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JP  (Netherlands)

Hotel Yankee Tango  (2000,  41.22)  **½

J.P. (Jan Pieter) den Tex's Hotel Yankee Tango is an album of folky Dutch Americana, probably at its best on An American In Sicily and the suitably gloomy Black. Bart van Poppel's 'Mellotron' is nothing more exciting than the obviously sampled strings on Palermo.

JR Ewing  (Norway)

Maelstrom  (2005,  38.44)  **½

The Dallas-honouring JR Ewing are a hardcore outfit, specialising in angular riffery, complete with thrashy guitars and a sandpaper-throated singer in Andreas Tylden. Any better tracks? Possibly Take A Hint, the least typical thing here. Kåre Chr(istoffer) Vestrheim's Mellotron? Clearly sampled strings on Nihilistic Elitist.

JTG Implosion  (US)

All the People Some of the Time  (2002,  39.24)  ***½

Joe (T.) Giddings' All the People Some of the Time, released as The JTG Implosion, is an excellent rock-end-of-powerpop record, influences including Cheap Trick and, more than anyone, Queen, not least in the guitar and vocal harmony departments. Highlights? It's pretty much all good, but This Is What You Get, Biggest Liar In The World, Tore Down and closer Ode To Uncle Jimmy possibly have the edge. Giddings' 'Mellotron', however, is no more than the fairly obviously sampled flutes on All We Ever Wanted.

Jabladav  (US)

Atta Vinter  (2009,  38.55)  ***

Although it seems uncertain whether or not Jabladav (James/Blake/David) still exist as a working unit, they spit out limited-edition CD-Rs of their extreme metal on a regular basis, some of it possibly recorded during their heyday during the late '90s. There's no getting away from the fact that, unless you like your guitars distorted and your metal black, you're unlikely to get much out of Jabladav's particular take on the genre, largely involving guttural vocals, frantic drumming and strange, ambient interludes. 2009's Atta Vinter is their ninth album in three years, conforming precisely to the above description, making any other attempt to analyse it quite redundant. Does it have a best track? Yes: lengthy closer Atta Vinter II, where the band's influences coalesce most effectively. J.B. (presumably bassist James) is credited with Mellotron, but the choirs on several tracks are very obviously sampled, particularly apparent in the upper registers. So; extreme metal fan? Good luck, the band's releases mostly seem to be very limited, although, er, downloads exist. Not that I'd know.

Jacques  (UK)

To Stars  (2000,  37.53)  ***

Jacques were a side-project of Cardiff band Jack, sounding something like a Francophile version of The Divine Comedy. Their second (and last) album, 2000's To Stars, is full of laugh-out-loud, intentionally ridiculous lyrics like The Day Before You Came; fittingly, the album features The Divine Comedy's Bryan Mills. Will Foster is credited with Mellotron, but there's no way the choirs on The Day Before You Came and I Won't Let You Down have anything to do with an M400. This isn't going to appeal to everyone - I'm not sure it really appeals to me - but it's pretty good at what it does, despite the lack of any real Mellotron.

Jadis  (UK)

More Than Meets the Eye  (1992,  46.58);  **½

You know, once upon a time (no pun intended), I was quite a Jadis fan. Followed 'em about all over the place (well, relatively speaking), must've seen 'em a couple of dozen times. I missed their early 'two guitars, no keys' phase, but saw their '87-'89 lineup loads, then after they split and reformed I saw them many more times. And now I sit here listening to their first widely-available album, More Than Meets the Eye again and thinking, "So what was all that about, eh?" Not that it's an intrinsically bad record, you understand; I think I've just moved on. Just to put the record straight, their first release was the Baboon Inquiries tape way back in '84, then the limited edition Jadis (***½) vinyl-only LP from '89, designed as a memento of the late-'80s version of the band, making this their third album, rather than their debut.

Jadis are often (doubtless to their irritation) referred to as an 'IQ offshoot' or similar, as there always seems to've been some sharing of musicians between the two bands. This came to a head with this lineup, as IQ's Martin Orford came in on keys, as did bassist John Jowitt (guesting here), replacing my pal Nick May after some rather unfortunate skulduggery. The material is an intensely melodic and very British neo-prog, but lacks, shall we say, a certain energy. Gary Chandler's guitar playing tends to be pretty squeaky-clean, but I have to say, he has a way with a melody. The songs are mostly of quite unusual construction, often with several minutes of instrumental work before a short vocal section, then more instrumental stuff to the end. The general feel of the album is very 'up', to be honest; I'm not sure who writes what in the band, but Martin has been known to say that he 'keeps his darker material for IQ'. The keyboards are mostly of the 'new at the time' variety, so much D50 et al. (but at least no bloody DX7), but to bolster up some of the crescendos, Martin brings in the odd bit of Mellotron choir here and there. I am, however, reliably informed that it's sampled, as on IQ's Ever.

It would appear I've been labouring under a misapprehension for some time, viz, that their follow-up, Across the Water (***), also contained (sampled) Mellotron. Well, it doesn't; God knows what I was hearing, but there's not a trace of it on re-listening. The band had been gigging regularly for a couple of years by the time it came out and I seem to remember a great atmosphere at gigs, but somewhere along the road it all rather tailed off for me. I think I realised after my third gig on the trot where I just stood at the back talking to people that maybe my brain was trying to tell me something. And that something was, "No more wussy neo-prog". After more lineup shuffles, I believe the current state of the band is back to that of the one that recorded these albums, but I no longer feel able to connect to their music as I once did. I suspect that after hearing Änglagård, nothing was ever quite the same for me again...

Jaga Jazzist  (Norway)

What We Must  (2005,  46.05)  ***½

Jaga Jazzist are a particularly difficult band to place, genre-wise: jazz? Nope, not really. Post-rock? Sort of. Progressive? Not as such, although that's a good description of their overall outlook. I was actually hoping for something a bit more, well, you know, radical, of What We Must; it's actually a lot smoother than I'd expected and consequently less interesting. Saying that, there's some excellent material on board; opener All I Know Is Tonight has a great melody line and Oslo Skyline is particularly powerful, although some of it sails a little too close to smooth jazz for its own good. The album's much-heralded Mellotron use, from Lars Horntveth and Andreas Hessen Schei, actually only amounts to sampled flute chords on All I Know Is Tonight and choirs on Stardust Hotel.

Jagat Skad  (Germany)

Alchemy  (2006,  46.53)  ***
Farewell  (2008,  64.02)  **½
The Way Home  (2008,  61.13)  **½

Berlin's Jagat Skad were apparently known for 'frequent lineup and stylistic changes'; although they began as a 'noise project', 2006's Alchemy is probably best described as a psychedelic dark indie-folk album, if that makes any sense at all. It shifts from folky opener Like The Trees Forget I Regret through eclectic epic Waterlily, proto-techno sitting cheek-by-jowl with ethnic flutes and the Wurlitzer-driven Roland/Africa to the distorted electronica of closer Crows, the quality sadly appearing to slowly deteriorate as the album progresses. Although Jens Karsunke is credited with Mellotron, the strings on The Queen Stole Our Children, Waterlily, Glass and Roland/Africa, plus uncredited choirs and strings on The Queen Is Dead are clearly sampled, although most parts enhance the tracks nicely.

Proving the point regarding the band's ever-changing style, by 2008's Farewell, the dark folk influence has mostly disappeared, while the indie-ness quotient has risen dramatically. Whether or not you think that's a good thing, of course... The variety this time shifts between the acoustic indie of Romanticism, the female-vocalled Rooms Without Doors, the drifting post-rock of Guangdong No Soul and Street Lights and the electronica of White Elephant, while closer "Die Nächtliche" is a solo piano piece. The album's chief problem, though, isn't just its overall length, but individual track lengths: Did I Change? is no fewer than eleven minutes long (it would've worked better at about five), while ten minutes of Street Lights is, well, probably ten minutes too many. Karsunke's 'Mellotron' use this time consists of background strings on opener Wilhelm Quixote Love Song and Did I Change?, major flute and string parts on Rooms Without Doors, background strings and choirs on One World Is Not Enough For Two and distant choirs on Hotel Two Chords, although the album's top fakeotron moment is the full-on unaccompanied flute part that opens the title track, augmented later on with strings.

The Way Home, from later the same year, is pretty similar to its predecessor, albeit even further down the post-rock road, more notable material including quiet/loud opener Farewell Demons, The Atonal Anthem, to which I can only say, "You ain't kiddin'" and several instances of lush pseudotron/electronica clashes, not to mention more overlong nonsense in the shape of three ten-minuters, Body Integrity Identity Disorder, The End Of A Band and accordion-and-piano closer Pisno. Fakeotron use includes cellos and strings all over opener Farewell Demons and Winter Of Discontent, lush strings on Body Integrity Identity Disorder and Spring Of Discontent, background choirs and upfront flutes on The Well, flutes and swelling strings on Chiaroscuro and The End Of A Band, brass (a new one here) on 76 and background strings on We Must Obey.

Mick Jagger  (UK)

Goddess in the Doorway  (2002,  56.21)  **½

Why does Mick Jagger bother making solo albums? She's the Boss used to be a second-hand shop perennial, presumably until all known copies became landfill fodder and since then no-one much seems to have bought anything else he's done. Goddess in the Doorway takes four tracks to pick itself up from the mid-paced chug of its opening numbers, at which point God Gave Me Everything then outstays its welcome by at least a minute. There are some more energetic efforts, to be fair, but overall, it's a pretty unexciting affair. Matt Clifford gets some passable supposed Mellotron work in, though, with a high repeating string line in the title track and an orchestral string arrangement in Brand New Set Of Rules, although it appears to be sampled. Stick with The Stones, Mick.

Jaime Sin Tierra  (Argentina)

Autochocador  (2000,  55.41)  **½

Spanish-language indie-pop, anyone? Thought not. Autochocador is at the nearest it gets to 'best' on eleven-minute closer Ciempies, but that isn't really saying much. Samplotron strings and flutes here and there in a rather unexciting manner.

JaKönigJa  (Germany)

Ebba  (2005,  47.22)  ***
Die Seilschaft der Verflixten  (2008,  42.39)  ***

JaKönigJa are, effectively, the duo of Jakobus and Ebba Durstewitz, their fourth album being named for the latter personage. I suppose 'German indiepop' would be a suitable description for their sound, a combination of British/American influences and a more European feel, Viennese waltzes and echoes of circus music rubbing shoulders with the more fragile end of the indie spectrum, possibly heard at its best on Alles Ist Wieder Gut and closer Dieses. Mense Reents is credited with Mellotron on Alles Ist Wieder Gut, by which I can only imagine they mean the decidedly non-Mellotronic strings on the track. Their follow-up, Die Seilschaft der Verflixten, loses some of the Mitteleuropan influence, sadly, but still has its moments, not least the mildly crazed Was Noch Kein Ende Hat. Marco Dreckkötter's Mellotron? Surely not the flutes on Erkenne Die Lage?

Jakko Jakszyk  (UK)

The Bruised Romantic Glee Club  [as Jakko M. Jakszyk]  (2006,  86.32)  ***½

Jakko Jakszyk's had a long and varied career, working in all kinds of areas, some of the better-known being the 21st Century Schizoid Band and Level 42, which may give some idea as to his versatility. His early-'80s solo album, Silesia, contains a smattering of Mellotron, but despite a credit, I'm of the opinion that 2006's The Bruised Romantic Glee Club features nowt but samples. The one thing it has in common with its distant ancestor (aside from Jakko's voice and guitar) is a certain way with a vocal melody, although stylistically, it's more Porcupine Tree than Japan; unsurprisingly, as that band's ex-drummer, Gavin Harrison, plays here, along with many more famous friends than before, not least Dave Stewart (again), Danny Thompson, Mark King, Hugh Hopper and even Fripp. Speaking of whom, Jakko gives a couple of nods to his Crimson connection with Pictures Of An Indian City, a slightly Indianised (!) version of the Wake of Poseidon track, and a beautiful version of the very underrated Islands. Jakko's credited with Mellotron on one track, disc two's As Long As He Lies Perfectly Still medley, but 'that string sound' is all over both discs, with strings on all highlighted tracks plus flutes on No One Left To Lie To, but I'm quite sure they emanate from a sampler of some description. All a bit too smooth, frankly.

Jani Jalkanen Ja Hänen Orkesterinsa  (Finland)

Matka Jatkuu  (2011,  46.17)  **½

Jani Jalkanen's Matka Jatkuu is a mainstream, Finnish-language pop/rock effort, at its worst on the hokey country of the title track and its best on Tie Jatkuu Äärettömiin, a Finnish version of Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell's deathless Wichita Lineman. Most of the rest is pretty much what you'd expect, the exception being the Latin-ish Varjo Seuraa, which stands out like a slightly sore thumb. Seppo Rehnström's 'Mellotron' is no more than the samplotron background strings on opener Alla Saman Auringon.

Brendan James  (US)

The Day is Brave  (2008,  42.55)  **

Brendan James' debut album, 2008's The Day is Brave, is a thoroughly wet effort, all faux-heartfelt balladry and emotional overflow. Early April Morning is particularly bad, while he sings noticeably flat on Run Away, closer Take The Fall (just piano and voice) being about the least bad thing here. James is credited with Mellotron, but the melodic flute part on The Sun Will Rise is sampled.

Harmony James  (Australia)

Tailwind  (2009,  56.08)  ***

Harmony James' slightly fragmented life could probably be said to have informed her career as an Australian country singer, her 2009 debut, Tailwind, straddling the fence between 'trad' and 'Americana' styles. Best tracks? Opener Come On Back To Me, the Spaghetti Westernisms of Drifter and major hit Somebody Stole My Horse, perhaps surprisingly. Why three stars for an album that is, at heart, quite traditional country? I rarely hear it done this well, this earnestly, with this little schmaltz, that's why. Clayton Doley plays samplotron, with chordal flutes on Send Down An Angel (one of the album's cheesier efforts), although the track's strings are real.

Samantha James  (US)

Rise  (2007,  55.45)  *½

Samantha James' debut album, 2007's Rise, is the kind of dance/pop record most of you would probably run some distance in bare feet on broken glass not to hear. A completely professional, technically proficient album, its musical content hovers around the zero mark; its one saving grace is that many of the tracks are so bland that it's quite easy to tune them out. I just have. Producer Sebastian Arocha Morton plays samplotron, amongst other keyboards, with a flute part running through Rain.

James Farm  (US)

City Folk  (2014,  64.02)  ***

I've seen acoustic jazz quartet James Farm variously described as 'contemporary bop' and as giving a 'pop' or 'indie' sensibility to their music. I won't pretend I know much about their genre, but their second album, 2014's City Folk, is far more listenable than I'd expected, highlights including the melodic Otherwise and the energetic Aspirin, although over an hour of it rather pushes the envelope for the non-fan. Aaron Parks is credited with Mellotron on Otherwise, but the distant vibes on the track don't have me thinking 'genuine machine'. I can tell you, from experience, that the Mellotron vibes are highly distinctive and difficult to play well and I'm not hearing that unmistakable clunkiness here. Good album of its type, then, but no Mellotron.

JamisonParker  (US)

Sleepwalker  (2005,  40.24)  *½

The rather unwieldily-named JamisonParker were the duo of Jamison Covington (the singer) and Parker Case (the musician, ex-Astoria), whose sole album, 2005's Sleepwalker, is the kind of mainstream indie pop/rock record that Planet Mellotron usually hates. True to form, it hates this one, too, wondering just when, exactly, Joshua Tree-era U2 became a major influence on bands? (See: The Temper Trap for details). Not that we actually have anything against said album, just bands influenced by it, with the honourable exception of Sigur Rós. Christ, this is like Keane on downers. OK, more downers. Ken Andrews plays samplotron, with strings and flutes on Best Mistake and flute lines on Tearing Through Me and closer I Should Mean More. The duo's one saving grace is that they had the good manners to split up after producing something so nasty.

Jane  (Germany)

Here We Are  (1973,  33.33)  **½

Like so many other similar outfits, Jane are usually lazily dubbed 'Krautrock', although what their brand of psychedelic-ish bluesy hard rock has to do with the wild experimentation of Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel et al. is completely beyond me. I expect they were better live, but having now heard three of their albums (including their interminable live double), I have to say that in the cold light of thirty years later, they're a pretty unexciting proposition generally. Did they sound this clichéd in early-'70s Germany, I wonder? I believe they did pretty well; they certainly have a large back catalogue, but I shan't be rushing out to buy any more of it, to be honest. While none of the material on their second effort, Here We Are is specifically bad, none of it's really that good, either, so I'd better refrain from comment on the subject, to be honest. Organist Werner Nadolny is credited with Mellotron, but in true German fashion, the strings on Out In The Rain and Like A Queen are no more than string synth.

Janina  (Puerto Rico)

Contra la Corriente  (2006,  47.32)  **½

Janina Irizarry is a Puerto Rican pop starlet, although her expected Latin pop is tempered with a rock influence, apparently due to her own wider-than-you-might-think musical tastes. As a result, her second album, 2006's Contra la Corriente ('Upstream'), is less unpleasant than it might have been, but please don't take that as a recommendation. Originality's in rather short supply, too; the opening title track is a dead ringer for The Police's Every Breath You Take, right down to the guitar tone, while several other tracks sound familiar without actually being plagiaristic. Armando Avila (Avila Boys, RBD) is credited with Mellotron, but as with the other albums on which he supposedly plays it, I find the little string swells on Actitud and vague flutes on Sentir En La Vida too unrealistic for their own good. To cut a long story short, you probably don't need to hear this, even though it could have been a lot worse.

Japancakes  (US)

If I Could See Dallas  (1999,  73.27)  **½
The Sleepy Strange  (2001,  49.28)  **½

Japancakes are yet another entrant in the over-subscribed post-rock arena, recording lengthy albums full of lethargic, mostly instrumental pieces that seem more suited to creating a mood than to actually be listened to at all closely. I'd imagine that the best bands in the genre are those who create said mood most successfully, leaving Japancakes somewhere in midfield, I suppose. Their debut, '99's If I Could See Dallas, is a little on the interminable side, trapping on for a good half-hour longer than they needed to make their point, although I can see genre fans going for it. No-one's credited with Mellotron (often a bad sign), although there's a fast, high flute part on Baker Beats, sounding most sampled, with more 'standard' flutes and strings on Dallas. Of course, these may not be samples, but the faster bits don't sound particularly real, at least to my ears.

They followed up two years on with The Sleepy Strange, essentially more of the same, although at least it's shorter. More uncredited 'Tron samples, with ethereal (sorry) strings on Disconnect The Cables with a flute line later on, strings (alongside real cello) on The Year's Beat and more strings on Vinyl Fever alongside some quite cool echoed monosynth portamento work. Overall, these are albums you're unlikely to study in great detail, but if you want something modern and not too intrusive in the background, they knock spots off, say, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Still boring, though, although plenty of sampled Mellotron, if that's what you're after.

Jarvis  (UK)

North of No.7  (2014,  39.58)  ***

I presume the Yorkshire-based Jarvis are named for band member Ryan Jarvis, but can it be a coincidence, given their sound, that they hail from the same (general) county as Pulp and their illustrious frontman, Jarvis Cocker? Actually, Neil Hannon's Divine Comedy might be a closer comparison, in Jarvis' orchestral pop/observational-songs-played-in-a-faux-'60s-style thing, at its possible best on opener According To Ken, Lucy Eyes and Superdad. I'll be honest; this stuff isn't to my personal taste, although I like other similar artists, but it's difficult to fault its ambition. I've really no idea why it took no fewer than four musicians to play the album's clearly sampled Mellotron, but Simon Humphrey, Ryan Jarvis, Richard Lacy and Mark Scully are all credited, mostly flutes, plus choirs on Transylvanian Station and strings on Superdad and at the end of closer 40 Minutes.

Rickard Jäverling  (Sweden)

The Valleys  (2009,  39.19)  ***

The Valleys is a quietly beautiful album, incorporating elements of folk, Americana and post-rock, the last-named obvious on Wishingwell and Sun Valley. Jäverling and Andreaz Hedén are credited with Mellotron; presumably the flutes on May & Lee and strings on April. I think not.

Jayhawks  (US)

The Sound of Lies  (1997,  55.44)  ***½
Smile  (2000,  53.22)  ***½

1997's The Sound of Lies was The Jayhawks' fifth album, the first after losing founder member Mark Olson, prompting premature obituaries for the Minneapolis-based outfit. Having not heard their earlier material, I can't comment on how they may have changed, but I can say that they produced an excellent, Americana-flavoured album. Hard to pick out favourites after a single listen, but the Neil Young-esque Think About It works particularly well. Band leader after Olson's departure, Gary Louris and George Drakoulias are credited with Chamberlin, while I believe pianist Karen Grotberg plays Mellotron, although Jessy Greene's violin, viola and cello confuse the issue somewhat. After thinking the album was going to be tape-replay free, the last three tracks are smothered in it, with strings on Dying On The Vine and flutes on Bottomless Cup and the title track, although it appears to be sampled.

They followed-up with the cheekily-named Smile three years later and while it's every bit as good as its predecessor, it's also a further departure from their Americana roots, being more intelligent pop (sorry, can't think of a better description for the style...) than anything else. Best tracks? Maybe the title track and the insistent What Led Me To This Town? Very little obvious samplotron this time, with strings on Broken Harpoon, presumably from either Karen Grotberg or renowned producer Bob Ezrin.

Ben Jelen  (US)

Give it All Away  (2004,  50.15)  *½

Ben Jelen is described on Wikipedia as 'a Scottish-born American', so American it is. His debut album, 2004's Give it All Away, is a bucket of appalling musical slop, the wettest, crummiest singer-songwriter guff you can imagine, although given that it's on Madonna's Maverick label, low quality's pretty much assured. Anything worth hearing? Closer Setting Of The Sun, with an upfront violin part, is easily the best thing here; in fact, the only track I'd even describe as listenable. Christian Berman is credited with Mellotron, but it's completely inaudible, leaving us none the wiser, though a little sadder.

Jellyfiche  (Québec)

Tout Ce Que J'ai Rêvé  (2008,  62.40)  ***½
Symbiose  (2011,  57.43)  ***½

Jellyfiche are a new Québecois progressive band whom, like many of their countrymen (although by no means all), eschew '80s neo-prog for earlier influences, avoiding much unpleasantness in the process. Their debut, 2008's Tout Ce Que J'ai Rêvé, isn't the classic I've been led to believe; it's too derivative, for starters, opening almost exactly like a mid-'90s Porcupine Tree album (that is, like an early '70s Pink Floyd one), although its considerable Frenchness (in classic sort-of ex-pat style) rescues it from accusations of complacency. Other unusual touches include the bluesy guitar work on Les Arbres and Caché Au Fond Plus Haut's jazzy feel, although too much of the album falls back on a slightly clichéd 'generic prog' feel that's a bit overdone these days. Eric Plante adds Mellotron samples to a couple of tracks, with strings on Source Infinie and strings, flutes and choir on closer La Cage Des Vautours/Liberté, which could probably have been used a little more without approaching overkill, although I should probably admire his restraint, compared to some.

The band followed up with 2011's Symbiose, which, although a slightly mixed bag, has many highlights, including Dualité, Au Nom D'Apo Calypso's Eastern tonalities and the Crimsonesque guitar work on Genèse and Le Marchand D'Hommes. On the downside, Ève is a bit wet, but they acquit themselves with a broader stylistic palette than before, not least with the drum'n'bass rhythm programming on Les Amants De La Guerre. Sampled Mellotron on a handful of tracks, principally the strings on Genèse and Au Nom D'Apo Calypso, although the jury's still out on the ones used on Expansion.

Jeniferever  (Sweden)

Silesia  (2011,  52.29)  **

Jeniferever are a Swedish goth/post-rock quartet from Uppsala, whose third album, 2011's Silesia, is an unholy mix of pseudo-transcendent 'crescendo rock', mainstream indie and sub-orchestral goth, mostly taken at a dreary mid-pace, Deception Pass being the one, (relatively) speedy exception. To add insult to injury, almost every track is a minute or two too long, leading to a forty-minute album turning into a fifty-two-minute one. Deadly. Worst example? Closer Hearths, 'cos it's the longest. It says 'Mellotron' here... Vocalist Kristofer Jönson is credited on Waifs & Strays, but if that shrieky string part is supposed to be a real Mellotron, then I'm a fucking Martian. This is dire. You have been warned.

Jeremy (& Progressor)  (US/Uzbekistan)

The Pearl of Great Price  (2005,  67.58)  [as Jeremy & Progressor]  **½
Glow in the Dark  (2008,  61.45)  ***
Mystery & Illusion  (2008,  70.22)  ***
From the Dust to the Stars  (2012,  71.48)  **½
Searching for the Son  (2013,  78.03)  [as Jeremy & Progressor]  **½

Jeremy Morris operates in various modes, by the look of it, among them Beatlesque pop and Hackettesque prog, often with a Christian bent. Two of his most acclaimed albums in the latter style are collaborations with Uzbekistani Vitaly "Progressor" Menshikov, webmaster (I believe) of the Uzbekistan progressive Rock Pages, their first being 2005's The Pearl of Great Price.

This is a quite infuriating album, I have to say; it combines moments of great beauty with rather longer moments of tedious 'fill up the disc' stuff, when some clear-headed editing would almost certainly have made for a better product. There are far too many dull passages to be worth mentioning, although a particular horror is the much-repeated pitchbent synth chords on twenty-minute, five-part closer The Journey Home, which just sound... cheap. Upsides? Morris' guitar work reminds me in places, slightly obscurely, of ex-Scorpion Uli Jon Roth, albeit minus that great stylist's technical ability. Morris credits himself with 'Mellotron', but... Spiral Vortex opens with a solo strings part, but it's quite obviously sampled, ditto the strings and choirs to be heard on several other tracks. 2008's Glow in the Dark is an instrumental progressive album, once again, good in some places but not others, cutting Pink Floyd way too close at times. Lots of samplotron strings and choirs, although the seasoned listener will spot them a mile off.

2008's solo Mystery & Illusion is a very different album all round, far less 'progressive', while still retaining some of that loose genre's tropes. It shifts from the heavy prog of opener The Mystery Train through Hendrixy guitar wankfests Sky Song and Moon Turning Red ('spot the quote' time), ten-minute psych ballad High Rider and the psychedelic reversed guitar (and just about everything else) on Float Upstream ('spot the quote' time again), while Dark Hole, amusingly, rips the main riff from Sabbath's Sweet Leaf. Downsides include the pounding '80s AOR of Save Me and gloopy, synth-laden balladic closer Mystery And Illusion itself, plus one other little thing: seventy minutes. Less is more? Clearly, for Morris, more is more. This is far. Too. Long. Is it ego that makes certain artists fill at least one CD a year? Like most similar, this would be better heavily edited. Samplotron strings on several tracks, for what it's worth.

I haven't heard Jeremy's next several releases, but 2012's From the Dust to the Stars isn't dissimilar to Mystery & Illusion in its combination of prog and psych with unwelcome AOR touches. However... Once again, fifteen-minute opener The Great Escape is three-to-four times as long as its content really decrees, followed by Hearts On Fire, a vaguely Beatlesy number, except that it is, again, a ridiculously over-extended seven minutes, a pattern followed across the rest of the album. The most infuriating thing about this record (and, for that matter, all of Morris' work that I've heard) is that there are some really good bits hidden amongst the sludge; Land Of Love has a beautiful, affecting melody, clearly influenced by the original psych era, stuck into another seven-minute song. Sometimes (in fact, usually), a good song is spoiled by ancillary wankage. Play the song, not the three-minute guitar solo. Samplotron strings on most tracks, with bits of flute and choir thrown in for good measure.

I believe 2013's rather overtly-Christian Searching for the Son is Morris' second collaboration with Progressor, although I'm willing to be proved wrong. Sadly, it does all the things I haven't liked on the other three albums here, not least the programmed drums throughout, which are particularly offputting. Notable features? The duo go all Latino-fusion on us during Wings Of The Wind, which isn't to say I actually liked it, while the best thing here is four-minute closer Sonic Dances, an instrumental clean electric guitar piece, although the playing is slightly heavy-handed in places. Plenty of samplotron, mainly strings, the most overt use being the flute melody over strings backing that opens On A Cherub.

Jet Black Berries  (US)

Postmodern Ghosts  (2010,  44.06)  **½

Online reviews of Jet Black Berries' Postmodern Ghosts make much reference to their '90s' sound, but I hear a mix of Americana, powerpop and Strokes-style millennial indie, amongst other genres. It has its moments (ripping opener God With A Gun, They Walk Among You, closer American Survival), but overall, fails to convince, sadly. Mark Schwartz' 'Mellotron' consists of clearly sampled string and flute lines on Pipes Of Pan and equally fake chord work on Give It All Away and Fast, Cheap, Out Of Control.

Jewel  (US)

Perfectly Clear  (2008,  40.42)  *½
Lullaby  (2009,  58.22)  **
Sweet & Wild  (2010,  39.22)  *½

If you're feeling generous, skipping between genres can be seen as 'a varied career', if you're not, it's 'opportunism'. Having married a professional cowboy (stop laughing), Jewel Kilcher's gone all yee-har on us on 2008's Perfectly Clear, presumably in an attempt to rescue her stalled career, the end result being a completely undistinguished mainstream country album, sounding exactly like every other mainstream country album you might've been unfortunate enough to hear. Jason Freese plays supposed Mellotron, with a background flute part on opener Stronger Woman (all string parts are real).

Another year, another genre... What was I saying about 'opportunism'? Miss Kilcher's 2009 album, Lullaby, is opportunism. And yes, you read that right; it's released by Fisher Price, the toy people. Effectively an album of lullabies and songs sung in the same style, it's a pretty cheeso proposition all round, from the cutesy-cutesy picture on the sleeve to her breathy vocal style; someone really should've told her it heightens the weaknesses in her voice... The material is mostly fairly predictable, the ridiculously extended version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star probably being the lowpoint. Freese allegedly plays Mellotron again, but there's absolutely no sign of it on the album, all string parts sounding as real as you like. Back to the country, as someone once said... 2010's Sweet & Wild (is she fucking kidding?) is Not Very Good, to the point where words have actually failed me; I can think of nothing to say about this album, good or bad. Freese on 'Mellotron' again, this time audibly, with flutes on Fading, although again, all strings are real.

Jiannis  (Greece)

Paramorphon  (1990,  104.30)  ***
Das Tonale Schweigen  (1991,  95.56)  ***
Plugged  (1997,  73.30)  ***
Nightsessions  (1998,  66.50)  ***½

Jiannis Zedamanis is a Greek electronic musician whose early releases appeared on cassette, before the cheap CD pressing revolution later in the '90s. 1990's hundred-minute Paramorphon is, in some ways, 'standard' EM, although it diverges from the usual template in several places, not least the very cheeky use of whole chunks of manipulated Pink Floyd on the near-fifty-minute title track, viz, parts Of Shine On You Crazy Diamond and a speeded up On The Run. Other divergences include Tixe Jlobald, more of a sound collage than an actual piece of music and closer St. Nikolaos Sonata, largely a piece for solo piano. In those early days of Mellotron sample use, we get some outrageously skronky, low-bitrate Mellotron string samples at various points in the twenty four-minute Apocalypsis, quite possibly sampled from a record rather than an actual machine, with flutes and more strings on Serenitsa, sounding more like actual instrumental samples, with another brief burst of strings on Tixe Jlobald.

The following year's Das Tonale Schweigen ('The Tonal Silence') sits even further from the EM orthodoxy than its predecessor, kicking off (although that's hardly a suitable term) with a twenty five-minute ambient piece, following it with a fifteen-minute piano work, very rarely using the usual 'synths and sequencers' routine. Other highlights include Track 08's classical reworking (its eleven tracks are titled simply Track 01, Track 02 etc.) and Track 09's six-minute samplotron strings OD. Obvious samplotron strings and occasional flutes on several other tracks, too, sounding more like samples from an actual instrument this time.

1997's Plugged (ho ho), sitting firmly in post-Tangs 'Berlin School' territory, appears to be his first CD release, possibly recorded in Germany, as all track titles are in German and it was released on a German label. Then again, the market for this kind of stuff tends to be in northern rather than southern Europe, so I suppose the Germanic connection makes sound business sense. The material's exactly what you'd expect: three very lengthy tracks of Tangerine Dream-ish EM with what sounds like some improvised parts over the ubiquitous sequenced backing. Frankly, if you like EM, you'll like this; it seems to be as good as any, while sticking firmly to the genre 'rules'. Despite the preponderance of Mellotron sample use in the EM field (not to mention zero information on Jiannis' ownership of a real 'Tron), much of the album's 'Mellotron' use made me think it was real, until some unfeasibly sustained string chords on Drittes Schattenspiel, unless some studio trickery was involved. Might this be a German studio machine? Doubt it, to be honest, although the flute, string, string section and choir parts all sound reasonably authentic.

The following year's Nightsessions carries on in a similar vein to its predecessor, three long 'Berlin School' pieces, sounding a good deal like most other current EM outfits. Saying that, opener Apocalypsis II hits a major Floyd groove about eighteen minutes in, while Jiannis slathers huge, unwieldy chunks of samplotron onto the album, along with little bursts of Froeseian guitar in places. Plenty of sampled flutes, strings and choirs on all three tracks; Jiannis keeps wobbling certain notes in a 'it's real - honest' kind of way, although an actual Mellotron is far more random than that. Good try, though...

Qeaux Qeaux Joans  (Netherlands)

No Man's Land  (2012,  43.05)  ***
The Ritual  (2015,  47.32)  ***

Coco "Qeaux Qeaux Joans" Harmsen's No Man's Land is, in many ways, your typical modern singer-songwriter effort, indistinguishable from her American competition. Harmless, inoffensive, yet somewhat unengaging. Timothy Banchet is credited with Mellotron, but the background flutes and choirs on Brother aren't striking me as authentic. The Ritual's production is far sparser than on its predecessor, making for a startlingly dark album, like all the lowest-key bits of Kate Bush's catalogue, without actually being Kate Bush. Between them, Joans, as 'Coco Joans' and Reyn Ouwehand get Mellotron credits on opener Running Out, Nobody Knows, I Can't Breathe and Fading, but, unlike No Man's Land, I can't hear a single thing which even might be a Mellotron, real or otherwise.

Johnny Society  (US)

Coming to Get You  (2005,  44.56)  ***

Johnny Society are an indie-end-of-powerpop outfit, whose Coming to Get You, while good, stumbles in the 'greatness' stakes, sadly, probably at its best on The Witch's Plea. Despite past Mellotron use, someone (possibly Kenny Siegal) plays fairly obvious samplotron strings on Bloody Blade.

Andreas Johnson  (Sweden)

Cottonfish Tales  (1997,  42.17)  **½

Cottonfish Tales starts off as a decent enough singer-songwriter effort, but deteriorates as it progresses, its nadir being the horrible, upbeat pop/rock of Forever Needed and Brave Thing, while his melodies keep sounding like a poor cousin to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Johan Lindström plays samplotron flutes on Seven Days.

Jack Johnson  (US)

To the Sea  (2010,  41.28)  **

Hawaiian Jack Johnson's career gained a leg-up from Philadelphian 'alternative hip-hop' crew G. Love & Special Sauce and Ben Harper, breaking through with 2006's Sing-a-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George soundtrack. His style is probably best described as acoustic pop, incorporating elements from indie, folk and classic singer-songwriter areas, which probably means he isn't going to appeal too strongly to most of you reading this. 2010's To the Sea is his fifth album, not (as far as I can ascertain) especially different to its four predecessors, which should make for another million-seller, if he's lucky. As the late lamented Douglas Adams once wrote, "Mostly harmless". But only mostly. Worst track? Probably From The Clouds, which made me feel violent. Johnson plays samplotron, with a string line on Pictures Of People Taking Pictures.

Meg Johnson Band  (US)

Between You & the Golden Sun  (2004,  49.07)  **½

Meg Johnson plays various strands of Americana on Between You & the Golden Sun, from slushy country through to balls-out country rock, with a couple of ripping guitar solos from Steve Mayone to liven things up a little. Nick Lloyd is credited with Chamberlin on Start Over; very difficult to say, but samples are strongly suspected.

Will Johnson  (US)

Murder of Tides  (2002,  36.48)  ***

Will Johnson is frontman of Centro-matic and South San Gabriel, not to mention a recent joinee of Monsters of Folk and collaborator with several other bands. 2002's Murder of Tides is his first solo album, a sparse, acoustic record, haunted by Johnson's melancholy songs, which are good, if not exactly Nick Drake (but then, who is?). Scott Danborn plays Mellotron, with what sounds like an unholy combination of church organ, male choir and mandolins (!) on opener Murder Of Tides (Westerlies), a flute line on The Riot Jack and vibes on Re-Run Pills, all most likely sampled.

Daniel Johnston  (US)

Fear Yourself  (2003,  46.17)  ***½

If you're of an even remotely 'alt.' persuasion, you'll know Daniel Johnston; diagnosed as bipolar, he's spent time in mental hospitals, which doesn't seem to have harmed his slightly skewed career ambitions. He's been recording his strange, naïve little songs since his late teens, initially giving cassettes to people he met, eventually being signed to Atlantic, although they only actually released one of his albums. His career has had its highs and lows since (Kurt Cobain wearing one of his T-shirts didn't hurt), but his devoted following devours his sporadic releases and he has a coterie of high-profile fans and collaborators. 2003's Fear Yourself is something like his seventeenth studio album in twenty-odd years. I get the impression it's a pretty typical Johnston release; sad songs, mostly dealing with love forsaken, sung in his cracked, heartfelt voice. He actually has a way with a melody; Syrup Of Tears is marvellous, although the quieter tracks featuring him on school piano tend to work better than the more upbeat ones. This isn't for everyone, by any means, but the faithful will understand. As a newcomer to Johnston's work, I find it strangely affecting, although I can't see myself playing it that often.

Y'know, if I didn't have track-by-track credits, I might well be sitting here typing 'can't hear the Mellotron anywhere', it's so low in the mix, but it appears to be sampled, anyway. Alan Weatherhead plays Mellotron and/or Chamberlin sounds, with Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous on samplotron here and there. 'Chamberlin' strings on opener Now, cellos on Syrup Of Tears, 'Mellotron' cello on Love Enchanted and strings on Must and properly audible strings (and reverbed-to-hell choir) on The Power Of Love. I don't know if the low-fi church bells at the beginning of Forever Your Love are Mellotron FX or Linkous' Optigan, but the flutes and cellos are definitely samplotron.

Joker's Daughter  (UK)

The Last Laugh  (2009,  40.35)  ***

Joker's Daughter are the duo of the Anglo/Greek Helena Costas and notorious US producer Danger Mouse (The Grey Album, Gnarls Barkley, millions of productions), making for an odd singer-songwriter/electronica mash-up that stands a good chance of falling between the cracks, being neither one thing nor the other. Actually, it's more a modern singer-songwriter album than an electronica one, with a refreshingly British bent (do they sell Jaffa Cakes anywhere else?), although most of its track are a little too similar to each other to really stand out. Mr Mouse and Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) both play samplotron, with background strings and a choppy choir part on Lucid, high choirs on Cake And July and a high-in-the-mix flute part, backed by strings, on Chasing Ticking Crocodile.

Jolene  (US)

Antic Ocean  (2000,  55.33)  ***

Acceptable Americana from Jolene (a band, not a person) on the rather overlong Antic Ocean, at its best on opener Calling Madeline, Hello My Lover and the gentle Cullowhee. John Crooke's Mellotron credit? No idea.

Joyce Jonathan  (France)

Sur Mes Gardes  (2010,  39.09)  **½

French singer-songwriter Joyce Jonathan is so young that, a year after the release of her debut, 2010's Sur Mes Gardes, she is still studying. The album is a pleasant, if slightly ineffectual collection of songs, probably about all the usual subject (note singular), better tracks including acoustic ballads Au Bar and closer Le Piège. Producer Louis Bertignac (Carla Bruni) plays samplotron, with a melodic flute part on the single, Je Ne Sais Pas.

Davy Jones  (UK)

Just Me  (2001,  50.14)  ***

Hard to say how many solo albums ex-Monkee Davy Jones (R.I.P.) released, but Just Me may've been his fifth studio effort over a nearly forty-year timespan. Anyone hoping for a burst of The Monkees' joie de vivre should probably go elsewhere; this is a perfectly competent album of middle-aged pop, featuring a few questionable production decisions, not least the horrid sampled drums used on several tracks. Johnny J. Blair may very well be credited with Mellotron, but I have no idea why. Surely not the choirs on What A Night? Scrapes three stars.

Lonnie Jordan  (US)

War Stories  (2007,  66.15)  ***

Lonnie Jordan (War)'s 2007 release, War Stories, was his first solo album since 1982, a very credible soul/funk/jazz/rock effort, not a million miles away from the parent band's work. More than countering the occasional dip (fusion-lite opener Don't Let No One Get You Down, sappy soul ballad Teresa), the highlights (his inspired reimagining of The Stones' Paint It Black, jazz/funk workout The World Is A Ghetto) boost the album's relevance to very acceptable levels. Sebastian Arocha Morton plays samplotron, with a brief flute part opening Jordan's ripping version of Hendrix' Third Stone From The Sun.

Jorm  (Sweden)

A Theory of Anything  (2009,  111.52)  ***½
Veritas  (2010,  79.11)  ***½
Is a World  (2010,  62.18)  ***½

Jorm (named for a region in northern Sweden), a new Swedish prog/psych outfit, are effectively Frederik Andersson's solo project, although other musicians have been brought in for live work. He's found a novel(ish) way around the expense of self-releasing albums, by making them download-only, cutting out several levels of middle-men in the process. Obvious influences include Jethro Tull, Yes, Caravan (maybe surprisingly) and countrymen Dungen, but be warned: despite the overall quality of their material, it might be stretching things slightly to call Jorm 'original', to the point where familiar musical phrases crop up all too frequently.

His/their debut, 2008's The Hemperor's New Garments (****), is an excellent, if rather long effort, while 2009's A Theory of Anything appears to be his first release to use Mellotron samples. A massively long album, its non-physical status makes its length almost irrelevant to its release method; a pity, as some judicious editing would probably have made it an easier listen. Don't get me wrong; Andersson doesn't really put a foot wrong anywhere, but this is two long albums in one, making an uninterrupted listen more of a chore than a pleasure. Highlights include opener Cosmopolitan, the jaunty The Mundanely Narrowed Out Deli Corner and the outrageous, twenty eight-minute title track. (Sample lyric: "Silent night, holy shit"). Unfortunately, I feel honour-bound to point out these release's relative lack of originality; Newspeak features echoes of The Zombies' She's Not There, with the album as a whole featuring a few too many 'haven't I heard that bit before?' moments, although they never last long. 'Mellotronically' speaking, we get the usuals: flutes, often very timestretched strings and (mostly very background) choirs, although they're never really going to fool even the most unattuned ear.

2010 brought two more virtual albums: Veritas is (just) CD length and, amazingly, another strong collection of material, less obviously unoriginal than before, highlights including the title track and the seventeen-minute Almost Human. Plenty of samplotron again, not least the prominent flute part that opens album closer Hemmavid. Unfortunately, the year's second release, Is a World (or Jorm is a World, I suppose), slips back into near-plagiarism in places: eighteen-minute opener A Room With A View contains snippets of several Yes tracks, not least Close To The Edge, Soon and Siberian Khatru, Turn Of The Lake is almost an And You And I/Awaken mash-up, while the spirit of Caravan's In the Land of Grey & Pink hangs over the album like a cloud of pot smoke, from when pot was called, er, pot. Once again, loads of samplotron, not just the usual sounds this time, as we get a brief brass part at the end of Pinetree Romance.

Jørn  (Norway)

Starfire  (2000,  47.45)  ***

Jørn (Lande) is a Norwegian rock vocalist who straddles the borderline between hard rock and AOR (yes, there is one), keeping a foot firmly in each camp, although, admittedly, more in the latter than the former. I gather Starfire is pretty typical of the man's style; it's pretty cheesy, truth be told, without actually slipping into full-on Journeyisms, for which we should be truly grateful. More epic rockers like The Day The Earth Caught Fire and Gate Of Tears redeem the album slightly, but they sound pretty flat up against anything from, say, Rainbow Rising. Speaking of which, Jørn really shows where he's coming from with his rather pointless cover of Purple's Burn, although he manages a pretty credible Coverdale impersonation. Suffice to say, it's the album's best track by a fairly wide margin; why do artists cover tracks that make their own look crap in comparison? Discuss.

'Mellotron' on the acoustic-ish/Eastern End Comes Easy from Jon A. Narum (NOT John Norum, original guitarist with Europe, when they were good. No, really; lovers of UFO/Lizzy/Rainbow-style hard rock will love their first two albums, particularly the second, the magnificent Wings of Tomorrow. Then came The Final Countdown, and it all went both up and downhill from there, depending on your point of view. Er, I digress). Anyway, said 'Mellotron' quite clearly isn't anything of the sort, being ultra-smooth 'Tron string samples that barely even count as that. Well, we wouldn't want anything as grungy as a real Mellotron here, would we? You really don't need this album unless you're a massive fan of the style, or have to have every Purple cover ever recorded, to be honest. I dunno; there's a market out there for this kind of stuff (hi, Phil), but I really don't get what's supposed to be so good about it. Maybe it's me.

Chris Joss  (France)

You've Been Spiked  (2004,  49.31)  ***½

You've Been Spiked is an album of instrumental, cinematic funk, in the finest 'late '70s American cop movies' tradition, comparable to, say, Calibro 35's authentically Italian poliziotteschi mock-soundtracks. In fact, if didn't know better, I'd be pushed to tell this apart from a compilation of Lalo Schifrin pieces, which probably says more about my lack of knowledge of the soundtrack field than I care to admit. Samplotron? Not really, no.

Joy Zipper  (US)

American Whip  (2004,  42.49)  **

Joy Zipper are the Long Island-based duo of Tabitha Tindale and Vincent Cafiso, who specialise in a kind of vaguely Velvets-inspired indie thing, while missing most of what made that particular band so iconic. I'm sure their second album, American Whip, has its devotees, but I'm afraid I'm not among them, being unable to see why anyone would want to listen to this rather dull record a second time. I'm obviously missing something, probably related to my age and overall taste. I'd already decided that the 'Mellotron' flutes I was hearing weren't, when a string note in Ron held for what must be well over a minute, satisfyingly proving my point. Flutes (mostly background) on several other tracks, but that's it for the-'Tron-that-isn't. This bored me rigid, and the Mellotron doesn't even have the grace to be real.

The Joykiller  (US)

Three  (1997,  38.09)  ***

The Joykiller were a Californian so-called 'punk' band, although going by their, er, third effort, Three, they might just qualify as 'pop/punk'. Just. It's not actually a bad album, closer to energetic powerpop than punk, with amusing lyrics sometimes making up for rather run-of-the-mill songs, not least Sex Attack (nice turnaround, guys). Ronnie King plays Hammond, 'Mellotron' and Kurzweil, the latter seemingly providing all the string sounds, leaving the samplotron to handle flutes on Your Girlfriend, Anyone But You and Make Love To You, very clearly at the end of the latter.

The Juan MacLean  (US)

In a Dream  (2014,  58.14)  **

The Juan MacLean are the duo of John MacLean and Nancy Whang, although I believe the project name is also MacLean's alter-ego, just to confuse the issue. Including remix albums and the like, 2014's In a Dream is their sixth release, a largely dance/electronica effort, although, weirdly, it kicks off in a heavy space-rock vein with A Place Called Space. However, Here I Am's electro-funk sounds like it could be by a different band, as does Love Stops Here's synthpop, while the rest of the record lives in a space somewhere between those two genres, leaving us with just one decent track. MacLean (the man?) is credited with Mellotron, along with Nick Millhiser, but are they referring to those grotesquely obvious string samples on Running Back To You and The Sun Will Never Set On Our Love? You must be joking. Um, no. Sorry, couldn't warm to this in the slightest and with no real Mellotron, I can't think of anything to recommend it.

Juanes  (Colombia)

Fijate Bien  (2000,  47.42)  **½

Juan Esteban Aristizábal "Juanes" Vasquez is a Colombian musician who apparently used to play in a metal band, Ekhymosis, before splitting the group to start his more mainstream solo career. 2000's Fijate Bien is the first fruit of said career and it's... mainstream. Admittedly, mainstream Latin pop, which is generally more palatable than mainstream English-language pop, but its appeal palls after a few tracks, especially if you don't speak Spanish. Anibal Kerpel is credited with Mellotron, although all I can hear are quiet flute parts on Destino and Nada, most likely sampled.

Jucifer  (US)

L'Autrichienne  (2008,  70.26)  **½

Jucifer are the husband/wife team of drummer Edgar Livengood and vocalist/guitarist Gazelle Amber Valentine, whose raison d'être seems to be to make the filthiest noise imaginable by as few people as possible. Their sixth full album, 2008's L'Autrichienne, is certainly metal; which variety/ies is another matter. Black, death and doom have all been cited, while some tracks eschew distortion altogether, going more for the 'quiet and threatening' approach. Is it any good? Not to my ears, no, but I'm sure genre fans lap this stuff up. The album's far too long, which doesn't help matters; I'm sure I'm missing the point, but surely a forty-minute version would be far more effective? Anyway, Amber plays grungy supposedly Mellotron brass and flutes on Armada, but I think the balance has to tip towards 'samples'. Some of you will like this, but I suspect more of you won't (bit of an untestable proposition, that); I didn't and with so little samplotron, I can't seriously recommend this.

Julie Maria  (Denmark)

På Kanten af Virkeligheden  (2007,  47.59)  **½

I think På Kanten af Virkeligheden is Julie Maria Barkou Larsen's second album and first in her native language. It contains a kind of post-rock/pop, overlaid with Larsen's fragile voice, probably at its best when her band ramps up the energy levels, notably on Også Om Dagen, or when the musicians get creative with their sounds, as in the synth line on Nattevandrer. Christopher Møller may very well be credited with Mellotron, but the very background strings on Hjerteløv fail in the 'authenticity' stakes.

Jump, Little Children  (US)

Magazine  (1998,  41.16)  **½

Jump, Little Children apparently started life in the early '90s as an American-Irish outfit, slowly allowing the former to take precedence over the latter, largely in the form of so-called 'alternative' rock. The end result, at least on their third (and only major-label) release, 1998's Magazine, is a rather unappealing combination of US indie and powerpop, veering towards the indie end of things. It's not a terrible album, but its few semi-decent songs (Cathedrals, the vaguely witty My Guitar) are largely overshadowed by the dreary and generic likes of Violent Dreams and Say Goodnight. Mainman Jay Clifford is credited with Mellotron, along with string arrangements, with samplotron strings on Say Goodnight.

Juncker  (Denmark)

Snork City  (2004,  35.48)  **½
pt.  (2007,  37.23)  **½

Christian Juncker worked his way through several Danish pop groups from the mid-'90s on, releasing his first full solo album, Snork City, in 2004. Basically, we're talking mainstream Danish-language pop here, from irritating opener Kongen Af Kartoffelvand to reflective closer På Den Anden Side. Best track? Probably the mostly acoustic Please, Please, Please, but that shouldn't be taken as a recommendation. Unusually, Jakob Groth Bastiansen's favourite samplotron sound is the cello, heard on a few tracks, plus strings on C'Est La Vie. His follow-up, the oddly-titled pt., is more of the same, frankly, probably at its best on the dark Min Egen Sø. Søren Mikkelsen is credited with Mellotron on five tracks, with upfront flutes on opener Enigheds Allé, distant strings on Pamfilius, even more distant choirs on Tættere, watery strings and flutes on Vi Drømmer and, er, something (cellos?) on closer Solo Ikke Alene. Sampled, natch.

The June  (Italy)

Magic Circles  (2009,  26.14)  ***½

The June are a current Italian psych outfit, in the full kaftans'n'sitars sense of the word. Name an early psych-era recording trick and The June will use it. Backwards guitar? Check. Kinks-ian harmony vocals? Check. Short, smart songs with great hooks? Check. To be perfectly honest, most of the songs sound pretty similar to one another, although ultra-psych opener Barber Shop lays the sitars on thickly enough to stand out from the crowd. Chris, surname unknown, plays samplotron, with fairly minor flute parts on Revolver and Daisy. This is such a short record, many bands would label it an EP, but I believe The June are treating it as a full release. Short but sweet.

Valerie June  (US)

Pushin' Against a Stone  (2013,  39.19)  **½

Valerie June Hockett describes her style as 'organic moonshine roots music', which translates to 'scratchy, low-fi American folk' in practice. Good as far as it goes, but June's strident voice, much as it's garnered appreciative reviews everywhere else, almost ruined this for me. Sorry to be so hard on this, but I found her voice a difficult listen, and that from someone generally inured to such things. Although Richard Swift has some presence on this site, despite a sympathetic 'Mellotron' string arrangement on Wanna Be On Your Mind, I'm not convinced.

Rob Jungklas  (US)

Mapping the Wreckage  (2010,  40.08)  ***½

It turns out that Rob Jungklas has been around approximately forever, which explains his lived-in tones. Working through the '70s, he released his first album in '83, 2010's Mapping the Wreckage being his sixth, after what looks like an unproductive '90s. And it's... really rather good, actually, a kind-of downtuned, graunchy Americana, featuring songs of the quality of opener Can't Heal Up, the bluesy Reptile Brain and A Girl Named Resurrection. Consider it marked down for replaying at some later date. Sam Shoup's 'Mellotron', hoever, is no more than some sampled background strings on Detox.

Junip  (Sweden)

Black Refuge  (2005,  19.21)  **½
Junip  (2013,  42.45)  **

Junip are a Swedish indie band, which is no better than being an indie band from anywhere else, to be honest. Their first release, 2005's Black Refuge EP, is an entirely average effort in the genre, its best track being their take on Springsteen's The Ghost Of Tom Joad, unsurprisingly, the rest of the material having more in common with any number of landfill indie outfits, names long-forgotten, if ever known. Tobias Winterkorn plays samplotron on Official, with what sounds like a choir/strings combination. Max has told me I'd probably prefer 2013's Junip. I'm sorry to say, sir, that I found it even more depressingly dull, a dreary post-rock/indie hybrid with few redeeming features. If there's a best track, it might be the vaguely Celtic Walking Lightly, but I really wouldn't take that as a recommendation. Someone plays lush, obviously sampled Mellotron strings on opener Line Of Fire, but you really, really aren't going to bother tracking this down for that reason.

Junipers  (UK)

Cut Your Key  (2008,  35.58)  **½

Although I've seen The Junipers described as 'psychedelic pop', I'm hearing more of a sunshine-pop-via-indie thing on Cut Your Key, at its least twee on the countryish Already Home and Song That Fades Away. Given that it crams fifteen songs into thirty-six minutes, it adheres to Chuck Berry's old adage that 'if you don't like this song, there'll be another one along in a minute', without sounding like him in any other way. Joe Wiltshire's Mellotron credit had me fooled on some tracks, notably the strings and flutes on Song That Fades Away, but the strings on Sheena and flutes elsewhere give the sample game away.

Damien Jurado  (US)

Waters Ave. S.  (1997,  41.18)  ***½

Waters Ave. S. is Damien Jurado's first album proper, following a handful of self-produced cassette releases and a couple of singles. In some ways, it's typical Sub Pop fare, hailing from Seattle, full of dark, well-observed material like the mournful Treasures Of Gold and Independent. The pace picks up every now and again, but the bulk of the album consists of drumless, genuinely heartfelt material, a very, very long way from the 'punk rock' (US '80s style) with which his label started off. Steve Fisk (too many high-profile names to mention) is credited with Mellotron, but I believe he only obtained a real one around 2006, all previous credits being samples. Saying that, I couldn't really tell you where it might be here, sampled or otherwise, unless it's the non-Mellotronlike strings at the end of the closing title track; the nicely ironic (real) Theremin on Space Age Mom is far more overt. Anyway, a good album, with a few tracks bordering 'great'; worth hearing. Incidentally, Jurado got to use a real Mellotron on 1999's Rehearsals for Departure, once he hooked up with The Posies.

Juri et Lisa  (Japan)

All Things Are Quite Silent  (1994,  47.23)  ****

Juri et Lisa are actually Japanese, with all the usual problems regarding artist information, so I've no idea whether they released more than the one album, 1994's beautiful All Things Are Quite Silent. It's one of those folky records full of breathy strings, harmoniums and gently plucked acoustic guitars, not to mention two female voices in this case, the English-language lyrics covering all the usual folky concerns. Best tracks? The rhythmic title track, the harpsichord-driven Mariamne the Martyr, the harmonium-fuelled Flowers Fell From My Hand and nine-minute vocal drone Ancient Chant, maybe, but there isn't actually a bad track here. Juri is credited with Mellotron on Moon Calf's Waltz and Yuichi Tanaya on From Away, but there's nothing obvious on the former, while the flutes on the latter aren't kidding anyone, frankly. While you're never going to bother for a Mellotron that isn't, this is a lovely album that deserves a wider audience, particularly amongst the wyrd folk crowd.

Reni Jusis  (Poland)

Iluzjon Cz.1  (2009,  53.18)  **½

Beginning her career in a juvenile Polish pop group, Reni Jusis moved into the dance area when she was older, shifting into vaguely Saint Etienne realms by 2009's Iluzjon Cz.1. Before you ask, it's as dull as you'd imagine, full of brushed snares, tinkling Rhodes and a slightly louche air that really isn't going to appeal to anyone who doesn't think of themselves as even a little bit of a hipster. Polish division, of course. Reni plays samplotron herself, with 'Strawberry Fields' flutes on A Mogło Być Tak Pięknie, strings on Ostateczne Starcie, faint flutes towards the end of Nie Umiem Już Kochać and finally, more upfront flutes on Panna Z Bagien.