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singles/eps - august 2016


Is Tropical - 'What You Want'

Late night blues from an NYC band that have only been a name to me before now, and the ghosts of Mazzy Star and the JAMC lurk unseen in the corners of 'What You Want', a whirlpool of reverb soaked delirium that only gets more intense as it progresses, or is this a smoothly paced meditation on the warm darkness of a summers evening, and with an aquatic themed video to add an agreeable frisson of barely suppressed tensions? You decide, listeners, you decide.


Young Guns - Mad World

Karl Jung, when discussing the concept of a collective subconscious, noted that Algebra was effectively plucked from that collective subconscious simultaneously. At least two people came up with algebra at the same time and were separated by vast expanse. The world has wonder hurtling through it and some are lucky enough to be in tune enough to give word and deed to magic.

Something similar is happening with this review. Someone else is also writing these words at a similar time to me. We race, plucking words from the air and jockeying back and forth with a sentence, clear for a moment, then engulfed by an identical thought similarly expressed. Our positions alternate with dizzying speed and the ceaseless aim to be better, express thought and beauty more clearly spurs on those who would hope to have wide eyes and clear thought almost as much as they would seek to spread that kind of joyous enthusiasm that enriches whole continent.

Somewhere, these words fall from another mind and onto a different page. Somewhere these thoughts may well be being similarly had and as we have them, we look to that very ether and wonder what we are, how we managed to fall in sync with the ancients and the future and the present simultaneously and know something pure. To know that Mad World by Young Guns is exactly the same song as Conquistador by Thirty Seconds to Mars.

Christopher Carney

Woodes - 'The Thaw'

It is, as most of us know, winter in Australia just now and Woodes is watching the ice melt in her Melbourne garden (I hear it can get a bit parky round there) just so anyone that thought the mercury never slips below zero down under is put right about that. Actually, a lot of the lyrics of 'The Thaw' are direct references to snow, as if New South Wales were experiencing blizzard conditions, with the Antarctic creeping further northward every year, and leaving me to wonder that if eskimos have over 100 words to describe the white stuff then how many aboriginal names are there for it, plus it's an alright tune, whatever the weather.


A Thousand Horses - 'Southernality'

What with an election or something happening across the pond as I write this, I'm really unsure what's the best way to write about 'A Thousand Horses' and their unabashed Southern anthem - 'booze and a bottle / that's how we lean' (I think I heard that right) - it's all about good old fashioned country rock and with some neatly turned finger picking to go with the singalong lyrics : 'yes sir yes ma'am / talking with a drawl', and A Thousand Horses sure do like their JD from what I can tell. What I don't want is to get pulled into inadvertently making politicised statements relating to an event in which I don't actually have a vote or any other kind of say, important as it is. Aside from that, if you liked Lynyrd Skynyrd, you'll appreciate A Thousand Horses rather a lot.


Turin Brakes - 'Jump Start'

The great thing about being Turin Brakes, a band that have travelled the distance from indie support act to national institution in something like a decade and a half, is that even the least complicated songs can take on a life entirely of their own when given a cautiously arrange treatment that arches towards an epic conclusion, and an imaginatively filmed video that has the Brakes drowning in an enormous vat of Lucozade just about seals it for a band that have garnered a consistent four-star response from any major publication that has reviewed them. 'Jump Start' is the kind of song that it's almost impossible to dislike, and Turin Brakes actually do deserve their turn under the stadium spotlights, although part of their enduring strength is a refusal to bow entirely to the demands of the industry, like the Barfly stage troupers they really are.


Radio Atlantis - 'True Colours'

Not the Cindi Lauper song but the work of Marques Toliver and Compuphonic, 'True Colours' is a clubby track that owes less to electronics and more to what sounds like live percussion and a very loud thumb piano, or some other percussive African instrument and for all the philosophical posturing - 'a reflective and euphoric musing on humanity and sense of self' says the press release - it's a breezy, summery anthem that will remind you to book your holidays, if you haven't already done so.


Billy Bragg & Joe Henry - 'The L&N Don't Stop Her Anymore'

'Railroad songs formed the bedrock of American popular music' says the Bard of Barking in the press that accompanies this opening salvo from a thirteen track re-recording of old timey songs about trains, and from which Elvis's 'Mystery Train' is a notable omission. The rest of the songs are a well chosen bunch though, beginning with 'Rock Island Line' and I am interested to hear what they've done with Leadbelly's 'In The Pines', a very favourite of my own in the version recorded by Gene Clark in the late 70s. Anyone that has seen Bragg live will know what a performer he is, and while Joe Henry is a new name to me, their interpretation of 'The L&N ...' is about worthy of 'Nebraska'-era Springsteen in its unsentimental despair at the local yards closing down. The album is due in September, when we'll all get to hear what Billy & Joe have done with that other skiffle standard 'Midnight Special'. I think I want to hear that.



Ravenna Woods - 'Animals And Alleyways'

It isn't too often that vocalists display an audible debt to the lowering tones of Iggy Pop, but whoever is handling the voice functions on this - they're wearing masks so I can't tell which of them it is - really does take on the grimy tones of Iggy in his 'Idiot' prime and for that matter, the actual song is a convincingly sequenced electrogrunge growler in its own right. Someone at a radio station in Seattle (that would be KEXP) describes Ravenna Woods as 'gloomy' in an acceptably talented sort of way but they're several shades beyond just sounding a bit moody, like they've run out of broadband too quickly again.