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albums - june 2010


   
 

Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Welcome to the Pleasuredome (deluxe) (ZTT)

Originally released in 1984, Welcome to the Pleasuredome can rightly be regarded as one of the best pop albums of not just the 80s but of all time. This 25th anniversary re-release by ZTT includes a full re-mastered version of the original album plus a bonus disc of alternative takes of the band’s singles and demo versions. All very nicely repackaged in a double gatefold CD. The album is largely a showcase for the band's first four singles, three of which - 'Relax', 'Two Tribes' and 'The Power of Love' reached number one with the fourth and title track peaking at number two.

However, controversy followed by the band from the outset with 'Relax' being banned by the BBC due to worries over it's allegedly obscene lyrics and video which appears to show the band partying in a S&M club. Whilst 'Two Tribes' parodied the cold war stand off between East and West at the time, complete with a video showing the then heads of state of the USA and Russia, Reagan and Chernenko, fighting whilst other world leaders look on placing bets. These singles are definitely the outstanding tracks on the album and both are underpinned by pulsating drums and hulking bass lines with Trevor Horn adding a full-on production and letting the now unmistaken vocals of Holly Johnson come to the fore.

Third single ‘The Power of Love’ marked a change in direction for the band with their first ballad and a song which still has the power to bring tears to grown men’s eyes even today with it’s haunting chorus. However, it is probably the albums title track which presented the band’s high point but musically and commercially. Clocking in at over 13 minutes ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ complete with tribal chanting, soaring backing vocals and massive stabs of synth allowed both the band and Trevor Horn to create a real pop masterpiece. The remaining tracks on the album unfortunately don’t quite match these tracks yet there a couple of hidden gems with a blazing cover of ‘Born To Run’, the sexual deviance of ‘Krisco Kisses’ and ‘The Only Star in Heaven’ all of which stand out in their own right. The bonus CD doesn’t really offer too much in the way of additional material, except for the most die-hard fans of the band, with only really ‘Welcome to the Pleasuredome (Cut Rough)’ providing an interesting insight into the bands punk roots.

Unfortunately, it was all down hill for the band from here with internal squabbles and a rather disappointingly second album ‘Liverpool’ eventually leading to the break up of the band. Although, lead singer Holly Johnson enjoyed a solo career nothing quite matched up to the heights of this album. Overall, ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ has stood the test of time excellently and should be a part of any music fan’s collection. 9/10

Dave Sheppard

 

 

Joanna Chapman-Smith - Contraries (Woundup Records)

Not one content with simply taking 13 of her best songs and piecing them into some semblance of running order, Canadian songstress Joanna Chapman-Smith was apparently inspired by the Victorian poet William Blake to construct an album based around the polar opposites that exist within us all. Not that you'd gather that from taking a cursory listen to her second album and it's hushed, pleasant tone though.

Smith deals in the same kind of hushed, acoustic reverie Katie Melua has been turning in for years however there's a darker, eastern-European sound at work here which is all her own. Instrumentally there are flecks of everything from jazz to cabaret and country with subtle pop melodies wound tightly around the international brew. There are moments where the endearing quirkiness sticks out above the delicate folksy arrangements (the graceful 'Melodies' and the gorgeous a-cappella 'Body language' come immediately to mind) but for the most part the album blends as a comfortable whole. This isn't a bad thing at-all though, the mood crafted here is warm and comforting with Smith's hushed, velvet lungs sitting at the centre of a band of whom Dawn Zoe on accordion plays perhaps the most striking role. She plays the accordion like it's a lead guitar and the results are frequently enchanting. The songs soon settle into a pattern though and with the rare exceptions of the songs mentioned above and below the listener is soon lulled into a warm bubble which is cosy but hardly exciting.

Another exception is the closing 'Carnival Song'. A stunningly melancholic semi-anthem which slays everything which came before it in one fell swoop. It manages the rare task of being both wistful and weighty with a classic melody and heartbreaking lyrics lamenting the passage of time and innocence lost. If Smith were to let her guard down a little more often and deliver more of herself in her songs (as she does here) she could have been onto something truly wonderful. As it stands though this is a pleasant 'dinner party' record from an artist who is obviously capable of so much more. 6/10
http://www.joannacs.com/

Benjamin Hiorns

 

Marbin - s/t (Marbin)

Guitarist, Dani Rabin and Saxophonist, Danny Markovich formulated this glorious new sound in jazz in 2007 and their style combines the use of modern textures and soundscapes with more traditional forms. After being active in the Israeli music circuit during 2007 and early 2008, they relocated to Chicago in September 2009. Since then, they have collaborated with 7 times Grammy winner Paul Wertico and are featured on his new record Impressions of a City. In 2009, they completed this album. This is the debut album of the ambient jazz duet, Marbin.

I am captivated by the very first track. I found myself lapsing into a strange hypnosis, the eerie ghost-like whispers of the guitar create an image of vast fields of pure nothingness, yet it seems to be so beautiful and enthralling. The saxophone enters just as I would imagine birds flying low in the sky in front of a magnificent sunset (so cheesy, but so great!). Its soothing qualities were impeccable, the atmospheric jazz elements really making this piece complete. When I first thought about a guitar and a saxophone together I thought the sound would be more harsh than what it actually was and I was pleasantly surprised at how exciting this album is, yet ultimately so calming at the same time.

Its upbeat numbers are so captivating, it makes you feel like you are dancing around in a strange little dream that you never want to end, where you can truly be yourself. This is certainly the case with Yodo as well as Cuba (also adopting a Latin-American style in this particular track). The chromaticism seems to transport you to a strange new paradise world, the guitar chords are delicious and the saxophone embellishments provide a kind of voice that, to me, represent a medley of the Earth’s elements.

Overall, the dreamlike elements to this album are what makes it so invigorating and gripping, you find yourself hanging on to every second. The eerie and high pitched sounds (particularly in the track Biwako) make me think of something fitting with James Cameron’s Avatar or, in the case of various other tracks, the mad hatter’s tea party! The ambience created with the slow-building crescendos is second to none with Markovich who seems to bear elements of John Coltrane’s style of playing. I would give this album a solid 9/10, my only criticism being would that I would love to hear one or two more upbeat numbers as I love the whacky imagery created by them. Can’t wait for more Marbin!

Georgia Maycock

 

Applicants - 'Escape From Kraken Island' (Tigertrap)

In 2008, 'Life In The Bus Lane' was beyond question my favourite album of the year and a quite serious contender for album of the decade, its mixture of maniacal punk energies, electronic collage and rag week irreverence identifying Applicants as perhaps the most innovative new band of that year and perhaps inevitably the least appreciated, partly because whatever else Applicants are, they aren't, in the conventional sense of the word, 'cool'. None of this sunglasses after dark and arty namedropping for these electro urchins, who have, in the intervening twentyfour months, both successfully fended off any attempts to curtail their adloescent enthusiasms and found time to record their second album. Which is a lot like the first one, except it's louder, with an Andrew WK-esque metallic blister added to their already frenetic commentaries on urban life as it is lived today, making the likes of Delphic sound like lumbering, sequenced dinosaurs in the process. Surreal, tuneful, very clever and properly rock n roll, in a fairer, saner world they'd pack out stadiums and Carling Academys, provoking Gill Mills into smiling as they did so, but Applicants also relish their obscurity, and their second album is an absurdist daydream lived out in a virtual cinecomplex. Impress your chums down at the skatepark with this one, pop kids!
http://www.myspace.com/applicants

SB

 

Water Tower Bucket Boys - 'Sole Kitchen'

The hills are alive, mes amis, with the sound of jugband banjos rocking the backwoods and frightening the livestock. 21st century bluegrass skiffle with a touch of zydeco and an empty gallon jar of moonshine for an ashtray, the WTBBs are about as darned ornery as you can ever expect cause make no mistake these boys are here for a hoedown, brought their mandolins and a fresh caught possum for the barbecue n'all!

There are also one or two ballads on 'Sole Kitchen' but what the acoustic quartet excel at is fast paced country dance music, and if you're actually planning a barn dance then songs like 'Bread' and 'Sunday Night Roast' ought to get everyone's feet tapping, assuming that your guests appreciate the finer nuances of hillbill folk played at near breakneck tempos, with a dash of dark humour thrown in between the guitars and fiddles. Mighty fine!
http://www.myspace.com/watertowerbucketboys

JG

 

The BDIs - 'Glorious Return' (BDI)

The BDIs are, in a quite literal sense, big in Japan, where Steely Dan are still remembered witha degree of reverence. Funky slap bass, jazz infected keyboard arpeggios, a trumpet and a certain world weariness in the lyrics - 'Glorious Return' is a collection of carefully phrased, tightly scored AOR pop, but listen a little closer and there's an erratic backbeat running through these verging upon soulful grooves which lifts the abum above mere laid back 70s riffola, and (thankfully) the song tempos vary through any number of styles, giving the album an agreeable air of invention which has already found The BDIs an appreciative audience in the far east, although I can't help wondering if they're just a little too contrived for UK tastes, which they are, but in a quite clever musicianly way that never quite breaks into the full-blown disco that I'm certain they're very good at. And following on from recent listens to similar bands whose entire sets seemed to consist of the same Sly Stone riff repeated on an endless loop, hearing the BDIs stretch their talents across soul, funk and samba makes for a less than predictable listening experience. I'm sure Donald Fagen approves.
www.myspace.com/thebdis

JG

 

Kat Vipers - 'Longplay'

Finding your own voice is sometimes both time consuming and hard work, particularly if you're female. What with so many other grrls making big time pop music nowadays, getting yourself heard amongst the Florences, Marinas and Kates is inevitably a bit frustrating sometimes, particularly if you haven't got a proper record label. Unless, of course, you are Kat Vipers, and had all of the neccesary attributes gifted onto you while still in your cradle by the Talent Fairy. With accolades that include Radio 3 and all manner of other commentators, the classically trained pianist more than deserves her hour in the full glare of the music media spotlight.

By any standard I can think of, 'Longplay' is a remarkable collection of songs, performed with a skill and vivacity that marks Kat Vipers out as that rarest type of singer songwriters, a quite genuine original. Taking on artrock, vaudeville, jazz and folk and stamping her own trademark all over these styles with wilful abandon, and adding to this her own quite distinctive voice - a bit loud, a bit brassy, darkly teasing and entirely feminine, this could just've been another collection of torch songs but Kat's band are equally talented and committed to what they're doing and the result is the album that neither Franz Ferdinand or The Gossip have quite managed to record, one which is furious, chaotic, charming and melodious all at once. Perhaps Kat Vipers will choose to remain aloof from the Myspace throng, and we should respect her wishes, but should fame ever come knocking at her door I expect a queue will form not once but twice around Covent Garden, made up entirely of music critics claiming to have heard her first. Go on, spoil yourself, listen to 'Longplay' while doing something you don't usually like.
http://www.katvipers.com

JG

 

Richard Haswell - 'Safety In Movement'

Formerly known as Rhubarb, Richard Haswell (probably wishing he'd used his own name all along) a native of Edinburgh (where the aforesaid vegetable grows in profusion along the banks of Leith Water) has spent the last two years (looking for more custard) recording this, his twentieth album (he also recorded as G For Gnome) at home on his laptop (the one with the custard stains) with some help from some other musicians (special guest star: Big Ears) and the results of several years effort on the part of Richard (Rhubarb The Gnome) Haswell sound a lot like the formulaic 'Snow Patrol/ Del Amitri/ Big Country' jockrock that Radio2 stopped playing after Terry Wogan's retirement (how do you make custard?) and while it sounds as if everyone involved (you buy a packet and some milk) had a quite good time recording the 9 tracks on (time for a new saucepan!) 'Safety In Movement' many of the rest of us (no, rhubarb isn't an aphrodisiac) might find it all a bit dull and creakily worthy (it's another word, beginning with L).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c1fbjRmiEM&feature=related
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/RichardHaswell

JG

 

The Culprit – The Culprit

Bands argue for like, months about the suitability of opening tracks, so why Stratford-Upon-Avonites The Culprit have chosen some Euro dance cum nu-metal auto tune monstrosity as an introduction to their debut album is beyond me. It’s so deeply offensive and out of context it’s like starting a debut novel with a racist rant.

But don’t let this gargantuan faux pas put you off. Battle through and hidden behind the worst piece of music ever written by a musician outside of Scouting for Girls is actually quite a clever, genre hopping collection of tracks; those genres in question being mainly nu metal, industrial metal and a bit of good old fashioned catchy rock.

Sure, The Culprit clearly wear their influences on their sleeves but there’s something here for everyone. ‘Blackball’ is a bouncy guitar-fest that’s nostalgically poppy like The Wildhearts whilst ‘Kill or Cure’ follows suit before ending with a vocal breakdown Jonathan Davis would be proud of. In fact, it’s obvious that Korn are a major influence throughout this album.

Some of the second half of this record feels somewhat lacking in direction, falling into the predictable groove of straight forward nu-metal. Nonetheless, the band’s skill seems to reside in constantly providing impressive and catchy choruses that will keep you hanging on in there. This probably goes someway to explain the excellent, swirling, electronic mid-album cover of ‘What is Love’ by Howard Jones. Adapting such a commercial song serves to illustrate the band’s understanding and appreciation of a poppy riff or two. And no review of this eponymous debut would be complete without noting the near epic closing number ‘Birthmark.’ Brooding, intense and atmospheric, listening to this fantastic song makes it difficult to believe the intro track ever happened.

Ultimately, The Culprit have pulled off walking a dangerous path. Nu-metal is somewhat dated and whilst some excessive posturing might threaten to mar some otherwise good tracks, out and out quality song writing pulls the value of this record up by the lapels. Moments of true talent lay waiting to be discovered, hidden between the varying quality of this album; nonetheless it is these moments alone that make it well worth investigating what The Culprit have to offer. 7/10
http://www.myspace.com/theculprit1

Moker

 

Glass - The Sound of Glass

The band Glass came about when singer and guitarist Alexander King came into contact with journals, scribblings and clippings relating to an eccentric 19th Century inventor named Anthony Phillip Glass, a man who claimed to have invented a machine that could transmit music through time. He then started the band with Glass as the influence for the debut album The Sound of Glass. I only hope if the machine did exist, it was able to reverse the process and therefore somehow make sure this album was never made.

More a mini-album than a full length, The Sound Of Glass consists of seven driving tunes that sound a bit like Incubus except for the fact that they are for the most part terrible. The song structure is all over the place for most of the album and the songs simply don’t have any flow to them at all. There are some moments where Glass threaten to come out with a good tune, as with the intro of “Without”, but then disappoint as soon as the vocals kick in. I don’t want to drag this out any longer, you know where I'm going with it. 1/10

A.T.

 

Villagers - Becoming A Jackal (Domino)

Opening with an intensely creepy piano riff, far off sleigh bell rings and the question “Have you got just a minute/are you easily led?”, ‘I Saw The Dead’ , the first track on the debut album from Villagers introduces us nicely to the eerily magical world of it’s creator Conor J. O’Brien. It encapsulates from the very first line until it abruptly puts an end to itself like a front door in the face. We are then lead on to the lead single “Becoming a Jackal” which flows down the same vein of melancholy and spellbinding story telling that runs through the entire album.

To say that Conor O’Brien has been massively influenced by another similarly named troubadour would be fair but Villagers is far from a thinly concealed tribute act, It’s direction is clear and the wonderfully heartfelt and poetic lyrics that form each song exhibit a rare talent for songwriting twinned with a distinctive vocal that oozes fragility and sincerity and leaves you enraptured with each line. Centerpiece “Home” is a brilliant example of Villagers style of writing in which a story is told so well that you forget everything else you’re doing and get completely drawn into it’s world. As we veer into the second side of the album the songs don’t get any weaker, the only musically upbeat tune on the album “The Pact” bops along nicely with a bassline reminiscent of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” whilst the hauntingly beautiful “Twenty-Seven Strangers” sees Villagers creating an enthralling story based around a bus breaking down.

Although the mood of the instrumentation on this album is very current in the post Neon Bible landscape of dark indie folk and does add a lot to the atmospheric sincerity of the record, I daresay this album is strong enough to still be important even if stripped down to the bare bones of a single acoustic guitar, as proves the closing track “To Be Counted Among Men”. That way it would be impossible to pin down and would move from being one of the best albums of 2010 into the territory of timelessness. 9/10

A.T.

 

Petter and The Pix - Good As Gold (Gung-Ho! Recordings)

Bursting straight into intense synth clashing, drum firing ‘Never Never’, this is already feeling like an album that is staring you down, sizing you up, ready to announce war - and then batting it’s eyelashes to seduce you with its eerie vocals whispering sweet nothings such as ‘I was deep in love with you’. Seeming as if to prove a love for you, pumping anthem, ‘In the End of the Day’ creates a carnival of musical colour, vocals and riffs swooping and gliding over a steady march before descending into a beautiful choral finale. ‘Sit Down with Me’ is short and sweet, a pause for breath as it halts the pace with charming acoustic plucking and a harmonious chorus line of the title, mirroring the tragic softness of later track ‘Before I Do’.

Yet, sounding like a laidback sixties serenade is the luminous ‘Four Walls’ that is reflected with ‘On The Line’, a later track that is more regretful. Petter is definitely not afraid of genre hopping and why not when you can do it this well. He manages to apply musical flair retaining all of the features of an articulate piece of work, most likely due to optimistic songs from the beginning of the album being reflected with a more downbeat tone in the latter of the tracks, forming an off-kilter circle of emotion.

Flowing seamlessly from ‘Four Walls’ is the title track, with which we take a more electro edge. ‘Good As Gold’ has a leading riff that is as bold a statement as any, bounding into action like a excited puppy in between soft verses and those mellifluously silky vocals. ‘Stuck In Between’ feels like the soundtrack to a sundrenched Mediterranean holiday as it floats and beams all of its tuneful wonder.

But the little unexpected gem, the rather aptly named ‘Momentarily Lost’ is a concise wonder of elegant humming and strumming at a mere one minute twenty-three seconds. And it is needed before the passionate ‘Backyard’ that has hints of Vampire Weekend’s college kitsch layered with lashings of drums and enthusiasm. The grand finale is a magnificently unhurried accordion epic, ‘Last Time’, the suave younger brother of a Mumford and Sons croon.

There is something distinctly summery about ‘Good As Gold’ – whether it’s the anthems that seem so festival ready or the shining sounds that glisten so beautifully, this album is ready to take on the heat, the slow sun downs and the mild summer breeze. And that is exactly why I love it.

Eloise Quince

 

Cha Cha – We Are (Pop Noodle Records)

The album opens with “Phonographic Love” which initially sounds a bit Canterbury, and I'm intrigued. But where Canterbury would dive into a rocking catchy chorus, this song develops into a slightly funky indie track. It's gentle, slow-paced and easy going, but it's not too bad at all. The regular indie four-piece line up, it's just what you'd expect. There's a slight Two Door Cinema Club edge, with the electronic bleeps every so often although the drums do sounds considerably more real. But the songs still have that light airy feel about them. Although you aren't twitching fiercely, certain appendages will be drumming against nearby solid surfaces. The second track “Sit You Down” is another gentle pleaser. The rest of the album follows suit for the most part – funky indie tunes with a slightly bleepy edge – almost Summery in some respects. Nothing fantastically ground-breaking but you know what to expect with this genre – and these guys seem to have done quite well. A slightly softer male-fronted Noisettes, if you will. It's tricky to choose some highlight tracks from al album which is fairly consistent in song, but aside from the first two, I'll chuck “Second Chances” into the mix too. 8/10

Thom Curtis

 

Jaakko & Jay – War Is Noise (Xtra Mile)

War is noise? That's an original name and theme for a record isn't it. Sounds like it should be punky. Oh it is? Oh..

Well, it certainly has its roots in punk; the surge of American punk that sk8r bois like as opposed to the original dangerous studded men punk. Imagine that kind of punk, at a college battle of the bands level. Replace the distorted guitars with an acoustic, and of course tone down the vocals to match the softer tones. And you're left with Jaakko & Jay – this strange Finland duo with a somewhat predictable approach to folk punk. Jaakko on guitars and vocals, and Jay on drums and backing vocals.

For someone like myself who heard a lot of this kind of stuff throughout my college years, there's not much here for me to go mad for. For someone else, maybe younger, new to this kind of thing, I suppose it's not so bad. Punk vocals have never been exceptionally tuneful and a lot of the time it's all about that raw DIY feel – so in that respect they've hit the nail on the head. But haven't we heard it all before?

Highlight tracks? Crikey. “Smoke Signals” isn't bad but that might just be the fact that it sounds like Zebrahead's “Rescue Me.” They're all about two minutes, and they all sound the same – so...5/10

Thom Curtis

 

Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun – Atlases (istartedthefire Records)

Frank Turner rates this guy. I'm not going to let this influence my judgement, but I thought I'd let you know right at the start. That said, let's bring in Mr Turner for a comparison, we're all familiar with him, love or hate. They're quite similar in many senses, and here's why: Frank Turner has a fairly average voice, the music isn't bad, but everyone loves him for his lyrics, the stories he spins, etc. I can see that being the main appeal with Lockey & Co here. The focus is well and truly on the lyrics – the music is gentle and pleasant but is very much in the background compared to the foreground vocals. Granted, the recording is a little different between artists – but the song writing is not dissimilar at all. Now we've established what they sound like, let's discuss the album.

As previously mentioned, within the soundscape the music is quite far back in the recording – thus each song is almost entirely relying on the vocals to distinguish it from the one before. A tall order, obviously. The result is that, it's all a bit samey, but at the same time, it's quite pleasant. I tend to lean more towards something with a decent backing, or at least something to sing along to, and whilst this isn't offering me either, I'm not going to switch it off just yet. If this was picked up by a big label and re-recorded for radio play, I think I could go as far to say I quite liked it.

Favourite track? “Mothers and Fathers,” a folky slow-starter than builds to a steady rhythm, with gentle strings creeping in, yes, rather pleasant indeed. 7/10

Thom Curtis

 

Noisia - Split the Atom

We are told that 2010 is to be a big year for Noisia, comprised of Nik Roos, Thijs de Vlieger and Matijn van Sonderen. The Dutch trio has gathered a huge underground following due to their continuous flow of enthralling releases and they have produced various high profile remixes for the likes of Moby and The Prodigy. It seems to be just a matter of time before Noisia become the latest superpower to break through from the world of Drum & Bass. They have even launched their own ‘Machine Gun’ themed video game! The group’s love of electro and breaks also influences their music, showing their versatility as they continue to push the boundaries of their musical style.

‘Machine Gun’ is the perfect opening for this highly exciting album. It is a very complimentary introduction and only provides you with a teaser of what is to come and when it kicks in, the depth and texture of the bass line penetrate you right through to your core. The bands versatility is shown already in the very first track, never revolving around one solid rhythm, developing the sounds before reverting back to what I would call the ‘theme’. What gets me most about drum & bass music is the futuristic vibes from the various synthesizing equipment, and my craving is certainly well fed by Noisia who keep me hanging on by a thread!

I love the way that the band have made music with practically anything that makes a noise, particularly in the track ‘Sunhammer’. This is creativity in its prime. As soon as you feel the sounds have become too busy, your patience is rewarded by a thick bass line that really gets the shoulders going! ‘Paper Doll’ seems to provide you with a breather before launching into ‘Dystopia’ and the contrast is very satisfying, it’s very hard to describe. To me, it’s almost like being catapulted into the future or perhaps into a particularly fast paced futuristic action movie (Terminator: Salvation!?).

Being a big fan of drum & bass and electro music, this album is the business to me. There is barely any repetition (which I’m not too keen on) yet all the bits you actually want to hear more of, continue! The feelings of pure hypnosis and well… coolness… are just incredible and get me going right from the start. I’ll definitely be looking out for more Noisia and I expect very big things from these creative experts in the future. 10/10

Georgia Maycock

 
 

Conformists - Three Hundred (African Tape)

You don't need to start your record with 32 secondas of static. You just don't. But then track 2, 'Laundry Hepburn' starts and you hark back to those 32 seconds. They seem like Halcyon days, a time when things were simple and carefree. Theres something about noise rock. A thin line between gloriously messy and just fucking about. I'm not sure what side Conformists come down on. There are snatches of riffs or hooks but they're instantly washed over by a wave of noise. the closest similarity i can think of is Part Chimp but at least had the decency to write the odd tune as well as having funny song titles. There are hints at weird time signatures and stop/start turnarounds but I'm not convinced they're all intentional.

'Tax Deduction' takes a stab at Kyuss-y stoner grooves and manages to stick at it for the duration without losing interest. Elsewhere though, its heavy going. Mumbling over feedback doesn't necessarily make you Slint. Its murky but the wrong sort of murky. Art-y math rock's great 'n all, but that doesn't instantly make everything with 400 tempo changes genius. Sometimes its just a band playing out of time with a singer who cant sing. Sometimes the emporer is stark bollock naked. Stop messing about.

Its a delibaretly confrontational and unpleasant record to listen to, but they cnt be surprised if absolutely noone chooses to do so a second time. The final tracks titled 'you're welcome'. Hmm. 1/10

Andy Glynn

 

Lost from Atlas - s/t

An album full of spindly, twisty-turny' guitar and stabs at stirring math rock anthems. Vessels, would be the most obvious comparison but Lost from Atlas don't quite have the same sense of playfulness as Leed's finest. While as a band they're impressively intense theres a feeling they're only about a fifth as arty as they'd like to think. No amount of guitar heroics can really disguise the fact this is actually quite standard stuff. As good an example of the genre as any, mainly because it seems like somebody's taken an average of every other post-rock band and left in very few unique characteristics.

And the guitarist. We have to mention the guitarist. I like my atonal, weird time-signature, shredding as much as the next man, but every spare second is filled with twiddling. For all its loftiness this is music thats two-steps away from being Dragonforce. Lots of wankery but very little in dynamics or emotional depth. Just funny song titles and a misled idea of 'artiness'

Quite what the DJ and national treasure's ever done to deserve a track called 'Tom Robinson must Die' is anyone's guess. Not played their demo perhaps? Only on the the hip-hop infuenced interlude '1.0' does the guitarist shut the hell up for a minute and half and its a welcome relief. The folky 'fin', which closes the record is actually quite lovely too, if only because its so different from everything that precedes it. Theres a good band here but they seem too wrapped up in showing off their musical chops and less concerned with telling us anything new. 4/10

Andy Glynn

 

Sennen - Age of Denial

Supposedly named after the Ride EP, nu-gazers Sennen deal in epic, fuzz-drenched songs that brood and shimmer. They tick all the boxes for this sort of music but despite that theres something ever so slightly undercooked about it all.

Theres one thing that irks me about this record, and thats the complete lack of dynamics. If you're going to write songs that tease you for 3 and a half minutes, then descend into a thrashy, overdriven conclusion - I want that conclusion to sound like I'm being hit by a bus. I want it to sound collosal. Take 'With You'; (which sounds not unlike LCD Soundsystem's All My Friends) its based on a looping, hypnotic riff which sucks you in, but when you reach the 'rock' section... nothing happens. You hear them step on the distortion pedal, but its puny and limp-wristed, like a fart in a mineshaft. In this genre being able to cycle through the gears and ramp up the tension is pretty essential. I don't doubt they'd be awesome live, but on record it all comes across a little flat.

But this is a tight album. Its one step away from pastiche, but done so slickly that its hard not to be impressed. Theres nothing here that breaks the mould, but plenty of songs that'd fit snugly in it. 'Falling Down' sounds so much like a Spiritualized track that if Jason Pierce heard it he'd assume he'd written it while he was high and forgotten about it. 'Innocence' is a doozy too, a cut of prime 'Brotherhood' era New Order thats as pleasant a surprise as finding a quid in an old pair of jeans. Sennen do have the tunes, but even the most hardened of shoegazers is going to run the risk of finding themselves a little bored in places. Theres a good album in this lot, but they're going to have to cut loose a bit more often before we get to hear it. 6/10

Andy Glynn

 

Sophie Hunger - 1983

Ash’s debut album was called 1977 because - get this - it was the year most of the band were born. Likewise Hunger pulls the same droll trick by calling her new album 1983. Luckily for her, as irksome as this might be, even a rudimentary listen to this record reveals an impressive collection of hushed jazz-folk songs that are wonderfully produced.

Nevertheless, 1983 sometimes struggles to live up to the lofty expectations it sets out. Without wanting to sound cynical this is the type of album that people think they should like but probably don’t. I was very at odds when listening to it. You see, Hunger’s talent is both unmistakable and seductive, making it difficult to deny the quality of the songs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are always enjoyable or entertaining. Whilst there are moments of indulgence such as ‘D’Red’ or ‘Train People’ other songs feel more as if Hunger is singing at you rather than to you. These folky, jazz-tinged ensembles lack direction, meandering from one melody (or even language) to another way too frequently; in turn making the record to feel disjointed and patchy. Individual instruments and melodies in songs such as ‘Your Personal Religion’ and ‘Travelogue’ are fantastic and soulful but put them altogether and the songs feel awkward – They should sound better than they do and it’s frustrating.

There is no doubt that this record is adventurous, clever and brave as Hunger refuses to play the singer songwriter game. For that alone she deserves credit. 1983 is indeed different but it misses the target somewhat. The music struggles to keep up with Hunger’s towering ambition and the outcome is one of varying enjoyment. Nonetheless, if she soon manages to satisfy such ambition, expect something very special. But for now, it’s close but no cigar. 6/10
http://www.myspace.com/sophiehunger

Moker

 

Shonen Knife - Supergroup

Kurt Cobain's beloved Shonen Knife sound like a Japanese, female Ramons, in bright colours. Their latest - they've been around, obviously, for a while - bears a title, and a refrain ending "everybody's feeling satisfaction now", marking them up immediately as more a pop-punk band that is comfortable with their own image, than kindred spirits with the Nirvana frontman who struggled against the fact that his anti-consumerist, anti-establishment protest was naturally packaged and sold at great profit by the very capitalist system that was pissing him off so badly. The lack of such internal warfare here makes for a band that, without wanting to be overtly reductive, are more similar to Deerhoof than a Western post-Ramones pop-punk band. No authenticity squabbles. No bemoaning capitalist realism. Satomi-a-like joy is best captured on a track that reminds me of the first time I saw Mudhoney, a track called 'Muddy Bubbles Hell', with gleeful and childish pronunciation of those very words interspersed with brooding Japanese alt-rock heavy riffers. Seconds of this conjured another ludicrous comparison: Boris. And it is all a bit like that: rock music that achieves simplicity, does it well, and is fun. 'Deer Biscuits', about feeding biscuits to deers at the deer park and making them "very happy", is this epitomised: a more formulaic Deerhoof; an actually fun band that sounds like the Ramones. It is a simple, yet strange record, and it is very well produced. Songs about animals... that animals would actually listen to.

Phil Coales

 

The Climbers – The Good ship (Wilkommen Collective)

I find it quite comforting that in these days of Crossbow Cannibals, David Cameron, Terrorism, and the BP oil spill, I can keep day dreaming and pretend I’m from the same fantasy land as everyone from Wilkommen records.

This gaggle features Shoreline, Sons Of Noel And Adrian, and The Leisure Society amongst others. This album was started a staggering six years ago! By god I wish they had finished sooner - this is indeed a Wilkommen super group and I have a lump in my throat just reading their biography. I want to be their friends! I want to share the deeply happy trips they had making music on their ‘working holidays’ in cottages in Wales and Devon.

I already knew before I even listened to this collective that I would like it, I just did. I like everything that Tim West is involved in, and this is no exception. This album is like The leisure Society on steroids or Sons of Noel and Adrian after they have eaten their own weight in spinach. I love the highs and lows, the quiet thoughtful moments and in a weird way, the moments that bring you crashing back down to reality when you realise that things aren’t really that great.... see Tim has a knack of doing that, telling the depressing truth in a very dreamy way.

One of my favourite tracks has to be ‘I will never’- I love the sound of that banjo and the female vocals have a real vintage 60’s feel to them. But out of every track on the album (and I have to say I genuinely love them all) ‘Bookshop Folk’ is at the top of my list. It’s a little bit naughty and a little bit dark, I love the fast paced fury, and the lyrics ‘If I had the time, to do anything I like.. I would still be here doing what I like’. Genius! After the very seductive female voice you are greeted by a massive crescendo of vocals and a mesmerising electric guitar. Which in a way is a little bit cheesy...but I have to say, amazing. I love it!

Wilkommen, I hope I don’t have to wait another six years... I can’t wait to set sail on the next Good Ship. 10/10

Stacey Wilkinson

 

Fang Island - Fang Island (Sargent house)

Fang Island have been making big waves recently, given the thumbs up by Pitchfork and causing a stir at SXSW they released their debut in the USA in February this year and have decided to treat us to a full UK release of their euphoric and uplifting self titled debut album. Fang Island don’t really do lyrics save for some scattered chants, instead they choose convey everything they mean through music alone. Fang Island do rock though, their crazed Animal Collective like jaunts cascade along at 100mph and don’t let up until the album is winding down. Running through the album is a sense of journey (not the band) and change present in the music which perhaps wouldn’t be achieved with conventional vocals/lyrics but is supplemented by the repetitive, sometimes choral chanting of a few words or just a melody that is scattered around the album and adds to the ‘all together now‘ mood the band want to convey. Opening with the fitting sound of fireworks cracking, first song “Dreams of Dreams” sounds like the kind of tune you’d hear upon completing an old Nintendo game with a tear of pride in your eye for what you’ve just achieved whilst “Daisy” sounds like what could be the soundtrack to this World Cup with tribal chanting popping up all over the driving instrumentation below.

Whats strange about Fang Island is that the music is unbelievably close to the power-pop-punk-emo sound, take “Welcome Wagon” for example, yet doesn’t feel cheesy or overblown at all. It’s almost like Fang Island are the genetically similar but more highly evolved human to emo’s chimp, oh and they don’t ruin it with a yelping screaming vocal delivery which probably helps. So does this mean that a My Chemical Romance album without the vocal track might be good? Nah, because it’s all the elements of Fang Island that make it unique, the production is a big part and it probably would sound terrible if given a huge production and heavier guitars. Theres a lot of 80’s inspired sounds here which are nostalgic in this context rather than cheesy and thats what this album is really, it’s a guilt free version of classic rock, its the Journey or MCR or Quo that it’s OK to like as it’s a cool version, the cheese has been stripped away and replaced with art rock credentials but with no pretension, it’s just feel good music and it’s done well. Fang Island describe their sound as “everyone high-fiving everyone” and I know what they mean, just don’t leave me hanging. 9/10

Antonio Tzikas

 

The Tamborines - Camera & Tremor (Beat-Mo Records)

It’s about time we had a band from our shores taking influences from the golden age of British indie pop, an era which has been occupied by American bands for some time now with our own acts favouring to copy the post Oasis model of rock/pop songwriting and neglecting all that was once great about indie pop. Never fear, a saviour might have come in the form of London boy/girl duo The Tamborines, a band that take huge influence from the late ‘80s- early ’90’s indie sound and make music that combines the fuzz of Psychocandy era Mary Chain with the primal stomp of the Velvets and blasts of high energy noise reminiscent of Sonic Youth circa Dirty to create an album packed full of well crafted pop songs that aren’t afraid of wearing their influences on the sleeves of their slightly-too-small leather jackets. Although Camera & Tremor contains all the ingredients to make a classic revivalist album like The Pains Of Being Pure At Hearts brilliant debut it just doesn’t cut it for me, there’s a lot of people doing this kind of stuff better these days, and then of course there are the original bands. It seems as though each song has been structured using another song or band as a frame for it and that sucks. Although much of the album is just a straight Mary Chain rip, “CWB” is just too Mary Chain to take seriously and “Let Me Down” could be off Dirty. It wouldn’t be so bad if The Tambourines had sculpted their influences into their own sound but to me they haven’t and that’s just not on. Saying that, i’d rather bands rip off Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride and the Velvets than play shit twee indie folk or big chord lad rock so I guess The Tamborines are at least waving the flag for UK indie so good on them for that, and “Looking Glass House” is a killer track to their credit. I guess if this album acts as a signpost for it’s influences and can point people in the right direction it’s served it’s purpose as theres no musical statement here, just two indie kids pretending to be their idols and making an OK job of it. 5/10

Antonio Tzikas

 

Langhorne Slim - Be Set Free

'Back to the Wild' is a song and the sentiment opening this new Langhorne Slim release, about creating a space, the necessity of escapism, and cutting loose. The "Darling, look" and "Sing it, sing it, sing it" of 'Say Yes' betray a deep sense of restlessness, conveyed by agitated words, beneath a voice that's not NYC 'anti-folk', as Wikipedia would lie to you, but definitely fits in with the 'alt-country' vibe of Ryan Adams.

Turns out, Langhorne Slim is the gentle morning that follows Ryan Adams' last-thing-at-night emotional outbursts. He is even calm, in places ('Sunday by the Sea'); mellower. Pleasing.

Langhorne Slim can afford to cruise, gently; to lull and to thank friends, over xylophones and coffee. 'Land of Dreams' shows that Slim can strip off the borrowed Adams/country aesthetic, incorporate chamber backing vox and layer the other instruments, and even if 'Cinderella' sounds like it could have been penned word-for-word and yelp-for-yelp by Adams, it also shows that Langhorne Slim isn't afraid of countrifying the pop sensibilities of early Thrills.

These sound like more modern country mishaps and tall love tales. Langhorne Slim is definitely morgensmusik, but more readymade for today's British audience, whose plate for guitar led blues-pop is replete with regurgitated Magic Numbers/bedroom-dwelling teenage indie-folk girls with laptops and tell-all diaries. Like the next permutation of Adams' pop moments, the gentle bits of 'Gold' made more easy. Like Adams' black coffee and sleep-deprived sentimentalism, except whitened, and served fresh, in the morning.

Phil Coales

 

Amari - Poweri

This is the seventh album from the Italian band and still no one has ever heard of them. Sadly, I don’t think this is one of their best albums to introduce someone to. The album opens with “Your Kisses” where you can hear the potential for a good dance track after the acapella intro with a good arrangement in the instruments but the lyrics really let it down, I feel.

“Suffer With Style” recalls early 80s keyboard dance, which is pulled of reasonably well. “Chupacabra” is a song completely isolated right in the middle of the album, which I like because of its short length and strange drumming pattern. “Tiger” is another song in a world of its own. All in all, this album does not give any lyrics for the listener to relate to, which in some cases is brilliant, however I am not sure it is so brilliant in the case of this album.

“Girls On Vodka” is the second song and has quite a rocky sound to it. But don’t be fooled, there is not another rocky song in the album. “Preservativi Ovunque” is sung entirely in Italian so we aren’t quite sure what is being sung but I can translate the title to you as “Condoms Everywhere”. Make your own judgements.

There are two remixes of “Your Kisses” at the end of the album: one by Tuzo and the other by Blatta & Inesha. The first makes the song bearable but seeing as the original did not give very much to work on, it is slightly repetitive. However, I do prefer it to Blatta & Inesha’s take on the song, which by 2 minutes in had given me an odd headache, pounding in time to the music.

All in all, I like this album but I would only suggest it if you really like quirky music because I think you must have an acquired taste for artists like Amari. 3/10

Lib Grant

 

Lostaura - The Hiding Place

This Brighton quintet released their album on 6th June with much anticipation after having toured with The Airborne Toxic Event in 2007. Lead by the singer and pianist Dave McCormack, this band has created a wonderfully catchy mini album.

“One In A Million” shows driving bass lines and catchy drums, sounding not dissimilar to Bombay Bicycle Club and McCormack’s voice is certainly used well. “Beside You” opens with an intro reminiscent of Journey- Don’t Stop Believing and then comes the nice jingly guitar, which makes you sit up and listen. “Penny” is a rockier song than others on the album, beginning with piano.

This mini album left me wanting more and all I can hope is that these guys make more music and become as popular as similar artists because I think Lostaura are brilliant. 8/10

Lib Grant

 

Ivan And The Wolves - Urban Bonfires

Ivan And The Wolves are a wild rock trio out of Camden who make the sort of music you’d expect to hear from a school band. Apart from this is so much better.

Taking obvious influences from vintage rockers The Who and more modern day musicians like Muse and Foo Fighters, the band are a good style of heavy rock with lots of little twists in it. The EP begins with “SOS”- a catchy but heavy song and still reminiscent of summer all at once. The same could be said for the next two songs to follow, “Killing Time” and “Background Silhouette”

The album ends with “Two Ways” which is very reminiscent of Nirvana and similar artists with garage-y sounds in the guitars and a drawl in the lyrics.

Ivan And The Wolves are almost bound to be very popular in time with all the genres anyone could like mixed into one in a very subtle and clever manner. 7/10

Lib Grant

 

Unbunny - Moon Food

This is Jarid del Deo’s first album after “Snow Tires” as Unbunny back in 2008, and, combining elements from The Magnetic Fields and Neil Young, his songs sing of misery and love with beautiful melodies and guitar accompaniment. There are so many elements of self-criticism and specifically in the second song, “Young Men Are Easy Prey” the lyrics, ‘young men are easy prey to a girl like her…once she’s in she’ll turn you down’ echo his difficult past and pessimistic views on life.

“Winning Streak” naturally, contradicts its title but while his attitudes are miserably expressed as “there is a design flaw in the human heart”, it is also brilliantly explained. ‘Landslide’ is full of melodic hooks and the firm rhythms of “Straw On A Camel’s Back” underpin sharp and funny lyrics.

Then it is back to his old best, mocking the homeliness of an ex-lover on” ‘February Secret”. ‘someday baby you’ll settle down with some bullshit husband in some bullshit town’.

If you’re missing masters of bittersweet pop music like Sparklehorse then look no further than Unbunny. 6/10

Lib Grant

 

Micah P Hinson – Micah P Hinson and the Pioneer Saboteurs (Full Time Hobby)

When skimming through this album trying to get an idea of what I was about to listen to, I got very confused: As I skipped from track to track I was hearing so many different genres of music coming through, from classical to country, from rock to experimental obscurity that I can’t quite pin point. The one thing that was consistent as I listened however was the deep booming voice of Micah P Hinson; not dissimilar to Johnny Cash this Texan’s voice sounds warm and welcoming but with a slightly uncouth edge.

As I started to listen to the album in its entirety my confusion continued to grow as I was faced with a completely orchestral track, immediately followed by a song featuring just vocals and acoustic guitar very roughly recorded. By the third song, ‘2s And 3s’ I was hoping that the album might settle into a bit more of a rhythm, rather than the sporadic genre skipping of tracks one and two. This was not the case. The song speeds up and slows down as different sections bring changing styles, and the drums feel out of time from the rest of the instrumentation making for very difficult listening. It sounds like two separate songs pasted together to try and make one, but it just didn’t work for me. I hate to say it but the rest of the album is very much the same; songs that don’t seem to know which direction they want to go in, and that lack vital communication between the instruments (it is often very obvious that string sections were recorded at completely different times for example). The album lacks feeling and I don’t quite believe what the songs are trying to tell me.

There is one positive note however: ‘Watchman, Tell Us Of The Night’ is a very good example of what I think Micah P Hinson is capable of. It brings all the genres heard earlier in the album together, dirty guitars are complemented by a great string arrangement. The drums are powerful and intricate yet not dominating. It reminds me of some of Beck’s more recent work, which for me can only be a positive thing. I’m not giving up on Micah P Hinson completely, even if he only writes one or two more songs like this they will be well worth listening to. 3/10
http://www.micahphinson.com

James Borland

 

The Miserable Rich – Of Flight and Fury (Humble Soul)

The Miserable Rich are a Brighton based ‘chamber pop’ band – think Guillemots without the drums or maybe even think Fink without the funk. However you choose to think of them they create an extremely exciting idea of a band in my eyes. The group consists of instruments you wouldn’t usually associate with a ‘pop band’ as such; violins and cellos create the melodies with double bass and acoustic guitar driving them along. As pretty as this may sound they say themselves that “they seem to have become mishap magnets” with a habit of getting into various traffic accidents and missing many a plane while out on tour (and there you were thinking they sound like such a sensible bunch). This can be heard from the very start of the album: They create an amazing vision of idyllic landscapes with their music, and then in come the vocals – negative and angry at times, the lyrics come as a complete contrast to the warmth of the music. Songs of substance abuse, lusting after “yummy mummies” and all the consequences that might follow fill the album. I have to say, this contrast really makes the album stand out for me. The songs are beautiful and memorable, the lyrics angst-y and accessible, there are no low points in the album at all. The Miserable Rich might not be a band set for the mainstream, but they are definitely worth paying attention to. 8/10
http://www.myspace.com/themiserablerich

James Borland

 

The Graham Parsnip Torture Think-tank (Revival) – Business Ducks (Confused by Geese)

Now onto their second album, the GPTT-T Experiment has blossomed into a Revival no less. And they have discovered that ducks, with their higher levels of intelligence are a pre-requisite resource for any self respecting business analyst – hence ‘Business Ducks’. But for all rationalising (is claiming that ducks have years of modern business theory experience rational?) this album is just as stupid as the last one.

Although I have definitely been quoted as slating ‘comedy’ music in the past (The Lancashire Hotpots were particularly harshly dealt with) I do have a bit of a soft spot for Graham Parsnip. There’s little element of commercial-eering that the Hotpots reek of and basically, there is some pretty accomplished musicianship to accompany their endearing Black country accents. And it seems the Revival has gained a couple of axe-meisters – the instrumental title track has a squealing guitar solo and there is thrash outro to ‘Botulism’ which is quite frankly better than most thrash outfits we get to review.

But there’s little concession to sensible songs here – along with the mundane observational subject matter (including Fish and Chips, Hairdressers, not vacuuming and Trout) there’s the more obscure – an ode to the earthquake in Rowley Regis (3.2 on the Richter Scale) and the weird concept of paying your gas bill in spiders (you can’t apparently).

Quite honestly – it’s nonsense and there’s a little bit more of a feel of narrative comedy about this album than its predecessor – much of the vocal work is spoken word and in places the music just acts as a background to this rather than playing along with it in a coherent song. But it is very enjoyable nonsense nonetheless. ‘Tractor Love’ reminds me of my old school mate’s slightly worrying fetish about Massey Fergusons and ‘Sleepy Time’ is a very clever parody of the sordid subject matter of a lot of r’n’b songs. At least that’s what I think it is about – there’s definitely a line about inserting ones entire arm up someone’s anus – you wouldn’t get Liberty X singing about that. 27% duck, 7/10
www.theparsnips.com

SB

 

Anathema – We’re Here Because We’re Here (Kscope)

Anathema have been going for years and I’d always thought they were a super-heavy metal band – they name just sounded that way. But in fact they specialise in a more melodic rock and ‘Were Here Because We’re Here’ is their first album in 7 years. Mixed by Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree and Tasty favourite ‘Insurgentes’ fame) – there’s a definite feel of brooding power about the opener ‘Thin Air’. The insistent riff and swirling atmospherics are beautifully captured by Wilson and the quiet choral interludes add an additional poise. But much of the rest of the album, while promising so much, fails to soar. Anathema consistently threaten to explode into life but all too often I find myself reaching for the skip button as some hippy prog nonsense takes over.

Aside from ‘Thin Air’, ‘Summernight Horizon’ is a decent track – the piano led melody being heavily buffeted by some rapid-fire drum action and the chorus very nicely blooms into a melange of vocal harmonies and power chords, a bit like Leicester’s Maybeshewill. Thereafter I’m struggling to find a single track that I like – it’s a bit like listening to a neutered Evenescence – the tracks are overly long and self indulgent. This is not far from being a great album but it is also not far from being a dreary bore-fest. 5/10
www.kscopemusic.com/anathema

SB

 

School Of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire (Full Time Hobby Records)

The second album from School of Seven Bells, and the follow up to the highly praised ‘Alpinisms’, sees the band continue firmly along the route marked ‘Dream Pop’ but this time taking a number of scenic musical meanders along the way. At times sweeping and majestic, the real beauty of this record is only slowly revealed through repeated listening. ‘Windstorm’, which opens proceedings, will be the first single taken from the album and its classic shoegazing guitars instantly remind of those stunning records made by My Bloody Valentine and Curve many years ago. Atmospheric beats drift in and out of focus and the stunning vocals of Alejandra and Claudia Deheza appear to dance their own ghostly intertwined dance throughout. Self-produced by Benjamin Curtis, formerly of Secret Machines this album contains certain hypnotic qualities and will certainly soundtrack a number of daydreams over the forthcoming months. Capturing classic sounds of the past but remaining innovative and inspirational is a difficult journey to take but one that School of Seven Bells appear to be making. 8/10

Mark Whiffin

 

Hjaltalin - Terminal

For the uninitiated, Hjaltalin are a seven piece band from Iceland, they play a distinctive and bold mixture of orchestral arrangements fused with elements of rock, shoegazing and, this time around, disco. If it sounds like an overtly complicated musical proposition be prepared to be surprised, Hjaltalin manage to blend these seemingly disparate elements into a cohesive and interesting second album.

The opener Suitcase Man is a neat synopsis of their entire repertoire, long fog horn notes of bassoon and violin are accompanied by the boom of bellowing orchestral drums. It sounds like the introduction to an ancient piece of classical piece of music but the distinctive, slightly gravely tones of Hogni Eligsson puncture the serenity, the strings and drums quicken to a Bond-theme pace and intensity and suddenly the band are in full flow, explosions of colour, instruments darting in and finally the beautiful voice of Sigga Thorlacious cuts in to close the song.

Unfortunately after a bright opening, follow several moments of weakness. Grating harmonies and overblown and clumsy arrangements on Feels Like Sugar, the next song is far too long and Montabone feels a bit limp and shallow.

Fortunately what follows is a meandering and impassioned half-album full of wonderful tunes. The interplay which is evident when the band play live is captured nicely on Sweet Impressions, Sigga and Hogni’s vocals carefully layered and spaced throughout the song with its tender closing chorus.

The originality of structure on Stay By You would be jarring if it wasn’t offset by having a three part chorus which sounds inventive and sentimental at the same time. It’s a trick the band repeat on Hooked on Chilli and Seven Years, which dives from lounge music straight into disco with a rattling intensity and authenticity.

The seventies vibes continue into the penultimate track, with a powerful lead vocal from Hogni and the guitars to the fore, accompanied by bassoon sub-bass and another killer chorus. The closing track is basically a 1930s Disney soundtrack ballad, which is oddly fitting. 7.5/10

Ian Anderson

 

Awesome Color - Massa Hypnos

Awesome Color do one thing, raw, simple, riffage. Musically they fit somewhere between the first Datsuns album and early MC5. The scuzzy guitars, rattly drums and simplistic lyrics are delivered with a worn in authenticity belying the band’s youthful looks.

This is a good album but nothing really stands out, except their ability to tread the line between a distinctive sound and being pigeonholed and keeping up their relentless tempo without being one paced. This is a band with unerring ability to write a good riff and a good chorus, string it together and then leave it at that. No fucking about, no fancy intro, just guitar, bass, drums and some care worn vocals.

Production is minimal, which adds to the demo-tape lo-fi feel of things and certainly helps reinforce the no frills packaging and raison d’etre, guitars are allowed to feed back, and there is a ‘one take or bust’ feeling that pervades most of the tracks.

So if that’s the kind of thing you like, then buy the album and revel in some good old fashioned punk tinged, bleached out rock and roll. 7/10

Ian Anderson

 

Bix Medard – Y-Dress? (Altair Musik)

Whenever I am given a CD to review that has in the opening lines “influenced by the likes of Bjork, Coco Rosie and Serge Gainsbourg” I have to say I get a little excited.

Of course Coco Rosie is known for her distinctive voice that really gives her acoustic music an originally beautiful twist; Serge Gainsbourg most famous for his collaboration with Jane Birkin and their ‘Je T'aime’ track of 1969 and of course not forgetting Bjork known for her individual style of music and of course her taste in fashion. I was unsure how these could influence an artist who’s style is ‘electro/indie/alternative but I have to say it does, well as much as ‘Bix Medard’s’ music can be explained in terms of other artists, for me, she is so wholly unique.

‘Bix Medard’ is made up of Peter Clasen electronic bass playing mixed with Bix's voice and flute playing. With a unique style Bix sings in a very poetic style, almost reading her lines to the beat of the sounds around her, creating a very organic style of what I would call electro pop. Although not fully knowing what individual songs were actually about (having given up French longer ago than I can remember) I still felt that I was carried along by the album and that the stories were unfolding in front of me.

The word to best sum up this album would have to be unique. Even her cover of ‘imagine’ had an eerie electronic individuality that only Bix’s smooth breathless voice could instil into her songs. I think my favourite track is 'c’est si bon', one of the more pop orientated songs on the album but with a very catchy guitar beat and some great underlying sounds, it picks you up and bounces you along on a happy wave of light electronics and Bix’s sweet as chocolate melodic voice.

If your looking for something a little different try a little bit of Bix Medard this year. 6/10

Imogen Davies

 

Freak Owls - Taxidermy (Sing Engine Records)

Freak Owls is the brain child of Josh Ricchio. After spending many years in different bands Ricchio has taken the step and produced an album of his own featuring vocal and instrumental support from Kolby Wade, Cody Geil, and Kerry Beach.

This New York band has put their own spin into the traditional acoustic melodies of years past with obvious influences from the greats such as ‘Nick Drake’ (covering one of his songs, ‘Place to Be’) Freak Owls have mixed modern styled music with traditional styles.

The soft sounds of the tracks carry you away from the hustle and bustle of every day life with songs that would not sound out of place alongside The Shins on the “Garden State” soundtrack. Freak Owls are bringing the perfect summer evening wrapped up in this 9 track album.

This album is a balanced blend of Nick Drake and Paolo Nutini with a just a little splash of the chilled out I Monster, it is the perfect cocktail to lighten any day and drift just above the mundane to the musical landscape Josh Ricchio and his friends have so exquisitely painted for us. 8/10

Imogen Davies