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albums - june 2013


The Thermals - Desperate Ground

This is now the sixth album from the lo-fi rockers The Thermals, who hail from Portland, Oregon. Many of our ears first pricked up to these chaps with The Body, The Blood, The Machine from 2006, and it’s arguable that since then all the albums have been fairly consistent, each boasting four or five corkers at least.

There is something admirable about a band who can push out six albums and still stick to their raw roots - and that is something instantly recognisable from the opening track Born To Kill, which doesn’t hesitate from diving in at the deep end. Crashing drums, thick fuzzy indie-mid and Hutch Harris squawking above all of that. This is one of the shortest albums in Thermals history, with only ten tracks that average just under three minutes each, which in a way concentrates the punchy loveliness of it.

My top tracks off of this album would have to be I Go Alone, which sits at track four and has a really nice main riff, The Sword By My Side [5], Faces Stay With Me [7] (which actually, thinking about it, has a riff very similar to the I Go Alone albeit a smidge chirpier), and The Howl of Winds [8]. But even those tracks not listed are decent enough. You really know what you’re getting from The Thermals. Prepare necks for boppage. 8/10

Thom Curtis


Paper Aeroplanes - Little Letters

This quaint little alt-pop Welsh duo are boasting their third album in four years, Little Letters. The opening track When the Windows Shook makes me immediately doubt dubbing these guys as quaint. This has a slightly darker, driving edge to it; different to the airy nicey acoustic twiddles I would usually associate with them. This could even potentially pass as a Tina Dico cover, who Paper Aeroplanes did support on at least one date earlier this year. The following track Red Rover is gentler but still has a speck of darkness, and really is quite gripping.

The title track from the album [5] is a slow builder, growing into a driving acoustic indie-folk epic with an high-octaved enchanting Celtic choral flutter which undoubtedly makes this track the top pick from the album. I personally find myself drawn to the pacier folk numbers previously mentioned, and others such as Palm of Your Hand [8]; but the rest of the album consists of the cutsier, gentler, poppier tales of love and loss that have undoubtedly got the duo this far already. And if that’s your bag, which it is for many, then I really must point you in the way of this album. 7/10

Thom Curtis


Jane’s Addiction – Live in NYC (Universal)

I’ll have to come clean at the start of this one, it may not be an entirely objective review. You see, Jane’s Addiction are one of those bands which have followed me through my life, like an age old friend. And like all the best friends, they’ve had the capability to inspire a whole range of emotions in me over the years – excitement (when I first got ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ sent over from the US by my brother) , hero worship (when I single handedly tried forcing it on the entire school leaving age group of North Lincolnshire) , disappointment (when I realised maybe they weren’t quite as effortlessly cool as I first thought, that in fact they were a little bit cheesey at times), affirmation (when they released ‘Strays’ and latterly ‘ The Great Escape Artist’ and my initial faith was restored) and contentment (now that in my musical pipe and slipper years can sit back with an Ovaltine and realise I’ve been happy with the whole journey.

And so it is with this live offering, like a microcosm of the bands existence captured in what is unarguably an impressive performance. Long gone are the days when Perry’s voice had the habit of sounding like a croaking out of pitch frog – maybe it’s the development of pitchshifter software or maybe he’s just got better. But the tracks chosen make for an interesting collection – obviously the commercially successful ‘Been Caught Stealing’ ‘Stop’and ‘Jane Says’ make an appearance. Unfortuantely they are accompanied by some pretty lame introductions from Perry which reminds me of all those bad times when I had the daunting realisation that maybe Jane’s were just taking the piss with me and were in fact nothing more than a well disguised MTV friendly hair metal band. But there are also plenty of early tracks which still exude that exciting power and resonance which first turned me onto the band. ‘Up the Beach’, ‘Whores’ and ‘Ted, Just Admit It’ are not the sort of songs which any normal metal band would conceive. Stepehen Perkins’ drums on ‘Three Days’ still sound as crazy as they did twenty years ago.

Equally, the new additions to the live set add an extra spice as well – ‘Just Because’ may not be that new now but it neatly straddles the old and new, maintains a commercial viability while still retaining that distinct Jane’sness. And the new track ‘Irresistible Force’suites beautifully into this live set.

Unfortunately I only got the audio version of this concert which is also released in BluRay and DVD versions – might be worth seeking out a copy given Jane’s reputation for theatrical stage shows. But if you can’t get that, then just crank up this CD version – either as a new introduction or a retrospective for musical fogey like me, you won’t be disappointed.



Junip - Junip

Jose Gonzalez may be best known for his classical via Nick Drake guitar pickings: his now-unmistakable 2005 cover of fellow Gothenburg residents The Knife’s Heartbeats, induced a haze of European success after being featured in a Sony Viera advert, the combination of colourful, bouncing balls and Gonzalez’s softly-sung, dulcet take on the track proving to be a winning formula. Jump forward several years, and after several collaborations (Zero 7, The Books and The Göteberg String Theory, respectively, among others), a video game soundtrack, and countless plays on US TV dramas, we have his newest endeavour. He may be a busy man, but Junip has evidently been his main priority as of late. After recording their 2010 debut Fields, Gonzalez, alongside Elias Araya and Tobias Winterkorn have enriched their sound and produced a lush successor.

Where previously on Fields, Junip’s widescreen approach - the antithesis of Gonzalez’s solo material - sounded as if it was rooted in ambition, with relatively straightforward compositions, their sophomore effort appears more concise, flowing rhythmically through the majestic (‘Line of Fire’) into the affective (‘Beginnings’) and making good on the promise of a ‘rock band’ as opposed to another collection concreting Gonzalez’s reputation as torch carrier for contemporary folk. In fact, Gonzalez has always seemed at odds with other denizens of the genre he inhabits anyways: John Mayer, Damien Rice...all somewhat interchangeable figures in the face of Gonzalez’s stylistic leanings, which have always been on the fringe. It’s miraculous that television producers seem to favour his meanderings more frequently than grating Jack Johnson lullabies. In this context, fortunately, Gonzalez has strayed even further away, with shared influences inevitably shining brightly: the persistent synth in ‘Baton’ and the resonance of ‘Villain’ vividly recall elements of Krautrock figureheads, where elsewhere, ‘Your Life Your Call’ sounds like some jazz-folk hybrid. Paramount to this is the execution of the band, sounding subdued, yet sonically grandiose at the same time. ‘Walking Lightly’ boasts Middle-Eastern keyboard tinges, African percussion, and of course, Gonzalez’s classical guitar, yet somehow manages to keep the sense of restraint sustained throughout. When taken as a whole, Junip appears to carry forth the bucolic, emotionally-weighted tones that Gonzalez is known for, instilling them into a more replete form that feels natural: an adaptation of artistic expression, rather than a fork in the road, that works wonderfully.

Ash Babb