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albums - april 2010


   
 

Sivert Höyem – Moon Landing (Hector Grammofon)

Norway’s biggest indigenous rock band to date were Madrugada who, over the course of their thirteen years together had managed to sell over a million records. What’s that? Never heard of them? No, neither have I. As it is, the band was brought to an untimely end by the death of guitarist Robert Burås in 2007 and for frontman Höyem in particular, the fallout from this was exacerbated by the death of his father a few months later.

Two years later and he has emerged with his third solo album and one that was naturally longer in the gestation. Unfortunately, the record is a somewhat meandering listen and much of it is fairly middle of the road stuff. First track “Belorado” is a rocked up Neil Diamond pastiche, and a large chunk of the album’s songs fail to do justice to a rather impressively laconic baritone that appears to be an offspring of either Johnny Cash, the aforementioned monsieur Diamond or Nick Cave; it really is the sort of thing Tom Smith from Editors can only dream of.

There are moments of utter frustration - when the album veers to the AOR by numbers with an alternative flavour of “What You Doin’ With Him?” it becomes almost boring then you are hit with a line like “Drinking for a while just to steady your hand” from the tear-stained Americana of “The Light That Falls Among The Trees” and at once you are given a small glimpse into the subject of loss in a way that is simple, yet genuinely moving.

So, a confusing album, but maybe one that does well in reflecting the see-saw of emotions experienced by the man who wrote it. However, the variability of material makes it difficult to judge this as anything more than a moderate 5/10.

RM

 

Neil Cowley Trio - Radio Silence

This is a band of three people playing different instruments in a mixture of styles. The first track starts off expressionist, the piano kicks in and even though there are a lot of accidentals true to style, the melody still appeals and is recognisable throughout the song. There is quite a lot of use of moving up and down the scales and jumping between octaves when the piano has a solo. This gives it a slightly hectic feel however there are three instruments so it doesn't feel too busy - it's a good mix.

There is a contrast between the high and low pitch, broken or block chords and scales which creates their original sound. They are very technically good, all three instruments have very clever parts to play, and all played with flare. 'Hug the Greyhound' is my personal favourite which has a sort of blues fell to it.
http://www.myspace.com/neilcowleytrio

Hannah Pickering

 

Various Artists – Missing Deadlines: Selected Ulrich Schnauss Remixes (Rocket Girl)

Busy chap is Ulrich. When not tickling keys for Longview and Engineers, putting out ambient releases or slipping his fingers into a multitude of other pies, he still manages to find the time to string together a collection of the remixes he’s worked on over the last few years.

Difficult to review this without slipping into some genre clichés and if you prefer to inject any sense of the earthy in your value judgements then this album, with nuggets on it like his re-working of Howling Bells’ ‘Setting Sun’ make it the perfect thing for listening to whilst trying to shake off an outrageous hangover. Which I am. Right now. Elsewhere, A Sunny Day in Glasgow is a nice aural equivalent to setting a time lapse camera up to film rush hour traffic. The results are a floating, fascinating tranquilised dream world.

Elsewhere, the early New Order-ism’s of Mahogany’s original version of ‘Supervitesse’ are stripped away and replaced with a wash of ambient keyboard and dubby undercurrents. Asobi Seksu’s ‘Strawberry’ is similarly transformed from an enjoyably messy garage retro-ness to beautifully sleek futuristism.

Schnauss also manages to give a tip of the hat to his original inspirations and includes by first generation shoegazers Rachel Goswell (of Slowdive) which is unfortunately the weakest thing on here and Mark Gardener (of Ride) who’s ‘Story of the Eye’ is gently moulded into a quiet masterpiece and unwittingly provides the album’s highpoint.

The album is a stunningly lush giant of a thing. Go out and buy it. Seriously, fucking do it. 10/10

RM

 

Danielle Spencer - Calling All Magicians

The first three tracks of this album are very contrasting; the first has an almost eary and saddened feel, the second has a fun feel but the third is very dramatic.

The sounds she makes are very original and varied, she has a lovely voice that I haven't heard anyone sing like before. She creates special atmospheres in her songs and has inspirational lyrics. The balance in her song is great, her voice stands out over the backing, sometimes instrumental, sometimes synthesised, but it works.

The backing singers and added instruments give it a fuller sound and the variety of this in the tracks make for a varied album that is entertaining to listen to. In the songs there are changes that work as well, for example, there is a guitar solo in track eight which is a big change from the rest of the song, this vary is a good asset to the song. The album finishes with a last track that closes the record nicely.

Hannah Pickering

 

The Lancashire Hotpots – Criminal Record

Not the usual sort of music I review, but this was a refreshing change. This folk-parody band from the North West has made an album about crime in the 21st Century. The subject matter, style and accents bring to mind Peter Kay set to music.

The eight tracks cover subjects such as stealing stationery from work, using your neighbours broadband and sneaking sweets into the cinema. And whilst it’s obviously all tongue-in-cheek, that doesn’t mean the band don’t take the song-writing seriously. With musical styles ranging from rock n roll to punk to sea-shanties, they know how to play.

But the real draw is the lyrics. With classics such as “The bloke next to me has got a computer, but he’s not protected his wireless router” and “We all like the cinema, and go to the flicks; But I won’t pay a tenner for your ruddy pick ‘n’ mix” there’s a lot to chuckle at. ‘Identity Fraud’ stands out, and there’s a lot of digs at modern life that’ll have you nodding your head in recognition.

It’s certainly not a classic, and like most comedy/parody musical acts, I’m not sure how often you’d listen to this but if you get the chance it’s worth giving it the once over. There’ll be a least one track to put a smile on your face.

Matt Latham

 

Adam Donen - Immortality

This artist doesn't come form England and you can hear that other country feel in his music. He uses a variety of instruments throughout all of his songs and has a range of effects with these instruments. The piano takes subtle melodies often but then other times sits comfortably into the backing. His lyrics are very clever and inspirational: 'Speak of freedom and freedom is not free of words' and also deals with modern issues: 'your facebook page?'

He uses a variety of techniques in his songs although his songs are very similar - that is his style. Scales in the bassline, guitar on the off beats, repetative verses and choruses, varying in tempos and moods - these all create an original compilation for his album.

Hannah Pickering

 

The Antennas - The Antennas

The first track starts off with a good old siren, letting us all know that The Antennas are here. This is a band of only three members but they make a good, big, full sound.

These guys have energy in every aspect of their songs. The vocals are pumped up and the guitar lines get you going, the drums keep up a good tempo in the songs that need it and it all works very well together. I, personally, loved the riffs they used, they are catchy and their songs have a certain brit pop element that really catches my ear.

They can work upbeat and relaxed rhythms, they have a good balance between themselves and they even get some falsetto in in one of their songs. The Antennas are musically and technically a good band, I wish them luck.

Hannah Pickering

 

ODi - Marslow's Songbook

This album has a lot of quiet relaxing songs on it which create a nice calm atmosphere. The lead vocalist has a good voice and holds her part well, she is backed by a variety of people on each track, changing between most, but all the tracks are of good quality. They work electric and acoustic guitars well together but also give the piano a nice part which pairs nicely with the soft vocals. Everything is well matched in this EP, the use of instruments introduced in each song especially, for example, in track five when they use violins for the backing but then at a different time bring the acoustic guitar forward to suit the mood. This is very effective and keeps the mood going but with a variety.

The choruses in a lot of her songs are very catchy and memorable and her openings also are something you remember when you think of her songs. Track seven is more upbeat which still suits her voice but is a nice change in the album and track nine has a beautiful acousitic guitar section.

Hannah Pickering

 

Castrovalva - We Are A Unit (Brew Records)

Taking the jitter-punk of McClusky as a leaping off point and blending it with the lo-fi quirks and samples of early 90's hip-hop, Leeds trio Castrovalva spend less than 30 minutes and 12 tracks making as unholy a riot as is humanely possible with just drums, bass and vocals. The results are mixed but often thrilling and underline an abrasive hardcore scene which has been bubbling under the public consciousness for years now. Most of the songs clock in at under 3 minutes and consist primarily of deep, grinding fuzz bass, pounding drums and some of the most aggressive vocals this side of the Norwegian death metal scene.

Lead vocalist Leemun Smith is possessed of a set of pipes which is almost a cross between Mika, Iggy Pop and alternative hip-hop MC Doseone, if that puts you off please look away now. This is raw punk music played with a metallic intensity by a group of individuals who are no doubt as drastically unhinged as their bizarre name suggests. There is barely a moment where the pace lets up with only the mid-album mood-piece 'Unit Radio' proving welcome respite from the audio pummelling on offer elsewhere.

There are shards of synth and guitar scattered throughout, (there's even a brass section on 'You Better Make That Money' which actually lends the song a slightly accessible angle that could almost be early Biffy Clyro) but the album is primarily just composed of Daniel Braders intense rhythms, Anthony Wrights expansive, distorted bass and tormented growls and Leemun Smiths high-pitch caterwauling. They are essentially a stripped back, british Dillenger Escape Plan without the ego.

If it's full-on audio-rape-age your after but the more extreme end of the noise-core market (think Merzbow and Wolf Eyes) is a little much for you to take you could do much worse than Castrovalva's exhilarating debut album. And I'm willing to bet they are phenomenal live! 7/10
http://www.pumppump.co.uk

Benjamin Hiorns

 

Sankorfa - In Between Instruments (Self Released)

'In Between Instruments' is exactly the sort of albums you would expect 4 percussionists to make. It's a sparse, absorbing melting pot of syncopated rhythms, jazzy atmospherics and loose, progressive structures. If this doesn't sound like 'your sort of thing' chances are it isn't, this is stringently niche music which is no doubt a thousand times more thrilling to witness live but still manages to maintain enough spontaneity to keep a patient listeners attention held for 40 odd minutes.

Anyone familiar with Miles Davis's 'In A Silent Way' album should know what to expect here in terms of general atmosphere. It's relaxed and at times almost unbearably quiet, but there's an undercurrent of menace and dread which sits just beneath the surface throughout extended jams such as the epic 'Trouble So Hard'. The 4-piece manage to make the most out of the spare instrumentation with the melody lines almost exclusively given over to a xylophone which is heavily caked in reverb so that it almost haunts the mix with a subtle clarity. Vocals are used only once but as closely harmonised blues chants on 'Trouble So Hard', a very loose cover of the Vera Hall original. It's here that the rhythmic intensity really reaches it's zenith and results in the records most absorbing piece of music.

It's hard to pick out individual tracks for praise as the album works best taken as a whole, if I had to pick though I'd say the opening 'Enough Already' manages to milk an infectious groove which proves rhythm can be just as catchy as melody. In fact the entire album makes a case for that point, these guys are obviously in love with rhythmic music It's hardly going to find an audience outside of the already converted but for those that do decide to delve into their calm, delicate, Steve Reich goes calypso world, the rewards are both rich and plentiful. 7/10
http://www.sankorfa.com

Benjamin Hiorns

 

The Triffids - 'Wide Open Road - The Best Of -' (Domino)

I wonder why it's taken so long for The Triffids to find their way back into our attentions. In the mid 80s, they were perhaps the best known and certainly hippest Australian band of their type, purveyors of literate outback alt.folk that referenced both the post punk contortions of the Bunnymen and Psychedelic Furs and also the newly found folk energies of the Pogues and The Men They Couldn't Hang. While the Go-Betweens were neurotic urban hipsters backbiting over cold coffees, the Triffids were celebrating the vast antiopodean mysteries that stretch between the suburbs of Sydney and the beaches of Perth. The band's main songwriter, David McCoombs, died in 1999 and this year Domino are releasing an 8 CD retrospective, with this compilation providing an introduction to the band for music listeners who might already know of them through acknowledgements from such as Mumford And Sons and Fleet Foxes.

Listening to the band today, it's apparent that the Bunnymen's 'Ocean Rain' was a key influence on at least some of McCoombs songwriting, the mixture of string sections and rattling guitar lines turned to considerable effect on songs such as 'Reverie' and 'Beautiful Waste'. Other songs echo the then contemporary angsty poetics of Lloyd Cole and the verging-on-surreal imageries of Prefab Sprout, both bands with whom the Triffids were often neatly filed alongside. 25 years is a very long time in the music world though, and I can't help wondering if Domino might wish they had put something like this together a little sooner, when both David McCoombs and his considerable talents were a little fresher in everyone's memories. More than worthy of our attentions today, these former Melody Maker cover artistes fully deserve another look.
http://www.thetriffids.com/

JG

 

Ste Guy - 'Fairground In The Trees' (s/r)

I don't quite get this one. Ste Guy lists influences that include Teenage Fanclub, the JAMC, alongside the Go-Betweens, New Order( ? ) and Ennio Morricone ( ! ) and aspects of the music of the first two of these are definitely present throughout 'Fairground In The Trees'. Ste Guy himself is a little elusive though. It's one thing reverently recreating the distorted grind of 'Psychocandy' and the blissful harmonics of 'Grand Prix' but none of the songs on 'Fairground ...' really rise above the level of actual cover versions of songs from those aforementioned 80s and 90s classics. One copy of The Triffids 'Born Sandy Devotional' to Mr Guy, please.
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/SteGuy

JG

 

April Maybe May - s/t (Seahouses)

Rosie Hillman and Matt Kassell are from Barrow, a town best known for making submarines, Channel 4 documentaries and as the venue for one of the very few Brian Jonestown Massacre shows of their 2009 UK tour. Perhaps April Maybe May can put the Cumbrian peninsula properly onto our musical maps with this album though. A mixture of jaunty country folk and laid back fusion grooves, this is probably the best album anyone form Barrow has ever either recorded or released. Already recieving kudos from the glossy press and what's left of BBC6, Rosie Hillman's voice is simultaneously delicate and earthy, and the musicianship is smoothly flawless, evocative and brightly inspired, preventing some of the slower songs from drifiting too far into harmonic reveries. Really quite good. Save BBC6 or the banjo gets it!
http://www.myspace.com/aprilmaybemay

JG

 

My Luminaries - 'Order From The Chaos' (Cottage Industries)

My Luminaries were recently awarded an 'emerging talent 'award, courtesy of Q magazine at Glastonbury last year, but will their anthemic mainstream guitar rock ever grace the Pyramid Stage? With Edith Bowman and numerous other industry bods also in their corner, the east London based quartet are clearly destined for greater things, just as soon as the Boxer Rebellion headline a US tour and Muse retire.

With one eye firmly focused on the teen soap soundtrack market, these are still relatively early days for a band that first got together in 2004. The production doesn't quite encapsulate the effort that the band are making in the studio though, thoughtfully polite and verging on influence-by-numbers (Snow Patrol and definitely, obviously Keane) right where a dash of inspiration, a brass section, an extended progrock instrumental break, perhaps some electronica, would properly lift this album above the milling throng of MOR tunes chasing lucrative advert and video game contracts and make My Luminaries a band whose name is actually remembered. Perhaps that's the bands next album, but if all you want to do is make money, how about property management or merchant banking? I can see where My Luminaries are heading with this, let's hope they actually get there.

http://www.myspace.com/myluminaries

JG

 

Sons Of Alpha Centauri / A Death Cinematic - 'Nights Of Apocalypse' (Silber)

3 tracks. 54 minutes of music. Uncertainty as to both who are the musicians and what are their names. It quite genuinely doesn't get any more oblique than this. Closer inspection reveals that the album is in fact a split release, with Sons Of Alpha Centauri's underscored minimalism providing the first half of the album and improvised guitar effects epics from solo performer A Death Cinematic making up the second half.

Sons Of Alpha Centauri's influences are very obviously 70s Prog, along the lines of Aamon Duul, Tangerine Dream, 'Meddle' era Pink Floyd. Their synths and percussion are pulsating bursts of muted power, ethereal and dynamic. A Death Cinematic has an obvious progenitor in the work of Spacemen 3, sharing the repetitive time signatures and the use of reverb and delay as percussive instruments. Both experimental and accessible, and performed with considerable skill, it's exactly the kind of album I'd suggest bands such as My Luminaries actually listen to before going back into their studios.

http://www.myspace.com/sonsofalphacentauri
http://www.myspace.com/adeathcinematic

JG

 

Kyte - Dead Waves (Kids)

Now that Owl City have proven low-key indie-electro-pop can break down the mainstream barrier there will no doubt be countless similar acts following in on their coattails. Lancashire 4-piece Kyte are the first in what is sure to be a long line with their unmistakably ambitious, pleasant and melodic electronic indie-rock. The 12 relatively concise tracks (few break above the 4 minute mark) which make up their debut album 'Dead Waves' all follow the same basic formula with frontman Nick Moon's plaintive croon layered softly over stadium drums and typical icy synth pads set almost exclusively to 'epic'. It's all very predictable and would sound almost parodic if it wasn't for the quality of song-writing on display.

They are obviously a band who takes themselves very seriously and this backfires immeasurably on a title track which tries it's hand at soaring post-rock and falls short without any real peaks and a tragic lack of hooks. Kyte are infinitely more effective when flexing their sizeable pop muscles on first single 'ihnfsa' which sounds like New Order as performed by The Pet Shop Boys. 'Your Alone Tonight' also manages to blend stuttering synths and urgent beats with wistful vocals in a manner The Postal Service really should have trademarked back in 2003. It works well and the chorus is a subtle thing of beauty. Too much else here feels like filler though with listless songs such as 'Designed for Damage' and 'Guns and Knives' floating past with the flotsam through a record which is never unpleasant but never particularly engaging either.

If Snow Patrol and The Postal Service collided this would be the result and if that statement makes you want to retch you'll be better off looking elsewhere. For the rest of us though this is a pleasingly consistent and quietly affecting little record which won't set the world alight but will sound great when your relaxing in the garden with an ice cold beer on a hazy summer afternoon. Some may find it odd to call this a 'summer' record as it can sound so coldly electronic, however the constant chilled atmosphere and easy melodies make this perfect easy listening fodder. Just don't expect anything revolutionary. 6/10
http://www.myspace.com/kyteband

Benjamin Hiorns

 

Fortune - Staring At The Ice Melt (Distiller Records)

Gallic indie/electronica outfit Fortune release their debut album just at the right time. March/May is the critical time for frontrunners taking a shot at the coveted “Indie Summer Soundtrack” title to start flooding airwaves, column inches and dance floors the nation over and even after losing substantial money on the Grand National this weekend, i’d be happy to place my bets on Staring At The Ice Melt to at least place.

The album runs in the same, cool, suave, sophisticated and ever so chic vein as established French synth pop heavyweights Air, Daft Punk and Justice but with a hint of indie disco sensibility. The band blend angular new wave inflected guitars and airy synths that work perfectly together to create a sharp glasslike pop sound perfect for pulling serious shapes to, and that girl you’d always bottled it with before.

The albums release will be proceeded by the single “Bully” which is one of the highlights of the record. Beginning with a glitchy synth hook and stomping drum beat, the song ticks every box on the surefire hit checklist and adds in an extra vocoder line for that authentic French pop touch. Another highlight is second track “Gimme” which is a 101 in perfect indie dance track construction, in fact, the same could be said for the whole first half of the album. I’m backing it. 8/10

A. Tzikas

 
 

George Demure - The Drifter (Mahuta Recordings)

George Demure is an accomplished scottish musician now living down south in grey ol‘ London town. His music however, doesn’t fit into any of the current trends in either place. The Drifter is the follow up to Georges 2007 debut “Boomtown Medallion” and fuses drum machine and synth mastery with electric guitars and Georges elegant and unusual singing voice to create a strangely interesting and eclectic record that oozes originality and variety.

The songs here, although different styles throughout, all manage to sound like classic examples of their respective styles. Songs such as “The Drifter” see George crooning in Sinatra style to synthesized strings and a mambo style brass section, then the next track “Dress Me Up” kicks in with a thumping drum and bass section reminiscent of “Tar” by Visage. Unlike with a lot of artists, the variety of styles present on this album does not negatively effect its playability as a full length record and a vein of suave and very British psychedelia runs throughout, especially on his cover version of “Golden Brown”. Although there is lack of huge hit single material here, it works well together as a full length album which is becoming rarer and rarer today. 7/10

A.Tzikas

 

She and Him – Volume Two

There’s a workman in my bedroom. He’s fixing my curtains. It wasn’t my idea. I didn’t even know they were broken, but the landlord says they are and who am to argue? So, here I am sat on my bed writing this review, listening to She and Him.

The man, I’ll see if I can find out his name, he looks like an Andy (he’s been here for about half an hour and asking him his name now seems awkward), spotted a Janis Joplin album on my shelf and struck up a conversation about the cigar smoking vocal goddess. ‘How bizarre’, I say, ‘apparently the singer we’re listening to, Zooey Deschanel, is meant to be playing Janis in a bio-pic’.

He stops, listens to the song for a moment, ‘sounds like a bad idea to me’. And how right he may be. You couldn’t get further away from Janis if you set up a music school called the anti-Joplin School of Music, where all the students were taught how to sound the polar opposite of Janis.

She and Him’s sound is all doo-wop, Shangri-Las, with hints of Dolly Parton and Camera Obscura. Deschanel’s vocal so relaxed and self assured you get this bizarre sense of her singing in the room to you. Listening to She and Him is a lot like being in an episode of Dennis Potter’s Lipstick on your Collar. Listening to Joplin makes even the nicest of homes feel like a sleazy bar on the West Coast.

My curtains are fixed. They slide back and forth with ease. Now Andy’s on my bed. We’re both enjoying She and Him. ‘I think she should just concentrate on doing her own thing’, Andy says, indicating to the CD cover, ‘it grows on you’.

And as he pulls the curtains shut, effortlessly, returning to our spooning position, I can’t help but agree. ‘I’d like to hear her do a song with Richard Hawley’, I say turning to him. Andy looks blank. I’ve lost him.
Off Andy goes, to fix curtains elsewhere, leaving me with She and Him. Never mind, let him go and listen to music in other people’s bedrooms. You know, I think I might be falling in love with Zooey Deschanel. 7/10

Sean Gregson

 

Black Francis – Nonstoperotik

Wharrrrgh! It’s Frank, Black Francis, Black. What happens now, Frank? You’ve done the whole Pixies reformation, still doing it even. You’re an elder statesman now, Francis. What now? I’ve got a suggestion. Why don’t you soak a black guitar in red wine a write a monster of an album on it? ... Oh... you have? Good.

For those who thought Frank had gone away, he’s back. And how is it? Dead Man’s Curve is the best song he’s written since... I don’t know, 1994? Perhaps. And Cinema Star is the best song he’s written since Dead Man’s Curve. It’s a bloody corker. Most songs don’t reach three minutes, making the whimsical ones seem... more whimsical and the raucous tracks hit like rapid fire.

It’s an album of songs that come over like they’ve been finished moments before the take, and sounds like it’s been recorded in a day. These are very good things. There’s an immediacy that can’t be faked; Six Legged Man sounds as though it may fall apart at any moment, musicians cling on to their instruments like the safety bar on a rollercoaster.

It’s not all rock riffs. Wild Son has that kind of dirty Twin Peaks thing going on which reared its head on many a Pixies album, and rightfully so, on an album called Nonstoperotik. It’s not a particularly sexy album, well, not until When I go Down on You, though it’s more Bill Hicks’ oral sex routine than the Art of Love Making (‘I hope she’s enjoying this, I’m getting a headache’).

Yeah, it’s not going to win him any new fans, but fuck them. If you’re not a convert by now, you don’t deserve conversion. 8/10

Sean Gregson

 

Black Daniel - Let’s Get Sued


An absolutely brilliant debut album from Black Daniel- Two brothers from London and Craig Louis Higgins Jnr. from New York released Let’s Get Sued released this album at the beginning of March after some complications in releasing their previous first album, ‘Hard Times On The Way’. ‘Let’s Get Sued’ comes on strong all the way through the album with distorted and garage sounds and the beautiful contrast between the English twang of Lamik’s vocals and the American Drawl of Craig’s NY accent. The album is based on new wave and electro-ish sounds from what I can gather on listening to this piece of art.

The opening song ‘I Love You But Don’t Touch Me Cause You’re Sick’ is brilliant, even if slightly repetitive on the chorus line. The piece begins very up beat but then half way through slows down so suddenly- they have really made that contrast work before returning to the original theme. ‘Look Away Sancho’ is my personal favourite, with its catchy melody line and quirky sounds.

Things slow down a lot in the songs ‘Money’ and ‘Lonely Screen Boy’ and quite frankly I just can’t put up with the whiney vocals throughout ‘Money’ but ‘Lonely Screen Boy’ has beautiful deep vocals that I can compare to Johnny Cash and Tom Wilson from Lee Harvey Osmond. ‘Computer Hero’ is very similar to ‘Money’ in that it has some more samey vocals but it is slightly more acceptable with the contrasting sections even if it is the longest song on the album.

I think that if you are a fan of the new electronic sounds in music and the glam rock rhythms with stomping song lyrics then this is certainly for you. Black Daniel really deserve to get noticed in my opinion because although the album is varied and quirky, I can imagine their live gigs are something spectacular and far greater than their already fantastic album. 7/10

Lib Grant

 

Fraser - A Garden At The Top Of The Tree

Fraser is a London-based indie/folk/pop band releasing their second album after House On A Hill in 2009.

This album is full of catchy melodies but for me, it is like I have heard them all before and sadly, I am not a fan of the fake American accents in an English band. This is a real shame because this band is incredibly talented and they do produce a broad range of inspiring moods. The album opens with ‘Release Me’ a very happy and catchy song followed by a more serious ‘Find Love’ and this contrast is found throughout the entire album- a bit too samey for my tastes but the best thing about the album for others.

‘Laughter’, ‘Let It Rain’ and ‘Old Tree’ really relax the listener before ‘There Is A Forest’ picks up the pace just a little bit more until the 60s Beatles-esque ‘Bouboulina Sunshine’ which is most definitely my favourite on the album. It is upbeat and happy and really it brings a smile to my face every time I hear it, conjuring up images of the summer to come this year. Sadly though, it is a little too reminiscent of The Beatles ‘Hard Day’s Night’, which is another favourite song of mine.

The mood quickly returns to the slow and, in my opinion, reasonably depressing after the previous song with ‘Lie For Truth’ followed by a beautifully haunting ‘Always Only You’ with syncopated rhythms and a slow vocal line.

If you like a mix of pop, electro, folk and indie- as I usually do- then this is definitely an album to listen to. ‘Lay It On The Line’ was released as the single so that is probably a good place to start although for me the guitar part is too reminiscent of Editors-Racing Rats. I do think this album will appeal to a huge audience but doesn’t quite get a full thumbs up from me, I’m afraid. 5/10

Lib Grant

 

Lee Harvey Osmond - A Quiet Evil

Eye Weekly said, “Together they create something hypnotic and beautifully textured incorporating elements of country, rockabilly, blues, rock and jazz. Wilson calls this ‘acid-folk’. You’ll call it intoxicating.” And quite frankly I could not agree any more.

The Canadian band is extremely interesting. This is the first album released by front man Tom Wilson with 16 other people; they have made a smooth running album that has earned the unique genre of ‘acid-folk’. It is definitely inventive, engages the listener quickly and instantly serves a relaxed feel.

This album is nothing but superb, capturing the husky warmth of Wilson’s vocals and the rich, mellow harmonies in other songs from singers like Margo Timmins and Colin Cripps, ‘I’m Gonna Stay That Way’ being one of my favourites for this. The opening tune ‘The Love of One’ is very rhythm-based underneath the vocals and it conjures up images of warm afternoons with friends and sunshine. ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ certainly stands out in the album with suggestions of jazz, blues, soul and country all at once, which has been pulled off incredibly well in this song. Buoyant is not a word I would use to describe this particular album with the exceptions of ‘Queen Bee’ and the Velvet Underground cover ‘I Can’t Stand It’ which both take a more upbeat path.

A comparison to Tom Waits in ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ and Chris Rea’s ‘Road To Hell’ in ‘Lucifer’s Blues’ I don’t feel should be forgotten, As soon as I heard these two songs, I immediately thought of these artists- and not in a negative way. And also to mention the coincidence of this band’s name when I was researching and found that ‘Parkland’ is inspired by the assassin of JFK- Brilliant, I thought.

This is an immense album, different, and completely inspiring. 9/10

Liberty Grant

 

Perhaps Contraption - Sludge & Tripe

Perhaps Contraption is the brainchild of Squier Squire, the man behind the music, production and artistic direction of the live shows that make up this insane, psychedelic/progressive behemoth. Sludge & Tripe gives a taste of what the rest of Mr Kite’s circus would be like. It’s twisted, wonky and totally freaked out in a most British fashion.

The sound incorporates the psychedelic imagination and madness of Barrett era Pink Floyd and king Crimson/Yes style prog with frantic bursts of free-jazz improvisation and avant-rock guitar shredding that explode into songs at random intervals and make sure there’s not a dull moment on offer for the whole 1 hour duration of the record. The music here never sounds messy no matter how crazed it gets and it seems to me as though serious thought has gone into every note of this album. There are some moments here that would benefit from not being as ‘heavy’ as it does begin to grate. However, the album is a triumph for this nightmarish troupe and is definitely a refreshing change from the usual sludge and tripe we encounter from day to day. 7/10

A.Tzikas

 

To Rococo Rot - “Speculation” (Domino Records)

Peel show-favourites To Rococo Rot are very much from the “if it ain't broke...” school of songwriting. Their minimal, naturalistic electronic sound has remained fairly consistent over their albums to date, and Speculation isn't about to rock the boat. But that's not to say that there aren't rich treasures to enjoy here.

Fans of Orbital, Prefuse 73 and Boards of Canada will feel at home in their warm, complex arrangements. There are plenty of ideas at play and with almost all tracks clocking in under the four minute mark, they rarely outstay their welcome. Analogue and digital intermingle; Peter Hook-style basslines underpin spiralling percussion and vulnerable synth lines.

“Seele” already sounds like it should be the backtrack to a Top Gear special featuring a ludicrously expensive car being driven around some mountains. “Horses” is the sound of a German train journey, while “Forwardness” introduces syncopation to the lead sounds, allowing them to gently abrase.

“Working Against Time” has a little of the early Underworld sound about it, while “Ship” is altogether more grandiose and layered. Epic “Fridays” is a subtle, almost psychedelic journey that ends on a lingering, questioning dischord.

Speculation isn't likely to convert hoards of new listeners to their cause, but electronic music connoisseurs will remain satisfied that To Rococo Rot have maintained the high quality of their output and turned out another great record.

Chris Moffatt

 

Let's Go To War - “Karmageddon” (Last Gang Records)

Having produced for Britney Spears, you'd expect Canada's Let's Go To War to turn out a fairly polished product. And while the production values of debut album Karmageddon are high, the album suffers from a lack of direction or uniqueness.

The album opens with a blast of Daft Punk style electro in the form of “Burn Down The Disco”. It's a masterclass in audio technique, but there's nothing musically original here. Things continue very much in the Justice/Sebastian vein on “The Whole City's Got A Cold” and “Wolves”.

Things get more interesting on the dubiously titled “Internet Pornstar”, where the synth style of Gorillaz meets the rapping style of Will.I.Am, and remarkably, sounds good.

“Life We Live” is a regrettable attempt to bring the ethics of gangsta rap into the mix, and frankly the album would have been better off without it.

“Pennychaser” gives us yet more radio-friendly electro. Again, it's competent, but you'd be hard pressed to sing along to it or quote any memorable lyrics after you'd heard it.

“Don't Love Me” sounds like the nightmare hybrid between Jay-Z, Daft Punk and Blue. It's a peculiar beast, and if it were an animal it would probably have three heads. And one of them would be the smiling visage of Duncan James from Blue. Imagine how awful that would be for a second.

The album is described by the band as “digital confusion” and, somewhat inevitably, “genreless”. While that's all well and good in spirit, the combination of sounds here just doesn't quite hang together. There's certainly talent and potential at work, but without a defining sound you're left wondering exactly what the point was.

Chris Moffatt

 

Super Adventure Club - Avoid Zombies

An attempt at an aesthetic can be -, but when fully realised, a critic will tend to regard it as -.

'Avoid Zombies' sounds a bit like a Zuinosin record. This is the first comparison I make, and it is to an anarchic Osaka noise band about whom I know next-to-nothing else about, but whose YouTube videos are hilariously bright, chaotic and worth showing all your friends. This is that, too.

The chant at the end of the song I noted down as 'opener' (with good reason - when I later venture to check the title, song's called 'Hip Hop Hot Pot Pot Noodle') sounds like what I have also noted down as 'genuine attempt to fend off zombies'.

Then it continues in human pop form, "deconstructed thinking", quick-speaking resistance in 'Pick Up Sticks'.

The girl (also, bassist: Mandy Clarke) singing "Eat you beans, clean your teeth, wash your hands, avoid zombies..." is making no pretenses at Sophistication. It is music infused with simple glee.

Osaka Zombies return by the end of 'Sheila's Stabiliser Wheels', like a not-annoying-at-all Help She Can't Swim. Hard-slayin' fun.

Phil Coales

 

Kill The Captains – Fun Anxiety (Armellodie Records)

For such an exciting, well-written, and occasionally amusing accompanying press release – this album is a real disappointment. Credited as “Sheffield's finest wonky-pop albinos,” one would have to assume that they are Sheffield's only wonky-pop albinos. Firstly, being wonky alone doesn't make something exciting. Although some of the songs get their twiddle on as expected, it isn't done in the most riveting nor tasteful way – and I'm distraught to report that my buttons are not being pushed. It's extremely mundane and reserved, compared to my personal expectations of wonky music. I'd describe bands such as Hot Club De Paris as wonky, and heck, they do it a whole lot better. The opener, “Santino” is the first real shocker – it's quite stern for a) a wonky album and b) a song about a chimpanzee throwing things at people. I progresses minimally and builds to a noisy finish – which may accurately represent the chimpanzee's thought process and eventual action, but I've never cared much for a song's concept when the bottom line is it isn't very stimulating to listen to. Reading a track-list including songs like “Missing-Canoeist” and “Dutch Rudder,” I didn't foresee frowning throughout. If there was to be a top pick though, I'd probably go for “Cellar Dweller” - a seven minute track that has something pleasantly Radiohead about it early on, with a splash of Cats For Peru developing in the middle, and indie vibes taking hold for a boogie-inducing finish. But still, I'd choose to listen to either of those bands mentioned over this, unfortunately. 6/10

Thom Curtis

 

Black Soul Strangers – Animate (Squeek Records)

Has something happened in Ireland lately that has made everyone want to make incredible music? These guys may have just knocked Delorentos off of the top spot for my favourite recent Irish band. It isn't a very long list, but that's not important. The fact is that I've listened to three minutes of the opener “Panic Sets Direction” and I'm already scanning the internet for upcoming tour dates. A reasonably quiet introduction that really could go anywhere, fades into an escalating rumble and eventually explodes into a pounding indie-rock riff. The vocals kick in; perfectly matched, clear and tuneful. I'm having a ball, this is fucking brilliant. Understandable then, that is has been championed by BBC and NME DJs. It is just, perfect indie rock. It's not that wonky indie, nor that electro indie. It's all real band stuff, something which has been abandoned lately by the indie scene, and fluctuates from gentle to full-throttle, without ever straying into offensive territory. Your Mum would approve, even if she wasn't a particularly hip Mum. The album features a mix of the fast and the slow, although mostly the former – and rightly so because that is really where Black Soul Strangers shine such as tracks like “Witchita” and “Leave” which could undoubtedly make even a vegetable have a little groove to themselves. This is really exciting, possibly the best album I've heard in a while, and certainly the highlight of this week. Unfortunate then, that you have to wait until July 5th to hear for yourselves. 10/10

Thom Curtis

 

Dropkick Murphys – Live On Landsdowne, Boston MA (Cooking Vinyl Ltd)

I’m in two minds about this album. I’m not sure whether to start with the negatives or the positives. Okay, let’s start with the fact that to be honest the last two DKM albums have been patchy at best, with only a handful of decent tracks between them. This live album (taken from seven shows over six nights around St Patrick’s Day in 2009) relies almost too much on these last albums, which is to its detriment because the live set is lacking songs like ‘Boys on the Docks’ and ‘A Few Good Men’. On the other hand, after so long playing those songs, you can’t blame DKM in one way for staying with newer stuff.

There is a pleasing amount of the Irish stuff in this setlist, which if you’re solely a fan of is good news. There’s ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya’, ‘Flannigans Ball’ and ‘Fields of Athenry’, among others. The music on the Irish songs is great, but the accompanying DVD shows some bloody petrifying Irish dancers throughout these songs. Small girls should not be able to dance that fast. The other songs are mostly the newer stuff, and there isn’t much of the political side that DKM used to be known for.

(I could argue here that they’re not the same band anymore, blah blah blah. But really, they used to be an excellent Irish/Celtic punk band with a strong political ethos and now they’re not, and it’s just sad. For this fan, this album is a disappointment.)

For the sound alone, I wouldn’t recommend this album to anyone other than die-hard fans. The DVD does add something to the experience, though, because of the sheer exuberance of the band and the enthusiasm of the crowd. The band doesn’t exactly seem cohesive, though, and each member seems to be playing his own part without regard for the others. A hometown crowd is always up for it though, especially on St Patrick’s Day, and the crowd alone make the DVD worth watching, with their non-stop singing along and chants of ‘Let’s go Murphys’. The very end song, ‘Shipping Up To Boston’ has The Mighty Mighty Bosstones singing along too, which is definitely worth listening to.

According to Wikipedia, the iTunes exclusive of this album has a cover of ‘Baba O’Riley’, which DKM have done before, and this is definitely worth a listen too.

Just a shame that most of the album isn’t worth the plastic it’s burnt on.

A disappointing 3.5/10

Rebecca McCormick