All 5 entries tagged 31 Albums In 31 Days
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December 05, 2006
I am well aware that there are few bands out there who summon the spirit of Marmite quite like the Manic Street Preachers, so it was quite intriguing to watch the solo albums by the two remaining guitarists, lead guitarist/singer James Dean Bradfield and bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire, attract neither delirious praise nor acidic bile. In fact other contributors to this blog weren’t even aware that both had put out solo albums this year. Such is the journey to the quiet margins for one of the biggest, and most in your face, bands of the 1990s.
And it is just typical of this brilliantly perverse band that after one terrible album (Know Your Enemy) and one understated album (Lifeblood) it took them going solo to remember who they really are. It really is a blast of revitalised Manic Street Preachers, but that’s to say these are two Manics albums, rather two albums which demonstrate how the Manics came about from two different personalities.
In brief, James’s albums is big and glossy. This is where ‘Design For Life’, ‘If You Tolerate This…’ and ‘Sleepflower’ come from. It has big production, hand claps and sha-la-las. It also has a sense of melancholy and nostalgia about it. Lyrically simplistic but there are no furious attempts to cram the entirely of Das Capital into a three minute rock song so it flows. JDB has never been a man afraid of a soaring melody and The Great Western soars a lot, lush keyboards, his distinctive and brilliantly diverse guitar work. And the voice. If we forget that JDB has one of the bets voices of the 1990s then we are fools.
Nicky Wire on the other hand is famous for not having a good singing voice, more a ranting tool. He also plays bass, albeit not amazingly. So therefore logically his album features no bass and a newly acquired, punk rock, fractionally off key but almost always listenable singing voice (in my opinion, you’ll have to try it for yourself). But if JDB was always expected to come up with a solid album then Wire’s has been the greater triumph as even avid Manics fans did not expect him to come up with something as good as I Killed The Zeitgeist. It’s indie as indie used to be, lo-fi, low key and unexpectedly thrilling. Yes, he does still try to cram in big words and ideas into every song, but the excesses of recent times are gone and the angry poetry is back. Even better his handle on an unexpected softer side comes up with some of the best songs of the year.
Ultimately the only down side of both albums is the feeling you when listening to the best tracks (‘English Gentleman’ (JDB), ‘The Shining Path’ (Nicky), ‘Break My Heart Slowly’ (Nicky), ‘Run Romeo Run’ (JDB)) you find yourself wondering how amazing they would be as full band Manics tracks. But just like Star Wars Episode 3 made me want to watch 4-6 again, this is no bad thing. This is why these albums are here together. They belong together, like their creators.
Listen to these:
And whilst you’re at it, buy the 10th anniversary edition of the Greatest Album Of All Time, the amazing, wonderful, superlative ‘Everything Must Go’. It really is the most important thing in 1990s music! [/hyperbole]
December 04, 2006
If there’s one thing which seems to unite all music blogs, and most music fans, it’s the desire to bash the NME. This makes it particularly grating when they manage to get it right, but never fear, there are always other big selling magazines which are spouting rubbish. The Worst Piece Of Music Journalism Of The Year award this year goes to Q Magazine which reckons Silent Shout by Swedish electro geniuses The Knife is “A hideous mess of electro noodling and maddeningly obtuse, tuneless vocals” worth one star out of five. Now everybody is entitled to their own opinion. However Q likes to play it safe. For all its gushing about Radiohead and Pink Floyd, the most typically Q bands are Keane and Coldplay. Safe. Indie. Definitely not the sound of the entire history of electronic music collapsing into a blackhole.
Such a shame for Q really that in fact such a collapse sounds as magnificent and wonderous as it does. You really would have to be a technophobe, and an impatient one at that, to give Silent Shout one star. It suggests you have listened to it once, probably not even all the way through.
For those who want a real assessment here it is – Silent Shout takes all the distinctive, overused, overplayed features of electronic music and reimagines it as something beautiful and human. Yes, human. At heart this sounds like a woman (specifically singer Karin Dreijer Andersson) battling a stream of conflicting emotions against some challenging but rewarding music. And some blatant pop.
It takes guts to release the most tricky track on your album as a single, but The Knife took that leap and sent ‘We Share Our Mother’s Health’ out into the world. It is the perfect encapsulation of them. On first listen it’s a noise, a mess, and a disturbing one at that. Any more than one listen, however, is enough to bring out the thrilling rush of the piece, the melody (yes, there is one) and the feeling that it’s not really that disturbing, more a mad rush.
The rest of the album is more accessible, and quite emotional at times. There is an unexpected pathos in many songs, ‘Marble House’ and ‘Forest Families’ in particular should rip out the heart of any listener.
This isn’t about easy listening. This isn’t about trying to appear cool. This is simply pop music as you forgot it could be, challenging, rewarding and real.
Listen to these tracks. I was going to give you ‘Marble House’ but that song is so amazing, so wonderful, so fantastic that I believe you should bloody pay for the privilege of listening to it. Yes, that good.
December 03, 2006
We Landed On The Moon! are a quintet from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We interviewed them a few months ago and their album has maintained on my rotation ever since – it’s a brilliant debut. The album starts with the excellent One of a Kind, crescendoing into full swing as the album goes through Everything is Fine and Simple Steps.
WLotM! display a number of styles throughout the album, with Blondie-style vocals from the lead singer flowing through influences from Blondie, Kate Bush, and the 80s indie-rock scene to create a wonderful mix of pop-rock that is very easy to listen and dance to.
There’s very little to say about the album other than you should go and buy it. Now!
BUY THE ALBUM NOW DAMN YOU
December 02, 2006
The danger of an early release for an album is that it can slip from people’s minds as the year progresses. This I fear could be the fate of the second album from Delays, which will be a real shame if it happens. This is the classic example of why bands need space and time. So many bands recently have produced a second album which is merely a slightly different rehash of their first, maybe with bigger producers and budgets, maybe with added burglary and prison (cough, Libertines). But what if a band came band with an album which improved on the negatives from their début? You See Colours is a perfect example of the latter phenomenon which must not become a victim of the former.
As melodic and tuneful as their début was, it lacked a punch. It was the sort of music you could do your homework to, lovely, soothing but not as urgent, not as vital and the records which make you sit up and pay attention. Not any more. You See Colours sounds like they’ve had an entire jar of disco biscuits shoved down their throats. Without sacrificing a single thing which made them good in the first place, Delays have gotten better – beats you can really dance to, swaggering synths, and a sheen which treads the right side of epic.
The only real mistake that is made is the unloading of the best four songs as tracks #1-#4. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with shoving them on repeat, it does mean the more subtle moments of the album, the later tracks, could get missed out. But what an opening four! There are maybe three or four albums released this year which can hold up an opening to match ‘You And Me’, ‘Valentine’, ‘This Towns Religion’, and ‘Sink Like A Stone’. Each is wonderful, with ‘Valentine’ in particular one of the best songs released this year. No question. The delivery of the line “I heard the last night on earth is for living”is more worthy of praise than most of the other songs which have been inflicted on the Top 40 this year.
So swirling La’s-like jangle and a heavy duty dose of disco/electro? What’s not to like?
December 01, 2006
Well, December has finally arrived, and here at à la discothèque (a secret for you – yes, we know that it should be à and not á, but where’s the wonderful symmetry in that? Don’t tell anyone our evil French literary boo though) we’ve decided that to celebrate 2006 in music, we’ll review 31 albums in 31 days in the style of an advent calendar, as well as keeping up with our usual music tomfoolery. Excited? Good. Go!
White Rose Movement are a post-punk/electro band from London, who style their music around danceable, sexy music. I frigging love it. Around about April/May time, when I was first discovering and getting into the whole indietronica/dance-rock scene (Postal Service, Hot Chip, !!!, that kinda jazz) I heard the wonderful Girls In The Back from the RaW playlist. I immediately came home and ordered WRM’s debut album, Kick.
When the album came out, it didn’t go down particularly well – a lot of the music blog fraternity marked WRM as boring and one-dimensional, but personally I think the album’s a bit of class, particularly with songs such as Testcard Girl, London’s Mine and Love Is A Number. The album builds up through electronic/guitar-heavy songs such as Kick and Girls In The Back, very danceable choons, to the more experimental and abstract beats of Deborah Carne later in the album.
Altogether the album holds up well, and has stood well against the test of time. Here’s some tracks to enjoy: