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  albums - september 2006

 

Laurent Garnier - Retrospective (F Communications)

It's one of those names you always hear but possibly don't fully know the depth of work which they have produced over the past 15 years. The title of 'one of the best DJs/artists around today' is a rather glib description from the press release, but for once it is an accurate summary of the skills of a man who has been unafraid to mix various styles of electronica and techno, but has commonly gone beyond the warm confines of the DJ booth and once even stepped in to replace Guns n Roses at a massive open air Belgian festival.

This 'Retrospective' is a record of his work as an artist and a DJ and forms a formidable piece of work. An impressive link between Detroit techno, old school hip hop, acid house and nineties rave is displayed including several reworkings of some of his older classics. Essential listening for any fan of elctro and dance.
www.laurentgarnier.com

SB


 

The Like Young - Last Secrets

The Like Young are like, shit. 

Believe me, I was tempted to leave this review at just that, but for fear of appearing just to be making a wacky nod towards Spinal Taps’ classic ‘shit sandwich’ review, I’ll justify the bluntness of my comment.  

‘The Hell With This Whole Affair’ had me hooked. Its meandering piano and ghostly synths tricked me into believing that I was about to hear a wonderfully tortured album of Court of the Crimson King enormity. Alas, alas… it’s all down hill from there. 

So we enter into 12 songs of jaded heard-it-all-before punk that’s sung with no genuine aggression or feeling. Sadly, the music seems designed very knowingly to appeal to NME audiences.  

Courtesy of their press-release, I learned that The Like Young are perennial strugglers and battlers against the musical powers-that be. They find it hard to make ends meet, yada yada yada. Anyone heard that one before? It’s hardly surprising since they’ve tried to make a day job out of doing what teenage boys do on Saturday afternoons in their parent’s garage.  

Crap name, crap sound; musical pandering at its most frustrating. Thumbs down.

Alex Clark


F.S.Blumm – ‘Summer Kling’ (Morr) 

F.S.Blumm is a man with a penchant for noise music although listening to much of the considered, sun bleached jazz tinged melodies of ‘Summer Kling’ you’d never guess. ‘Summer Kling’ is very much a summer record as the title suggests. But rather than the upbeat pop and Brian Wilson influenced, and frankly rather tired, melodies this may conjure up what we get from F.S.Blumm is a record for those summer hours as the day is slowly creeping away from us but its still warm enough to sit on the stoop with only your t-shirt on your back. It’s hazy and muggy and you feel autumns breathe is just around the corner but for now its best just to enjoy the slight breeze tickling your neck.

F.S.Blumm gently bathes his music in soft guitar, clarinet and just about anything else he feels may add to the charm that seeps from the records every pore. But looking at the list of players, instruments and programming contained within you may be forgiven for expecting songs that veer towards the cluttered or over complicated but this is far from true. Blumm somehow manages to fill the tracks with diversity and yet still evokes a kind of stripped back jazz aesthetic. A resonant and honey-glazed jewel that will have you praying for just a few more balmy summer evenings.

Luke Drozd


OOIOO – ‘TAIGA’ (Thrill Jockey) 

OOIOO is strange old name, rather fitting then for one of the most extraordinary releases I’ve received all year. A record preoccupied with the theme of nature (the title means both ‘big river’ in Japanese and ‘forest’ in Russian) and one full of tribal rhythms, feral yelps and bizarre noises. For all that though the record is somehow harnessed together by an array of pop hooks and grooves that seem to coax your lower body into hip rolling joy and make you want to tear off the shirt that it’s a bit to hot for anyway.

‘TAIGA’ begins with the group chants of ‘UMA’ before descending into the beautiful jazz infused ‘KMS’ which itself crumbles away in psychedelic absurdness before rebuilding itself from its frazzled mind outwards. It is a record full of some quintessentially Japanese folk elements as well as western jazz and psychedelia and a whole host of baffling sounds that I’m sure they must have summoned from the belly of a kind a mythological Japanese beast whose soul they used to craft an instrument of delicate beauty that could only be played once before merely disintegrating. Fresh, awe inspiring and utterly, mind bendingly unique.

Luke Drozd


M Ward – ‘Post-War’ (4AD) 

Finding a new home on 4AD M Ward returns into our open and expecting arms with the follow up to ‘Transistor Radio’, a record obsessed with the bygone days of crackingvinyl lovingly glistening over the airwaves. In contrast to that work of homage and solitude ‘Post-War’ is very much a ‘band’ record, crafting the songs this time round with his touring friends and musicians including Adam Selzer, Neko Case and Jim James. It’s brasher and down right rockier record than before perhaps reflecting his live sound a little closer (or at least the live sound he seems to have moved closer towards).

Some things still remain to ensure that this could be mistaken for nothing other than M Ward. The voice, its mix of treacle and nails, is as rich and distinctive as ever and those off-kilter solos and guitar pickings, like a man wrestling his guitar into submission, are still ever present. It’s really the albums size and swell that is the change here, bigger and bolder than before it does prove to give the record a quality that sets it apart from the rest of his frankly magnificent body of work.

For me Transfiguration of Vincent’ will always be my favourite M Ward offering, perhaps for no other reason than it was the first of his records I fell head-over-heels in love with, but maybe, just maybe, ‘Post-War’ has shown itself to be a close number two.

Luke Drozd


Bone-Box - Death of a Prize Fighter (Fat Northerner)

My initial thoughts about Bone-Box from their single 'Dragging Wires' have not changed on hearing this full length effort. There are a whole load of really interesting tracks on this album, including the Mariachi style 'St Jay's Infirmary' and the welling instrumental 'Return to St Jay's Infirmary' but mainly the tracks are strangled by a vocalist who sounds like he has swallowed the contents of a spittoon. Not only does this make for quite a tiring listen but it also renders some of the apparently fine lyrics incomprehensible. Get some Mentholyptus down you man.
www.bone-box.com

SB


Fionn Regan – ‘The End of History’ (Bella Union) 

Fionn Regan is a man not adverse to sentiment or using it to craft rather beautiful, uncomplicated folk songs. In the wake of the recent folk songwriter boom headed currently by the omnipresent, and often terrified looking, Jose Gonzalez its easy to dismiss a record like ‘The End of History’ as yet another from that stable. However I do feel that would be a mistake.

A gentle record filled with warmth and whimsy and beautiful almost John Martyn-esque guitar playing and a vocal turn not dissimilar to that of The Weakerthans front man John K. Samson, it does slowly seep under your skin. While there are a crop of songs here that really don’t raise themselves above nice there are also pearls within like ‘Hey Rabbit’ or ‘The Underwood Typewriter’ that show Regan to be every bit as skill and deserving as his peers.
Watch video to 'The End of History'

Luke Drozd


Fallopian - Dammit, Eat Your Pudding (Avebury)

An interesting experiment from Avebury sees them sign up Los Angeles foursome Fallopian and let them loose in a studio to record a full album. At least the result is only 27 minutes long. While a full range of subjects are covered by the Californian teenagers ranging from Beans to Peepshows, Rashes to Potatoe Bugs, this lo-fi assault is so garage that it reaks of Duckams. In fact it sounds exactly like a load of teenagers let loose in a recording studio to do their worst.

Highlights would be 'Free Peepshow' when the caterwauling vocals and inexpertly thrashed drums and guitars are replaced by cutesey vocal round. Lowlights would be the limitations of knowing only three chords, having one guitar sound, a limited drum kit and minimal vocal talent. But I'd rather be in a garage band than spend a every spare day in the local shopping centre.

SB


The Studiofix - Will Change Your Life (Avebury)

Miss one, hit one! This is more like it from Avebury. The Studiofix are an enviably talented bunch that manage to combine a breadth of influences in an edgy modern rock and roll that is way beyond their tender years. 'Magical Michael' sounds like some Motown classis put through the rock blender and whisked up to a perfect guitar pop fluffiness. Meanwhile, 'The Latter Years' is a quieter number that starts off like a St Thomas track but then winds up with a Chilis inspired bass track.

The Studiofix have such a fresh approach to putting together some weirdly played guitar and bass and drums it is difficult to compare them with anyone. Incomparable while still in your teens - that's some feat. Damn pretty too.
www.thestudiofix.com

SB


Yo La Tengo – ‘I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass’ – (Matador) 

Yo La Tengo are nothing if not broad in scope. Their first new full length studio album proper since ‘Summer Sun’ in 2003 ‘I Am Not Afraid…’ shows the Hoboken trio stretching out for new heights and proving once again that there is no tone, emotion or sound that is out of their disgustingly talented grasp.

‘I Am Not Afraid…’ begins its hour and a quarter in true Yo La Tengo style with an intense and layered guitar piece (as it also ends) before disappearing into the unique and varied world they inhabit. We are given the funky piano led ‘Mr Tough’ with its Motown horn blasts, we get garage punk with ‘Watch Out For Ronnie’ and we get fragile instrumental splendour with ‘Daphnia’. Few other bands could attempt this sort of variety on one record and even fewer could do so without it sounding confused and cluttered but somehow Yo La Tengo deliver.

‘I Am Not Afraid…’ is a record of distinct character and a host of moods that show Yo La Tengo are leaps and bounds ahead of so many of their contemporaries and one that will slowly envelope you revealing new layers the further you delve.

Luke Drozd


X-Press2 - Makeshift Feelgood (Skint)

The single 'Kill 100' and it's remixes was a fantastically edgy piece of electro that pushed all the right button whereas a large proportion of this album only makes me want to press the flush button. From the outset with the formulaic 'soulful' 'Give It' demonstrating an uncanny similarity with Rednex at some points, things get off to a bad start. 'Witchi Tai To' gets off briefly to a good start before descending into 80's Euro disco pop. There is more soulful house to plough through before 'Fellow Cutie' makes a decent fist of sounding like Evil Heat era Primal Scream. But these highlights are too spartan for my ears (and even these may be incorrectly identified as the track listing on my promo copy did not seem to marry up with the actual tracks playing).

Seems to me that all the things that make 'Kill 100' such a great tune are completely subverted in the rest of the album which squeezes in enough housey beats and soulful 'ooh oohs' to make it not worth while ploughing through the coal for the few diamonds that exist. What a disappointment.
www.xpress2.com

SB


Tortoise – ‘A Lazarus Taxon’ (Thrill Jockey) 

A decade or so into their varied and illustrious career Chicago’s Tortoise have carefully and lovingly pawed through their music vaults and put together ‘A Lazarus Taxon’ for us discerning types. A collection of b-sides, rarities and remixes on 3CDs and a DVD it is a document across their work and music generally over the last ten years.

Over the epic expanse of the collection we are shown all the facets and sides of Tortoise’s sound from all their previous incarnations. We are reminded just how varied and spectacular they are as a band with elements of jazz, post-rock (a genre which they helped shape if not start), electronica and even drum and bass. There are so many highlights that they are almost too many to mention but the stunning and epic opener ‘Gamera’, an excellent remix of ‘TNT’ and the always interesting Autechre reworkings are certainly worth mention. Add to this the compelling DVD footage where by you can see them rise and age in all their glory and its like getting everything you asked for Christmas.

‘A Lazarus Taxon’ is a superb document to a band who deserve to be far bigger than they are. It is proof if it were needed of just how fresh and forward thinking they are as well as being absurdly talented to boot. Here’s to another 10 years of keeping us all guessing.

Luke Drozd


Sylosis - Casting Shadows mini album (In At the Deep End)

Graveyards. Gothic script. Tombstones. Skull masks. Why do metal bands keep pigeon holing themselves like this? plus Sylosis doesn't actually mean anything as a word. Kooky huh?

But the dark forces have been at work here and inspired some spine-chillingly brutal vocals and rapid fire kick drums that sound like our sticksman has a Black and Decker bolted to his left hoof (obviously cloven). There is a brief respite from the impressively dirty guitar distortion with a nice acoustic piece at the start of 'The Bereaved' before the tried and trusted screamo/guitar/drum attack continues.

I'd like to shut Sylosis in a room with Belle and Sebastian and see would get the most freaked out. It would not scientifically prove anything but it would be funny.
www.myspace.com/sylosis

SB


Brightblack Morning Light – S/T (Matador) 

Nabob and Raybob aka Brightblack Morning Light are a couple of tent dwelling friends from rural Alabama with their hearts and feet firmly attached to nature. Informative years spent around gospel, preachers, cocaine and nature have led to a certain outlook on life that is truly evident in their music. Brightblack Morning Light is record that sort of envelopes you, a record of slow psyched-out folk music with a spiritual and gospel edge. It’s a record that you can become hypnotised by as the repetitive rhythms seem to go on for as far as the ear can hear until time itself becomes somehow irrelevant. An extremely lush Rhodes filled wander in an aural woodland that may find you slipping into a different state of being and, if your not careful, burning your toast.

Luke Drozd


Courtney Tidwell -  ‘Don’t let Stars keep us Tangled up’ (Ever)

This is nice in a soundtrack kind of a way. Tidwell possess a belting voice. She emotes in a Bjork-with-classical-training fashion over disparate musical styles, all of them luscious. There’s post punk bass-lines, jazz guitar, country tinged, electronica, jazz piano, the list goes on and on; a whole stew of influences. For me it could have done with being less disparate, as it is I find it difficult to engage with it emotionally and therefore it is a bit boring. But if you want something on as pure background music while you do something else, (for example writing music reviews,) you could a lot worse than letting your mind dissolve into this.

MJL


Luxembourg - Front (Dogbox)

In an month of damp mornings and drizzly days, Luxembourg light everything up with the release of their album 'Front'. Quietly crystallising into action as LE14 suddenly bursts into the awesome 'Faint Praise', this album is a piece of pop magic. No sooner have the falsetto vocals wrapped around the bitter lyrics of 'Faint Praise' like a strangler using a feather boa than the equally resplendent single 'We Only Stayed Together For the Kids' and 'What Housewives Don't Tell You' follow up with a brutal one-two of pop magic.

Musically the tracks are polished and complex with crunching guitars punctuating twinkly keyboards melodies and crazy Moog warblings. There might be a case for likening Luxembourg with early Radiohead, especially during 'Taking Cover' and there are unavoidable vocals comparisons with Morrissey. But these tracks all feel fresh and as far from the mundane domestic tragedies that they describe as you could wish to get.
www.luxembourgband.com

SB


Amadine - ‘Waiting for the Light to Find us’ (Fat Cat)

There are now so many releases that fit into the vein of  ‘Alt-Country’ or whatever you want to call it, that you have to be judicious in your choices, no longer buying everything with a fiddle and / or steel guitar. From what I’ve heard on this six track ep I reckon Amadine are the real deal. Beautiful, mournful, depressing, piano, accordian; exactly what you want. Like getting drunk by yourself in winter. If you like this sort of music then this is an essential purchase.    

MJL


James Yorkston - The Year of the Leopard (Domino)

Maybe a sign of the high regard in which Domino hold James Yorkston that this promo release is accompanied by a whopping 6 page press release including a sizeable section detailing the inspiration track by track by Yorkston himself. But this third studio album sees Yorkston's intimate weary sounding voice perfectly capturing the mood of a more settled artist, comfortable in creating his own music without the need to fit into any niche.

Some nifty valve amps and analogue recording tape ensure that the sound of these tracks always retains that homely closeness and collaborations with other Fence Collectivites such as HMS Ginafore follow that theme through.

The damn sheer gentleness of the whole thing could be seen as a its greatest strength or its most fallible weakness. Not feeling the need to stride out and gouge its own way onto T4 or Radio 1 is a good thing. Conversely the controlled even handedness of every track could lead to those of limited attention span finding the full 42 minutes difficult to stomach. But 'The Year of the Leopard' is undoubtedly a thing of beauty so for once we should be satisfied to listen and enjoy at our pace rather than trying to judge.
www.jamesyorkston.co.uk

SB


 

Datarock - ‘Datarock Datarock' (Young Aspiring Professionals)

This is a hell of a lot of fun. Never more so than when they are singing about finding love at computer camp in ‘Computer Camp Love.’ A song with the best backing vocals since the frog chorus. Its kind of sexy in a preposterous way as well, like an amusing orgy, but you’ll tire of it eventually. Imagine the Talking Heads getting smashed and recording an album of Prince covers. Brilliant. If only for a while.

MJL



A+E Line - Train Wrecks (Hackpen)

Hackpen's reputation for recording original and frankly odd acts continues with this beauty from Bournemouth's A+E Line. It also sees the rare Tasty instance of scanning the whole of the cover art which looks remarkably similar to the work of Tasty's very own scribe Drozd.

From the spoken word 'Intro' recording of a phone caller slagging off the A+E Line with the cerebral put down of calling it 'Gay and E Line' the album lurches straight into the choppy guitar sounds of 'Time Time Time', a crunchy drum machine meets rock meets bleepy Casio fantasticness that has a wonderful timeless air - could have been recorded by Captain Beefheart in the 60's.

The weird rambling ode to Christopher Walken still sounds good sandwiched within these other songs and is followed by the scuzzy guitars of 'Club Fabulous' - like the Darkness but with less pomp, more sense of humour and better tunes. 'Short Story' is a weird spoken account of accidentally killing a child who has vandalised your car. I know it sounds grim but it is actually really funny as the narrator's voice recalls events with a really bizarre use of language like describing a gang as a 'a syndicate, a syndicate of damn kids' and 'running in the direction that my car was not'. It's weird and it's brilliant and perfectly crystallises the way that A+E Line manage to amplify the thought processes that go through everyone's  head in the course of modern life. They can do quirky and self effacing but they also have the songs to back it up. You have been warned, now listen to it.
www.aeline.co.uk

SB


The Essex Green - ‘Cannibal Sea’ (Heat 42)

At times this is excellent. It sounds like early REM, Fairground Attraction and all the bands that were their mates in the 80’s. There are three songwriters / vocalists all of whom seem quite adroit with melody and refreshingly literary. This makes all the songs sound startlingly familiar but I’m going to be generous and put this down to ‘classic songwriting’ rather than it being derivative. It has the now ubiquitous post punk sounds but allied to more traditional folk, sea shanties and classic pop.  

They definitely have a New York sound, but not a contemporary one. For some reason I imagine 1920’s New York / Manhattan Transfer, maybe its because this record is stuffed with longing. I like longing, a lot. Its not perfect but what the hell is these days and there are more than enough great songs to justify buying it, particularly the last one, ‘slope song,’ which is a beaut. Clever pop for clever people. 

MJL


Benni Hemm Hemm - ‘Benni Hemm Hemm’ (Morr Music/Sound of Handshake)

Joyfully ridiculous. Country tinged Scando Pop backed by a big band playing Japanese jazz. Its guaranteed to make you smile with pleasure but also blends in a genuine sadness. It contains some cracking songs but doesn’t sustain it through the whole album unfortunately.  

If Harry Nilsson’s lost weekend with John Lennon had incorporated recording an album with Lee Hazelwood in Sweden it would’ve have probably sounded like this. Benni Hemm Schmemm.

MJL  


The Ms - ‘Future Women’ (Polyvinyl)

Infectious pop. Itching with energy it sounds like the Arcade Fire playing covers of British bands most notably the Kinks and T-Rex, sometimes less like Arcade Fire but always like the British Invasion. If you like the sound of that then give it a listen. 

MJL


Babybird - Between My Ears There's Nothing But Music (Chrysalis)

Blimey - remember that tune from the 90's that always got played at the end of the disco - 'You're Gorgeous'? Yeah, that's them, that's Babybird and they're still going. More accurately, Babybird is mainly the vehicle for the uninspiringly named Stephen Jones (no wonder he created an avian pseudonym) and 'Between My ears There's Nothing But Music' is Babybird's first release for 6 years.

It's not easy to tell which market Babybird will really appeal to at present (not that appealing to a market is the most important thing about a record obviously). It's just that they fall between the cutting edge modern stuff and would embarrass the hell out of any trendy teenagers as bad as their Dad dancing to Cher songs. By the same token, they still possess a sound which is edgier than the standard fare force fed to the chattering middle classes and middle aged. So where does this leave our anachronistically challenged friends? Opening track 'Too Much' is undoubtedly a beautiful ballad to open with and could well bridge the generation gap. The reverby guitars of 'The Little Things' sounds too much like Chris Isaacs 'Blue Hotel' to convince anybody. However, '70' might just do it - an intriguing crooner meets sampling concoction with clickety electro bridges and raw guitars.

But just when you think they might have succeeded in bridging the generation gap, the miserably titled 'Divorce Song' alienates the youth vote yet again. Looks like it will be in the £9.99 shelf of Woolworths then.
www.babybird.com

SB


 

Collapse – ‘Collapse’ (Fake Product) 

Belting noise rock from Collapse on this their first generally available release. In terms of the crazed groove that most of these tracks lock into this reminds me of An Albatross without the carnival keyboards. Harsh screamed vocals, spasmodic drumming and stabbing off-kilter guitars combine in a very pleasing way indeed. The tracks ‘Apes ape’ and ‘Sinister alignment’ stand out as being particularly unhinged, but picking stand out tracks in somewhat arbitrary as all of this mini-album is so ruddy good. For fans of the art-school hardcore / noise rock that Three One G and Load Records specialise in this is ‘the shit’. 

Michael Pearson. 


 

Aloha - Some Echoes (Polyvinyl) 

The first two songs here are wonderful. 'Brace Your Face' and 'Big Morning' have a really bright warmth about them. To compare Aloha with Simon and Garfunkle would be pure hyperbole, but undeniably, the heavenly harmonies on 'Brace Your Face' certainly remind me a little of those grandmasters of unison vocals. 

The rest of the album drifts off into a vague amalgam of progressive pop, but with the average song length of around three and half minutes, Aloha are too poppy to be classed as progressive, yet far too progressive to be a straight pop band. Twee post rock, methought at the closure of this record.  

Pleasant, but I can only see myself listening to those first two tracks again. When you think about it, ain't the English language a complex swine?!!

Alex Clark


 

ALEXISONFIRE - s/t 

The band with the dubious distinction of naming themselves after the grim news my mother so somberly awaits may have just enough power in their sonic-arsenal to one day cause me to combust.  

Or at least they would do had I not been forced to play this CD through my DVD player because some bright spark with a loathsome amount of initiative has split eleven tracks into ninety-nine, thus socking it to the bootlegger and ensuring a slight pause after every 27 seconds of music.   

ALEXISONFIRE merge break-neck punk with metal and whilst there is a consistent deathly marauding of their music, there is also a cunningly clean guitar doing it's thaang beneath the deluge.  

All you heavy drinkin', hard livin' rockers'll be delighted to learn that if you listen carefully to 'Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints', you'll be able to detect a few definite, albeit very subtle Eric Johnson nuances. Not that this detracts too much from the force-9 audio-gale that the band is preoccupied with creating. 

ALEXISONFIRE may not be the most evocative metal band ever, but they certainly blow away most, nay, all of the insipid and anonymous punk bands that're currently flaunting their new Epiphones on the scene. 

Alex Clark


 

The Rails - Life's a Lonely Ride

Straightforward guitar angst from an American trio ("Recommended If You Like: The Beatles...") without much to smile about. When it works, on 'Everyone's Son', 'I'm in Love with Misery' and 'Missed Connection', the balance of catchy pop riffs and bitter lyrics is pretty likeable, but more often the songs are weighed down with unoriginal sentiment and cheerless playing. Disconcertingly the tracks the promo recommended as highlights were among the most po faced.
www.railsrailsrails.com

Robin Fahy


 

Chicken Feed - Finding Jim (Blue Eye)

The first album from a multi-instrumentalist with many years session experience (Roxy, Fall, Bragg, Posh) - and it tells. This is artisan music - every beat, bleep and chord slotting like tetris into a series of elegant variations, the whole forming a contemplative mosaic - bringing to mind Eno's last Another Day On Earth, and sharing its mature innocence. It could have benefited from a different vocalist to provide some contrast, Chief Chick's performances being a little insubstantial at times, but ranging from the New Order stomp of 'Why You Have To Sell My Soul?' to Albarnesque lullabye 'Sifting For Gold'. Refined.
www.blueeyerecords.co.uk/chickenfeed.htm

Robin Fahy


Seachange - On Fire, With Love (A is for Artist)

'A is for Artsist' is a staggering piece of work. The first four tracks are so powerful that it takes some effort to stay focussed for the rest of the album, but you could probably do worse than part with your hard earned for these four alone.

The album was a long time coming and the  result is an effort with very little slack which pummels you into submission. Opener 'Annie, Tacoma' has a jaunty sampled drum/scratchy guitar piece which bops into a poppy little classic that is very reminiscent of The Landspeed Loungers, especially in the narrative way the vocals are delivered. This gives way to 'Battleground', a stadium stomper very much in the vein of Pablo Honey/The Bends-era Radiohead. Huge crunching guitar sounds smash through the choruses like audio semtex. Then there is a little pace change with 'No Backward Glances' which careers along with a lovely Hammond keys sound in the background. All of this chaos is then wonderfully countered with the shanty like 'Anti Story' (does every song with a harmonium sound like a shanty?).

As previously mentioned, such is the potency of these opening four tracks that they are a little hard to follow. 'Youth & Art' seems to doff a cap towards art-rock and 'In' is a suitably uplifting finale but it is the first few songs that  really grab your attention and threaten to leave you weeping.
www.seachangemusic.com

SB


 

Ainslie Henderson - Growing Flowers by Candlelight (Amphibian Husbandry)

I get the feeling Ainslie is a bit hung up on someone. I'm sure she was the cat's pyjamas, but a whole album of acoustic laments to the memories is overkill. 'Body to Bed' is lovely and 'Roald Dahl Books' kinda touching, but as a whole this made me feel like a voyeur. Time to move on - unless they're all about different people, but that just raises more questions...
www.ainsliemusic.com

Robin Fahy


Ryan Teague – ‘Coins and Crosses (Type) 

With ‘Coins and Crosses’, the follow up release to last year’s ‘Six Preludes’ EP, Ryan Teague continues to fuse elements of classical composition and ambient electronica in a fashion not entirely dissimilar to Labradford. As good as ‘Six Preludes’ was, at points the electronic and the classical elements of Ryan Teague’s  music seemed uneasy bedfellows, at times the two musical styles seemed almost at odds with one another. Not, so with ‘Coins and Crosses’, which sees Ryan Teague hone his sound to damn near perfection. The electronic and the classical elements to this album compliment each other beautifully. Take, for example, the title track ‘Coins and Crosses’, on which the background electronic fuzz and the meandering harp picking of Rhodri Davies combine in a very pleasing fashion. Or take the beginning to the track ‘Accidia’, a background drone combines wonderfully with mournful string arrangements. These are just random examples; the entire album is of this quality. This represents a sizable evolutionary leap for Ryan Teague, and is also a stunning piece of music. 

Michael Pearson


 

Loren Scott - Secular Ethics (Sister Ray)

Loren Scott is ace. From the dominatrix hauteur of 'collective' through bittersweet confessional, electro filth ('menschen fresser'), chanteuse, but mostly pure punk, every performance is confident and arresting. Beats and keyboards are trashy and witty - the jaunty bossa nova that frames the Kirsty McCall-alike 'T-cut' - and support the vocals with elan. Nothing unique, but attitude conquers all.
www.lorenscottmusic.com

Robin Fahy


Salon Boris - I am the Drug (UDiscs)

Why can't bands just be content with doing what they want to do and doing it well? is it really possible for one band to start a movement, mould a scene, dictate a fashion? Let's find out as Salon Boris aim to 'reclaim electro for the pop song'. Whatever that means...

Well it seems to me that it means making electro pop that sounds pretty similar to 80s electro pop. Except in this case the pop is overlaid with a heavily accented Russian lady of dubious diction. There are plenty of disco tunes here but it's all a bit leaden. Shame.
www.salon-boris.com

SB


 

The Mountain Goats – Get Lonely – (4 AD

From the first notes of the piano we know were this is going. We are taken down a slow, quiet and lonely road, a journey full of sadness and regret. Indeed, such narrative based work has become something of a standard from John Darnielle’s song writing, whether it be about a destructive couple on 2002’s ‘Tallahassee’ an abusive step father on the previous ‘The Sunset Tree’ or, in the case of ‘Get Lonely’ the consequences of a failed relationship. He wears his heart on his sleeve and one cannot help but be drawn into such strong and personal song writing.  After the anger and rawness of ‘The Sunset Tree’ the mood has changed, this is quiet reflection, drums and cello make fleeting appearances behind Darnielle’s guitar and voice, that familiar voice, sounding even more cracked and strained than ever.  

Ron Beasley


Lovemat - the Fearless Hair Days of Youth (Disturbia)

I've had hold of this CD for a while and although I was hoping that it might mellow over time, I am still of the opinion that it is largely a load of hackneyed old rock nonsense. There are some highlights like the intro to 'My TV Watches Me' but generally speaking it's a good abstract of the rock scene over the last 20 years.
www.lovemat.com


 

ENSEMBLE – s/t - (fatcat) 

‘Ensemble’, the creation of Frenchman Olivier Alary, is something of a collaborative piece. Here, he has enlisted the help of a few friends, Mileece, Low Barlow, Camille Claverie and Chan Marshall (better known as Cat Power) all of whom perform vocal duties, which go some way to the creation of a sort of electronic acoustic sound.  The slow burning opener ‘Summerstorm’ promises much, and is indeed the highlight of an album that hovers on a fine line between the beautiful and affecting and a slightly directionless tedium. 

Ron Beasley


Mekon - Something Came Up (PIAS/Wall of Sound)

Any album which kicks of with the delicious mechanations and beats of 'Boy Bitten' is bound to gain your attention. Add to that the grimmest sleeve art I have ever seen in the form of a sphincter photo provided by designer Alexander McQueen (the photo, not the sphincter presumably) and you have one arresting product.

'Title track 'Something Came Up' keeps up the impressive pace with more multi beat tempos and a sound which fuses dance music and industrial to deliver a skunked out techno that will give you nightmares. 'Blood on the Moon' featuring Bobby Gillespie maintains the vibe while 'G.S.E.' provides a bit of light relief. But normal service is resumed with the ultra hard 'Yes Yes Y'all' and the rest of the album. A bit like watching too many horror films, after the first few tracks you get a little bit de-sensitised to the sound. But put any single one of these tracks on and I bet you get some serious dancefloor action.

SB


 

Minimum Chips - Lady Grey (Baked Goods)

This is the first European release from Aussie 5 piece Minimum Chips and compiles as way of introduction two of their home released E.P’s “Sound Asleep” and “Kitchen Tea Thankyou”.

Sounding very much like Broadcast and StereoLab the latter perhaps a bit too much, it’s almost indecipherable on the third track “Sleepy Pea”. I guess they’re like a minimal version of Stereolab with an analogue organ. The first few tracks are nice enough but nothing really standout, just nice to listen to but “Lady Grey” is worth sticking with if only to hear “Know You Too Well.” It’s really catchy indie pop which catches Minimum Chips at there best which is when the emphasis is not on the organ. If your ears are exposed to mountains of bassy-layered organ melodies it can have the effect equivalent to some very strong painkillers and your head feels clumpy like an elephants foot. And it’s just about past halfway when Lady Grey’s Organical Morphine has this effect. To take the whole of this album at a high volume you probably need two bottles of benelyn and no cough, although a cough may break up the droll attack of Organ Man.

If you can make it to the end there the last few songs reward you “Marble Arch”, “Goodbye” with its happy tickling melodies and especially “Trouble Free” when again the emphasis is less on Organ Man and more guitar.

There could be some good things about this band, such as they sound a bit like a cross between Young Marble Giants and StereoLab. But Organ Man takes all the good from Lady Grey.

Chuck A. Wobbly


Sound Team - Movie Monster (Parlophone)

A relentlessly impressive 11 tracks from the oh so cool Austin 5-piece Sound Team make up the album 'Movie Monster'. There are touches of quite a few other bands in here while combining the trusty guitar and keyboards route but none that really force their way to the forefront of my mind. But while maintaining a high technical level throughout I just feel their is a little bit of 'soul' absent. And we don't need more than one version of The Killers thanks.
www.soundteam.net

SB


Geisha Girls – ‘Disappearing Act’ (Number 3 Records) 

I’m really struggling to make my mind up about the Geisha Girl’s debut album. On the one hand it’s terribly good fun. ‘Disappearing Act’ is jerky post-punk with elements of rock and roll thrown in for good measure. It sounds like any number of bands, but a few that sprung to mind whilst listening to this were Gang of Four, Blondie and The (International) Noise Conspiracy. The whole album’s relentlessly upbeat and the songs are infectious as hell. 

On the other hand, as much as I enjoyed ‘Disappearing Act’ I couldn’t help but think that there must be literally thousands of bands performing this sort of art – punk, and all though ‘Disappearing Act’ is a good example of the genre, it’s not exceptional enough to be of much note. I can’t see myself deciding to listen to this instead of ‘Entertainment’ by Gang of Four, for example, and as I can’t decide what I think of this record, that’s the best conclusion you’re going to get. 

Michael Pearson


Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55 (Because)

A suitably chic and refined album here from the multi-talented chanteuse cum actress cum model Charlotte Gainsbourg. Having surrounded herself with fine musicians and song writers, the product is this album full of airy and graceful tracks with lend themselves perfectly to Gainsbourg's smoky, near spoken vocals. Title track '5:55' is a beautiful way to lull you into the album and is similar in style to singles 'The Songs That We Sing' and 'Jamais'

Perhaps one criticism would be that due to her voice and the silky production, all 11 tracks seem to flow over each other and it is difficult for Gainsbourg to change tempo or delivery. But when you've got over forty minutes of perfect music to listen to while drinking coffee and watching the rain on a cool autumn morning, why try and change it?
http://www.charlottegainsbourg.fr

SB


 

Circus Act - This is your Destination (MilliePeed) 

If you like new wave Punk with awful emo lyrics then you will like Circus Act. My favourite song is the one about Admiral Loans,

“The Knives Await”

‘Worry less, its bad for you, just take this money, and pay more back, the rewards you get, make you think you’ve won, but down the line, the knives await/you’ve been shown a way out by those who are conspiring to trap you/from people to countries. The method is the same, desperate people are so easy to fool, it touches everything, nothing is out of reach, if your situations bad, you’re a target/everywhere you look. You’ll always see, a simple fix, to help you out, anywhere you look, you’ll never see, the heavy price, until you pay it/the dangers aren’t all clear, if they were you might think twice.’ 

Just think twice (I added that bit).

Chuck.A.Wobbly


3milehigh - s/t (Global Music Development)

Ho hum - a proficient if uninspiring effort here from 3milehigh. What kicks off with plenty of va va voom in 'Always Watching' has already stolen a Therapy? riff by the second track. It's all a bit too 'heartfelt' and 'earnest' for me - might appeal to angst ridden teenagers but I'm way past it (in many respects) I'm afraid.
www.3milehigh.com

SB


Tilly and the Wall – Bottoms of Barrels (Moshi Moshi)

It was just over a year ago that Moshi Moshi introduced the UK to Architecture in Helsinki. This time they’ve take a relatively unknown US band and made them into the darlings of the British indie pop scene.

‘Bottoms of Barrels’ is chock full of POP! tunes, make no mistake. And the gimmick of using tap dancers instead of drummers is hardly noticeable, on record at least. If you think Hidden Cameras with extra pop points then you have the beautiful, sweet sound of Tilly and the Wall. This album is their second, as far as I’m aware, and whilst not being the all-out saccharine fix that it could’ve been, it maintains the happy happy joy joy feel throughout.

Often it falls into Kirsty McColl territory, especially in ‘The Freest Man’, but when that’s followed up by the quite awesome ‘Rainbows’, it’s really hard not to forgive and get quite excited indeed.

Tilly and the Wall aren’t quite as excited as Architecture in Helsinki were for me this time last year, but they’re pretty special, and as an introduction to the wonderful world of pop music in 2006, then ‘Bottoms of Barrels’ is a very good place to start indeed.

Sam Metcalf


Days in December - Deleted Scenes mini album (Deck Cheese)

Mid Atlantic rawk meets Euro emo schmaltz. Days in December have a few good hooks up their sleeves, even if they may have nabbed them from someone else. There are moments that sound a little bit like Faith No More (mainly due to Patten-esque vocal bawling) then other parts which sound like the sound track to Beverly Hills 90210. Which is a bit unfortunate as it is a rock band doing what I am always begging them today - include a few tunes instead of just maxing out the distortion. Oh well, this is not the formula I'm looking for.
www.daysindecmeber.com

SB


 

Junior Boys - ‘So This Is Goodbye’ (Domino)

You know you’re getting old when you start to spot trends coming around for the second time. The last few years has seen the fashion world suddenly become re-enamoured with the 1980’s – fingerless gloves, netting vests, even, god forbid, pop- socks. I may even have spotted a post-modern ironical mullet here and there. Naturally this reanimation of “the decade taste forgot” ™ didn’t stop with fashion, and we had Ant & Dec dusting off 80’s game shows on TV and a variety of remixes of current songs genetically spliced with music from 20 years ago (Danni Minogue vs. Dead or Alive springs to mind – shame it wasn’t in a boxing ring). To people under 20 these developments possibly seem new and exciting but to a veteran of the times it just seems desperate and a little embarrassing.  

With all this in mind, an album that is blatantly riffing on the electro-pop/soul of the early eighties initially filled me with foreboding. Yazoo, Visage, early Tears For Fears, OMD – the list of influences is long and potentially distressing but somehow these boys have pulled it off. The breathy, yearning vocals give feeling to the synth backing, and the sound has been polished and tweaked to make it sound fresh and relevant. To such an extent I revisited some of the 80’s classics it reminded me of, but instead of a critical re-evaluation I was merely struck by what an amazing feat the album achieved in taking a musical style from the past and making it work now. Standouts are ‘In the Morning’, ‘Double Shadow’, ‘So This Is Goodbye’ and the heartbreaking cover of Frank Sinatra’s ‘When No One Cares’. A pleasant surprise and no mistake, but that doesn’t mean I want to see a drainpipe jeans reviv… sh@t, too late…

Matt Latham