All entries for August 2009
August 25, 2009
One thing that Emusic seems to be alright at, is stocking those little filler EP’s and singles that seem to get lost and never listened to when you’re wandering through your CD collection. I managed to gather a few, and all these bands have been featured on this blog sometime before I’m sure…
The National – Wasp Nest
At the same time as grabbing this, I picked up the self-titled debut, but that, understandably, felt a little unfocused. By contrast, this stop-gap EP between the sophomore LP Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers and the breakthrough Alligator is happily a more succinct distillation of what the band are all about. It features a song each from both those albums (in my opinion, the best ones – a live version of Murder Me Rachael and All The Wine) along with five non-LP originals.
At worst, these do feel like outtakes from the albums, and keep a rather stately pace compared to the featured two, but The National have always been about these understated buildups. Matt Berninger’s deep distinct vocal wrapped around cycling guitar and piano figures or sometimes also a battering rhythmic section (see the end of Cherry Tree or Murder Me Rachael), cementing the identity the band have built up over the course of their career. Rinse, lather, soak, if you’re feeling better… repeat. While it’s no means the best place to start (I’d say the latest, Boxer), if you don’t have the time to delve into the back catalogue, this allows you to dip in at your leisure.
Spoon – 30 Gallon Tank EP
I love Spoon, so I was a little gutted that the Emusic catalogue could only muster up this EP as an offering. The titular single was taken from their sophomore album Series of Sneaks (back in ‘98!), and has the guitar squall of debut Telephono and the more careful arrangement and production approach that would come to the fore with next album Girls Can Tell. That said, unless you really like the band I can’t recommend this record alone, the ‘remix’ of Car Radio (subtitled ‘Different’) is pretty much unlistenable, and the other two tracks pretty much define the term ‘B-side’.
However! Don’t let it put you off the idea of getting into Spoon… they are great! Honest!
The Clientele – That Night, A Forest Grew EP
I have posted about the last two Clientele albums on this blog and this EP acts as a compass pointing towards the next one, Bonfires on the Heath, arriving anytime soon. That forthcoming album will feature one of the tracks here, Share the Night, that shows a blissed out, dare I say, funky side to the Clientele.
All the tracks here share a similar ‘bounce’, an energy that expounds upon the previous effort’s glimmers of sunshine. However, Alistair still sounds as resigned as ever (“Somehow in this dream I’m getting tired” he laments in jaunty opener Retiro Park) yet the Zombies guitar freakouts that poked their head out from the haze on Impossible and Garden at Night make a return with more purpose and more vigour.
A great EP from these guys (and gal), making the wait for the new album, if not unbearable in anticipation, at least somewhat bearable with four fun pop songs to stick on repeat while we do…
Okkervil River – The President’s Dead
I’m going to see the band up in Glasgow in a few weeks, and in a moment of momentary madness I grabbed this single, even though you can download the track for free here and listen to the B-side The Room I’m Hiding In on Spotify.
That said, I love the song, it’s by no means their best, but a great stream of consciousness opening with a simple four chord turnaround before eventually bursting (literally) into a glorious one-line title-repeating chorus with that keyboard line that sounds like it’s breaking the speakers it’s being played through. These things don’t have to be complicated… just good. The B-side is less good, but who cares? This is goooood.
The Long Blondes – (various B-sides)
Just a couple left here from the now (very sadly) broken up Sheffield five-piece, so I’ll make it easy for you. B-sides are generally composites of other ideas or experiments… aren’t they?
Five Ways To End It = A Knife For The Girls x “Couples” more dance-y direction
Fulwood Babylon = Giddy Stratospheres – Giddy + (backing vocals x (chorus + reverb)) + a groove to kill for…
In layman’s terms, yeah, pretty good actually…
Next up: rather predictably… August! In another predictable move I’m going to change the format again! And do single albums again, because I tend to write more, and more clearly… I think.
August 11, 2009
Here we go, I realised I got a few more albums than I thought, so I’m splitting it up in more manageable chunks…
St. Vincent – Marry Me
Having missed two opportunities to see her gig at both Bristol and Manchester, I was lucky to catch her set at Nice’n’Sleazy in Glasgow and it was pretty fantastic. Almost apologetic when stood at the mic, quietly purring over the buzzing keyboards and (controlled, admittedly) chaos going on around her, it was an impressive display. I’d caught a few songs early on and passed them on, but when Actor came out recently, it just seemed to click, so I revisted this album to see whether I wasn’t giving it enough time…
True enough, first impressions are scattershot, Now Now, Your Lips Are Red and Paris Is Burning, the album’s strongest (and possibly loudest) songs, seemingly head off on different tangents at a whim, childlike backing vocals mixing in with squawking guitar solos mixing in with tracked strings. Its offputting to begin with; I recall an early blog trying to compare her to Regina Spektor, which also threw me on what to expect as this is completely different, the quirks here lie in the more lavish arrangements rather than the vocal delivery. Which is great, you know, because this makes Marry Me fresh to listen to, regardless of its difficulties of staying consistently good throughout.
So get Actor first, which I can’t say enough good things about, but don’t rule this out…
White Denim – Fits
On missing the St. Vincent gig in Bristol, I also noted White Denim were playing the day after, which I duly managed to miss as well. So I thought I’d make up by getting this and turning it up really loud.
And to be honest… it didn’t hit me the same way Exposion or Workout Holiday (whatever side of the great divide you are on) did. There’s no Shake Shake Shake, no great thumping classic garage rock beats like in Let’s Talk About It, no stand out quirky folk/pop track like Sitting.
Fair enough, the band cover a lot of new ground here, touching on more psychedelic themes, classic rock, soul, some Eastern influences, and so soon after getting hold of the debut, its great to hear that happen. And towards the end of the album, I found myself enjoying this material more. Maybe it needs a while to get used to the new rhythmic turns. After all, it probably took me more than a few listens to get my head around tracks like Darksided Computer Mouth and even Shake Shake Shake.
Friendly Fires – s/t
I’m being completely honest here, but I’d never heard of this band until May this year, when I heard Jump in the Pool on the radio, and thought “this sounds a bit naff, they sound like their trying to emulate the Talking Heads and the singer’s really trying too hard”. Something, luckily, later perked my curiosity about the record, and it must’ve been the poor compression, or space radiation hitting my brain in the wrong spot, because that aforementioned opener absolutely kills here.
What follows can’t really live up to it, but it has a damn good try. Alongside last year’s In Ghost Colours from Cut Copy, this puts up some competition in the dance party stakes, tracks like White Diamonds showcasing that gorgeous deep pulse every hipshaker should have. So yeah, seems a bit late, but they deserve that Mercury nomination if not your money…
Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer
Spencer Krug is an odd one. I couldn’t get my head around Random Spirit Lover and only Stadiums and Shrines II really caught me from the previous releases, so I was really surprised when this came out, and after picking up Idiot Heart, completely lost myself in the entire album.
Each track has at some point poked at me to press the ‘repeat’ button, each one presenting its own mini universe of lyrical pointers, rhythmic crescendos and breakdowns. And some great solos too, the one thing about Stadium... I loved was that spiralling guitar line, and there’s plenty of contenders here for stealing its riffing crown.
As a whole, it can feel a bit of a slog if you’re not in the mood (or tend to be at odd with Krug’s yelp), but with individual songs this extravagant and full of vigour and colour, I’d be a fool to say you’re not getting your money’s worth.
The Veils – Sun Gangs
One of the first albums purely picked from the lists of ‘Recommendations’ or ‘Related Artists’ tags at random, I was quite apprehensive at what to expect. With a voice reminiscent of Ed Harcourt and a similar doomed romantic troubadour outlook from frontman Finn Andrews, it sounded right up my alley. And sure enough, Sit Down By The Fire opens up the album on a strong note, one-off bombastic production (as always) from Bernard Butler fitting in perfectly.
From the shoegaze chorus of The Letter sounding like Machina-era Pumpkins (although don’t let that put you off) to the dirty scuzz of Killed By The Boom to the piano-led pop of The House She Lived In, the uptempo songs have a lot to draw from. It’s just unfortunate that when sat alongside them, the slower more contemplative songs drag the length out and skew the album’s focus slightly.
They get it right with the title track on the album, but tracks like It Hits Deep (the wailed line “I’ve been down so long…” kinda frames what to expect here) and the final three are so at odds with their counterparts they seem to belong to a different band. Maybe Finn’s trying to fight between being the solo artist or being the band here and neither side has won. Still, an interesting listen, and definitely a worthy MySpace tag of “Melodramatic Popular Song” if ever I heard one (except The Dears, of course)
Next up… EP’s and oldies from bands you’ve seen here before…
August 07, 2009
Writing about web page http://www.emusic.com
After realising I spend a serious amount of time sitting and just listening to music instead of doing anything productive whilst listening to music. I’d thought I’d return to writing here by following my sojourn into the world of legitimate mp3 downloading…
Now, I’ve gone with the unavoidable eMusic for reasons completely selfish in that they gave me 50 free downloads.
So each month I will deign to post about my wonderful expanding collection of old/new/borrowed/blue tunes. It’s not the most comprehesive catalogue, missing out many major artists, but I’ve been surprised with it’s selection of lesser known bands… I’ll start with last month with some catching up to do… but as a preview here’s what to expect:
July: St. Vincent, Friendly Fires, Sunset Rubdown, The Veils, The Clientele, White Denim, The Bluetones
August: Meursault, The Wave Pictures, Department of Eagles, Roisin Murphy, Sky Larkin, Delorean
Let’s get cracking!
EDIT: I need a name for this feature… any ideas?