Leicester has had a pretty good run of it of late. It had previously been a source of fun for Londoners being asked for directions by tourists trying to pronounce the famous London square of that name (“Can you tell me the way to Ly-sess-ter square?” we would be asked whilst stifling a smirk).
Aside from that, it was known for hosting the Walkers Crisps factory and being the birthplace of Thomas Cook holidays and the jug-eared England striker Gary Lineker. However, Britain’s tenth biggest city has had something of a renaissance. Not only is it now rather grandly the final resting place of Richard III, it also hosts football’s Premier League Champions, albeit they have just sacked their manager, which just goes to show some people are never happy.
Lineker himself is rising ever more to National Treasure status, as he provides as much opposition to the Government as he used to do to Brazil on the football field – more, some would say than the actual opposition party via his Twitter account.
From a musical perspective, until recently the most famous export from Leicester was the man who broke The Beatles’ record breaking string of number one hits by keeping Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane from the No. 1 spot.
Sounds good until you find out that person was Englebert Humperdinck.
But more recently Leicester has produced a slightly edgier and indie-fied version of Englebert in the form of Kasabian, a genuine international headliner and producer of indie-bangers.
And since 2000, another Leicester band has been quietly producing music, and it is this band that deserves your attention today.
The band is called The Junipers.
You may not have heard of them: they didn’t appear on The Brits alongside Ed Sheeran or at The Grammys alongside Bruno Mars, but The Junipers will appeal to fans of the quieter moments of Teenage Fanclub, modern day psychedelic rock bands such as Temples (who hail from nearby Kettering) and Tame Impala, and in particular such psychedelic ’60s pop as Love, The Byrds and The Beatles, and the sunshine pop of Sagittarius and The Beach Boys.
The Junipers’ third album in nine years (they aren’t the most prolific it seems), Red Bouquet Fair, came out late last year, and not only is it one of the best albums I have heard in ages, it’s also being released in a very limited run on coloured vinyl by Tunbridge Wells’ finest record label Sugarbush Records (about whom we’ll find out more another time).
Here are a few things we need to know about The Junipers:
- Band members are Robyn Gibson (vocals), Joe Wiltshire (guitar), Pete Gough (guitar), Ash Selden (bass) and Ben Marshall (drums).
- Their debut 2008 album “Cut Your Key” was recorded both at their own studios in Leicester and at Birmingham’s Magic Garden studios, and was a mild success, gaining radio play, favourable reviews and a support slot with the aforementioned Kasabian.
- Follow up “Paint The Ground” was released in 2012, and improved upon the debut.
- 2016 album “Red Bouquet Fair”, their third album, is a further leap forward, containing songs that would improve Pet Sounds.
Yes, it’s that good.
It is a masterful work of pop precision, an album utterly accomplished. Like Southend’s Asylums’ “Killer Brain Waves”, Red Bouquet Fair is a great example of a terrific record being created with a DIY ethic outside of the mainstream music industry.
What makes this DIY movement different from previous movements is that bands like The Junipers are releasing the most beautiful home-produced albums that sound like they were created in a luxurious studio. There’s real craft in these mini-symphonies, in these perfect folk-pop moments of sunshine.
As winter draws to a close, perhaps it’s time to bring a bit of sunshine into your life? An instant injection of vitamin D…
Here’s another song from the album, which in the nicest way has a whiff of Belle and Sebastian about it…