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  albums - june 2008


Last of the Shadow Puppets - The Age of Understatement (Domino)

Ahhh, the perks of releasing an absolute belter of a debut album with the Arctic Monkeys is that Alex Turner can now indulge himself in various seemingly unusual side projects and not have to worry about the mortgage (if 22 year olds actually worry about things like mortgages). For this album his co-collaborator is long time mate Miles Kane of Rascals fame and previously The Little Flames.

As with everything that Turner has been involved in so far, the song writing on 'The Age of Understatement' is assured and the lyrics offer a maturity which belies the duo's youthful years. The title track is the opening and also strongest song on the album. Full of the urgency and clever hooks of a typical Arctic Monkeys song but set over an Ennio Morricone style instrumentation. I've also quite got into 'Separate and Ever Deadly' with its wibbly guitar and it's lyrics of horticultural nightmare 'save me from the secateurs'. At least that's what I think they are saying.

But there's a few queries for me about this record. Firstly, what is Turner and Kane's seemingly unending obsession with the 1960's? And if the title relates at all to this era in anything but a non-sarcastic way, could a period of Twiggy, George Best and The Avengers really be described as understated?

Also it may well be that Alex Turner's voice is so distinctive that it is much easier to pick out of the mix on each track but I couldn't hear Miles Kane all that much. Each of the tracks stands up in its own right as a decent bit of song writing but as every part of this is swamped in the retro vibe and the instrumentation of the 22 piece London Metropolitan Orchestra, you do start to wonder if maybe Turner and Kane are just indulging themselves just a little bit at out expense.



Semifinalists - 2 (V2)

Around halfwayinto this 14 track offering from Semifinalists, their second album (guess that from the title) I realised why their wholesome, tuneful and occasionally quite clever synthpop wasn't quite maintaining my attention. And the reason for this was - their rhythm section. It pips along at an unremitting 110 bpm, somewhat undermining the duo/trio/one-piece's more crafted moments. Just when a keyboard riff or vocal takes a turn for the actually interesting, Semifinalists two-dimensional electro percussion intervenes, turning nippy tunes such as 'The Alphabet' and 'Makeout Club' into flatly dull shadows of what those songs could sound like.

Now I did some research on Semifinalists and it seems there's been some lineup changes recently, possibly during the albums recording. Dare I suggest that '2' was finished off in a bit of a hurry? One or two of the tracks really do sound like demos for a more polished finished product, and the two actual standout songs -'The Stairs' (which benefits from some slightly out of character guitar noise) and 'Our Return' (an inspired mood piece which somehow highlights the lack of depth in much of what precedes it) - these songs sound like the work of a very different band to the one which recorded the other twelve tracks.

A very noticeable air of hidden frustration permeates Semifinalists second long player. They'll get those ironically late 80s production techniques right though. On their next album.

Jon Gordon


Lykke Li - Youth Novels (V2)

Awful. Did the musicians involved in this one realise that their efforts were getting ruined with the addition of some of the least listenable twee vocals I've ever encountered? Someone's attempt at an orchestral opus of a meisterwerk has what resembles Rachel Stevens gargling helium draped across it which you do not, any of you, wish to endure. Icky poo.

Jon Gordon


The Rosie Taylor Project – “This City Draws Maps”

There are several artistes who have made a career from discovering a particular tempo and sticking with it. Low, notoriously admonished for fucking with the formula and rocking out on “The Great Destroyer”, took care never to make that mistake again, and if ever there was a man incapable of doing “fast” then Mark Kozelek would probably be him. Point is, if it works, it works. 

And so, after two fine EPs, both of which I have had the pleasure of reviewing, The Rosie Taylor Project present their debut album. It feels like an older sibling to last year’s “Black & White Films”; acoustic guitars are strummed, electric guitars are jangled, and trumpets are…umm…parped (?) whilst singer Jonny describes poetic vignettes in a husky and dejected whisper. He sounds like an inflatable Morrissey with all the air let out of him or Stuart Murdoch desperately in need of a good hug (or, failing that, a really strong espresso).  

It’s the kind of music that attracts phrases such as “low-key” and “modest” and, while there’s nothing wrong with that, it won’t necessarily keep all ears aimed toward the speakers for an entire album, even if The RTP have wisely opted to limit themselves to eight tracks. I’d personally take quality over quantity any day of the week (no stinkers here and the ghostly girl sighs that grace “Reveries” and the dying moments of “The Water’s Edge” are magical touches) but, as the two faster songs, “A Good Café on George Street” and “London Pleasures”, reveal the band’s joyous grasp of pop you can’t help wishing they’d pick up the pace more often.

Will Columbine


Royworld – Man In The Machine (Virgin Records) 

There’s a fine line with this kind of music, and Royworld are certainly treading it. Your radio-friendly indie/pop can go two ways – either schmaltzy, disgustingly sickly sweet – raise your hands The Feeling, or hugely uplifting, stadium filling, epic, life affirming tracks – step forward The Verve and Coldplay (on a good day). 

Royworld, it seems, haven’t quite decided which train they want to get on, so Man In The Machine is quite the rollercoaster. At times, the off button is looking rather appealing, but at other times this band set themselves up to be the curator of some glorious summer festival moments. 

Transmission is an odd segue to the album, which begins like it might be going somewhere exciting, briefly busts out some huge electronic beats, and then disappears. The title track is the band at their best – a huge sound  that encompasses synths, guitars, heavy bass drums and some excellent power chords. 

Most of the time, Man In The Machine remains on the dubious side on of the line, but just occasionally it steps over into something brilliant.

Catriona Boyle


Jill Barber – For All Time (Baudelaire) 

Accompanied by one of the most useless, and pretty lengthy press releases ever – she’s won a load of awards and lives in Canada – it’s just as well this album doesn’t need any talking up to make it sound good. 

For All Time is gentle, simple, and almost has an archaic feel to it – it could’ve been released 30 odd years ago and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. 

When I’m Makin’ Love to You is an endearing, somewhat cheeky shanty with some rather amusing lyrics, and Hard Line certainly has a touch of the Johnny Cash’s about it. 

It’s not slick, it’s not pretentious, and it’s certainly not trying to be something in particular, but Jill Barber’s country- tinged voice, accompanied by simple acoustic and slide guitar, combined with honest song writing does indeed make an album For All Time.

Catriona Boyle


Kelly Rowland – Miss Kelly (Deluxe Edition) (Sony BMG) 

Well aren’t I a lucky girl for this gem to grace my doormat. One of the many many members of Destin Child (weren’t there about 50 altogether?) attempts to jump on Beyonce’s coat tails, or perhaps tail feathers, and release some top quality pop. But let’s be clear – nothing will ever top Crazy In Love. 

As radio r n b/pop fodder goes, Kelly Rowland does it pretty well. Her voice (or what’s represented as her voice in post-production) is consistent, the tunes are smooth, inoffensive, and littered with boy-related lyrics. The album is slick, well produced, features the occasional real instrument, but ultimately and unsurprisingly, sounds like a Destiny’s Child album.

At times attempting to sound like Missy Elliot (Like This) and failing, Miss Kelly generally sticks to what she knows best, and by about track five it’s hard to tell where songs end and begin.  

Those who practised Beyonce’s bootie shake, made up dance routines and cried a bit when Destiny’s child split up will undoubtedly lap it up, but it’s unlikely to convince the rest of us.

Catriona Boyle


Kind Of Girl – Lonely In A Modern Way (Trak2r) 

As the band are from Copenhagen, I suppose we have to let them off for their grammatically incorrect name. That won’t stop it annoying me though. Lonely In A Modern Way does little to make me think about letting them off either, more like turning them off.  

It’s dull, not doing anything particular, and this band should clearly not be allowed near synths for the foreseeable future. I don’t use words like ‘coma-inducing- lightly, but if there was ever a time, this is it.  

They sound bored, I’m certainly bored, so let’s just move on shall we?

Catriona Boyle


Society Of Imaginary Friends – Sadness Is A Bridge To Love (SoifMusic) 

Well this is certainly a departure from four guys with guitars. Opening with trembling strings and an operatic voice, Society Of Imaginary Friends are, quite frankly, something completely different. 

No matter what kind of music tickles your fancy, you can’t ignore the sheer talent on display here, proper musicians, writing and performing proper music. 

After its eerie, and unnerving beginning, Sadness Is A Bridge To Love settles down into more traditional song structures, and a more light hearted feel. Combining opera, general discord and atonality, show tune influences and simple songs about live, this album is for those who like to be constantly challenged by music.

Night Of Power can be described as nothing other than an absolute belter, and it sounds like it’s got the force of a whole orchestra behind it, oh yeah, and it’s sung in another orchestra. Sat between two delicate, and utterly different tracks, it’s on of the best sore thumbs I’ve ever heard. 

Sadness Is A Bridge To Love, requires your full attention, if not to listen out for the rather unexpected mention of  Facebook, then simply because it deserves it.

Catriona Boyle


The Morning Paper - It's Getting Clearer

A breathless opening 2 minutes. The question: will it get clearer? Here's hoping not.

There's almost transcendent here, yet remove a couple of layers and there are some Scandinavian vocals. They ain't obscured, they're floating on the surface; mysterious and strongly accented English words have a surprisingly lush effect. They're disembodied amongst the gleeful keyboard, drums and whatever-effects.

Where am I? Um, Skarmabrink, 2007/2008. The three members of The Morning Paper are shimmering.

"Making You Up" allows for the holding of breath and a touch of chimes, the constant swirl of the melodic drums lending a blown and windy feel to this record. The chatter of the "Sidewalks" breaks in, and if you listen carefully, so does traffic and an '80s-treated synth. David Kyhlberg's words echo in to this sweet collection of chirps, reflections and sweeping dreams of tainted friendships. When "Thin Rain" takes a break, about 2 minutes in, it's only so we can hear the idle talk in the village, and appreciate the scenery (note: birdsong) - so it's a collection of summer songs. "Paint A Dream" wishes to be found. "We stood still in the face of feeling" - although any pretence of emotion of nullified by female vocals (Ida Bergstrom) over a techno backbeat, that just about manages not to impose over the top of what sort of had to be the most anthemic song on the album. "Young" is kind of a fitting, wordless death to the album suitable because by then I'm already well out of it.

Phil Coales


The Rascals - Rascalize

The Rascals have cornered a niche: they're the 1980s Arctic Monkeys. Sinister things are afoot in the corners of lad rock pubs! Ahem. Unfair, right?

"I'll see you therrre" sees this Rascal straining to be Kasabian. He's less of a social commentator than the Monkey's Alex Turner, and he's more of a darker, um, version of the guy from the Kaiser Chiefs, in tone. That Rascal is The Last Shadow Puppets' Miles Kane. This record is, um, a four-track EP version of debut album Rascalize, although I do know that these Rascals have been formed from the ashes of Arctic Monkey Alex Turner's faves The Little Flames. Here I have the second, third, eighth and twelfth songs from Rascalize. Harrumph! I thought I knew what I was getting.

It's the Chiefs' England of riots and skewed dystopia that Kane is repainting in "Freakbeat Phantom". Yet these lyrics are clearly from one of those people in pubs, one of those lives whose "story" The Rascals and the Monkeys et al chronicle, for better or for worst. Y'know the sort of lyrics you'll find here - the ones which make them the Band of the People. "I'm holding on" - holding on to the world as he wishes to see it, as his and others' presentation of British culture would have it. By way of further unfair comparison I might add that the Monkeys (attempt to) transcend this standard palette.

"Bond Girl" is a bit "classy bastard", with a nice little line in stop-start drum bursts, and is probably the most retro yet also the most different song here. Haven't heard the Shadow Puppets or the Little Flames enough to contrast this with Kane's other finer moments of musical brilliance, but let's just say, they'd appear to be scattered finely on these four songs. "Out of Dreams" returns to the carnival of Sheffield (Sheffield, right?) late at night, like a dreary Zutons (in the best way you could imagine, when they're involved). I should now probably note the pace change as another 'something different' in the 'arsenal'. Talking of trying 'something different', "Stockings to Suit" is all over the place. "What could I dooo?" sounds a little lost, then leads into a, gasp, shiny pace change, and a shouting but still 'effortlessly cool' shout of "With stockings to suit, what else could I do?"

Fifteen minutes and forty-one seconds of an album that'll most probably be a bit longer. It doesn't quite pull off that 'effortlessly cool' vibe, more resembling a drawn-out form of an apathetic adolescent record that's more about attitude than songs. If you could pick 'em apart, though, I think they're all about night time and girls.

Phil Coales


Hayman, Watkins, Trout & Lee - s/t (Fortuna Pop)

Not the name of a firm of accountants, but an East London country bluegrass band featuring Darren Hayman of Hefner on bass, and Dave Tattersall of the Wave pictures on guitar, joined, by Dave Watkins on banjo and Dan Mayfield on fiddle. From Bethnal Green via the Blue Ridge Mountains, this is, literally, kitchen- sink country music, the album being recorded in two days, in October 2007, at Darren’s house, and featuring seven band originals, along with covers of songs by Townes Van Zant, the Mountain Goats, and a scattering of traditional blues and country tunes.

This is intimate music, ballads of mundane domesticity to make you smile, songs about love, shandy, calling in sick, Calor gas stoves, and unrequited, commuter-lust on the tube train. In little ways, I’m reminded of the Violent Femmes, the first Incredible String Band album, Country Joe and the Fish, Leadbelly and Lonnie Donegan, but the band does have a unique sound all of its own.

Hayman, Watkins, Trout & Lee have just completed a series of London based gigs to promote the release of the album, but I’m sure the music is infectious enough to spread north of Watford, so I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to see them live  and sing-along  soon. Meanwhile, can I urge you to download the track, Sly and the Family Stone, from the band’s MySpace site, and let it drill a hole into your head.

There is some fine playing on this album, but perhaps one of the best things you can say about any acoustic album is that it makes you want to pick up your own instrument –it did me. So, if you want to play along with the beautiful little closing instrumental, capo on the third fret, and its, A, D, E, A, girls and boys.

Me? I’m off down Call Lane in Leeds, to the Hobgoblin acoustic music shop, to press my nose against the window and price up the five string banjo’s, you never know, it’s not too long until my birthday!

Bill Howe


Sennen – Where the Light Gets In (Hungry Audio)

I may be biased coming from Norwich, the home of this quartet, but this is the second album from Sennen and is well worth a listen. An album of melodious post rock riffs and warming vocals the record is an exciting and absorbing listen. Most probably you have heard music just like Sennen before but the reason we don’t get tired of this style of music is that it is so consistently solid, an enjoyable listen for all moods, it has a calming effect as well and a spirit raising quality. Sennen are not all out post-rock, although there are some strong elements in the album. Instead the band move toward a more melodic and enjoyable record with lyrics and songs which progress and change. Their songs have shape and Style, making Sennen a truly original band. The music scene in Norwich is so strong and this is a perfect example of the quality music Norwich seems to ooze, the calibre of bands is high and Sennen just proves this with their latest offering.

The band harks back to their love of Sonic Youth, teenage fanclub, spacemen 3 and Big Star. With a melodic post rock sound ‘Where the Light Gets In’ recorded by Norwich based Hungry Audio, is a follow up to the band’s first mini album which was recorded in 2005 and has sold a solid 4,000 records. Recorded in a stunningly quick 8 days, a this album is set to sell far and beyond this number. With great great riffs and string compositions this album is an essential listen. Comparing bands is never my favourite way to describe bands but to give a sense of the angle Sennen are coming from. Think of the melodies of Explosions in The Sky, mixed with Jonquil, The Early Years and The Shadow Project and in some strange way you have the essence of Sennen.

Gareth Ludkin


Izzie Voodoo – The Push

Being proficient in note reading won't get you far in rock, Izzie. A number of silly claims from another PR firm give Izzie a bitter feel of faux-goth, this time accepted by music hierarchy, but if you're a little more open minded for a minute Miss Voodoo won't be the pathetic Elastica cover band you were expecting, she's the awesome Elastica-moulded drum machine queen you were hoping for.

While the artwork was obviously designed by a hyper active student just off of a graphic design course songs such as 'Play Bomb' could quite easily have re jigged Madonna's now faltering career: “I don't play with a boy from another planet/Don't hang around with someone who keeps their hands in pockets”. The obvious music set up and production could translate into the charts like a dart into a dart board. Edgy yet keen to pop her herself into a million Brit ceremonies but while keeping herself to a indie label confusing purists as she goes along.

There is very little to say about the music, there's bits which sound like The Matrix theme tune. Buy this for your little cousin when she's just hit puberty and expect nothing than this blasting out her iPod for months to come. It's the kind of record which gets kids into music (dance and rock) with a bit more believability. Although there's plenty here to get your teeth into, it's so OTT at points it's almost laugh out loud. Maybe when a bit more individuality comes through the cracks on record #2 I'll be able to listen to it with a sense that this isn't a talented drama school A* student, yet more a raw talent. Avril Lavigne with real attitude.

Nick Burman


Jape – Ritual

Promising Irish prodigy Jape at first seem more portentous than visionary but get past the flimsy 'Christopher and Anthony' and let the deep bass groove of 'I Was A Man' infect your feet and soon you won't be so disappointed. “I popped my cherry to November Rain... oh I was a man” - a choice quote from the first song to really show off the slick up-to date production of 'Richie'.

Coming in at over five minutes 'Graveyard' builds up to be the slow trance midnight mover which you'd find at a mid-nineties Glastonbury with the all the subtle joys which Hot Chip charm their fans with. Next track up also follows in this vain, but moves into more indie tones with pop culture references to Thin Lizzie's Phil Lynott. The jackanory story arc doesn't quite complement itself enough to make you want to listen to more folk-meets-synths nuggets. 'Streetwise' is way too trying to get away with the 80's production and like the albums opener never quite impresses in the way the creator thought it might. 'Strike Me Down' is one of the final few tracks which doesn't feel thirty seconds over time. The original sampled parts at the beginning of 'Nothing Lasts Forever' is a breathe of fresh air from an album which constantly is held back by the amount of vocal descriptions of events which really won't grab your attention.

'Ritual' for all it's high points is constantly stuck between a rock and a hard place; a modern electric feel through the production which often lends too heavily from the 80's while the folk feel at times, clashes too heavily with the 'metaphysical' style of the production. Neither Hot Chip's new champion of slow beat beautiful dance music, nor Bloc Party's catchy alter-ego. Jape is one to behold as a future for contemporary production styles but will need to get a grasp of what exactly his own creations want to be, before his effect can be truly recognised across a music land scape where a million Jape's hustle for a bit of the large, monotone cake.

Nick Burman


The Vichy Government – Whores In Taxis (Filthy Little Angels)

This is an album of off kilter keyboard casio tones. It is playful but overly simplistic and the vocals are not challenging of interesting. It is an album devoid of musicianship or intrigue. The Vichy Government is simply one guy playing around on a keyboard not really doing much at all. Fine for a mess around the music on this album is very simplistic throughout and is a pretty boring and awkward listen.

Gareth Ludkin


Applicants – Life In the Bus Lane (Brain Love Recordings)

The Applicants like blood. They like wearing it, playing with it and even posing with the stuff on their faces. Their sleeve booklet consists of several photos of the band wearing fake blood on their faces. And throughout I’m not quite sure why sure why…are they making a statement? Pop punk has never been my favourite genre but the Applicants seem to almost pull it off in a weird way with a variety of mash ups, noises and samples. ‘Enjoy Your Pizza’ for example, one of the best on the album has a bass ridden electronic soulful groove. With such a mash up of samples and noises combined with punk guitars the songs sometime feel a little overly complex. Sticking to a set style however is clearly not for them and their hopping from one thing to the next is endearing and interesting but at the same time fairly pointless and maybe a little annoying. For me this band leaves me more confused than when I started. I don’t really know what to think. Do I like them or not? there’s many elements in the album that I do like but at the same time I wish they would cut a fair bit out and stick to convention, at least a little bit.

Gareth Ludkin


The Herbaliser – Same As It Never Was (K7 Records)

It seems a lot of people like to call themselves ‘jazz’ these days because they’ve use a horn section –you know who you are Ronson. And The Herbaliser for that matter. But they have got the middle-of-the-road-slightly-different-but-still-accessible thing- down pat. A few horns here, a bit of d-jing there, some scratching and spinning, and you’ve got yourselves a ‘quirky’ album. 

Same As It Never Was doesn’t make it past the quirky phase, and as a result is fairly average and not particularly inspiring. Just Won’t Stop features some semi well thought out lyrics, featuring mySpace and the likes, but it’s hardly insightful.  

The vocals from new singer Jessica Darling do add depth, and to put it crudely she’s got a fine pair of lungs on her. Sadly she doesn’t feature on every track, and her absence leaves a gaping hole in instrumental tracks.  

Swinging between more conventional hip hop and R N B to more meandering, perhaps improvisational tracks, Same As It Never Was never really finds its feet, making listening more challenging and far less rewarding than it should be.

Catriona Boyle


Glissando - ‘With Our Arms Wide Open We March Towards the Burning Sea’ (Gizeh)

Elly May Irving and Richard Knox have produced a deeply poetic, darkly beautiful, gently melancholic and entirely immaculate debut album of fragile and exquisite brilliance.

Aided by The Fleeting Glimpse Ensemble, various members of iLiKETRAiNS, Her Name is Calla, Held By Hands, The Rosie Taylor Project and Immune on violin, trumpet, trombone and additional voices, the record drifts subtly and seamlessly from one ethereal, hermetic, dark epic to the next. This is not background music. Hushed and inspirational, full of enigmatic, whispered secrets, unearthly drones, delicate, stark piano, layered voices and long trails of reverb, it demands devotion from the listener that is repaid by raising the hairs on the back of the neck. Elly May Irving has one of those voices that require reverence and silence from an audience.

I am sure that there are influences, resonances of others music, but it would be absolutely unfair and disingenuous to compare their music to anything else, Glissando create a unique and heartbreaking sound that is all their own.

Bill Howe


Slow Down Tallahassee - The Beautiful Light (Thee SPC)

Slow Down Tallahassee are an "almost-all-girl-group"... um, let's move on. They play the Indietracks Festival this July, so if you've managed to blag yourself a ticket then go and see them. This is why:

#1: There's a world of missing connectives in this album. The lyrics booklet makes clear that, despite what you might wrongly perceive to be 'sweet' (ugh, ew) lyrics about love ("So Much For Love", they sing, see), SDT have crafted 14 songs that do bad, evil, fun, curses, lust and style in a very pop way. The title track goes: "I just shut up and I smile now / Think I might go suiciding". Nicola Coleman says that SDT wanted to explore "the shadows between innocence and corruption", whilst doing "songs that people could dance to and fall in love with". This is a world of different indie pop - with guns under the table.

#2: SDT can be pretty venomous. Case in point: "A Little Hex For You". I'm not suggesting that pop music should be, or is in essence, intrinsically lightweight and throwaway - that would be foolish - but SDT are clever in the way they choose to pack a punch. After "Never Be Lonely Again" is passionate about love - "Can you hold me down or release me?" - "A Little Hex For You" wishes that "When you beg him to stop may the devil only fuck you faster". Both Nicola Coleman and Claire Hill have keyboard duties on this album, but the agitation that might be disguised for a second on the first listen to this album, which ends talking about "the prettiest tree that you ever did see", is poignant, and maybe scary, if you're a weak, dreary, indie boy, like me (even the press release is sharp as a knife).

#3: SDT are, for what it's worth (not much), quite like an amalgamation between Camera Obscura and the Jesus and Mary Chain. How do they sound so fuzzy, yet not so fuzzy as to obscure the pure pop level beneath? Alan Smyth's production, friends. Thee SPC have released this record, so. Wash yourself in the guitars, and immerse yourself in the more explicit lyrics. "Let the motherfucking good times roll", indeed.

Phil Coales


Duels - When the Barbarians Move in (This is fake DIY records) 

There’s no hook that all of a sudden gets your ass shaking or your mosh head on and the lyrics are hard to decipher. Still the talent and practice that must be involved in making chanting, crashing symbols, synths, whistling, wailing, orchestral and heavy sounds become harmonious, is impressive.

I can’t help feeling like the Duels are trying to tell me something trying to enlighten me to another way of thinking and I just can’t quite hear them. Hey maybe I am just not intelligent enough – yeah that’ll be it!

This album is a dark tribal exploration. It’s like the moment before a blood stained jack pops out of his box yielding an axe in the name of freedom and justice. Get ready for some unpretentious brainwashing kids this is the post-surrealist war at its most resolute.

Helen Barlow


Peter Moren - The Last Tycoon (Witchita) 

It’s quite lovely really. An honest and heartfelt exploration of his self and his observations of life Peter Moren delivers a diverse album.

The romantic nature of many of the tracks and the straight talking reflections on society in others is warming.

The sounds vary from progressive Scandinavian folk, to those reminiscent of Bob Dylan. There are too many instruments to mention here played with precision and perfect timing throughout the album.

Track 8 ‘Twisted’ makes use of hand percussion - a guiro with such simplicity it is both funny and fun to listen to.

In my opinion the album picks up pace and profession around track 6. The stabbing element of orchestra experimented with in tracks 1 and 2 doesn’t quite sit but then as the album moves on this concept is evolved and makes for some great harmony and emotion in the songs.

Peter’s unique voice, which he tests to the limits in ‘I don’t gaze at he sky for long’ is curious and interesting and certainly different in the sea of music we are hearing currently.

There is so much inspiration in this album the story like nature of it not only makes you wonder and question but it genuinely makes you smile to hear a talented and creative man successfully bounding over that hurdle of expressing himself.

Helen Barlow


Wild Beasts – Limbo, Panto (Domino Records)

The debut album from the Leeds based Wild Beasts is a collection of gloriously eccentric and very distinctive songs. One of the first things to notice about ‘Limbo, Panto’ is the extensive use of falsetto vocals. While this may be a deal breaker for some, the falsetto undoubtedly adds something rather unusual to the mix. Singer Hayden Thorpe’s vocals fall from a soaring falsetto to a low growl within the space of a single phrase.

Future single ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ veers from an insistent rhythmic accompaniment to a relatively stripped down chorus and back again. ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ is a fast paced pop song, and is probably one of the more accessible songs on the album. ‘Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants’ also stands out within the album, with Thorpe’s meandering vocals layered over a continual accompaniment and an incessant woodblock.

Some tracks, such as ‘Please Sir’ and ‘Woebegone Wanderers’, are slightly more bizarre, but it is this unusual sound that makes the album distinctive. Wild Beasts have created a unique sound in ‘Limbo, Panto’, a sound that does not fit precisely into any particular genre.

Yasmin Prebble


K.O.Kaine - Play to Ghosts 

It’s hard to really tell what genre K.O.Kaine fit into. It is frequently said that bands are genre blending and it is not backed up in their music, but when it comes to K.O.Kaine there is no other way to describe the music they produce. They have vocals similar to that of the old 80’s glam rock days and guitar solos to match, but the next minute they will be playing music like a 90’s nu-metal band. K.O.Kaine have set out to make sure that they don’t follow what is popular in modern rock music but instead of progressing with music they seem to have gone backwards to produce music which has already had its time. It almost comes across that K.O.Kaine are trying too hard to be different and by merging genres, even they don’t know what they are. Give credit where credit is due K.O.Kaine are very talented musicians, especially guitarist Mik Crone who produces some amazing riffs and solos throughout the album. For opening track ‘We are the Dead’ till closing track ‘Look at Yourself’ his musical talent shines through and it is proof that K.O.Kaine are a talented band. They just need to advance in the musical world rather than playing a blend of two genres that really don’t exist anymore. 

Tim Birkbeck


Pendulum – In Silico – (Warner) 

Undoubtedly the first drum and bass act to make a large-scale crossover to the mainstream during the 21st century; Pendulum return with the sequel to the sub-genre creating Hold Your Colour. In Silico tones down the clown-step and pushes the rock/metal undertone to the forefront.

The synths are glossy and expressive, but the bass is slightly more restrained, the tempo however isn’t and the kick-snare, kick-kick-snare breakbeat assault prevails.  Most of the new tracks feature heavy overdubbed layers of crunching guitars, often prominently.  The album closer The Tempest for example is almost totally reliant on a rock/metal structure. Diversions of that kind have drawn criticism from some drum and bass purists, to the extent that the band is now seen as passé on pirate radio and in most clubs. 

The band should laugh such criticism off; it is the typically myopic response of any blinkered scenester, particularly within a slow-moving scene like drum and bass, to their once reviled heroes trying something different.  In reality, the experimentation gives Pendulum an edge which is commercially interesting, without detracting from their ability to write a mammoth drum and bass track with their stamp running indelibly through it. Lead single Propane Nightmares is a perfect example of the slight restraint, but granite-heavy bottom end which the album showcases so well. 

Its not an instant classic though, not by any means. For a start, it’s too short, ten tracks simply isn’t enough to draw you into a dance album properly. Beyond that, the vocals are a bit irritating and repetitive. The lack of any guest artists renders a few songs characterless. They could have been brightened considerably by a female vocalist, an MC or some skanking Jamaican patois a-la Tarantula from the last album. An opportunity missed. 

All in all, this is a qualified triumph for dance music in 2008, here are our new Chemical Brothers, Prodigy and Goldie, all rolled up into one band. Unfortunately as a live proposition, they remain prosaic, but in the studio, they have produced something direct, identifiable and engaging.

Ian Anderson


The Gresham Flyers – Sex With Strangers (Cherryade Records)

Crafted in the basement of a Ukulele shop (I didn’t even realise such places existed) this little gem of an album just shows the amount of diy indie pop goodness there is out there for us to enjoy. The album is an enjoyable, eclectic and energetic collection of passionate song. With a range of instruments and sounds played around this record by the Gresham Flyers is endearingly fun. Lo-fi diy pop, the Gresham Flyers will never make it big but deserve a bit of support for making my day a little more bearable. Check out their music and send a few pence their way, congrats to Cherryade for putting out another new discovery from our musical patchwork land.

Gareth Ludkin


Sigur Ros - 'med sud ieyrum vij spilum endalaust' (EMI)

My vinyl collection contains a collection of songs by cajun artiste Leo Faileau. Listening to 'med sud ...' I was suddenly struck by certain similarities between the two albums. For one thing, the sound quality. Also, both albums are sort of uptempo folk and are sung in languages - creole French and Icelandic - neither of which I understand a word of.
The similarities do end though when I recall that while the Leo Faileu album (released on the US Old Timey label) was recorded in 1937, Sigur Ros's latest offering was recorded as recently as 2006

So why should I even begin to make such comparisons? Well, the first three reasons can actually stand. Sigur Ros are a name practically everyone reading this review will recognise, mostly down to their self titled 2000 debut album, which quite a lot of you will have heard at least parts of. Ethereal, anthemic, ambient, these were all words anyone writing about Sigur Ros could use without any hint of irony in 2000/1. Seven years on though, and the boys appear to be running out of steam in the creative department. The best moments on 'med sur' do really sound a lot like Doves, a band whose studio budgets allow them to develop tunes to their fullest, as opposed to the scratchy campfire singalongs with added percussion which are what Sigur Ros wish to share with us today.

With an upcoming tour schedule which encompasses festival shows across south america and most of europe, perhaps the band felt constrained to play to the widest possible audience in the least musically demanding let alone possibly 'offensive' manner they could come up with. Those air fares would have proved more useful as part of the production budget. 'med sur ieyrum vij spilum endalaust' really does sound like the last waltz for these one-time innovators.

Jon Gordon


Rose Kemp - 'Unholy Majesty' One Little Indian

There are quite a number of female singer songwriters around, but none of them are pressing the alarm bell quite as effectively as Rose Kemp. Opening tracks 'Dirty Glow', 'Nanny's World' (released as a download single on 30th June) and 'Bitter And Sweet' are a sustained howl of bad girl blues which many of Kemp's contemporaries (you know who they are) might perhaps tend to shy away from, preferring less confrontationally rockist pursuits.

But as the album unfolds it becomes apparent why Rose Kemp is choosing to follow in the footsteps of Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell rather than Joan Baez or Katie Melua, and that is her voice, which could land her a slot in the ENO chorus were she ever to 'go acoustic'. Meanwhile her backing band are making every note count. None of that angular hi-hatting and feedback for the Kemp crew, a tone of controlled fury is cleverly maintained across all ten tracks.

Producer Chris Sheldon's previous credits include Biffy Clyro and Foo Fighters and 'Unholy Majesty' has the depth and weight of polished quartz, a mesmerising piece of work which manages to sound like a full-on metal album, a folk-induced strumalong and a vaguely operatic stab at newprog (and there aren't any female performers in that particular category), and while 'Unholy Majesty' might not make for comfortable listening, Rose Kemp is an undeniably major talent just waiting for the rest of the world to pay proper attention. All we need now is for Edith Bowman to play 'Nanny's World' and the job is, as the saying goes, a good 'un.

Jon Gordon