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  albums - january 2008



Path of No Return - The Absinthe Dreams 

This band, hailing from Sweden, is not setting out to re-invent the wheel; that much is clear straight away. But that is not a bad thing. A very polished demo indeed, blasting out aggressive metalcore, with mellow interludes.  We have all heard this before but these guys do it well, with batches of huge intensity. Not as heavy as they claim but a good attempt at it. This band I am sure will be doing a lot more, and this is a worth wile purchase, a band doing a well heard sound with passion to make it stand out, and very professionally done. I strongly advise people to go check them out.



Various - A Very Cherry Christmas Vol. 3

This seasonal compilation from Cherryade Records includes "Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart But The Very Next Day You Sold It On Ebay" from Scottish anti-folk duo The Bobby McGees. Everett True was right - the singer cannot sing. If that's a problem for you, best not pick this up. However, if you're looking for an alternative to whatever Radio One Corinne Bailey Rae covering James Blunt album, songs like "Wanking for Xmas" by The Pocket Gods mean this collection of lo-fi, meandering Christmas un-anthems is pretty good fun.

Phil Coales


Various - No-one Gets Out Alive 

RSJ – Deadbolt: Heavy shit here, but lacks everywhere else. This song does get repetitive I felt, but they do try and mix it up a bit, but it just doesn’t seem to flow I feel, more forced changes to vary the sound. Not my kinda thing but maybe yours. Not very impressive to be honest.

Asking Alexandria – Wings for the sake of flying:  Hmmmm, this is brass. Disjointed and crap. Trying too hard to do what other people do, but poorly. Poor attempt at well rehearsed sound.

LAP – The minute I live is the minute I die: An interesting sound, not my thing but I can well imagine this appealing to a lot of people. The song works well and they do what they do well, good build ups and well placed sounds, this grew on me considerably.

Anemic – Train To Hell: This band is generic and predictable, but their ok at what they do I suppose. I can bet they all wear make sec I’ll go check....yes they do. I’m being harsh, if your into this kind of ‘nu school emo-rocky thing’ go for them I aint stopping you.

Djevara – Moths to the flame: I actually really quite licked this song. Not sure what it was but it made me smile. I’m not going to describe it for you but this guy’s voice in the chorus is jokes. And the sound fits around it well. Deff go check it gave me a smile. They sound really quite cool in a uncool way..if you get me.

Circle of One – shooting the Gallery: This is embarrassing to listen to. As you can see I’m not a fan of them. I advise you to miss them out of your hearing capabilities. Boring and crap is the easiest way to put it. “Your new favourite band” is not them as they would have believe. Don’t waste your time with this lot.



Untitled Musical Project - s/t

I am really not an indie fan, so this is hard for me to critique I won’t. Pretentious and really not as good as they think they are. Flat, lifeless and clearly desperate to be sooo much more than they are...but then again most people would want to be more than this. Cruel but true. O well, all I can do is implore you to not listen to this for your sake.



The Psychotic Reaction - Genre Music Is The Enemy

Nice spirit, guys. But "better than oysters"? I know oysters can leave you in rapturous diarhhoea and all, but generic indie rock, a singer who can't sing (in a bad way) and a band with very few ideas leave you with an end result sounding, on "Hand-Me-Downs (Made Me The Man I Am)" like a 20p single found in an Oxfam bin by a group who "can't understand their failure to capture the hearts and minds... blah blah", and on "Knickers in the Photocopier" like whining lad rockers. "A Moment of Clarity" does manage to suggest they can sustain a catchy verse and guitar line, though overall, it's pretty uninspired stuff. Like, if half the members of Super Furry Animals left, and the others had 2 days to record an album, when they were all totally drunk.

Phil Coales


Personal Space Invaders- “What You Want” 

From Personal Space Invaders comes this five track mini-debut album.  Formed in 2006 with influences including CSS and the Rapture among others, this three piece sound how you’d expect- “angular guitar, compulsive bass, seething electronics”, as the PR blurb rightfully points out.  Nothing wrong with that, but this has been done by a thousand other bands and a thousand times better.  Opener “Pictures in Black and White” is a less imaginative take on Klaxons while “Attention” sounds like something regurgitated from Franz Ferdinand’s debut.  On “Song for Rebels” Adam Liston sneers “this is the sound of revolution”, but the truth is this is anything but.  Throughout, the lyrics are nothing short of cringe worthy and the cowbell on “Blame” irritates like a bluebottle around your plate (“Go AWAY!”).  That said, “Blame” is the only highlight of the album, sounding like Franz Ferdinand trying to throw shapes with LCD Soundsystem whilst on a serious comedown.  I can only presume the album title is supposed to be ironic because this really isn’t “What You Want”.  Ultimately the album just retreads the same ground that was once the road less traveled before nu rave exploded.

John Sherman


Peter Loveday - Room at the Inn 

Its always nice when albums tell you when and where they came into being, and when you read this one was recorded in Barcelona on a Sunday in May, it makes perfect sense. Its a wonderfully unpretentious, stripped down collection of songs which feels like overhearing someone on your street strumming an acoustic guitar

as the sun goes down. Theres an odd 80s alt-rock feel to these songs too and at times its hard to listen to this album without thinking of The The since Loveday sounds an awful lot like a less pissed-off Matt Johnson. Its a collection of songs which aren't ever going to change the world, but show a songwriter whos completely on top of their craft who knows how to push the right emotional buttons. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put it on again, fix myself a cocktail and try to persuade myself its still summer.

Andy Glynn


Anthony Reynolds - British Ballads 

Over the course of this album, you will hear: a song based on 'the Hill' by the war poet Rupert Brooke, another which half-inches a title from a Will Self Book and                           

a collaboration with philospher Colin Wilson. Kasabian fans should probably steer clear. While you have to applaud his intellectual loftiness, there are times you wish the music was as sharp and ambitious as his mind clearly is; at its best it sounds like a more bookish Nick Cave, at worst: bland pub rock (I'm looking at you, 'Song of Leaving'). Still, for sheer novelty alone its an album that demands a listen because when Reynolds's 'literary iconoclast' schtick works, such as on the gloomy and lovely, 'Just So You Know', it works wonders.

Andy Glynn


Artur Dyjecinski - A Year and a Half of Rain 

Theres an old saying about not judging books by their covers and that probably goes three-fold for CDs. Still, its hard to look at the artwork of this album, (all cheery woodland creatures and cartoon raindrops) without sending your internal twee-ometer into a frenzy. Its no surprise then, when it sounds exactly as you'd expect: occasionally surf-y, folk aimed at the sort of person who finds Newt Faulkner or Ray Lamontaigne a little too threatening. Now Artur seems like a nice chap, the kind of guy you can imagine befriending an injured bird and carefully nursing it back to health, but theres no emotional dynamic on this album at all. Every song seems to hover around 'a bit stoned', and if he doesn't sound like he cares then its very hard for anyone else to. Take 'Sitting Drinkin' Blues' for example, a song about drinking alone and preparing to leave your one-horse town forever, which claims, 'Theres nothing sadder than an ageing man, except one that drinks like me'. On paper it'd give Ian Curtis a run for his money but its sung like Arturs been distracted by a bee. Then theres some whistling. If anyone form Orange is reading, you've just found the soundtrack to your latest advert.

Andy Glynn


Kyte – Kyte (KIDS)

It's hard to review an album when NME have summed it up as "unashamedly epic and unrelentingly beautiful," and got their opinion absolutely correct. This is stunning work from the Leicester lads. Gentle guitar licks drenched in mystical reverb float through the tracks, as breathy vocals flitter over the top. It's just a perfect combination. The opening track "Planet" gracefully rolls out for over seven minutes of fantasticism, bringing in subtle electronic undertones.

To be fair, this isn't the kind of music you'll hear on the radio, despite it's awesome reviews flying in left right and centre. It's more likely to be something you'll hear on an advert, in fact "Boundaries" has already been used on HBO to advertise The Sopranos. But every single song captures some kind of epic emotion that wrap up a lot of widely watched shows, like the final episode of Lost or something. It really is awesome.

Ambient and atmospheric, Kyte have taken everything inoffensive from the music world, and exaggerated each aspect into peaceful brilliance.

For: fans of Death Cab, Boards of Canada, Explosions In The Sky.
Not for: Fiddy cent.

Without being thrown around the radio stations, it's your job to get out there and buy it. Go forth, and be amazed.

Thom Curtis


Absinthe (provisoire) - Alexanjra (Distile)

‘Hello Mr Record Shop Man, I’d like nightmares please.’

‘Right you are son, any particular type of nightmares?’

‘You got French?’

‘I’ve got just the thing.’

‘Ah, Absinthe (provisoire), is it guaranteed?’

‘Or your money back.’

Thank you France for providing us with Absinthe (provisoire), all those who thought that you couldn’t offer anything after Serge will soon be apologising. This is the soundtrack to that Arty French flick you wish you’d seen but were too confused to sit through, it’s glorious. The first track Kocka is about six weeks long and I could have listened to it twice in a row. They provide something that other, excuse the terminology, ‘Post-Rock’ bands cannot. They tell a story, a definite tale with a beginning, middle and end, which has highs and lows and incident. Their music is like a radio-play where the actors do not speak but crash through the studio walls, throw chairs at the glass and slam the microphones into the ground then, after a few moments of solemn weeping, get up to do it all again.

It’s not boring, it’s not pretentious, it, and get this, doesn’t sound like God Speed or any other (again, apologies) ‘Post-Rock’ outfit. Their music is intelligent but never condescending, it sounds organic, at no point does the music turn or change just to be clever. I wish every band who claim to be ‘forward-thinking’ would have to pit their argument against Absinthe (provisoire) and then have to personally apologise to ever person who bought their crap (you know who you are).

It’s been out for ages apparently... do buy it.



Attack Formation – We are Alive in Tune

I was flicking through the channels last night, as one does, looking for to win cash via my phone and my brain, which can guess what random letters, such as C U T N S, when placed in another order will spell. Whilst searching for one of these high intellect type shows I stumbled upon a film featuring such Hollywood luminaries as Ray Liotta, John Cusack and that guy who looks like a young Nick Nolte but isn’t. In this film the aforementioned actors are all different bits of this fat, psychotic looking chap (who’s left eye does a ‘mind of it’s own’ thing and he looks a bit like Penn from 90’s TV magicians Penn and Teller), well, they’re all part of his twisted mind. He’s a nut job and all these different people live in his head and fuck him up good style.

Much is the life of Attack Formation, in that the band are that big psychotic looking fellow and there are all these other bands whom live within. You see they’re not a band, not really. It would seem the name Attack Formation is used for simplicity but, taking a look at the track listing, there’s about six acts listed. AF only actually play as a band on seven of the thirteen tracks and it shows.

The album moves from experimental-electro to pop-rock to Christ-knows-what. Their label reckons that the album still feels like a whole which I would beg to differ. It sounds like three EPs jumbled up which, believe me, is no bad thing.

The problem is, just like that film which also featured Alfred Molina, there seems to be a bad egg within the Attack Formation psychosis. Now I’m not recommending what Molina’s character recommends (that all the other personalities get together and kill that rogue element dead) but I would say that I listened to this album thinking “You may have known him since school but that’s no reason to let him do that on your record”. Tracks 7 and 9 are particularly unnecessary.

I like their style though for these three reasons:
A (or 1) – They have a walrus on the front of their album
2 (or II) – They have had more members than Spinal Tap had drummers.
3 (just 3) – The opener is brilliant and track 11 is a stunner.
4 (IV) – In a world filled with boring four member / one idea bands, it’s heartening to see some fractured bunch of malcontents giving the pot a little stir.

Sean Gregson


J. Mann – How to be an Ambivalent Negotiator (Middle of the Road) 

A man decides he’s fed up of his nine-to-five high flying, high earning job, and packs it all in to sing about how rubbish nine-to-five is. Possibly one of the most tired album formulas ever. But J. Mann as rather cleverly turned the whole thing on its head, and How to be an Ambivalent Negotiator is about a man bored of being a rock star and dreaming of a high flying nine-to-five job. Sheer brilliance. Or at least it could be. Because the reason J. Mann has decided he needs a proper job could be that, as a rock star, he’s really not in the right profession. Sounding like an American Bob Geldof circa The Boomtown Rats, the album certainly does have a touch of the nostalgias about it, or to put it another way, is nothing new. By track seven the whole album has blurred into one long jangly guitared, erratically vocalised rather irritating track.  Let’s hope he doesn’t go back to the day job.

Catriona Boyle


High Contrast – Tough Guys Don’t Dance  (Hospital) 

This is pure brilliance in drum and bass, the name High Contrast no longer needs an introduction – the Welsh wonder last dropped the High Society LP in 2004, after True Colours smashed the drum and bass scene in 2002 on Hospital records. Finally the 2007 album Tough Guys Don’t Dance has followed the phenomenal success of High Contrast and already holds two of the massive hits – If we ever and Everything’s different. The opening track, If we ever, quite possibly sums up everything music should be – musically talented, melodic drum and bass with edgy strings and underlying bass, this is one of the tracks of my year. Both If we ever and Everything’s different have stormed the dance floors throughout the UK and abroad, but this isn’t the only magic the album hides. Mixing samples from other artists is something drum and bass is built on, but slamming new rhythmical ideas into drum and bass has to be done with precision and care. The previous musical quality is sometimes lost and you end up with dance-trance crap that fifteen year old wankers bombard you with out of their tinted stolen car windows. Instead, Tough Guys Don’t Dance is an intelligently produced album, filled with breath-taking tracks that hold the key to drum and bass, never losing the other influential musical elements but pounding out good, decent beats. 



Minus – The Great Northern Whalekill (One Little Indian) 

Recalling the scuzzy desert rock of Kyuss, Hermano and anything else John Garcia-tinged, Icelandic rockers Minus prove that you don’t have to be a pixie weirdo or harbour ambient leanings to come from the icy tundra, as their fourth studio album “The Great Northern Whalekill” kicks some serious ass. 

The infectiously-groovy opener “Cat’s Eyes” would make a fine single with its throbbing bass lines and anthemic chorus, whilst the chugging riffs of “Rhythm Cure” recall “Walk”-era Anselmo and co, gnawing at you until your head starts bobbing.  Elsewhere, there are daubings of space-rock a la Monster Magnet on “Futurist” and the ferocious drumming onslaught of “Shoot The Moon”.

Sure, there’s still the Mappelthorpe-esque album art and politician-baiting title that hint this noisy four-piece still have an element of kookiness about them, thus keeping with the tradition of their peers.  Where these guys have strode off by themselves though is in enlisting Joe Baressi (QOTSA, Tool, Melvins and Tomahawk) to produce, and being unafraid to stick to a stoner-rock template whilst constantly evolving and adding to their armoury stockpiled on 2003’s “Halldor Laxness”. 

If this is not Minus’ year, they’ll at the very least provide a heavy, groove-laden soundtrack to your winter parties, then drink all your beer and make cracks appear in the plaster!  Monstrous.

Stuart Bowen


Lightspeed Champion- “Falling off the Lavender Bridge” (Domino) 

The flame of the Test-Icicles (genre mash-up get together RIP 2006) is well and truly unlit, extinguished by the ex-1/3rd of the semi-lived icicle set-up: Dev Hynes a.k.a Lightspeed Champion. The once trashed-fuelled raver has emerged as a troubadour of the alt-country scene. A concept which in theory should suffer the painful death that any genre mash-up band deserves, it really didn’t, shoving bad expectations down the neon gutter. 

Falling off the Lavender Bridge is the soundtrack of a debut to the London based folk songster. Adopting the musical ambitions of Emmy the Great along with various members of Cursive and Tilly and the Wall, Lightspeed Champion aided by moonlighted talent and Saddle Creek’s in-house producer Mike Mogis, creates a folk album with charm and adhering warmth.  

Infectiously personal, this autobiographical journey provides such swooners as singles like Galaxy of the Lost and Midnight Surprise. A dated style vamped to sound comfortable in these modern-stylised times.  Lyrically humorous and technically tight Hyne’s debut spins off open-hearted soul-finding tracks, making “folk is cool” dribble from your lips onto the lap of love which emerges from this sensitive offering of alt-country. 

A folk-pop jewel in the mass desert of ordinary sounding mainstream fashion, “Falling off the Lavender Bridge” is fresh today. As Test Icicles bury in the ash, Lightspeed Champion burns bright.

Erin Kubicki


Sons & Daughters - This Gift 

Jealousy - its a terrible thing. Sons and Daughters have always been fine purveyors of stompy folk pop but you get the feeling that the moderate success they're received so far just wasn't enough for them. Maybe they took a look at labelmates Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys and thought, 'We'd like a piece of that.' Everything about this album is just...'shinier' than the Sons and Daughters of old, from the gold artwork to the crisp, poppy production. Opener 'Gilt Complex' is a new-wave-y belter that wouldn't sound out of place on a Kelly Clarkson Album (not that I've heard a Kelly Clarkson album you understand). Things continue in a similar vein, and big glam rock drums and shouty choruses abound. 'Rebel with a Ghost', for example, is Mud covering Elastica's 'Connection' with everything that entails. Then they go and ramp it up by making the next track sound like 'Happy Hour' by the Housemartins. Its a whole lot of fun, but you wonder what long-time fans of the band are going to think, when they wake up in the morning only to find a hastily scribbled note reading: 'Gone to be popstars. Thanks for the memories. '
Watch 'Sons & Daughters EPK'

Andy Glynn


Club 8 - The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Dreaming 

Since dropping the 'S' and losing 6 of their members, the former S Club Juniors have opted for a radical change in sound...  Oh wait I see. Club 8 are a Swedish duo who, if you were to cut them both down the middle for some perverse reason, would read 'indiepop'. Over the course of this album they do perfectly serviceable impressions of Camera Obscura, Saint Etienne, Belle & Sebasian et all, but with singer Karolina's breathy, ethereal vocals adding another dimension to their songs. The only problem is that they lack a lot of the wit and fun of the aforementioned bands and seem quite content just sounding pretty. Theres nothing wrong with that, but with so many other places to get your thrills its hard to see exactly what Club 8 offer that you haven't heard elsewhere.

Andy Glynn


Various: Guru’s Jazzmatazz – The Mixtape (Rapster) 

Since 1993, the Jazzmatazz series has taken full advantage of Guru’s place in hip-hop history as one of the few artists to bring the jazz and hip hop worlds together. Previous outings have involved collaborations with the likes of Courtney Pine, Roy Ayers, The Roots and Isaac Hayes. 

This album sees a new range of collaborators take the stage. Kanye’s protégé Common finds his feet on Solar’s remix of State of Clarity, while Bronx-based DJ Doo Wop gets involved with tracks Who Got It On Lock? and the deliciously electro-tinged B-Boy Kamikaze.  

The sound is more East coast than West here but even North London gets a look in with an appearance by Yungun on Too Slick. 

A previous collaboration between Damien Marley and Guru on 2007’s Stand Up is revisited here in remix form, with a much greater emphasis on the song’s reggae roots. Another reunion comes in the form of Soul to Soul’s Caron Wheeler adding some delicate vocal touches to Back To The Future. 

As is customary for hip-hop releases, there are too many tracks here and the album would benefit from a little pruning. There aren’t any boundaries being pushed here, but The Mixtape does exactly what it says on the tin. A perfect soundtrack to a barbecue in the sun – roll on Summer.
Watch the 'Guru Jazzmattaz' video

Chris Moffatt


Sine Star Project - Building Humans (Blood Light Recordings) 

The great Elvis Costello once said that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. It’s hard to know where to start with Sine Star Project. Just when you think you’ve got them worked out, they surprise you with a radical chord, a change of pace or a teasing lyric. 

Peter J Croissant’s controlled yet powerful vocals owe something to Jeff Buckley and perhaps Matt Bellamy, while his band fall somewhere between Led Zeppelin, Muse and Pink Floyd with cascades of harmonies, melodies and riffs. 

The album opens with Bleeding Like A Dog where Croissant’s delicate falsetto is given free reign to ride over Queen-like piano chords. Chinese Drag Queen is an altogether darker proposition, although its rapidly changing time signatures can be hard to decipher. 

Little Bird is reminiscent of The Dears in full flow with some great synth and sweeping strings. Christmas Carol For The Dead is a stunningly restrained piece of work; a brass band plays a lament while the band weave intricate harmonies over the top. Instrumental Cathedral forms an uplifting finale to a grandiose statement of an album. 

The album was self-recorded, mixed and produced, and while this is an impressive feat you suspect that in professional hands this record could sound altogether grander. The production is washed out in parts and is a little bass heavy. 

Overall, then, an ambitious record, brimming with ideas and enthusiasm, which veers just the right side of prog.

Chris Moffatt