Ally Craig is by far the best unsigned artist I can think of.
When I first saw him playing live, my reaction was exclamation-mark-punctuated silence:
He is very, very good. The kind of very, very good that is normally associated with slightly tiresome, anally-retentive, practise-noon-and-night musicians who actually turn out to play extremely boring music. Ally Craig does not do this. His superb technique is complemented by formidable musicianship and creativity.
His music is shard-punctured, mosh-defyingly time-signature-shifting, antiphonal. It is full of Pixies-like contrasts, and musical wit – but also poignancy. You care about what he's singing.
Indeed, it is music that ticks just about every box on my personal favourite-musical-elements checklist.
Signed copies of my personal favourite-musical-elements checklist are now commercially available at all good record stores.
The review, then
He has just released a double-A-side consisting of the songs Angular Spirals and Get What You Pays For. Because I'm a smug, preordering kind of chap, I also received a free bonus track in the (singularly contorted) shape of Pilot Inspektor. (For those less smugly preordering than myself, the extra track is still available, for a measly 50p extra).
These are all excellent, intelligently-written songs. And they are performed fantastically by Ally and his fellow musicians (Stephen Gilchrist of Stuffy/The Fuses (last.fm) and Pete Wareham and Ruth Goller of Acoustic Ladyland (last.fm)).
So – what do we have? I've already written about the bonus song, Pilot Inspektor (you know it'll be worth the extra 50p) with its witty subversiveness, wrongfooting rhythms and guitars that alternate between mechanistic regimentation and squalling release.
Angular Spirals (you know it'll be worth the extra 50p) features Ally's vocals more prominently, with the kind of sinuous, high-pitched phrases the song's title anticipates. He has a fine, versatile, nuanced voice: veering from exposed falsetto to full-voiced semi-screams. Just like the arrangements and the guitar style, it is like nothing else I have heard.
This is followed by pacey, motif-led Get What You Pays For – characterised not only by Ally's usual tightly percussive guitar, but also (in revelatory fashion) inspired saxophone work from Pete Wareham: flights of exotic birds circling above and around a grim cityscape.
Put it all together
Dear reader, I cannot endorse Mr Craig too highly. This is a single to buy now. Now, I tell you. While you can still say you were a fan before he got big.
To aid you in this noble end: a handy link to the Ally Craig online store.