All 21 entries tagged Album
September 20, 2009
This review is most likely to be fairly short and snappy, partly like the band itself, but more because I’m already halfway through the month of another set of cracking albums to write about… so let’s get started and have a little dance shall we?
Sky Larkin race out of the blocks in almost every single song, recalling that great raucous indie rock bounce of 100 Broken Windows-era Idlewild, but fronted by a wild woman in Katie Harkin. She seems to share the same passion for the absurdist lyric as Roddy Woomble, belting out seemingly unrelated rhymes purely for the sound of their syllables than any sort of connection to a coherent meaning. Check out Antibodies, with its choral line – ‘Sentiments stretched over sediment and soil / Throw it overarm… / Throw it…’. Delightfully delivered in the same way Bjork might spit out an oddly lost-in-translation line whilst meaning not a jot.
It matters just as little though, as the band racket through the riffs, arranged around that godly trio of guitar, bass and drums with the occasional keyboard peeking in, but hammered on with similar gusto. The longest song here One Of Two, is actually the only one that outstays its welcome, not much benefit arising from its repetitive chorus, with the following Matador faring much better, its Spanish inflected beat allowing much more room for manoeuvres. It’s a simple formula that’s blitzed through the twelve songs, some riffs naturally larger than others, but all offering some opportunity to rock out.
For that reason, I can listen to this straight through, grinning madly at the sheer exuberance on display, devoid of any pretense, and sing along blindly to the nonsense, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t too.
September 19, 2009
I spend a lot of time reading about music (duh) but whereas in the past I did buy and consume music magazines with some sort of religious fervour, these days my efforts are focused on the online realm – as seems to be the natural modern course of events. You have the behemoths of the online music critic world in Pitchfork, who like anything popular, have their set of disciples as well as their avid detractors, but then you can also reach down to the minnows of the same world in the many music blogs out there through aggregators like Elbo.ws. Basically what I’m trying to get at is this is probably one of the few albums (maybe even only) that I’ve bought off the strength of a single blog (Song, by Toad – link below), and one which I think is absolutely fantastic yet have not seen hit hard anywhere else.
Meursault are a band from Edinburgh that peddle (or even meddle) in that weird space between folk and electronica, that people have given ridiculous names to, but while I’ll hope not to stoop so low (although I practically already have), what I can say is that they really make and take the best from both libraries of sound, nailing an exciting dynamic throughout this set of tracks.
Seriously, listen to any one of these eleven tracks (okay, make it nine without the two connecting passages) and tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about. Opener Salt Pt. 1 kicks off a minute into its gentle intro with an Idioteque beat – only taken out of the Ice Age to warmer corners – whereupon singer Neil Pennycook appears to belt out the first verse over this sparse backdrop, and lets out a strangled whoop, before a fuzzed-out keyboard line rips it up like the Postal Service would if they actually had any balls between them. And that’s probably an apt comparison, because whereas that ‘band’ (pair? duo? couple?) had a sampled sound that felt remarkably cold and impeccably delivered, you can hear here every loose yell, every bit of fuzzy feedback from the home recordings, the clicks and whirrs as new elements are brought in and out. Maybe it’s out of necessity rather than a calculated decision, but it works so well bringing a warmness and reality to the usually harsh electronic tones.
The band have a remarkably good sense of when to let all these elements run loose, like in the delightfully messy the Furnace, replete with ukelele, Spectrum feedback and a thumping backbeat, or when a song can be allowed to rise and fall as gently as you please with no electronics to sully it, just waves of acoustic recordings (see Salt Pt. 2, A Small Stretch of Land). The standout for me for their dynamic talent however is A Few Kind Words. A simple rising melody line, chords chiming out, with the storm supplied by that returning industrial beat, a barked out lyric, when suddenly the elements cut out halfway to a 1-2-3-4 alarm bleep signalling the explosion of the song into noise and complete brilliance no matter how many times I’ve returned to it.
Neil’s voice could prove a mite too much for some folk, frequently turning to a wail to break through some of the tougher parts of the melody, but it’s hard to criticise the emotion and passion that backs up the delivery in all of the songs here (and check out some of the videos in the link below as proof of the live equivalent), especially where it rides front and centre.
It’s an album I could walk through song by song to highlight all the moments that give me goosebumps but I won’t bore you silly here. All you need to know is that there are highs that are low, lows that are loud, yells and clicks and beeps and strums and plucks and that, importantly, every track here is worth your time to listen to and, most importantly, buy.
September 10, 2009
“Could there be such a thing as beautifully flawed?” Roisin sings on Through Time, one of the highlights of Ruby Blue, and you could say by the evidence of this record, she’s right…
Everyone obviously knows the impenetrable sheen of Moloko’s classic single Sing It Back, but on the band’s break-up, Roisin turned to the experimental producer extrordinaire, Matthew Herbert to produce this, her debut solo album. I’d never heard much of her previous output besides the obvious, but was drawn in by Herbert’s presence, having been a fan of Scale, an album that took his experimental pazz-jop to create a song for every major key.
The results are surprisingly effective and, less surprisingly, quite diverse, knowing Herbert’s past using everything from Bodily Functions to things Around the House to obtain his samples. The album’s truly great section begins with the voodoo midnight jazz rattle Night of the Dancing Flame, the aforementioned low-key (all soft pads, muted jazz organ and shuffling beat) ballad Through Time, to the absolute dancefloor stunner Sow Into You. I’m actually surprised I’d never heard this as a single anywhere, because it’s so perfectly formed for the album, mixing the brass and pad elements heard before dancing around that classic ‘snare-bass-snare-bass’ beat to a chorus that subtly grows every time it approaches, to the curveball of a bridge and back again through scores of Roisin in each speaker ripped and sampled till it breaks down to singular final angelic rise.
And as you’d hopefully expect, the vocal performances are definitely of note, with a great range offered by Roisin here, from the pop diva as we know her, to the caberet closer, to a sometimes (I can’t think of another way to describe it) Missy Elliott aping pout (just listen to the chorus of the title track – “You neva…get too cleva…”). And it’s not just the lead, the backing vocal, that at times winds around itself, haunting choruses or general harmonies or those previously mentioned slight vocal tics glitching up the beat or as a simple sharp hollaback to the main character (Dear Diary).
There are a few times when the experimental line to unlistenable is crossed though, Off On It serves little purpose apart from making it take longer to get to the closer, and Ramalama (bang bang) almost rescues itself with the rest of the arrangement but the detuned ‘bang bang’ of the title grates along with nary a nod to the rest of the album’s pop nous.
Knowing that though, Roisin rather aptly follows the opening quote with, “We all make mistakes and then / life is the art of / learning to live with it…” So yeah, I can live with this, a great album here in a genre I wouldn’t normally visit and a lot of joy to be held to your ears in that opening half.
(Slightly geeky note: Listen to the intro to ‘Through Time’ and you know, I can’t help but be reminded not of Stevie Wonder, which I’ve read elsewhere, but of the music you hear at the World’s Largest Ball of Twine from the LucasArts adventure game, Sam ‘n Max Hit The Road… look it up…and then play it.)
April 02, 2007
Electric Soft Parade are a ‘classic’ indie band. In the same way as you get ‘classic’ rock, but without the potential for being appalling or having ridiculous hair, leaving just badly unshaven faces and good tunes. The brothers Tom and Alex White (no secret marriages here folks, they are actually brothers) have been going at it now for at least 6 years under this guise, although there was a heavy hiatus (i.e. they were dropped by their label) after second album, The American Adventure, to pursue side projects (included the much lauded Brakes). They bounced back to release the great Human Body EP on Truck Records late in 2005 and have spent the past year making full length No Need To Be Downhearted, ready to be released round about April 30th I think. But more on that later…
Holes in the Wall
Their debut, Holes In The Wall, is single-heavy, hook after hook from songs like Empty at the End and There’s A Silence from riffing guitars and keyboards. It’s not spectacular, but they knew their way around pop structures, despite some experimentations with the formula that don’t quite work (the 4 minute trainspotting outro in Silent to the Dark anyone?), there’s not a bad song in there. The album closes with two of my favourites though. Biting The Soles OF My Feet, as disgusting as it sounds, manages to fit verses, choruses and bridges all over the place, subtleties in the layers of music never making its 6 minutes a long haul. The final track Red Balloon For Me, is just a simple Beatles-esque ballad that is executed with perfect aplomb before cutting a left-turn into tape destruction.
The American Adventure
Follow-up The American Adventure should have been big. At least, that’s what the record label were hoping. What the White brothers delivered was a lot more introverted and meandering (not to mention possibly rushed) than the previous effort. The singles Things I’ve Done Before and Lose Yr Frown were the lighter exceptions. Song structure is played with a lot more, the centrepiece title-track starts with shoegaze, strips down for a verse, gets bass heavy for a while, another three different song ideas are played with before a violin bow drops us down where we end up with a Pavement pop song coda. It’s definitely a bold move to step away from the straightforward pop, but as an album it’s a heavy drag to get through. However saying that, the two-three combo of Bruxellisation and Lights Out is the best section of the album, playing with more luscious production without compromising the songs. The former is full of twinkling guitar lines, build-ups and let downs without shoving it your face, before seguing into Lights Out a chunky reimagining of their established sound with a killer chorus.
The Human Body EP & No Need To Be Downhearted
The album pretty much bombed commercially, the band seemed to disappear. I heard snippets around that they were still going somewhere, but there was no output. Suddenly in 2005, Brakes appeared with Give Blood, and suddenly ESP were preparing an EP. A Beating Heart, which opens The Human Body EP, shows exactly where they ended up. A relentless thumping bass drum leads us into the first of three sections of the song, where the middle orchestral instrumental opening us up for the final punk thrash. There’s a lot more confidence on display, in both production and also with the full-on-ness (a new phrase I made) of the tunes. New single If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know is the obvious follow-up, another driving rhythm, a proper sugar-coated monster of a riff, coupled with a few hiccups in the chorus to keep you on your toes. Misunderstanding and Appropriate Ending continue the trend, great, nay, ‘classic’ indie pop tunes that stray from the formula just enough and with enough vigour to become staples of my head music playlist at any rate.
Look out for the rest of the album when it drops on April 30th, it’s about time for a comeback…
From Holes In The Wall (2002):
he Electric Soft Parade – Biting The Soles Of My Feet MP3 Expired
The Electric Soft Parade – Red Balloon For Me MP3 Expired
[Buy The Album]
From The American Adventure (2003):
The Electric Soft Parade – Bruxellisation MP3 Expired
The Electric Soft Parade – Lights Out MP3 Expired
[Buy The Album]
From The Human Body EP (2005):
The Electric Soft Parade – A Beating Heart MP3 Expired
[Buy The EP]
From No Need To Be Downhearted (2007):
The Electric Soft Parade – If That’s The Case Then I Don’t Know MP3 Expired
The Electric Soft Parade – Misunderstanding MP3 Expired
The Electric Soft Parade – Appropriate Ending MP3 Expired
[Pre-order the Album]
March 23, 2007
Maxїmo Park are a brilliant band. Nuff said.
Our Earthly Pleasures comes out later this month, and if the signals and signs of Our Velocity are anything to go by, it will be another cracker. I’ve got here a few b-side tracks from the album Missing Songs. Compilations like this always seem like a cop-out, a money maker for poor souls like me trying to get every track possible. But here, the tracks are of top quality (minus the demos), worthy enough to sit alongside many of the album tracks. Which is praise enough, because I can’t think of a single track on A Certain Trigger that it could do without.
Fear Of Falling is actually the second song I heard, coming from the Apply Some Pressure single. It stops and starts and surprises like all good pop should, constantly changing yet sounding seamless in its transitions. It’s almost a shame they don’t stretch the ideas out into a longer song, it being over before you know it.
Stray Talk is an acoustic number, somehow transferring their melodic interplay to a stripped down production. A welcome departure from manic energy, but still it only gives you a couple of minutes breath before the next track. In a recent interview, they mentioned more acoustic tracks being played with for use as b-sides which, from this account, is a great idea.
The final track here is a remix of I Want You To Stay by the glorious Field Music. A piano lifted from the intro to Cheers leads us down the stairs and we are invited to stay with Paul for a drink or two. With the Field Music boys we are gifted to a gorgeous reinterpretation of the song, all bouncing piano and effortless lead guitar lines. ‘You know the way I feel’ closes out the song and with it you also know its a place you wouldn’t mind returning to for another night.
From Missing Songs (2006):
Maxїmo Park – Fear Of Falling MP3 Expired
Maxїmo Park – Stray Talk MP3 Expired
From I Want You To Stay single (2006):
Maxїmo Park – I Want You To Stay (Field Music Mix) MP3 Expired
March 21, 2007
[Photo from Chromewaves.net]
The National are a New York band without all the trappings and baggage that seem to go along with that moniker. They are primarily another indie rock band, but their albums enjoy a mix between the raucous and the reminiscent. The sound is a far cry from the sharp riffs and post-punk beats of many of their contemporaries, opting for a more melodic, layered and ultimately more satisfying approach. They come out with their fourth album, Boxer, later on this year, but it’s definitely worth catching up with some of their older material.
Alligator was the last album they released, and most people’s (including mine) entry point. They toured along with Clap You Hands Say Yeah which was a double edged sword in terms of exposure as most people appeared for the support act and left before the National even took to the stage. Which is undoubtably a stupid thing to do, because Alligator is a fantastic record. Singer, Matt Berninger, dishes out lines somewhere between sarcasm and dead seriousness about various objects of love. The song All The Wine is a brilliant piece of narrative, built over chiming U2 guitars until a final release with Berninger crooning, ‘Nothing can touch us, my love’. Karen is another fantastic tale, a lover trying to explain his actions over rolling piano and lines like ‘It’s a common fetish, for a doting man, to ballerina on the coffee table, cock in hand’, with nary a smirk or a wink of the eye. As I said at the start, they can get explosive at times as well, Abel, Lit Up and the powerful closer Mr. November. The latter crashing around as Berninger sing-shouts ‘I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November’ throughout the chorus. The slower, less immediate songs help the album as a whole to grow on you. The more introspective songs such as Daughters of the Soho Riots and City Middle may seem inherently skippable at first, but soon provide a more interesting contrast of pace and mood.
[Photo from the AllTheWine Forum]
I picked up Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers a little later, in the Marketplace of Warwick Uni for a rather tasty £7. It begins with a much darker tone with Cardinal Song, but gets brighter towards the end of the album with songs like the playful Fashion Coat. Yet there’s also a slight country tone apparent, with slide guitar appearing several times and songs like It Never Happened, Trophy Wife and 90-Mile Water Wall displaying that typical alt-country strum and beat. Murder Me Rachel and Available are pretty much most indicative of where the National sound was heading, the former builds up into screeching violins and doesn’t stop, only barely dissolving into muffled shouts and drum rolls after a telling line, ‘Tomorrow won’t be pretty.’ It’s overall not quite as coherent as Alligator, the style of music is more varied and the production sometimes isn’t executed with the same diligence as the stronger songs.
Listen to these, and buy the albums in preparation for Boxer, which is out on May 21st.
From Alligator (2005)
The National – Karen MP3 Expired
The National – All The Wine MP3 Expired
The National – Mr. November MP3 Expired
[Buy] *Highly Recommended*
From Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003)
The National – Slipping Husband MP3 Expired
The National – 90-Mile Water Wall MP3 Expired
The National – Murder Me Rachel MP3 Expired
December 08, 2006
I’ve been in Australia for two weeks, and New Zealand for five months almost, so I figured I should at least be checking out some of the local music around. Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit shit in that regard, opting out or risking money on names I’ve not heard of, but I’ve been surprised after reading this review and buying the album, that no-one else has picked out Australian Ned Collette for making a surprisingly great solo album (away from his group, City City City, who I’ve not heard). It’s only the second time I’ve ever bought an album on the strength of one review (the other being CYHSY, go hipster me) and I’m beginning to wonder whether I should trust my internal sincere musical radar more often (I’ve avoided I’m From Barcelona so far at least).
Back to the music, Mr. Collette has produced a fine set of tunes that are not perfect, but showcase enough charm and diversity in the arrangements to make it worthy of a purchase to any fan of folk. Opener Song For Louis begins with a trademark Nick Drake fingerpicked melody before his more assured, confident and slightly rough (sandy, some might say) voice breaks through with a touching paean to a friend. Female vocals and electric guitar join in briefly to add a sweet touch before fading into the enjoyable instrumental reprise, The Happy Kidnapper.
Each of the songs holds unique arrangements past the standard acoustic foundation, a bouncing beat here (Boulder), slide guitar there (A Plea For You Through Me), handclaps and a psychadelic synth line out of nowhere (Janet) and this is all without mentioning the glorious centrepiece of The Laughter Across the Street. Laughter starts with another picked line, and the same, almost reassuringly so, tone of Ned’s vocals come in, soon accompanied by double bass and more picking arrangements. A choir and violin section sooth you through another few stanzas before you realise the focus start to shift. Suddenly, the quiet ‘do-do-do’s that were hushed moments ago have been backed by another bouncing electric guitar line, choirs build, drums nudge their way in and squelching synth bubble underneath to really work the song into something special. It’s no wonder that you can hear a slight applause at the end.
The only downer for me in the whole album is the monotonous Heaven’s the Key, but I can accept that for all the unexpected joy the rest of the songs have provided. So here’s a few so you can decide for yourself:
Ned Collette – Song For Louis
Ned Collette – The Laughter Across The Street (from Cokemachineglow.com)
Ned Collette – Janet
MP3s removed by request
BUY THE ALBUM IF YOU CAN FIND IT GADDAMN!
Best Bet is the Ned Collette Store
December 07, 2006
This album had been on my ‘to get’ list for a long while, but never stumped up the money to bring it in on import. It was originally released in 2005, but in the UK in 2006 (which is why it’s valid here) but I actually bought it in Auckland a few months ago.
Okkervil River play songs that have been characterised as emo, rock, indie and country (the section where I found this) because the songs aren’t afraid to rock, Will Sheff’s vocals are definitely charged with emotion, yet there’s a side to the songs that is tender and intelligent.
The album itself is a concept of sorts, beginning with a cover of Tim Hardin’s, Black Sheep Boy, with a view to take it’s namesake through a series of songs later on in the album. Immediately after comes the quiet strum of For Real, a few hushed lines are given before a guitar stab comes out of nowhere, jolting you to attention and really kicking the song and album into gear. It’s actually quite surprising that Okkervil River have decided to give the two strongest songs off the album, the other being Black, away for free, but even more satisfying when the likes of The Latest Toughs and So Come Back, I Am Waiting prove that they haven’t given away all their album’s assets.
The quieter and more subtle songs took longer to take hold, but have since grown with repeated listens, recognising the horns prevalent in A King And A Queen and the following A Stone that lift the previously dour tone whilst hearing Song of Our So-Called Friend work its wonder with a jaunty strum and tinkling keyboards and Get Big release with a gorgeous slide guitar solo.
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.