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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…