun) or death grunts (Typhoon), all held together by completely generic metal riffs and occasional input from a full choir. Yep, a choir. And an orchestra. The band are revered by their fans for their ability to mix 'classical' and metal forms, but I think it's fair to say that the former are laid crudely over the latter, with little of the compositional complexity of actual 'classical' music. Although several tracks feature some form of orchestral strings, Steen Rasmussen is only credited with Mellotron on the title track, one of the quieter pieces on offer here, where it can be heard backing the choir at one point, although the strings towards the end of the song appear to be generated by something else. Strings, perhaps? The sleevenotes refer to 'the recordings of hammond organs (plural?) [and] mellotrone' [sic] at a studio in Copenhagen. Hmmm, says I.
They Might Be Giants' kids' album, No! (a trick later used by Medeski Martin & Wood), sounds not that dissimilar to any other TMBG album, to be honest. It's good, but you've got to be in the mood for this stuff, especially when it's (admittedly highly skewed) kids' songs. Minimal samplotron on one track, with pitchbent choirs and flutes at the end of opener Fibber Island.
New Englander Todd Thibaud's solo debut, Favorite Waste of Time, is a roots-rock-end-of-Americana record, at its best on opener Live Without It and Your Little Pals. I can't even work out what Rob Arthur's Mellotron credit might be for.
Hubert Félix "HF" Thiéfaine has been recording since the late '70s, 2005's Scandale Mélancolique being something like his fifteenth studio release. As you might expect, it largely consists of very French, chanson-inspired singer-songwriter material, with occasional bursts of something more akin to rock'n'roll, the overall effect being of an album that neither particularly inspires nor repels. Ambient closer That Angry Man On The Pier is probably the most impressive track, musically; I'm sure the lyrics are the album's raison d'être, but I'm afraid I can't follow the bulk of them. Jean-Luc Léonardon adds distant samplotron strings to Gynécées, while Philippe Paradis plays slightly more upfront ones on L'?tranger Dans La Glace.
Thieves Kitchen are a newish UK prog outfit, sadly cursed with the Modern Prog Syndrome, at least on their 2000 debut, Head, a.k.a. overly heavy guitar across the board, when a more subtle approach might make for a more varied and listenable end result. Spock's Beard are not the be-all and end-all of the genre, chaps... The only member of the band with any obvious track-record is drummer Mark Robotham, previously of the not-very-good Grey Lady Down, but to be fair, Thieves Kitchen sound little like them, although there are a few unfortunate musical neo- references here and there, particularly in the vocal department. Much of Thieves Kitchen's music has a fusionesque feel about it, giving them more in common with fellow Brits Sphere³ than anyone else, although Simon Boys', er, 'emotive' vocals (why?) change the emphasis considerably. There are some sublime moments on the album, not least one of the instrumental sections in The Return Of The Ultragravy, although it's overlong (again...), with far too much pointless noodling. Speaking of that track, what's with the crapola 'humour' plastered all over the CD? At least there's only one stupid 'joke' title (although I'm not sure I want to know what T.A.N.U.S. actually stands for...), but a couple of pictures in the booklet are completely unnecessary (put your tongue away, Robotham) and the album's title could be read as a tedious example of toilet humour at its worst, too. Good prog doesn't need bad jokes, gentlemen, so if that's what you aspire to...
German keys man Wolfgang Kindl does a pretty good job on the album, playing those jazzy chord inversions like a good'un, although it's quite clear that all his 'vintage' sounds are no more than that: sounds. OK, so he doesn't own any vintage kit, but the band must know owners of the real thing, not least Sphere³. Sad to say, all too many current bands, especially prog ones, seem to feel that samples and/or synth replications are perfectly acceptable recording tools. Live's another matter, but in the studio, use the best you can afford... Anyway, Kindl rather overuses his Mellotron string samples (source unknown) on all tracks, which is one of the biggest giveaways on the sample use front. They still sound more authentic than his 'Hammond', mind...
It would be easy to accuse the band of trying too hard on the following year's Argot and indeed, some of the instrumental sections (notably on closer Call To Whoever) are both endless and mildly pointless, but many of the band's fusion-informed chord and key changes can only bring a smile to the face of the jaded progressive fan. I have to say, despite the return on the unnecessary vocal front, this is a distinct improvement on the band's debut. Samplotron strings on all four tracks, but this time round, the sound isn't a major component of the band's keyboard arsenal, ironically making it sound more authentic. Two years on and Shibboleth sees a change at the mic, Amy Darby taking the lead vocal role and improving things all round. Musically, it's similar to its predecessor; the end of track five (of six), Chovihani Rise, sounds like the end of the album and probably should be. Why so long, guys? Too much of a good thing, I can tell you. We all love instrumental interplay, but not quite this much... Samplotron strings all round, excepting the piano-and-vocal Spiral Bound, the overly-sustained sound on De Profundis giving the sample game away.
Around 2007, the band hooked up with no lesser a Prog God than Thomas Johnson (hi, Thomas) from the mighty Änglagård, then studying in the UK, the resulting album, 2008's The Water Road, being their only genuine Mellotron album to date. After another lengthy disappearing act, the band reappeared in 2013 as the trio of Amy, Thomas and guitarist Phil Mercy, plus guests, including Änglagård's Anna Holmgren. One for Sorrow, Two for Joy is another superb fusionesque effort, if less... Änglagårdesque than The Water Road, centred around two lengthy tracks, Germander Speedwell and Of Sparks And Spires. My only (minor) complaint is that I sometimes feel the multiple fusionesque key-changes actually over-complicate matters slightly, although lovely acoustic-and-vocal number The Weaver acts as an antidote of sorts. I'm assured that Thomas uses samples this time round (mainly the Mike Pinder set), although the perpetually-sustaining string chord at the end of Hypatia and the sounds' overall smoothness had pretty much given it away for me already.
2015's The Clockwork Universe continues the band's Brit-prog/fusion journey, now employing no fewer than half of Änglagård's classic line-up, Anna and bassist Johan Brand guesting alongside regular member Thomas Johnson. Stylistically, while opener Library Song is pure fusion, Railway Time and Prodigy have more of a Canterbury-via-Yes feel about them, although my personal favourites are the album's two instrumentals, the piano-and-acoustic guitar Astrolabe and the beautiful piano-and-'Mellotron' closer Orrery (a physical model of the solar system, FYI). Just one real epic this time round, the near-twenty-minute The Scientist's Wife, which does pretty much everything you'd require of a Thieves' Kitchen piece. Thomas' Pinder samplotron strings turn up on every track except Astrolabe, although they're only particularly upfront on Orrery.
I should've known from the name; Third Day are a Christian rock outfit, which is at least less painful than full-blown CCM. The trouble with this stuff is, as I've pointed out elsewhere, the message tends to be more important than the medium, so Christian music is largely (at best) a second-rate excuse for a bit of preaching. Wire is their seventh album, apparently a 'return to simple, rock and roll-driven melodies', although occasional powerpop echoes, as on Rockstar, liven things up slightly. Paul Ebersold guests on various things, including Mellotron, allegedly, although all I can hear is generic strings here and there. Move is, basically, more of the same, the band's tedious, one-dimensional Christian message wrapped up in vaguely acceptable rock'n'roll threads. Most of its contents are merely forgettable, although the children's chorus on Children Of God is entirely unforgiveable, the swampy acoustic slide that opens Surrender not fully redeeming them (reference intended). Paul Moak (Tyler Burkum, Michael W. Smith) plays samplotron, with background strings on opener Lift Up Your Face and What Have You Got to Lose? A few years on and Third Day's vaguely rootsy CCM thing has become a little tiresome, especially when, as on Miracle, it's more akin to mainstream pop/rock. The roots-rock of The Victory is the best thing here, followed, perhaps surprisingly, by the imaginative arrangement of Morning Has Broken that closes the album. I have no idea what Scotty Wilbanks may be doing with his alleged Mellotron; faint background choirs somewhere?
Justin Scott Gray's This is Esophagus project is based around an attempt to record an experimental classical album using naught but Mellotron (sounds). The end result, Mellotron Quartet: Ends No Ends, is a complex, difficult work, frequently referencing serialism and Glass and Reich's minimalism (notably on lengthy closer Reverse), although several of its shorter tracks tend towards the melodic end of the spectrum. Sadly, Gray's Mellotron (cellos, strings, choirs, flutes) is clearly nothing of the sort, unless he's found a way to play one accurately, at speed, without key-click. Doubtful. His samples are top-notch, though, so recommended for those less bothered about the source of the sounds.
Thom(as Hanreich), or, irritatingly, thom., is a German singer-songwriter who found fame in the '90s fronting Vivid. Gods & Monsters is his solo debut, an overlong dead ringer for Coldplay, or Radiohead-lite, if you're feeling charitable. Sadly, after over an hour of this stuff, I'm not, so *½ it is. The best the album gets? Occasionally sounding like bad U2. Yeah, that good. Tim Lauer plays samplotron, with background flutes (alongside the real one) on opener Where You Are, but nothing obvious on either Love You Too or The City In The Sea.
Sandi Thom is a Scottish singer-songwriter-cum-pop star, whose debut, 2006's Smile... it Confuses People, is a lightweight piece of folk/pop fluff, although at least it sounds nothing like the ruling R&B hegemony, I suppose. As for the album's hit, I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair), er, whaaat? Thom sings wistfully about a past she never knew in this bizarre historical mish-mash, making a brave (but failed) attempt to make a correlation between 1969 and 1977. Maybe she should've spoken to people who were there. Frighteningly, maybe she did. Jake Field is credited with Mellotron on Lonely Girl, but you'd have to be deaf as a post not to spot the song's flutes as a poor sample, possibly not even actually from a Mellotron. This album has one major plus point: it's only 32 minutes long. OK, I've heard worse, but I've also heard a great deal better, so with one poorly-faked 'Mellotron' track, I think you know what I'm going to say, so I shan't even bother.
Chicago's Thompson Springs are probably best described as alt.rock, despite emerging two or three (or four?) decades behind that non-descriptor's front-runners. They debuted with the Fond Regards EP, at its best on opener Maybe We Be Dreamin' and propulsive dronefest closer Graffiti Rose, although Wilco's Pat Sansone's Mellotron credit on the latter is not only inaudible, but most likely sampled anyway. Sadly, their first full-lengther, Undertones, loses the more raucous end of their sound, ending up sounding closer to generic indie, or perhaps Neil Young without the songs, although upbeat opener Slightly Sexy and Over The Hill are decent enough. Sansone is credited with Mellotron on Rainbow and Downswing, but his fairly obvious string and flute samples are also audible on several other tracks.
The Thousand Dollar Playboys (a.k.a. The $1000 Playboys) are a kind-of Americana outfit, although if Stay! has one defining feature, it's too much brass. Much too much brass. Better tracks include the banjo-driven Borrowed Money Blues and Got To Keep Moving, but it's all a bit second-hand, frankly. Also, too much brass. I've no idea why Tomas Östman is credited with Mellotron.
Despite releasing an eponymous EP in 2010, it's taken A Thousand Horses five years to produce a full-lengther, 2015's Southernality. It falls somewhere between the southern rock and country rock camps, like The Black Crowes duking it out with the country end of Lynyrd Skynyrd, in Nashville. The album actually deteriorates as it progresses, unfortunately, best tracks including opener First Time, Travelin' Man and the title track, while we could possibly have done without the likes of Back To Me and closer Where I'm Going. Brian Purwin guests on keys, including Mellotron, but the strings on Smoke, Back To Me and Where I'm Going sound like low-grade samples to my ears. (Cue: someone involved writes and tells me I've got cloth ears). Not a bad effort, then, though more of the rock end of their sound would be welcome next time round, at least to this listener.
I'd expected A Thousand Suns (who've subsequently changed their name to Waves of Mercury) to play a form of extreme metal on The Great Darkness, so gentle opener Memory Of The Sea took me by surprise. However, from the title track on, the trio fall into a quiet/loud pattern, with occasional blastbeats and death-grunts, faintly resembling a less inventive Anekdoten. Brandon Sawrey and David Richardson are credited with Mellotron, with chordal strings on the title track and Eye Of Every Storm, a flute line on What I've Been Shown and flutes and chordal strings on Trembling Hands, all sampled.
Birmingham, AL's Through the Sparks' Coin Toss EP is pretty standard indie, probably at its best on opener Tooth And Nail. A person or persons unknown plays samplotron flutes and strings on Tooth And Nail.
I haven't heard Minneapolis natives Thunderbolt Pagoda (named for iconic 1968 short The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda)'s eponymous debut, but Second Ascension is, literally, an album of two halves, side one having a heavy psych sound, complete with churning guitars and Hawkwind-style vocals, while the flip, the side-long The Herald, sits firmly in 'ambient psych' territory. Good? Good in places. Bet they're superb live. Ralph Karsten is credited with 'synthesizers and Mellotron', but the murky choirs all over the opening title track and strings on The Black Galleys and The Herald aren't even especially good samples.
Thursday are apparently best described as 'post-hardcore', which means in practice, 'punky yet not punk, with the occasional interesting melodic or harmonic twist', which is probably why they get called post-hardcore. Full Collapse is their second album, on which they sound very angry; Cross Out The Eyes ends with vocalist Geoff Rickly sounding like something's about to snap, although a couple of tracks have quieter moments. A smidgeon of alleged Mellotron (apparently credited 'melotone' - aargh!) on Paris In Flames from engineer Tim Gilles, although all you get is a few seconds of high strings.
Although she hails from an old-school country background, Cortney Tidwell (née Williamson)'s second full album, 2009's Boys, is more indie/shoegaze/electronica than Grand Ole Opry (with which, oddly, her parents were heavily involved); I believe the term 'country goth' was coined in direct response to her debut. While the record has its moments (opener Solid State, Bad News), too much of it falls into the 'overly simplistic indie' backwater to make very much impact, I'm afraid. Although Ryan Norris is credited with Mellotron, the ultra-compressed choirs and strings on several tracks (least bad example: the strings on Bad News. Worst: all the choir parts) are quite clearly nothing of the sort, although they are, at least, actual Mellotron samples. I'm not entirely convinced that the world needs another mournful, post-goth chanteuse, but then, no-one's making me, or anyone else, listen to her. Are they?
Noted French musician and composer Yann Tiersen is probably best-known for his 2001 soundtrack to Amélie, although Good Bye Lenin! will register on film fans' radar, too. 2011's Skyline is his seventh regular studio album, an uncategorisable mélange of traditional French music, synth experimentation, circus music, film noir soundtracks and even a little modern indie, amongst seemingly dozens of genre influences. Tiersen himself admits that he hasn't changed his style that much for this release, so fans of his earlier work are unlikely to be disappointed. Tiersen plays samplotron, with overly-smooth choir pitchbends on Forgive Me and a wobbly flute line on The Trial.
Tiles are a highly-rated newish Canadian progressive band, operating at the heavier end of the spectrum without actually breaking out into full-blown prog metal. Thankfully. 2008's Fly Paper, produced by legendary Rushmeister Terry "Broon" Brown, is their fifth album in over a decade and is surprisingly varied, although you wouldn't exactly call most of its contents original; opener Hide In My Shadow is almost a straight cross between Rush and Dream Theater, while Queensrÿche and King's X are channelled in several songs, particularly in the vocal department. The band go full-throttle on the 'famous guests' front, notably Max Webster's Kim Mitchell on Dragons, Dreams & Daring Deeds and Rush's Alex Lifeson on Sacred & Mundane, but to be honest, they don't need the patronage, being more than capable in their own right. Matthew Parmenter (Discipline) plays guest keyboards, including supposed Mellotron on two tracks, with flutes on Markers and strings on closer Hide & Seek. However, I'm quite sure they're sampled, not least given that the Hammond on Markers is horribly fake, unless they've discovered a Leslie that changes speed like a drunken calliope. Still, nice to hear the sounds being used in a modern prog context, especially when the album concerned is actually not at all bad.
Off the Floor was designed as a kind of career retrospective, the band revisiting material from their five studio albums in a 'live on a soundstage' environment. All well and good, you might say, but the end result has a muffled production, sounding more like a demo than a finished product, although the band's talents are undeniable. Never the most original of outfits, they rather rip Rush on Dress Rehearsal and elsewhere, while much of the riffery has a 'heard something a lot like that before' feel about it, although I'm sure fans will lap this up. Parmenter guests again on 'Mellotron' on The Wading Pool, with a reasonably authentic string part.
Tilion formed at the end of the '90s from the ashes of Prowlers, recording a demo, Suoni, in 2001. Their debut album proper, 2003's Insolitariamente, alerts us to yet another good modern Italian outfit, top tracks including the ten-minute Buio, Torpore Celebrale and the gorgeous Epilogo, the whole falling only very slightly short of a four-star rating. I have a small problem with the riffing guitars and screaming solos (from Flavio Costa) on several tracks slightly spoil the effect, as does the rather unnecessary slap bass on a couple of tracks (notably Dietro I Ricordi), but these are minor quibbles. Keys man Alfio Costa (Flavio's elder brother) was yet to buy his M400 at this stage, so the rather squashy-sounding strings on Buio, Il Custode and Dietro I Ricordi are all Roland samples, apparently. The band were to attain greater heights with their next release, 2008's A.M.I.G.D.A.L.A., also featuring real Mellotron, but Insolitariamente is certainly worth hearing, occasional instrumental issues aside.
J(osh) Tillman's day job was drummer for fêted indie folkers Fleet Foxes, although he appears to belong to several other bands and runs a solo career concurrently, which is pretty impressive, all things considered. Vacilando Territory Blues, his sixth solo album in four years (!), only occasionally actually strays into blues territory (notably on Barter Blues and the more electric New Imperial Grand Blues), sticking mainly to vaguely Nick Drake-ish downbeat acoustic material, if you can imagine a Seattle version of Drake. Difficult to pick out any particular track for praise, as most of the gentler material works very well indeed, although Master's House might just stand slightly taller than its comrades. Casey Wescott plays samplotron flutes on No Occasion, the more uptempo Steel On Steel and Someone With Child.
I'm tempted to label Tilly & the Wall (named for a children's book, natch) The Most Twee Band In The World, although Belle & Sebastian have already cornered that particular market. What's more, despite their substitution of a tap-dancer for a drummer (!), Tilly & co. play a reasonably acceptable form of electronica-assisted indie that, if not exactly exciting, largely manages to avoid 'offensive', too. Bottoms of Barrels is their second album, mixing male and female vocals, synths, occasional squally guitar and the aforementioned tap-dancing into a listenable enough stew, although I doubt if it repays repeated plays for any but the committed. Mike Mogis plays samplotron on closer Coughing Colors, with a descending flute line that could've emanated from any polysynth you care to name, analogue, digital or PCM sampled, making you wonder why, exactly, they bothered. O veers slightly nearer the indie mainstream, accentuating the guitar slightly more than on its predecessor and adding accordion to several tracks. Mogis on samplotron again, with wildly pitchbent strings on I Found You and a choppy background string part on Chandelier Lake.
Time's Forgotten should probably be applauded for being one of the first (the first?) Costa Rican acts to make any impression outside their small Central American country, but their generic progressive metal causes the seasoned listener's spirits to droop within the first few minutes of their second album, 2009's Dandelion. The hammering riffs, screaming solos, Queensrÿche clone vocals, digital keyboard interludes... It's all here, folks. The last two tracks are slightly less generic and therefore better, but it's not exactly what you'd call a breakthrough. It's hard to say just how many of the keyboard string and choir parts are definitely sampled Mellotron, but the strings on Second Time, The Tale Of The Sun And Moon (Dandelion) and closer I Welcome You My Night seem pretty certain. If you love Dream Theater and their ilk, you stand a good chance of liking Time's Forgotten (is that apostrophe deliberate, or just poor grammar?). I don't and I don't. Sorry.
Tina Schlieske and her B-Sides play somewhat unengaging, Americana-tinged singer-songwriter stuff on It's All Just the Same, at its probable best on No Way Of Knowing. John "Strawberry" Fields (Willia Wisely) supposedly plays Mellotron and Chamberlin, although, with no more than a rather inauthentic string line on closer Nobody To Me, I think we can safely say 'samples'.
Named for a series of Japanese toys, Dublin trio Tiny Magnetic Pets make a rather glorious retro-synthpop noise on Return of the Tiny Magnetic Pets, possibly at its best on opener Tempelhof and Girl In A White Dress, although they hardly put a foot wrong across the entire album. Sean Quinn's credited with Mellotron; I've struggled with this one, but have come to the conclusion that the strings on See What I See, Girl In A White Dress and Spaced are sampled.