The Union Chapel is my favourite venue. Firstly it's a bloody church, which is pretty cool, but it also has great acoustics, and a twee charm, uncomfortable pews aside. On top of this, Bella Union with their bright melodic folky bands, are one of my favourite labels, so I was especially happy to be going to their Christmas Party. What made me feel even better about this gig though, was being given a free LP with tracks from each of the artists playing (all of whom were on Bella Union), as well as a mince pie on the way in! This somewhat artfully disguised the great shame that Phillip Selway was ill, and would not be gracing us with his presence. I wasn't overly fond of his solo stuff, but I still was looking forward to seeing him.

Never to mind, Lanterns On The Lake were the first band on. A newish addition to the label, continuing along the highly pathos laden dream pop set set by band such as Beach House, mixed with some Explosions in the Sky-esque post-rock. What I wasn't expecting, was that their live set would almost surpass both. A big band, creating a hugely textured, but rhythmic sound. Guitars layered over violins and piano building up to a pleasing crescendo, that feels almost as good as anything ever created by Mogwai, but keeps a tender melodic core. Creating a big booming sound that resonated throughout the church, they were near spellbinding. Maybe requiring a greater differentiation in songs, as they ended up sounding very samey, but they are certainly strong newcomers, and I will look forward to charting their development.

Lanterns On The Lake

Alessi of Alessi's Ark has an adorable on stage presence, initially heartbreakingly shy, but growing in confidence as she played. She was right to, because she's very good. A voice reminiscent of Joanna Newsom and her childlike best, but perhaps somewhat less dividing and inaccessible. She's certainly emotive, piling huge amounts of personality and intimacy into her live show, so that listening to her is almost uncomfortably invasive, as if she was reading out her secret diary on stage. There's so little scope for difference, and so little ability to stand out in the overcrowded world of folk much that an artist really has to be truly exceptional. While Alessi doesn't quite have the world spanning emotional, and lyrical totemic ability of somebody like Joanna Newsom, it can't be forgotten that she's only 20. Despite her young years, she seems to have an emotional and musical wiseness, easily reminding us of somebody like Joni Mitchell in her barefaced openness, and slightly emotional fractured performance. Maybe slightly too many songs named after animals, and not quite enough variation in her composition, but again she's young, and has got a long way to come. An artist definitely worth looking into if you haven't already.

Alessi's Ark

Lapping up rapturous applause Peter Broderick took to the stage. There's a thin line between confidence and arrogance, and Peter occasionally veers to the wrong side of that line. Don't get me wrong, I like him, but he's just not quite as good as thinks he is. He was a great voice, but it doesn't quite hold up his music in the way he seems to believe he does, shouting off the edge of the stage mic free is intimate and impressive when done once, but done over and over again it becomes somewhat tiring. He's at his best when creating layers of guitar, violin and voice but here there wasn't quite enough of that, he relied too much on the strength of his voice as an instrument by itself, which as previously mentioned wasn't quite as strong as he seems to think it is. At the same time, his five minute solo piano pieces are nice, but drag on slightly to long and again aren't quite as good as he thinks they are. Part of this dissatisfaction with his set comes from the fact much of the material came from his latest EP, How The Are (found here), which I reviewed earlier this year, and wasn't entirely enamoured with. As average as it sounds on record, it's more notable that it doesn't play into all the strength he had the previous times I have seen him live. The best tracks he played here, were from his older material, looping tiny bits of music together to create truly beautiful layered pieces. I don't want to give the impression that I didn't like him here, because I did, but I don't think he was as good as he could have been. His occasionally displays of smug arrogance, despite being a likeable person, also occasionally annoyed me in in-between song banter and even during songs. But again, if you can catch him at his best, he's one of the best performers you can possibly hope to see live.