albums - august 2010
Fortuna is a Swiss trio featuring the talents of Kid Chocolate, The Knack (not the same The Knack that did ‘My Sharona’ in case you were wondering) and Oil. Maybe none of this means anything to you - it certainly didn’t to me - however the mention of Asia Argento featuring on this self titled album certainly did make my ears prick up. In case you are unaware, Asia Argento is the daughter of one of the greatest (in my opinion) horror film directors ever, Dario Argento. She is also a director in her own right, as well as a writer, actress, singer and general know-it-all. In other words, it’s a great name to have as a fan of your music, let alone being able to place it on the front of the album as a contributor.
So, onto the music; if you’re looking for an album full of ‘club
bangers’ then this is definitely not the album to buy. It’s dark,
heavy and very sparse. There is no doubt that Fortuna are a talented
bunch; the intricate instrumental melodies through opening song ‘A
Radical Bravery’ compliment Asia Argento’s eerily spoken vocals perfectly.
The use of live instrumentation works flawlessly as well, the occasional
bass line here, the odd guitar part there. I say this because it is
obvious, but it never takes away from what this essentially is - a
deep house album. This is where the problem lies for me though: I
like house music, however it’s not very often that you will find an
artist that is able to create an album of all their own material without
it getting quite boring after a few tracks. And that is Fortuna’s
downfall, it all gets a bit samey after track three or four. There
are only so many times you can hear a straight four-four beat before
it becomes tedious. Add to that the fact that Asia Argento’s vocals
become very predictable (monotone speech is pretty boring after the
initial gimmick wears off) and all of a sudden there is no variety
between songs. I’m not saying this is a bad album, because it’s not.
Every song on there is well written, well produced and is great to
listen to on its own. But as an album Fotuna lacks variety and interest
for me. 5/10
Ninja Tune is a label known for releasing some of the most absorbing and challenging electronic music of the last 20 years and as such my expectations were high for this blisteringly psychedelic debut album from Andrew Phillips and Marcus O'Dair. Phillips background in composition for film and television is writ large all over this occasionally wonky but never tiring record. 'The Tin Man' is a disjointed piano led nightmare-scape which starts with an underlying theme that wouldn't sound out of place sound-tracking a murder mystery. Then all of a sudden high pitched, haunted vocals bleed through into the mix (that tortured vocal sample you hear in 'The Tin Man' was recorded in the 1920's) joined by a fleet of horns and orchestral menace, it's a thrilling track and is probably the best thing here but that's not to say the rest of the album is lacking.
1 Inch/1/2 Mile (named for the old fashioned british map scale) is nothing if not eclectic. The confused industrial rage of 'Passing' for example (which almost outdoes Squarepusher in deranged dissonance) shouldn't fit after the relatively straight-forward electro-pop of 'The Door In The Wall' but thanks to Phillips's consistently imaginative sound-scapes the whole album binds together quite effectively. There are moments (the Massive Attack gone 8-bit 'Old Machines' for example) where the pairs lack of experience in pop music is abundantly clear but more often than not the results are engaging and inspired.
The press release describes 1 Inch/1/2 Mile as a record which perfectly
sums up the space where countryside meets technology and I would have
to agree. What O'Dair and Phillips have managed to concoct here is
a work or spare, organic beauty with a mechanical heart that's unafraid
to look to the past for inspiration. 8/10
This is an interesting album, not because of the anti-gun crime opener Don’t Shoot, with its Eastern-European-folk inspired climax of strings and accordion, or the light hearted protest song vibes of We Walk for Peace or the pure and mellow traditional folk sounds of Watery Air, although these are enticing, beautiful songs which are well thought out and varied in subject matter and composition.
The interesting thing isn’t the obvious likeness and influence in vocal tone and to Regina Spektor. Not the quivering falsetto lilt, shifting to a pure and clear tone, the hint of a Slavic accent in the intonation, nor the use of strings alongside synths. Its Kinzli’s life story, that she is South Korean, that she lived there throughout her childhood, being passed from foster home to foster home, plague by tuberculosis, until eventually being adopted by an Amercian family and ending up here, in London. A story which I found startling, intriguing and beguiling, although it gave me no pointers as to where that Eastern Bloc accent came from.
It did make me listen intently to the lyrics and to try to take in the influences and the myriad of styles on this album. Then I listened to it again, and again, and again, basically it has been constantly on my stereo, I think its brilliant. 8/10
The Silken Ladders are a family band from somewhere far up North, possibly near Middlesbrough. They play wafer thin and lo-fi folk music, which sounds like it has been recorded in a barn. And it has. Apparently on the North Yorkshire Moors, powered by a generator, possibly in the middle of winter.
The information on the sleeve says that you can hear birdsong, the generator and an aeroplane, I couldn’t. What I could hear were some catchy sing-a-long choruses and guitars that sounded like they had been recorded on a dictaphone, which was situated at the other end of the barn.
The vocals and other instruments struggle to find space within the confines of the limited equipment and sections which should be powerful just become a monotone wall of sound, but not in a good Phil Spektor way, in a bad, red lights lit up across all the channels kind of way.
Round Ron Virgin is a new pseudonym for Oli Chance, a multi-instrumentalist singer, specialising in black, humour-tinged, folk music. The range of instruments alone is bewildering, the cohesion of the ukulele alongside the drum machine, a pitch bending one-note sythesiser framing an entire drum loop made from Oli hitting a wooden floor with a frying pan. It sounds, well, ridiculous in theory, but it actually works.
His voice is reminiscent of David Thomas Broughton’s homely delivery crossed with a bit of the gruff rousing of Billy Bragg, only more ragged than both. Instrumentally, Round Ron is supremely proficient and gifted, seeming to be able to wield anything with strings in a convincing fashion.
Songs slither and creak into life, then die out with a long silent pauses before finding a forward gear and starting up again.
Some, like Square Peg in a Round Hole are shot through with idle contempt, as Oli intertwines dark lyrics, with traditional structures, others, shoot of into slightly-dodgy-sea-shanty waters, shot through with a dose of silliness and many, take the form of maudlin drunken rants. All said and done, this is a listenable, diverting album, but not a classic. 6/10
Ten Kens: A weird name for an even weirder band. This second album from the Toronto four piece is a bizarre mix of psychedelia, hardcore punk, lo-fi goth and drone. Think Fagazi meets The Horrors to cover bits of The Beatles ‘White Album’ and you might get some kind of idea of what we’re dealing with. The verbose press release that accompanies this verbose music describes the band’s style as “juxtaposing quiet introspection with unabashed belligerence” whatever that means.
What it seems to me is more some kind of brain spew onto tape - with mixed results. Some of the twelve tracks might be short, some might be long but all are epic. They’re cumbersome, meandering beasts that jump from quiet vocal harmonies to grating discordant guitars and back again. ‘Insignificant Other’ or ‘Welfare Green’ do just this, with heavy riffs and melodic, 60s style singing and lots of shouty shoutiness. Contrasts. Great huh? Well not always. Often the songs struggle to sound anything other than directionless. Opener ‘Johnny Ventura’ switches style so much it’s a disjointed mess that provides no satisfaction to the listener at all whilst other songs might be more consistent in style still manage to feel distinctly incoherent.
Yet persevere enough and there are some really promising highlights to be found. ‘Screaming Viking’ is a clever and textured punk number whilst the new wave ‘Summer Camp’ or the gothic ‘Back to Benign’ showcase the band’s quirky and unique nature superbly. Why couldn’t the whole record be more focused and well rounded like this?
‘For Posterity’ is indeed a challenging album and for those that
love their music dark, discordant and jangly, this will probably appeal.
But before you run out to buy a copy expecting some kind of ‘Unknown
Pleasures’ resurrection, Ten Kens relentless battle against the accessible
and linear could leave more than a few of you disillusioned. It’s
little surprise this record is a result of a band who lived and worked
in an isolated studio for months: It sounds painful, angst ridden
and often just exhausting, rather than the sonic adventure they were
probably aiming for. An interesting record of variable quality, but
you can’t knock ‘em for trying. 6/10
There will be people that will be excited to hear Jim Kerr has released an album of solo material. Those that aren’t should probably speak to their dads, as you would imagine the only reason to not be excited, or at the very least intrigued, would be the one’s too young to have heard of him.
So to the album itself then. Imagine your dad made an album. And he tried to make it a bit dancey. Chances are it wouldn’t be very good. Now imagine your dad’s Jim Kerr and he tried to make an album that was a bit dancey. Actually, it’s still not THAT good. It’s a damn sight better than what your dad would have managed but it still sounds like a record made by someone’s dad. A little bit dated, a little bit misplaced, a little bit behind the rest of what’s being done at the moment.
Sadly, the main thing it’s lacking is invention. If it was different
but innovative it would have merit. But this isn’t innovative. It
sounds like an 80’s record. Not an interpretation of an 80’s record,
or an updating of an 80’s record. Just an 80’s record. And it doesn’t
really grab you because of that. Disappointing really, maybe simply
because of the excitement of knowing before you hear it that it’s
a record by Jim Kerr. But ultimately Jim Kerr is still someone’s dad
and he’s someone’s dad that made a record. 5/10
So here we have Scottish 4 piece The Hype, presented with very little. Hype, that is. Which is possibly to the bands detriment as they could most comfortable live up to at least a small smattering of it.
This 11 track album presents an enjoyable rock-y guitar thrash with a sound reminiscent of a less preachy Reverand with just a hint of Ian Brown if he’d gone EMO.
All in all, not be avoided. A decent album worthy of a bit more hype.
“The John Henrys,” reads the blurb accompanying this 11 track 3rd album offering of the Canadian 5 piece, “have a sound that is indefinable.”
Hmm. Think Tom Petty and Neil Young and you won’t be a million miles away. They’re certainly not creating their own genre or drastically re-sculpting a traditional music soundscape. However, that’s not to say that The John Henrys a simply a knock off, music by numbers copy of either of the above named artists. Far from it.
Here they offer more than enough to show a distinctive and individual voice of a band worthy of standing on their own two feet and on their own merits. It’s a folk based interpretation on modern life, not half bad and certainly more than half good.
So not quite indefinable, but then who wants that in a band, or in
life? If your girlfriend’s appeal is indefinable it means she’s probably
fat, sweaty and quite annoying. The John Henrys are none of these.
I had to give some thought to the best and least complicated way
to categorize the music on ASOP. It's mostly electronic, but too conventionally
structured to fit the description Electronica. It's partly dance based
but too laid back to really qualify as a Dance record.There's also
more than a touch of folk present, in the non-electronic instrumentation
and some of the tunes, but it's also too developed and electrodance
influenced to really fit comfortably into the Folk section, so I decided
that the most accurate description of J Level's album is that of Instrumental.
I can't help wondering what Shaun Milton's musical pedigree consists
of. Despite a lengthy list of influences there's no mention of his
probable beginnings in some mid 80s shambling theatrical noise troupe
(eg: Shock Headed Peters, Screaming Blue Messiahs, Bogshed) whence
he undoubtedly springs, and there's no evidence to back up the assertion
that another reviewer once compared The Fabulists to Roxy Music, which
they definitely don't resemble during either their early Glam incarnation
or in their later more sophisticated phase.
Based around a five piece and with a list of guest musicians the
size of a small phonebook, Fauxbois' album is mainly the work of Bryan
Mayer, who relocated from New York to Idaho to pursue his artistic
visions and with Carry On he apears to have more than succeeded. Lo
Fi Alt Country is what Fauxbois are about, and the 13 tracks here
range from the minimalistic through Math Rock guitar crunch to edgy
electronics and some carefully phrased and sometimes quite affecting
lyrics and vocals.
“Flaws” is the second album from Bombay Bicycle Club in just a year after their first release “I had the blues but I shook them loose”, and the album couldn’t be more of a contrast. “I had the blues but I shook them loose” was a noisy indie-pop album, which was very promising. But little did we know that the acoustic song “The Giantess” would be a small pointer to their next album.
“Flaws” is almost entirely acoustic and consists of both covers and originals- John Martyn’s “Fairytale Lullaby”, I think, is somehow beautifully haunting. BBC’s B-sides were often acoustic, but hearing an entire album of folk music from NME’s Best Band of 2010 is somewhat odd.
The two openers “Rinse Me Down” and “Many Ways” are faster than many others on the album and lead singer Jack Steadman’s outstanding voice truly suits BBC’s folk inspired sounds for their new album. “Dust On The Ground” is a folk version of the song from their debut album and where it may be the longest song on the album, it is, for me, by far the best song. With beautiful and delicate acoustic guitars and Steadman’s trembling voice, it is definitely a song worth listening to, even if you do not listen to the rest of the album. “Ivy & Gold” has been popular on the radio, released as their single, this is definitely a summertime song.
This is Jude Cowan’s debut solo album and was inevitable as she was
born with musical bones in the form of her grandfather who was a cellist
in Sir John Barbirolli’s Halle Orchestra. Cowan was Born in Manchester
but now lives in South East London and works as a media archivist,
she uses her interest of history and literature throughout her album.
Will and The People are a Brixton quartet, who have had a busy 2010 so far playing at Glastonbury and touring Europe. The sound they produce covers a vast range of genres including reggae, pop and creates an indie sound. Will Rendle’s voice is pleasant through the whole album and his style is suited perfectly to his voice brilliantly.
The album opens with the track “Troubled Pro”- gentle vocals and warm guitar and cute rhythms, well followed by “Salamander”, which is more upbeat with an amazing reggae influence and very catchy. “No Shame” is the third song, and for me is very reminiscent of The Kings Blues and their music, with the reggae/ska influence and what I feel is a true British accent at the beginning.
“Train” is a more laidback and smooth, with lyrics of heartbreak and melancholy. Where this track lacks in the happy reggae sound, it certainly makes up for it in beautiful vocal harmonies and emotion in each of the instruments. “Stranger” reminds me a lot of The Clash and The Specials with its macabre sounds, and then straight after this song, we are introduced to another new noise. “Eyes” is a Latin-sounding song with the hint of reggae that can be found in every song and the track rises and falls at perfect times.
Towards the end of the album things begin to slow down with “Blue”, which shows the real diversity in Will Rendle’s voice, with the sad emotion throughout and the use of keyboards in this song, I think has been done in a very clever way. It ends with the song “Misunderstood”, which is a stripped back sound. Just voice and guitar. Very simple, very clever.
At 17 tracks, The Crave, which follows SDP’s debut “Guitararama”, still doesn’t get boring. The balance between the blues guitar and Petit’s rough voice is perfect, I think, and although this album is blatantly produced for super-mega-promotional reasons, this can do no harm, as it is brilliant.
The album opens with a loud “3 Gunslingers” and the modern idea continues with 2-pac’s “California”, which captures the original theme whilst giving it a bluesy feel. Things slow down towards the end of the album with “Voodoo Lover” and “Hole In My Soul”, which I think is probably my favourite on the album for it’s melancholy and relaxed feel, without actually depressing the mood- very clever, in my own opinion.
This is Adam Wilson's second album as a solo artist after a stint
as the drummer and co-songwriter of the London based four piece band
‘Aerial Stares’. Wilson took the step into his solo career back in
1998 but took his time coming out with his first album ‘Chaos and
Grace’ previously playing and experimenting as a solo singer/songwriter
on the London music scene.
This is Blabbermouth’s second album after his debut ‘My Dancing Heart’
in 2008. Thompson has always been immersed in the cultural scene after
graduating university with a fine art degree he moved to London to
try his hand as an artist but as luck has taken him he has ended up
replacing his paintbrush with a banjo, a 6-stringed guitar, precisionist
and a bassist, although a slightly different instrument from his original
plan the change has seemed to agree with him and suits him down to
It doesn’t take long into Hold Your Horse Is’ new EP ‘Rammin’ It Home’ to get an idea of what this band are all about: This post-hardcore group from Frimley and Fleet are aggressive, fast paced and very heavy. Switching tempos and time signatures to keep you guessing where they might go next, they are riff heavy right from the start. Robin Pearson’s vocals sound very similar to a Million Dead era Frank Turner, flitting between singing, speaking and screaming which adds to the unpredictability of where they might be heading at any moment. Songs like ‘Non-Stop Physical Training Track’ and ‘Welcome to Obscurity’ pound your eardrums into submission; the only rest for them are a couple of cleverly crafted interludes, most notably the vocal/ acoustic guitar ditty before ‘Starts And Ends.’ The whole package is well thought out and very well executed.
However it has to be said that what HYHI are doing is far from original: Like many other bands around at the moment they sound like they are desperately trying to be the next At The Drive-In or Yourcodenameis:milo. This could be perceived as a negative point, but I do think the music industry is missing bands like these, and a suitable replacement/ stand in for them would be very welcome. It would be very easy for HYHI to get lost amongst all these other bands, but they have one thing that makes them stand out from the rest: The energy and aggression that comes across in these recordings is something none of the other ‘wannabes’ I’ve heard have managed. It doesn’t sound like energy created by over production, listening to this EP feels like they are playing live in your room, like they are shouting every lyric and playing every riff right in your face.
My only criticism about this EP is that some of the songs sound extremely
similar (there was one moment where I skipped back from track three
to the beginning of the EP again just to check there wasn’t a printing
error on the CD). The riffs do get repetitious from time to time,
and occasionally they feel a little dragged out. But this is only
a small gripe; ‘Rammin’ It Home’ is an EP that’s well worth a listen.
It might not completely fill the void left by the likes of At The
Drive-In, but in my opinion it’s the closest anyone has got so far.
Rich Bennett wants to take us on holiday, with music. That sounds lame, really lame but don't run for the hills just yet. Bennett's rich, vintage electronic pop is a luscious, inviting but frustratingly bland proposal which strives for the south of France but falls short just past Butlins, but that's not to say Butlins is without it's charms (please pardon the pun but I just couldn't resist).
This is supposedly the first time Bennett has used lyrics in his music and it unfortunately shows. Abandoning the cryptic lyrics which generally typify 'this type of thing', Bennett instead favours the more forward and relatable approach. This could have been a major downfall but the largely ancillary and sparse words barely register and Bennett's deep, resonant vocals channel the late Ian Curtis in a pleasing enough way so that the iffy wordplay is never really an issue.
Musically it's all very lovely but it's also rather slight with the wistful, summery numbers such as Misty Valley' and the instrumental 'EPO' (which Goldfrapp should really look into as it's almost a complete copy of their superior 'Lovely Head') barely even registering. These songs are surely meant to be evoking soaring vistas and widescreen sunsets but it all feels so slight. When Bennett dials down the whimsy a little though the results can be startling, such as on the stark closing 'Green Memories' which shares some of Brian Eno's otherworldly melancholy with it's haunted backwards effects and free-falling orchestral dives. The basic 'Night Pt 1' also balances a lovely, lilting melody against keening synths to pleasing effect.
In all 'On Holiday' is a brief (just over 30 minutes), pleasant slice
of background music (even the press release name-checks elevator music
as an inspiration!) that will sounds great sound-tracking a BBQ but
falls far short of the kind of emotional connection Bennett's obvious
hero Martin Denny was able to make with far less accompaniment. That's
not to say it's an album without merit though and anyone in the mood
for some uncomplicated, briefly captivating chill-out music could
do far worse.5/10
This self titled album from the Illinois based brother pairing of Tweak Bird is their first album proper - and what a way to introduce yourself to the world. It is twenty-seven minutes of unadulterated psychedelic, progressive rock madness; gritty, raw guitars, pounding drums and sci-fi-esque blips and beeps that sound like they’re about to beam you to another planet. For a two piece consisting purely of drums and baritone guitar, with very little more than a saxophone solo and hint of flute to add to the mix, they make one hell of a noise.
However amongst all this madness Tweak Bird can really write a song. First single off the album ‘A Sun/ Ahh Ahh’ has catchy vocal hooks aplenty. Caleb Bird’s voice is delicate and almost childlike at times, singing about all things interplanetary (a common theme throughout the whole album). His vocals sit on top of the drum/ guitar combination comfortably; not too bold to overpower, but not so weak that they get lost. At the end of the song there is a saxophone solo that is simple but effective, emphasised by the fact that the guitar drops out to give it space. (This isn’t the only unexpected solo on the album, there is a flute solo on ‘Flyin’ High’ that is only a couple of steps away from sounding like it’s from a Jethro Tull track.) The rest of the album follows the same feel, occasionally getting slightly heavier with songs like ‘Lights In Lines’ and ‘The Future,’ and a touch more sedate with ‘Distant Airways.’ For me though, the highlight of the album has to be ‘Round Trippin.’ Lasting not much more than a minute, thirty seconds in the song is played backwards and those sci-fi sounds come back into play. It’s perfectly short, but oh so sweet.
The great thing for me about Tweak Bird is that nothing they do sounds
particularly forced. They do some quite mad and ‘out there’ things
in their songs, but I don’t think they’ve done it because they want
to be different or push boundaries. It sounds like they have done
these things because they know that the end product will be better
for it. They are not afraid to pay homage to something that has been
done before, whether it’s a saxophone solo ala Pink Floyd, flute solo
like Jethro Tull or reversing a record like every Zeppelin fan that
wants to hear the ‘hidden message’ in Stairway to Heaven. For its
full twenty-seven minutes Tweak Bird is a very good album, it’s just
a pity it’s all over so quickly… 7/10
Some of the best music of the last 10 years has it's origins in Canada, there's a real wit and thirst to alot of Canadian music in general so I was interested to see what Canada's latest gifted son 'David Celia' had to bring to the table with his third album 'I Tried'. We're very much in the realm of muted acoustic balladry here but that's not a bad thing by any stretch. Indeed Celia's soft, lilting vocals often bring to mind a young Brian Wilson over subtle, brass and string inflected arrangements which crackle with a homespun charm and real genuine warmth.
The album itself is perfectly paced, measured affair with just the right amount of bounce and depth. Catchy, upbeat songs such as 'Turnout' and 'Crush' are offset by more maudlin, melancholic numbers such as 'Bugs Apocalypse' and 'Marcus (which is so gorgeous I wouldn't have been surprised to hear it on a Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver record). Sure it can get a bit twee at times (closing track 'Severine' overdoes it a bit with a kitsch French delivery that sounds more Flight of the Conchords than Serge Gainsbourg).
Celia is an obviously gifted arranger with a catch in his voice that could floor even the most stoic detractors but it's lyrically where he disappoints. On the opening 'Turnout' for example he delivers a couplet even Scouting For Girls would blush at ("I never though it would turnout this way, I always thought it would turn out ok") and even when he deviates from matters of the heart he's so plain spoken it's almost embarrassing. And that's before we even touch on the cringe worthy country pastiche 'I'm Not Texan' which is just dreadful.
Overall though there are more hits than misses and Celia obviously
means it. 'I Tried' is a welcome slice of sunshine pop as indebted
to Ben Folds as it is to The Beatles. 6/10
Tribal Machine’s third album, which has taken nearly four years to complete, is a concept album partly inspired by George Orwell’s 1984. However, in the case of The Orwellian Night it is The Corporation and not the government in control, in a plot echoing ‘We Will Rock You’ and the Resident Evil series.
The album paints an exceedingly bleak future but one that many will
argue is far from unrealistic. Split into four acts (An Emerging Shadow,
The Sky Was Dark, A Patriotic Family and Love and Regret), the focus
is on regular people and their constant battle against pledging allegiance
to The Corporation. As expected the themes of paranoia, fear and resistance
are present throughout and the lyrics regularly send shivers down
the spine. Treading a route that reminds of Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward
Spiral, the album is produced by Tom Baker who has previously worked
with Marilyn Manson and the aforementioned Nine Inch Nails. Production
wise, the album is impressive and has obviously been painstakingly
constructed. An 80’s feel is present on a number of tracks, often
reminding of Gary Numan’s heavier output. This is an album that cuts
very close to the bone, almost too close. 6/10
The Green Kingdom is sound artist and graphic designer Michael Cottone, and after previous releases on Own Records and SEM., ‘Prismatic’ is his debut offering for the blossoming Home Assembly Music record label.
An immediately warm and comforting album, ‘Prismatic’ features a wide range of gentle and innovative sounds. Soothing crackling sits atop ambient drones, while bubbles of melodies casually float skywards before disappearing often as quickly as they emerged. Flowing steadily throughout, deviations in pace are rare but the journey is never a dull one with layers of inspired samples. Content to sit pre-dominantly in the electro-acoustic genre, The Green Kingdom add a sense of understanding and emotion to their music: qualities so often lacking in others’ output.
This Southend-on-Sea quartet have a busy few months ahead of them with the release of their debut album this month, along with playing and Reading and Leeds festivals, and finally supporting The Buzzcocks in September. It doesn’t get much better, until they headline their own tour, and hopefully this won’t be far off.
All ten tracks on the album seem to bring something different with colloquial vocals and great backing harmonies, producing a different sound to most indie bands at the minute. Songs like “I Miss You, Not” and “Pole Dancer” are perfect examples of the catchiness of these songs, leaving you humming their melodies long after they’ve finished.
The song “Pretty boy” sees Redtrack team up with their Hollyoaks Music Show (that they won) mentor for an energetic piece with perfectly matched voices, while “Memory Card” creates a more folk-based sound- a perfect contrast in the middle of the album. “I Miss You, Not” is also a very catchy song.
My first real exposure to Canadian duo Crystal Castles and it is definitely a positive one. Notoriously antisocial, this outlook makes its way onto the album which is a little schizophrenic – half silky electro and half near unlistenable noise.
The theme is consistent throughout – opener ‘Fainting Spells’ is a near unlistenable cacophony of screeching samples and a bit of a loop laid over the top. But this gives way to the angelic ‘Celestica’ in which Alice Glass’ airy vocals give this trance number a lovely drifty feeling. Then we lurch back into the harder stuff – ‘Doe Deer’ being another screechy, hard to take interlude before the big trancey-house pomp of ‘Baptism’ which has more than a touch of Moby about it.
‘Year of Silence’ maybe the nearest that Crystal Castles come to combining their two bipolar parts within one song. It’s a little bit growly but twinkly at the same time with a mesmeric round-type vocal going on which softens out the thumping techno beat.
Other name checks for reference come from the likes of Ladytron,
Air, early Krautrock bands and even Jean Michelle Jarre – this truly
is an eclectic record with much to reward you providing you are happy
lurching through the constantly morphing sonic landscape that Crystal
Castles create. 8/10
Dig out your skinny jeans, paint your nails black and groom that a-symmetrical fringe because listening to Just Surrender’s new album is one serious emo ride. ‘Pheonix’ is a formulaic, box-ticking journey into the teen angst souls of this New Yorker State foursome.
It all starts off promisingly. The Instrumental opener is a palm muted metalfest that hints at some genuine intelligence whilst second track ‘Through the Night’ booms in with a phat stoner rock riff that Fu Manchu would be proud of. Vocalist Dan Simons sounds punky and full of attitude and the poppy choruses are palatable enough, helped along by some shouty starts and stops and a sneaky bit of double bass drum pedalling.
Unfortunately this is Just Surrender’s moment of premature ejaculation and it’s all flaccid emo clichés from here on in. Third track ‘Take Me Home’ is a weak, standard emo number that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lindsey Lohan teen movie. Simons becomes annoying whining and any hint of edginess is damped by sickly sweet production.
The next couple of songs might be a little less obvious, with layered vocals, crunching intros and powerful note-hoping choruses but by ‘Burning Up’ the record’s back in the realms of limp wristed pop. This could be Mike and the Mechanics.
A mid-album resurgence temporarily brings back the aggression, a place where Just Surrender would do well to remain as it’s clearly their forte. However the acoustic ‘Carried Away’ ushers in another dip in quality as the track is so very, very despicable it’s difficult to emphasise its offensiveness. It’s a bit like The Kooks crossed with The Jonas Brothers and it almost discredits the entire album. If they really want to be *that* whimpering emo band then they should at least listen to ‘Soco Amaretto Lime’ by Brand New to hear how it should be done.
Ultimately this record is a rollercoaster ride of quality. The band’s
execution of the songs is beyond reproach despite no real boundaries
being pushed. However their fleeting moments of rock triumph are ruined
by heartbreakingly bad pop drivel and one suspects ‘Pheonix’ would’ve
been so much better if only they’d played to their strengths rather
than pandering to some chart-topping fetish. 4/10
You’ve got to love supergroups; it’s the chance for a load of well known, successful musicians to come together bringing with them all their influences to create new music. Sometimes it works (think Them Crooked Vultures, The Dead Weather and of course Cream), sometimes it goes horribly wrong (think Box Car Racer, Velvet Revolver and The Good, The Bad & The Queen), but every time without fail it causes intrigue for fans of the relevant band members involved. So onto The Burns Unit, a Scottish-Canadian supergroup consisting of Emma Pollock previously of The Delgados, Future Pilot AKA, Karine Polwart, Kim Edgar, King Creosote, Mattie Foulds, MC Soom T and Michael Johnston. Admittedly this list isn’t quite as impressive as if I were to name all members of Them Crooked Vultures, but if like me you’ve only heard of Emma Pollock and The Delgados, there will be at least a little bit of excitement running through your veins I hope.
Side Show itself is as eclectic as the artists involved, with elements of folk, rock, dub and even cabaret all making an appearance. The mixtures of genres are also helped along by the fact the lead vocals are performed by different band members from song to song. It makes for some extremely interesting listening. The songs are beautifully layered with various different instruments as you would expect, although it is fair to say that the final product sounds very acoustic.
This is the point where I would normally mention what I feel to be the strongest songs on the album, however I can’t do that with Side Show. Each song is as strong as the one preceding it, I can’t think of one weak moment that makes the stronger moments stand out. I will however mention the couple of moments on the album that made me realise just how good it really is: Towards the end of ‘Trouble’ when Emma Pollock does her acapella “Down down downs”, the harmonies are so simple and powerful. The almost Radiohead-esque backing track in ‘Future Pilot A.K.C’ and finally when MC Soom T sings as only she can on top of a backing track that sounds like it’s come straight from a fun fair; it shouldn’t work but it does.
The Burns Unit will no doubt get lost behind the bigger more successful
names that are around at the moment. This supergroup doesn’t have
that big name band member needed to help with the press, but it does
have a charmingly superb album that I would recommend anyone gives
at least one listen to. 10/10
Larsen B belong in your record collection somewhere near Fleet Foxes and First Aid Kit. They’re the latest in a line of folky, pastoral indie and they’re the real deal. Musketeer is their debut album, but you wouldn’t be able to guess that just from listening to it, it’s easily one of the best albums you’ll hear this year. They seem to have emerged fully realized and more capable than most established bands of recording a proper album.
The first track: Codeine, starts off with just vocals and piano, then quickly blossoms into something huge and choral resembling the Danny Elfman Soundtrack for Edward Scissorhands, if it had been performed by the Beach Boys.
Although the Danny Elfman comparisons mostly wear off after the first track, the rest of the album continues in a similar vein, full of beautiful, slow to mid-tempo songs propelled in equal parts by piano and guitar, underpinned by the best use of banjo and vocal harmonies you’ve heard in a long time.
It’s a very twee affair, which I’d usually find completely cloying, but here it works perfectly because it comes to the band so naturally, instruments like the banjo or ukulele don’t feel tacked onto the songs because they’re hip instruments. They’re integral to the songs they’re used in.
I hear on the musical grapevine that there is some hype around Chief as ‘the next big thing’ and I think I can see why. Hailing from New York and writing their debut in Los Angeles has given ‘Modern Rituals’ a luminous Californian sheen to tales from the big city to create a beautifully melancholic resonance throughout eleven tracks of success.
‘The Minute I Saw It’ is a gorgeously easy going opener that shines brilliantly with glimmering guitars and shimmering drums emerging from a haze of distortion, whilst ‘Wait for You’ and ‘Stealing’ are majestic with downhearted choruses as they unravel tales of lost love and broken hearts. ‘This Land’ has a glistening resonance as the guitars cram a sunny disappointment as we slide into debut single, ‘Breaking Walls’ whose cascading chords echo superbly throughout. What is so wonderful about this album is the subtle juxtaposition of sorrow and elation as an exploration of tracks lead you to those songs that glisten with beautiful riffs and others that are crafted as gradual and mighty anthems.
Adding an acoustic dimension to this golden record is gentle ‘In The Valley’ which is packed with dazzling imagery and heartbreak, in the vein of a Californian ‘Strawberry Fields’ as the guitar riffs shine and the soothing percussion ruffles your hair. ‘Summer’s Day’ is another acoustic wonder that could easily become a captivating festival anthem for those pesky rainy days that leave you caked in mud, but as happy as a kitten with a fresh supply of catnip.
Overall ‘Modern Rituals’ gives an impression of a band with dexterity and a willingness to achieve as they offer this impressive creation that uses a variety of influences and skilful production to obtain trickles of emotion from the listener.
Split into two discs, Retina and Iris, Wildbirds and Peacedrums offer up an insight into their very own atmospheric wonder.
Beginning with Retina, a five track masterpiece recorded in the Guðríðarkirkja church with the Schola Cantorum Reykjavík Choir is hauntingly envelops the mind and hypnotises the senses like the love child of These New Puritans ‘Orion’ and Bjork’s early melodic wizardry. ‘Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood’ is a colossally majestic and eloquently expressive as it flows into ‘Tiny Holes In This World’, which has such tenderly playful vocals that dance, twirling and swirling above a harmonic backdrop. ‘Under Land and Above Sea’ halts the pace and creates a moment for reflection within the mighty choral accompaniment.
War drums and a strong percussive stance is taken for epic ‘Fight For Me’ as it echoes and bounces from the sweet silence before it flourishes into a beautiful choral finale that layers soprano on top of tenors and tenors on top of baritones. So powerful in its percussion, ‘Peeling Off The Layers’ is the perfect partner to ‘Fight For Me’ as the vocals get more fiercely authoritative and the gushing choir rises and escalates further until we are dropped into a pure musical abyss with only soft whispers seeping into the ears.
Moving onto Iris, it soon becomes clear why the album has been split into two parts as the new world steel pan percussion and gentle cymbal work creates a paradise of calm and wonder – a huge contrast to the monumental sound of Retina. But even with this serenity, intensity still remains with ‘The Wave’ building up to become a small storm of fervour. ‘The Drop’ and ‘The Lake’ showcase the silky vocal talents of singer Mariam to the highest degree as her vocals glide and flutter around the mind.
The introduction to ‘The Course’ begins with the kind of world music drumming that sounds like it is actually inside your head, beating and pounding as a second heartbeat. Probably the most captivating aspect of Iris is the percussive element that makes the beautiful backbone of every song. And the gentle cymbal crashes and steel pan frenzy make up astonishing finale ‘The Well’ is no exception to this key element of Wildbirds and Peacedrums sound. Along with a poetic turbulence that throws the tranquillity of Iris askew, we end this incredible journey of intensity and creative genius with a memorable eruption of melody.
This N. London quartet might've begun life as a cheery bunch of semi-acoustic
gutter commentators much in the manner of The Coral (an audible influence
throughout 'When') but Colour Of Sound have made a definite and noticable
attempt to take things several steps further and, as debut albums
go, 'When' can more than hold its own on the racks of HMV amongst
the numerous better known and established artistes who've combined
to influence its 10 songs.
This particular trio of 70s Glam punk enthusiasts formed in the deep
south of the US (Kentucky) and then relocated to San Francisco. I
wonder why. A similar journey would take a band from Swindon to somewhere
in the Ukraine, minus the advantages of shared language and cultural
reference points. I suppose I'd need to arrange an interview with
Burnt Ones to ask them exactly why they moved, where they really derive
their inspirations from and is, in their opinion, the greatest rock
n roll song ever recorded T Rex's 'Metal Guru'? It would appear so.
Lush Rimbaud – The Sound of the Vanishing Era (Hotviruz/ From Scratch/ Brigadisco/ Bloody Sound/ Narvalo Suoni/ Sweet Teddy)
I think it’s fair to say that in the United Kingdom, we don’t very often get the opportunity to hear new music from mainland Europe countries such as Italy. In fact, I can’t think of any new ‘popular’ music I’ve heard from Italy since Eiffel 65 released their classic number one chart hit ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’. Oh how the UK charts reflect our great taste in music over here… So as I read the info that came along with this new Lush Rimbaud album, I was very intrigued by what this four piece electropunk band from the East coast of Italy were about to put me through. Any hint of Eiffel 65 and I’m switching it off.
Released as an LP and CD, this album is presented in a Side A-Side B format, something that will become very relevant shortly. Side A opens with ‘Sounds From A Vanishing Era’ which is immediately a very bass and drum driven song. The introduction is drawn out, tempting the listener with drum fills and synth bass lines before the drums kick in at a fast pace. The track builds up over the next three minutes as layers of guitars build the song into a sound reminiscent of Kasabian. When the vocals eventually come in I can’t quite decide if they ruin everything or not; they are out of tune, very whiney and the singers’ accent makes it very difficult to understand what he is saying. He sounds kind of like an Italian Shaun Ryder, only Shaun Ryder is slightly more tuneful (believe it or not). However even with the disappointment of the vocals, it is a strong start to the album and I’m excited about what might be coming next. Unfortunately this excitement is short lived as the rest of Side A is really just more of the same. It’s not bad, the ideas are good, but it is very repetitive and those vocals are really hard to listen to. The problem is that everything is the same pace, it’s all the same volume and there is absolutely no variety between songs whatsoever.
Onto Side B, with opening track ‘Sounds From A New Era’ we have a new, more electronic sound to Lush Rimbaud. Less guitars and more synthesisers, theramin style sounds and quite bizarre concepts. This side opens with British poet Jan Noble reading a translation of one of Errico Malatesta’s ‘freedom championing’ monologues. Then in comes the band, repeating the same four bar riff over and over and over. Jan Noble’s voice is irritating, the riff is irritating, and they both go on for nearly six minutes. By the end I had the song turned down as it was really getting to my ears, I was tempted to switch it off altogether but I managed to resist. Once again, the rest of Side B is very similar. Lots of synth sounds, lots of repetitive riffs. It makes for extremely hard listening, in fact by the end I really miss Side A.
So Lush Rimbaud are going for two different sounds on their album
‘The Sound of the Vanishing Era’ it seems. One that they consider
to be vanishing, the other that they think is from a new era. The
album as a whole is quite poor, but its saving grace is the first
side or this ‘vanishing era’ as they like to call it. I really hope
that they realise that the new era they are trying to create is nothing
more than a fad, in fact it might not even be that. Now where did
I put my Kasabian and Happy Mondays albums? 3/10
When thinking of contemporary soul singers you could be forgiven for thinking of the wash of Motown inflected tunes designed to hark back to the golden age of pop and nothing more. This is where Andreya Triana differs from the pack, as soon as the record starts it’s clear that imitation is not the order of the day, her voice echoes the greats but retains it’s own uniqueness and the music manages to sound fresh whilst staying true to the classic soul sound.
The album as a whole takes a laid back approach, the overall sound is groovy but very mellowed out, the light instrumentation suiting Andreya’s soothing tones down to a tee. There are no floor fillers here but the record oozes a real and often melancholy soul, especially on ‘Daydreamers’ and closer ‘X’, the variety of instrumentation and influences across the nine songs on offer showcase a brilliant talent for songwriting as well as production. Andreya says of the records title “It’s about still feeling lost even though you know what path you should be taking in life” and if this debut is anything to go by, she’s on the right one.
Aerophlot is the debut album from Rhys Edwards aka Jakokoyak. The title is named after a Russian airline and the record is loosely themed on space exploration and the Russian space program in particular. The general sound is subdued and airy, full of eerie melodies, ghostly reverb drenched backing vocals and light electronic bleepery it sits somewhere in Spiritualized territory and quietly munches it’s diazepam.
The concept nature of the album works well, there isn’t much single material but in it’s place sit slices of chilled out and laid back brilliance reminiscent of Moon Safari era Air. Opener ‘Aerophlot’ contains a seriously groovy bassline and borders on the psychedelic, soft keys and acoustic guitar add to the ambiance and make a perfect tune to zone out to after a heavy one. It continues in much the same vein, the tracks flow into one another beautifully and though many break the five minute mark don’t get in the slightest bit tedious or repetitive.
Centerpiece ‘Moscow 705’ is perhaps the highlight here, clocking in at just over six minutes the tune pulses along with an almost baggy rhythm decorated with vintage synth sounds and swathes of ‘ooohs‘ that manages to conjure up the desired image of historic space voyages, clinical white surroundings and obsolete scientific devices. The same can be said of ‘Prypiat‘ which wouldn’t seem out of place on any chill-out compilation and sounds a lot like the little brother of La Femme D’Argent.
I get the feeling this record won’t be widely available but it’s well worth seeking out, it’s not often something like this comes along as the genre is so closely tied to a few bands, Air and Spiritualized the main players and though Maps and M83 have been reviving and pushing the genre forward, Jakokoyak retains that light, sedated feeling that heavy synth use and mechanical drum sounds have done away with. A future hidden gem.