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  albums - may 2005

 

Idlewild - I Understand It (EMI)

Idlewild’s latest album “Warning Promises” has received a relatively warm reception from journalists since its release in March. Suggestions have been that the band are heading towards a direction not too dissimilar to that of American middle-aged legends REM. From this latest single it would suggest that the rumours are infact very true. “I understand it” is a rather laid back offering with a light but effective stomping chorus. This is not the sound of a band breaking into new ground but the echoes of an act maturing and growing as the sands of time pour away. For those hoping for something similar to the punchy anthems or the like from 100 Broken Windows may be disappointed but then again just listen to that album instead. While Idlewild could easily have continued to represent their punk roots they have instead decided to venture down another road and it is unlikely to do them much harm if this single is anything to go by. It may be a game played at a slower pace but it’s still just as dangerous.

Simon Glacken


Yo La Tengo. – Prisoners of Love (Matador)
Yo La Tengo have been gracious enough to share their musical vision with us now for over 18 years. That’s a long time by any bands standards and what better way to pay homage to this fact then a retrospective. Well that’s exactly what ‘Prisoners of Love’ is, two CDs of a little bit of everything from there jangly 80’s era to their more eclectic sound of present day. As per usual though rather than treading the path of least resistance Yo la Tengo have assembled there’s NOT in chronological order. Those crazy cats!

This does and doesn’t work. At time it forces interesting comparisons between songs at others it stands to merely break the flow of the record. However this is really a miner point and perhaps seems fitting to many from a band who have always been wide-ranging and different. And for those of you who are shouting ‘but I already have all there albums and the commemorative tea towel to boot’ there’s a disc of rarities, some exquisite and some, well, not.

A great introduction to the band and a fine document of a band who always keep you guessing. Let’s just hope they stick around long enough for ‘Prisoners of Love # 2’ shall we?

Luke drozd


Queen Adreena – The Butcher and the Butterfly (One Little Indian)
Oh, Katie Jane Garside, howI still think you’re delightful after all these years.  Quite something for an ageing indie pop fan to admit, I’ll agree, but it’s the way she shrieks and yelps like a cute mad bastard that will win me over every time.

‘The Butcher and the Butterfly isn’t bad at all, thank you very much. Much of what you’ll find here is quite enjoyable racket, along the lines of Babes in Toyland or sometimes even Silverfish. Opener, ‘Suck’ is particularly violent and sexy. Yeah, there are dull moments, but even a sexvixen like Garside can’t keep up the tension for a whole three quarters of an hour.

Anyway, this is all rather good. I think I’m going to go and lie down in a darkened room for a while…

Sam Metcalf


Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – ‘Worn Copy’. (Paw Tracks)
This album was originally released in 2003 on the Rhystop label and is now being re-issued on the Animal Collective’s Paw Track label. This seems entirely appropriate, because this album is reminiscent of the Animal Collective. Not in terms of particularly sounding similar, but Ariel Pink shares the Animal Collective’s ability to combine various different music genres whilst still retaining a distinctive style. With this album Ariel Pink has created a collage of different musical genres whilst retaining an overall feel of lo-fi leftfield pop. Highlights include the syth hip hop of ‘Credit’, the primitive electro of ‘Cable Access Follies’ and the left-field folk of ‘One to one’. What’s remarkable is that this appropriating of different musical genres doesn’t come across as a fucking mess, which frankly it should. Instead Ariel Pink has come up with a unique and enjoyable record which made me smile in a wistful manner throughout its duration.

Michael Pearson.


The Yards - The Yards
Here's a word that Yards singer Chris Helme probably doesn't want to hear: Seahorses. Yes, he was the poor fella who had to sing in John Squire's tragically crap post Stone Roses band. Having interviewed him some time ago, I know that he's sick of talking about the Seahorses, so why make such a big deal of it in the press release that accompanied this cd? Poor bloke, unless he and his new band manage to knock off some great tunes he's going to be forever walking about wearing a sandwich board with 'I was in the Seahorses' written on it, ringing bell in hand and chanting 'unclean'. Which brings us to the Yards. The album is tinged here and there with a smidgeon of sixties psychedelia ('Calirornia', 'Forget Your Regrets') which is sort of nice, and on tracks like 'The Devil is Alive and Well and in DC' they get political (bet you can't guess who they're talking about), but then we get 'Only Myself to Blame' which sounds a bit like, er, The Seahorses. Much in the same way that 'Crime' and 'Fireflies' do. They are redeemed by 'Pure' which is an intimate piano led lullaby - that is until it unnecessarily crashes into rock action thus deflating the mood a tad. Said mood is deflated even more when it turns into a full on rock wig out. Oh dear, why can't these boys just let things lie? Much as I'd really like to not have to say this, on the strength of this album Mr Helme is going to have to carry on wearing his Seahorses sandwich board for a while yet. Still, he's been lucky enough to tour with the almighty Arthur Lee & Love  which I'm sure he wouldn't have been able to do without the 'S' word on his cv to persuade an A&R man to sign the Yards, so I daresay he doesn't give too much of shit really.

Paul Binnion


Barbara Morgenstern & Robert Lippok - Tesri
This collaboration between Barbara Morgenstern and To Rococo Rot’s Robert Lippok originally began life as a 12” in 2002.The two continued to work together and by 2004 had amassed enough material to release an album. Or had they? I found the album to be very polite, largely bland and quite boring. Such was this impression I actually thought the album was longer than its relatively short 39 minutes.  

Of the two artists, Robert Lippok seems to have had a larger influence on the overall sound of the album; Tesri sounds like a less interesting To Rococo Rot recording. Two guest vocalists appear on Tesri; Mieko Shimizo and Telefon Tel Aviv’s Damon Aaron. One of the tracks featuring Shimizo ‘kaitusburi’ reminded me of Lamb, which is odd as Shimizo sings in Japanese. Aaron’s contribution does enable the track (‘if the day remains unspoken for’), to stand out from the rest but this is mainly due to the fact that the majority of the album is instrumental rather than because the vocal itself is particularly outstanding. 

Taken in isolation some of the tracks on here are interesting enough; ‘ein knoten aus schwartz’ in particular uses some very nice sounds – a warm Rhodes piano, minimal percussion and fuzzy crackles that pan across the speakers. I also rather enjoyed Morgenstern’s hummed accompaniment on ‘sommer’. Unfortunately they’re nestled amongst a collection of music that doesn’t deviate enough in terms of the sounds used. It’s all much of a muchness.

Frazer Shelton


Don’s Mobile Barbers – Version Two Point Zero (Cordelia Records)
Take my hand as I lead you into the quietly spooky world of Don’s Mobile Barbers. Hailing from the East Midlands, this mysterious duo have supported Death Cab For Cutie in the past, and that’s good enough for me.  Their sound is much akin to Mercury Rev, or maybe some of Flaming Lips’ less obtuse moments. And their might even be a little bit of Pink Floyd in there, but don’t let that put you off, now.

Indeed, tracks such as ‘Your Agenda Will Remain’ do have that kind of frazzled 60s psychedelia feel to them. Fragile as a freshly laid egg, then, ‘Version Two Point Zero’ is the sound of two men going to sleep with their finger firmly poised on the button called ‘POP!’. Bravo!

Sam Metcalf


I Am Kloot - Gods And Monsters
The world of I Am Kloot is one of rain, disasters in love and a overly intimate friendship with alcohol. We get lines like 'we smoke dead men's cigarettes and we choke on the bitter black regrets of ourselves' or 'no one's born/no-one dies/no-one loves/no-one cries', or even 'she's selfish and needy/she's wanton and greedy/she's mugging her lovers/she's bleeding the buggers'. Cheery stuff. Well, actually, it is. Kloot are a band which revel in and even celebrate the shit that makes up most people's lives. Much in the same way as bands like Tindersticks or The Smiths take bleak themes and make us laugh, Kloot are masters of the absurd. That's not to say they write daft or whimsical music, quite the opposite, it's more the case that they acknowledge there's beauty and life to be found in the darkest of places. Underpinning the often dark lyrics the music of this trio is deceptively simple sounding. The core of acoustic guitar, bass and drums is augmented by touches of organ, piano and touches of brass. The songs are full of space which gives the lyrics a place to breath and bounce about the place, and each one is a moment to be absorbed and experienced. Not aligning themselves with any musical scene I Am Kloot continue to stand alone, unique and something to be cherished. In many ways this album is not all that different from their previous releases but it has a feeling of freshness which is hard to explain. Most simply put this is one of those rare albums that you will keep coming back to because of the quality of the songs. In a world of manufactured pop and scenes which shift and change almost overnight it's good to know that there are still bands out there who matter, who quietly get on with it and produce the goods every time.

Paul Binnion


A Frames – Black Forest (Sub Pop)
Much chaos from former members of Cows, Butthole Surfers and Scratch Acid. This is the sound of a band headache, mixed with a hangover, and crossed with a shit day at work.  Most of the songs here don’t make the three minute mark, and when they do, you’re glad to see them gone.

Not that ‘Black Forest’ is rubbish, or anything. Just that’s it’s not my bag at all. I used to like this stuff about ten years ago, and that’s a place I don’t like to visit very often. A Frames remind me of sitting in a squalid bedsit with only a candle for company. Depressingly good, then.

Sam Metcalf


Studio Pankow – Linienbusse
This awesomely subtle album from David Moufang, Jamie Hodge and Kai Kroker sits at the place where really deep house/techno meets electronica; my favourite place. The album’s tracks came out of 3 sessions of improvisation over 4 years in Kroker’s Berlin studio (Studio Pankow). This is deep, minimal music; very atmospheric and understated. The album as a whole feels unhurried, tracks such as ‘zoologischer garten’ and ‘ruhleben’ evolve and grow at their own pace (12 and 17 minutes in length respectively), without ever feeling too ponderous. 

Album opener, ‘heidelberger platz’, is gorgeous; a warm, rolling, insistent bassline and snickety percussion ensured that I wanted to listen to this carefully constructed loop again and again and again. The combination of a variety of different percussion sounds, each adding their own element of depth, is what makes this track for me. The title track, ‘linienbusse’, is fantastic – its low, rumbling bass sounds like an electronic cat contentedly purring. Added to this is the delicate, gentle piano, played by Moufang, which cuts through the fuzzy ambience perfectly and turns the track into a beautifully emotive piece of music. 

Linienbusse is extremely engaging; it sucks you in and affects you with a narcotising power. The sound of a lot of the tracks on here is surprisingly full for something that employs so little in the way of obvious hooks or melody - synth washes you don’t even realise are there until the track dies away help to further this feeling. Music like this demands a close listen to get the most out of it. 

Best enjoyed whilst stoned. 

Frazer Shelton.


VHS or Beta - Night on Fire
There's an eighties revival going on you know. You may not have noticed it, but trust me, I'm a journalist and I can see what's blowing in the wind - most probably deely boppers and overly gelled spiked hair. VHS or Beta (for the youngsters amongst you this refers to a battle between two different video formats in the early eighties. What do you mean 'what's video grandad?' Video is where teenagers where given the first chance to see naked ladies before DVDs, Channel 5 and the Internet where even a twinkle in anyone's eye). Anyway, history lesson over, given this band's name I was expecting to hear the dubious glories of the eighties interred, dusted off, given a couple of cans of red bull and thrust back onto a stage. That's what I was expecting and I wasn't disappointed. This album screams eighties revival even more than wearing a Frankie Says t-shirt (for the youngsters amongst you - oh never mind). So is it any good? Actually, it's not bad at all. If you think of The Cure when they were pale skinny indie kids instead of boated gastropods then you're not far away. The modern production makes all those sixteenth hi-hats that we loved in days of yore sound so much better and those raspy delayed guitars have never sounded so sleazy. What stops this from sounding like a crass band wagon jumping exercise is that the songs are driving, packed full of dirty basslines, relentless drum machines and tunes which, if not catchy in a pop sense, seem to nag at the listener. So to pinch a phrase, hurrah and bring on the dancing horses. But just one note of caution, when the eighties revival gets to 'Alive & Kicking' era Simple Minds or Fairground Attraction it's time for it to be put back in it's box.

Paul Binnion


Harris Newman – ‘Accidents with Nature and Each Other’ (Strange Attractors)
I first became aware of Montreal based musician Harris Newman via his work with Constellation records and through this I discovered his solo debut, 2003’s ‘Non-Sequiturs’, a Fahey influenced, steel string guitar gem. So it was with great excitement that I received a copy of his new record ‘Accidents with Nature and Each Other’.

On first listen there is one obvious difference between the two records. Non-Sequiters was very much about one man and his guitar. It was a personal and simple album pared back to its bones. ‘Accidents…’ feels like a far more complex and grander album altogether. It is has a bigger palette of sounds within it and while still having its sound rooted in Newman’s guitar abilities, which are as exquisite as ever, it also revels in its sonic diversity. A few tracks in is when this begins to be made apparent as gentle almost other worldly feedback and additional instrumentation begin to drift in and out of range. This is particular noted on a track like ‘Lake Shore Drive’ where we have a bit of help from Sandro Perri (Polmo Polpo) and Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor). Simplistic beauty is still in there as we hear on  ‘A Thousand Stolen Blankets..’ a track which could of come straight off the soundtrack to ‘Paris, Texas’ and which is one of the albums crowning glories.

‘Accidents with Nature..’ is an album that manages to sound old-time and gritty whilst being fresh and contemporary at the same time. It is quite simply a truly beautiful album rich in texture and features one of the finest closing songs you’ll probably hear all year.

Luke Drozd


John Convertino – ‘Ragland’ (Sommerweg)
John Convertino recorded this album in his home in Tucson, a place Howe Gelb (whose band Giant Sand Convertino drummed for before becoming one half of the excellent Calexico) once described as ‘fucking dusty’, using only two mics, an old piano, vibes and drums. And I know it sounds obvious but that is exactly how the album sounds as well. If it had been recorded elsewhere or used different methods or equipment it wouldn’t be the album it is, which quite frankly would have been a tragedy because it is simple and wonderful in its entirety.

Those who are expecting Convertino's album to be reminiscent of his work with either Giant Sand or Calexico are going to be somewhat surprised. While it is vaguely similar at times to some of Howe Gelb’s piano work it is very much a different sound than we have heard from him previously. It is sparse and ambient but can suddenly shift and become far darker in its outlook like on a track such as ‘Bell Curve’ whose finale is brutal in tone.

This is an album that is small in scale yet big in results and one that demonstrates Convertino to be a genuine talent in the world of contemporary music.

Luke Drozd


Charles E.Cullen - Welcome to the World of Charles E. Cullen (Sheffield Phonographic Corporation)
Ummmm……no!

I have pretty much enjoyed everything Thee SPC has put out so far, but comedy country is really a step too far. If you found the South Park album they put out a few years ago absolutely hilarious, this may tickle your fancy; but in all honesty it holds less musical merit than Cliff and The Young Ones performing ‘Living Doll’.

Drew Millward


Smog – ‘A River Ain’t too Much to Love’ (Domino)
There are few who inspire such genuine intrigue in to what they will do next in modern music. Will Oldham has always inspired it, Devendra Banhart now seems too, but one of the most interesting remains Bill Callahan aka Smog. ‘Supper’, his last offering, was a great album that seemed to split fans, some sighting it as some of his best work and others feeling he had lost his edge. With that in mind then his latest album must have more than the usual amount of intrigue milling around it. I personally am going to stick my neck and say said album, ‘A River Ain’t Too Much To Love’ is probably his best.

‘A River Ain’t Too Much..’ shares a similar feel to ‘Supper’ in many respects. ‘Supper’ seemed to be a more accessible side of Callahan’s writing and the same is true for much of ‘A River…’ also. That is NOT to say he has lost his edge. On many of the songs it feels as though Callahan is doing this only for himself and that he can take his time to realise each perfectly as he slow picks and drawls along. The overall difference I seem to feel between this and its predecessor is that ‘A River..’ feels far more pared back as if it were purely an exercise in the very minimum needed to create a song.

As usual Callahan’s songs cover many bases with their subject matter but what really seems to bind is the fact he is essentially always writing about the human condition. Songs can be beautiful tributes as with the stunning ‘Rock Bottom Riser’ or nostalgic memoirs as with ‘Drinking at the Dam’, a song which can’t help but end up making you hanker for days and youth passed.

However for saying that the whole album is a demonstration of an assured songwriter showing us how it can be done, it is on a track like ‘The Well’ that Callahan shows us him at his finest, perhaps ever. It is a story completely open in terms of its reading, one that tells of a jobless man discovering an old well in a wood. It has an almost surrealist slant to its underlying message that could equally be at home in a Haruki Murakami novel.

‘A River Ain’t Too much To Love’ is an album that will hopefully satisfy Smog fans across the board, even deserters, and hopefully one that will win Mr. Callahan a few new ones as well. It should certainly be an album that he himself is very proud of indeed.

Luke Drozd


Manuel Bienvenu - Elephant Home (Popcorn Lab)
It’s not often an album come through the door that completely stops you in your tracks and demands to be listened to, but this is the case with ‘Elephant Home’…well I say demands, more gently suggests it in a husky voice, but theme keep you there for the duration, as it feels like you are drifting in and out of consciousness.

I cannot begin to imagine the amount of different instruments played on this album, all over dubbed and weaved together to create probably the best soundtrack to a French movie never made.

Beautiful stuff.

Drew Millward


Stinking Lizaveta – ‘Caught Between Worlds’ (Monotreme)
Stinking Lizaveta inspire many thoughts when listening to them. I sometimes want to describe them as repetitive stoner-rock (in the best possible sense of the term!), at others a sort primal folk-rock. One thing’s for sure is they are loud and they fucking mean it.

But what is it? Well I’m still not sure myself, but it is good. No scrap that it is VERY good. They drone, they make noise; they can be considered and beautiful or heavy and obnoxious. They are an instrumental journey that deserves to be travelled with the dial cranked as loud as it can go. ‘Caught Between Worlds’ is not so much a collection of songs as an album of riffs that meander and react to each other that really should be listened to as an entirety.

Stinking Lizaveta are a group of sonic-noise merchants not for the faint hearted but one that should be embraced by those who can take it. 

Luke Drozd


The Charade - The Best is yet to come (Skipping Stones)
Aggghhh! I don’t understand why I like this! It’s female fronted fey indie pop. I’m usually screaming at my stereo, and rushing to find a nearby Converge record…..but, no! I’m actually enjoying this.

Why? Because this is top notch song writing and the hint of melancholy running throughout saves it from being twee limp-wristed nonsense, and actually makes the whole thing quite pleasurable.

Good Stuff!

Drew Millward


The Mountain Goats – ‘The Sunset Tree’ (4AD)
John Darnielle, the real name of the man who writes and performs under the name The Mountain Goats, has long been regarded as one of the finest lyricists working today. He is a man who is able to conjure forth extremely vivid images via his musical compositions. This has often been the telling of stories and morals via characters of his invention, like a novelist, but over recent years he has begun to dredge a more personnel well, looking inwardly and increasingly using his own life experiences as the subject matter for his work. Now with the release of his latest album ‘The Sunset Tree’ we see Darnielle at his most open and personnel, and subsequently at his best, following the death of his Stepfather last year.

The Sunset Tree is a document of an unsettled and unsettling youth in America. It tells of broken families, of drunken stepfathers and of teenage desperation, in this case Darnielle’s own. This can make it deeply emotional and moving at times and yet at others surprisingly uplifting. On a song like ‘Dance Music’ we hear of a youths escape via music from all that seems confusing and wrong in his life and it is one of the finest songs you will probably hear this year. Another example is the dark stomping track ‘Lion’s Teeth’ a string-laden march that is brooding and glorious.

But we are already aware that Darnielle is credited as being a fine lyricist but what has also been said is that because of this the music almost takes a slight back seat as really the songs are about the words first and foremost. I think that that may have been a charge you could rally at him previously but not here. This is an album that is far more diverse than previous Mountain Goats albums in terms of song instrumentation and variety. We have a track like ‘This Year’, for instance, that is completely string based but then we also have others like the beautiful country and banjo tinged ‘Magpie’, another album highlight.

But what is remarkable about the record as a whole is that, as strong as each individual song is, the album really works best when listened to in its entirety. It is essentially one long story divided up into chapters with a thread which follows through and for all its dark twists and turns there is a sense of relief and redemption waiting at the end.

‘The Sunset Tree’ is certainly going to stand out as a highlight of both this year and also John Darnielle’s career. It is emotionally charged and truly effecting. I suggest you take a listen to a man’s confessions and prepared to be moved.

Luke Drozd


Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins
"So Begins Our Alabee" is a song symptomatic of the latest recordings from Of Montreal; it creeps in with a long instrumental section that sounds like a pile-up between a lorry of Moogs and a truckload of cymbals, and you're thinking to yourself "hmmmm. nothing in particular". But once a couple of Talk Talk references are nicely out the way, Kevin Barnes pulls out the most ridiculously uplifting chorus.

"You're my only softness, you're my only pleasure it's true"

he coos earnestly over an empty backdrop that lend his voice the musical geometry to take the song by the scruff of the neck. Kind of like how Stephen Malkmus was always better when the guitars parted and allowed his voice to sound disaffectedly emotive, and on "So Begins Our Alabee" the machine-gun hi-hats and choir of "oh-ohs" in the scenery create the perfect intensity. 

So this is the infuriating world of "The Sunlandic Twins". The record begins with the biggest 21st century summer chorus The Shins never melted us with, and as I open the skylight I'm genuinely surprised to find its overcast as far as the eye can see! Some nice hints that Prince was on Barnes' mind greatly while working on these songs, that disaffected vocal again on the Blondie charged "Wraith Pinned To The Mist And Other Games", and we find ourselves halfway through "Forecast Fascist Future", which really should be on a Wes Anderson soundtrack. That is, until the chorus comes in, this time sounding a little forced, and the song loses its feet. 

Which is the epitomy of this record. After the aptly named "The Party's Crashing Us", the record tails off into Electric Six-esque spoof territory. I'm still not entirely sure if this is deliberate, but Of Montreal need to learn that the decade they reference so much is done best when its done with a straight face. The only moment to wake me from my slumber from here on is the beautiful girl-next-door vocal from Nina Barnes on "Keep Sending Me Black Fireworks", as part of the bonus EP. But the damage is already done and no amount of gorgeous girl-chirping can stop me wishing that my scissors could cut music, that I could put the first half of this record in my pocket, and mail the second half of it back twenty years.

Sammie Cain


‘This Is Indie Rock- the Best Bands You’ve Never Heard’ Vol.2 – Deep Elm Records
Deep Elm seem to have been around since the dawn of time, a label stoically sitting there releasing some of the finest bands out there from an increasingly broad genre set. For years it was the Emo Diaries compilations that would introduce us to new acts but now Deep Elm has its new baby ‘This Is Indie Rock’. So what is ‘This is Indie Rock’? Well it’s Deep Elm introducing you to some of the finest bands around that’s what.

All the bands on ‘Indie Rock’ are, as the name suggests, independent artists and all tracks are previously unreleased and exclusive. The mix of talent we have on volume 2 is nothing if not eclectic.  We start proceedings with the electronica tinged guitar amble of Maxel Toft before lurching into the all out Dugong-esque rock of Jena Berlin, and then into the bittersweet acoustic song ‘New York’ by the excellent Meredith Bragg and the Terminals. Now that’s covering a lot of bases and that’s just the first few tracks.

So okay there are a couple of tracks which do absolutely nothing for me at all but they are far outweighed by those that continue to mark the ‘Indie Rock’ series as one to pay attention too. Two of particular note here are a stunning band called Sedona, a steel string americana tinged wonder that will have you stomping your feet and clapping right along, and also album highlight Death Ships with ‘Thelma Lou’ which is a Papa M inflected number that is one of my new favourite songs.

This is a document as to what indie music is about in all its guises. I suggest you dig deep and let Deep Elm introduce you to some of your favourite new bands.

Luke Drozd


The Rogers Sisters - Three Fingers
Approximately 28 seconds into the opening "Freight Elevator", I catch a glimpse of my reflection in an unplugged television to my right; I look like I've been driving through the night for a week with only de-caf for company, playing I-spy in the dark with Rick Moranis and listening to Kenny G. The trouble with bands like this, is they come across like an incomplete paint-by-number; somebody else's template with very little colouration. 

In terms of sound, The Rogers Sisters cite bands such as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kills and Liars (whom they've opened for) as influence, and they are in that ball park I guess. But on the whole such dry production of the record leaves me feeling more like I did when I first heard Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or The Datsuns - like I'm hearing a band going through the motions, like their photograph on the back sleeve potentially means more to them than the songs inside, like any moment I'm going to scream "RIFFS NOT QUIFFS!"  

The vocals are like Les Savy Fav sans sass or Jack White without sounding 7 feet tall and a maximum security escapee, the rhythm like the Yeahs Brian Chase without the jaaaazz man, and the guitars.. Where the hell are the guitars? We're onto "Check Level" which is 5 of 11 tracks here, and I haven't heard one part to note. What The Rogers Sisters do they execute well, but  unfortunately while being solid, each song is ultimately forgettable.

Sammie Cain


Picastro – ‘Metal Cares’ (Monotreme / Polyvinyl)
It was a fair old wait for us Brits between the initial US pressing and release of Picastro’s excellent debut ‘Red Your Blues’, so long in fact that by the time it had its European release on Monotreme Records the band were nearly ready to release their follow up. Well here is said album ‘Metal Cares’ a whole three or so years since their first.

So have they evolved or changed their musical outlook much? Well yes and no. ‘Metal Cares’, like its predecessor, is brooding and nightmarish at times whilst constantly maintaining an orchestral sort of beauty throughout. However where the first seemed to feature a more instrumental feel with leading lady Liz Hysen’s vocals occasionally swooping in and out like an extra set of strings, ‘Metal Cares’ seems to be more about a solid sense of ‘the song’. Much of the material still bares some relationship to their earlier work but now it feels like a band coming into their own. There sound is far more varied with a wider range of orchestration and tone from track to track. For instance you can compare one of the album highlights ‘I Can’t Fall Asleep’, a sombre and rhythmic slow death march (or perhaps crawl) with a largely string and guitar based backing, with the following song ‘Skinnies’ whose backbone is Hysen's voice and acoustic guitar which is encased and almost attacked by an eerie electronic accompaniment, the results being nothing sort of sinister and hypnotic, and see the scope present on the album.

‘Metal Cares’ has all the originality and thoughtfulness that its predecessor possessed and then some. It is an album of atmosphere but also songs. It is quite simply the sound of Picastro developing a sound all of their very own.

Luke Drozd


Ettison Clio – This Is For The Blue Collars (Forever Inside)
When EC aren’t trying to hard with their brand new guitars, and swanky production, they can make a quite beautiful sound. Unfortunately, that only happens half of the time on this album.

When they’re good, they can rival Suzanne Vega for cracking strummed, slightly kooky songs – see the untitled hidden track at the end or ‘L’ange Blue’, which sounds a little like early Echobelly – and how I wish that band were around today…honestly…

Other times, Ettison Clio remind me of a third rate Avril Lavigne, all shouting in the wrong places, and guitars so forced they sound like they’re being killed with a meat cleaver. A game of two halves, then.

Sam Metcalf


J. Kriste (Master of Disguise) - This is the Alternative
This solo project by Lefteris Moumtzis kicks off with the fabulously trippy 'Smoking in the Bathtub', a big cascading dirty guitarred monster of a track. More vaguely eastern European guitar riffs follow before the title track bobs into action. What's this? Starts off sounding like Beck before contorting into some nasty electronica that could have come straight from Trent Reznor.

Styles and influences are constantly overlapping which would normally be a good thing. But inexplicably the second part of the 'This is The Alternative' suddenly mutates again into some frankly annoying horn-based dirge that doesn't relent for over two minute. Ouch! Things are saved again by 'Beautiful Place', an acoustic guitar track sounding like Lenny Kravitz before he got crap.

But enough is enough! 'Afterhours Nite' is some weird kind swing jazz number which I absolutely hate. I can't remember listening to many records that had such a love-hate effect on me. Throw into the already bulbous sack of influences a bit of Supergrass, some Screaming Trees, a shot of STP and you have a album that is almost impossible to categorise. Much of this is wonderful stuff but make sure you keep your finger on the skip button of the remote.

Shane Blanchard


Dead Fly Buchowski – ‘Land of the Rough’ (Beggars Banquet)
Psychedelia and prog seem to be back judging by the amount of bands using those words to describe their music of late, and Dead Fly Buchowski are another to join the ranks.

They play a sort of foot-stomping, blues-tinged slant on rock that veers between compelling and vaguely disinteresting. At there finest moments, such as on ‘Blacker Than Blue’ they pound along with more than a slight doff of the cap to greats like Thin Lizzy and Led Zeppelin, but then they can just as quickly veer towards mediocrity and, I hate to be the one to break it to them, end up sounding a bit like nineties hateable rock twats Reef.

If Dead Fly Buchowski can find a way to make their music move closer to their genuinely more compelling moments like the sleazy blues-psych of tracks like ‘Blacker Than Blue’ or ‘Sun Song’ then they may yet win me round. As it currently stands however I am far from convinced.

Luke Drozd


Cities of Foam - A Great Day for the Race (Dorado)
If only summer had properly started here in the UK, this would be the perfect soundtrack. Lovely squishy beats and lush loops reminiscent of Fluke are omnipresent, with the party periodically getting gate-crashed by plenty of live instruments including trombone and vibraphone.

'Out of Reach' sounds like the product of one too many summers listening to Cafe del Mar tapes, but for all that it is still pretty good. The big chunky bass lines keep lining up and tie the hole album together. And on 'Girls in Bars' they lend the track a bit of sinister start before normal service is resumed.

It's not the most innovative or engaging record you will hear this year. But if you're looking for something to take on holiday and listen to on the CD player by the pool, then look no further. Plus it's nearly 70 minutes long so you won't have to keep changing CDs!

Shane Blanchard


Venerea – ‘One Louder’ (Bad Taste)
Venerea used to be called Venereal Disease. I think that speaks volumes. The fourteen tracks present on ‘One louder’ are your staple American influenced melodic punk rock. They are fast, loud and kind of angry. Now while there’s nothing really wrong with any of the music present, it all just ends up sounding like a whole host of other bands (mostly from Epitaph or Fat Wreck’s). It was exactly the kind of CD I would have bought 10 years ago and that is sadly the point in question. So many other bands have done this already and a lot of them have done it much better.

Luke Drozd


The Bad Machines - Telling Lies (Lojinx)
Well here's an intriguing little release. And the cover features robots - a whole family of them - always a big favourite at Tasty HQ. These superficialities aside, there is a cracking indie pop record at work here too.

A boy/girl combo, The Bad Machines manage to mesh a skip load of Moog with real guitars and superbly emotional vocals. Singer Michelle Margherita can effortlessly flip between the trash pop of Shampoo or the atmosphere deep scandic crooning of Delores Cranberry. The lyrics are always thoughtful, if largely tales of heart break and general miserableness. But I believe the expression is sugar-coated pill as the syrupy tones of Michelle's mask the anguish beneath.

Telling lies uses that quirky production trick of making the vocals sound like they are being produced from a 1930's radio so favoured by electro fiends Client. There's a bit of the Cure in the open guitar chords of 'Schadenfeude' and bags of The Cardigans in 'Folkways' and 'Autobahn' but The Bad Machines never get lazy and stick with one sound long enough to get bored with it.

Another great summer soundtrack record - and guess what? Just in time - these record label people don't miss a trick do they. And if you don't want to put your arms around Michelle and give her a good hug to make her feel better by the end of listening to this then there's something wrong with you.

Shane Blanchard


The A-Lines - The A-Lines (Purr)
Hey hey! Looks can be very deceiving. At first glance of the album cover I was a bit perplexed. Apart from the odd tattoo and a glint in the eye, the A-Lines matching red outfits and, how to put it, general homely appearance, made them look like they had were on staff day out from cosmetics stand in Selfridges.

Oh how I was wrong. These ladies have been around the block a bit (in a musical sense obviously) and know how to knock out tip-top 3 minute punk pop tunes. The ever-present vintage guitar sound and raw studio drum sound are tangled in an ever changing mix of high energy, high speed and high precision garage punk. Cunning vocal harmonies and 12 songs in a mere 27 minutes - breathless stuff.

Shane Blanchard


The Len Price 3 - Chinese Burn (Laughing Outlaw)
I see - Electric Six meets The Beatles in 30 minutes of retro surf punk. Vintage sounds pour out of this record like Vespas out of a milk bar car park at closing time. in addition to utilising loads of vintage equipment, the whole thing is recorded in mono - how quaint.

Dripping with riffs and that effervescent 60s sound, I can't help but think the constant mono sound gets a bit samey and ends up detracting from what is some really promising song writing. It's a good record but I'd be keen to hear where they go next and see if they can break the mental image I have of Happy Days, The Fonz, Austin Powers et al.

Shane Blanchard


Blackloud - Mysterious Waves
Yikes! This is apparently the more mellow of the two albums sent for review this month by Blackloud so I'm bricking it already abot the second one. Blackloud is a solo project recorded by James Burton. For something that is recorded on an 8-track, the finished result is remarkably full, due in no part to the distinctive bass lines which run throughout this whole album. Pyschadelic loops, whooshes, zooms and other effects punctuate the rhythm section regularly to concoct a disturbing, trippy, atmospheric record.

I couldn't find a track listing anywhere and the lyrics are arranged for visual pleasure rather than clarity so I can't really describe any individual tracks accurately. Suffice to say, the lyrics I can read are as uncomfortable as some of the more prosaic tracks which ramble their way through a multitude of bleeps and plucked bass before reaching an unnatural conclusion before you are expecting it. All in all though, providing you are in the right mood, this makes for interesting if challenging listening.

Shane Blanchard


Blackloud - 6th 6th 6th
No time wasted here in announcing his intentions. 'Future Shock' (I finally found the track listing printed on the disc!) far more upbeat than any of the tracks on 'Mysterious Waves'. The bass seems to have melted a bit more into the background and the drum machines and vocals have been elevated to a far more immediate position on the ears - not dissimilar to having to listen to the traffic on a motorway at close quarters, zooming past then fading away.

Jimbob also has a very distinct lyrical style, piling shed loads of words that just have the same sound together, rather than trying to make them mean anything that cogent. I give you, "lazer beam tracers grazing chasers haze burn change words amazing turn" as an example. I rest my case.

After three or four more tracks I come to the conclusion that Blackloud has actually been abducted by Aliens and returned to earth to deliver their message to the masses. Unfortunately they have lost the gift of communication and resort to this sonic bombardment. This is as original as you can get so it's not worth trying to pigeon hole. If you like your music challenging and your CD artwork lovingly assembled with really groovy photography and complete with hand-signed playing card then this is for you. But, having listened to 'Deep Clean' I am not entirely convinced that Blackloud is not the devil himself, so if you are a God-fearing Christian, then it may be better to give this a miss.

Shane Blanchard


The Album Leaf - Seal Beach (Better Looking)
Jeez, after the Blackloud experience, stimulating though it was, I need something to calm down with. all praise then to The Album Leaf who provide the perfect antidote.

This is a scandalously well conceived mixture of lo-fi electronic sounds awash with delicate piano and string arrangements. Described as orchestral post rock by some, if that is the case, then this is definitely at the more accessible end of the genre. A couple of the tracks have even been used in the TV programme 'the OC'!

This album is a mix of studio and live tracks tracks, recorded during the band's last tour. For something as precise as the music which Jimmy LaValle and co are producing, these live tracks sound even better than the studio stuff. I recommend going to see them on their current European tour - see www.albumleaf.com for details.

Shane Blanchard


Ezekiel Honig & Morgan Pickard - Early Morning Migration (Microcosm)
This is the first collaborative release for New Yorkers Honig and Packard and produces a rich and seductive demonstration of lo-fi electronica. Swathes of interference battle with intermittent percussion and random clunks and clicks in opener 'Tropical Ridges' while as the title suggests, 'Balm' is a much gentler affair.

There are loads of naturalistic references in the song titles such as 'A Lake of Suggestions' and 'Planting Broken Branches' but the title Early Morning Migration' might as easily be about commuting through the city as anything in the countryside. the sound is electronic, but also vaguely soothing. It is introspective but also expansive in approach. maybe this is the tautness that comes of the new found collaboration.

Some tracks are so minimal that they hardly seem to exist at all. you wouldn't know they were whirring away in the background but for a few well placed keys ringing through every few seconds. But sometimes less is more and this is a record of boundless textures and moods to lift the soul, but in a gentle way.

Shane Blanchard


Formula Bone - Bear Up (Brainlove)
I'm a reasonable man and will listen to anything. But this is pushing me to the limits. Like a bastard love child of ZZ Sputnik and Bentley Rhythm Ace this is an assault on my ears for 14 tracks (dear lord what did I do to deserve the two additional bonus tracks?).

Sprouting samples and Atari-ism left right and centre, the one constant is the imagination free raw guitars and monotonous drum machine. This stuff leaves me wondering why Fidel Villeneuve bother putting all that effort into something so bad. maybe the kids'll like it. But that's why kids go to school - 'cos they're stupid and don't know any better. Respect for the Garth Crooks photo on the website though!

Shane Blanchard


Josh Lederman y Los Diablos - It's a Long and Lonely Time Until the Train Will Bring You Home (Nine Mile)
Aside from having both the longest band name and album name of the month, Josh Lederman et al also have the weirdest gimmick - free Thai condoms which I mistook for blackcurrant sweets (though thankfully I realised before eating them). Is this some kind of bribery? Throw in a couple of high class Latvian hookers and we might play ball, so to speak...

But the music. This is an intriguing blend of Irish and Americana folk music. The band don't baulk from describing themselves as Pogues inspired bawdiness which is a refreshing honesty. And with role models like that you get a pretty good idea of the sound. There's little variation from the tried and tested folk band get up to flustered about, But the lyrics are a joy to behold, poetry about everyday woe and childhood dreams. On this showing I don't think I would buy the record but I'd certainly go and watch them play.

Shane Blanchard