27 October 2009

Them Crooked Vultures - New Fang

A few days ago, I posted the cover art for Them Crooked Vultures' eponymous debut album. If the thought of Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl collaborating doesn't get you excited, then you've got no soul. "No Fang" has been uploaded to YouTube as a taster for the album and as expected it's a bluesy rock-out with a very heavy Led Zep influence. But, it feels a little bit too clean and neutered to be the sum of its parts, until the breakdown at the end. Let's just hope this is one of the weaker tracks of the album, and the rest is face-melting retro-rock that neither Wolfmother. The Darkness nor Tenacious D could create in their wildest dreams.

Editors - In This Light And On This Evening

I was in HMV the other day, looking to add to my vinyl collection/addiction. Whilst having a quick flick through the CDs (remember them?) I came across Editors' rather good second album "An End Has A Start". I was horrified to notice a "One For The Lads" promotional sticker slapped on the case, as if it were a Pigeon Detectives album or a Jeremy Clarkson "Edgy & Cool Driving Songs for The Middle Aged" compilation. Now anyone who knows Editors and their music will realise this is a horrific mistake; Editors are the purveyors of gloomy rock and slightly-epic stadium indie, with the occasional nod to Joy Division. They aren't for the typical "lad". I doubt you'll hear anyone of that persuasion enthusing about Chris Urbanowicz's guitar riffs or Tom Smith's doom-laden voice in the way they would about Oasis/The Prodigy/Kaiser Chiefs/*insert generic indie-pop-rock band with a few catchy hits here*.

Anyway, the point of that long -winded and ever-so-slightly discriminatory anecdote was to illustrate that despite the indie/hipster set's usual negative point about Editors (that they went a bit Coldplay and aimed for to be on those Clarkson comps), the band was still pretty far from universal fame/acceptance. Such a thing is now probably even further away due to third album "In This Light And On This Evening". Like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs earlier this year, Editors have gone all synth in the two years since "An End Has A Start". A bold and brave move, yes, but one that works? Most certainly.

The opening title track starts off with a low, throbbing synth and stays this way for the next two-thirds of the track before exploding into an apocalyptic breakdown which wouldn't be out of place in a futuristic, sci-fi film (the band have mentioned that the album is influenced by such films, and in particular the Terminator theme). The track consists of only one, repeated verse (" I swear to God, I heard the Earth inhale, moments before it spat its rain down on me/ I swear to God, in this light and on this evening, London's become, the most beautiful thing I've seen. ") with Smith's vocals sounding reverential, brooding and resigned at the same time. It sets the tone for the remaining 8 tracks, which all seem to twist and turn in many different directions. It doesn't exactly reach "Paranoid Android" or "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" proportions, but there were certainly a lot of ideas floating around in the album sessions.

Whilst the move towards electronic music will certainly lose them a few fans, "In This Light..." has some of Editors most accessible, poppy material. "Bricks And Mortar" would be a fantasic single, if it could be trimmed down from its 6:21 running time and the amazing-but-preposterously-titled "Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool", which is possibly Editors' best chorus yet. Lead single "Papillion" continues down the poppier route, but brings with it the morib lyrical side of the band. Never before in my mind have lines such as "You will choke, choke on the air you try to breathe" or "The world turns too fast, feel love before it’s gone" felt so at home in a pop song, and the chorus of "Darling, just don’t put down your guns yet/if there really was a God here/he’d have raised a hand by now" could have easily come from the pen of Richey Edwards.

Although for all the positives of the album, the novelty of 'Editors + synths' does grate after a while, with only Smith's lyrics and voice keeping some songs afloat (for example "The Big Exit" is saved just before the "skip" point by the powerful middle eighth, which is basically Smith singing alone, the electronic beeps barely in the background). Overall, "In This Light And On This Evening" is a great album, a near-classic. The only thing stopping it from reaching "classic" status is the overused synth elements (and the decision to not include "No Sound But The Wind") but from here, Editors can do pretty much anything with their sound, be it guitars, keyboards or something for the lad population, although I hope that road is blocked. Forever.
FOR FANS OF: Joy Division, White Lies, Interpol, Kraftwerk, Bloc Party
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: All, except "Like Treasure"


25 October 2009

ALBUM NEWS: Los Campesinos - Romance Is Boring

Los Campesinos! have announced the details of their forthcoming second/third album (I can't be bothered explainin). Named "Romance Is Boring", it's out on February 1st 2010. Cannot wait.

The tracklisting is as follows:

  1. In Medias Res
  2. There Are Listed Buildings
  3. Romance Is Boring
  4. We’ve Got Your Back (Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #2)
  5. Plan A
  6. 200-102
  7. Straight In At 101
  8. Who Fell Asleep In
  9. I Warned You: Do Not Make An Enemy Of Me
  10. Heart Swells/100-1
  11. I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know
  12. A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me State; or, Letters From Me To Charlotte
  13. The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future
  14. This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind
  15. Coda: A Burn Scar In The Shape Of The Sooner State

Taken from LC!'s blog:
"The album was recorded and mixed between March and June of 2009, in Seattle, Connecticut and Monmouthsire, with producer John Goodmanson. It features guest appearances from Jamie Stewart, Zac Pennington and Jherek Bischoff.

It is a record about the death and decay of the human body, sex, lost love, mental breakdown, football and, ultimately, that there probably isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel."

Once again, I cannot wait for this. Early contender for Album of 2010, and I've only heard two tracks so far.

23 October 2009

Them Crooked Vultures - S/T artwork

This should be amazing. How can Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl collaborating not be?
(released 16th November 2009)

19 October 2009

Watch The Tapes! feat. Girls, Editors, Mumford & Sons, Johnny Foreigner, Ash, Florence & The Machine, Lily Allen and Everything Everything

Yet another new post catergory type thing. Yeah, basically the best music videos of the past week or so shall be here for your enjoyment/derision/apathy. Obviously this week won't include Jamie T's "The Man's Machine" or Arctic Monkeys' "Cornerstone", as they've got their own posts because they're so special/I've only just thought of this now.

Jamie T - The Man's Machine video

Now I like Jamie T as much as the next guy; two fantastic albums, amazing live, cheeky everyman image. There isn't much to hate really. Especially here, with one of the best choruses on "Kings & Queens"(even if it is kind of unitelligble). Just recently, I've felt a bit "meh" towards Mr Treays and his exploits. I'm not trying to sound uber-cool and indie, like "I knew about him first!", but maybe it's his position as flavour of the month with those types who say they "like all kinds of music" on social netowrking profiles or like to think they're down with it and out there by listening to something outside the Top 40. Meh, ignore my ramblings, and enjoy this rather cool vid, for an awesome song.

17 October 2009

The "New Moon" soundtrack

So far, all that the "Twilight Saga" (as it's now known) has given us musically is Paramore's "Decode", which is reason enough to think about avoiding the New Moon OST. But one glance at its tracklisting is more than enough to get any indie fan hot under their checked shirt collar. Here are the choice tracks from one of the best soundtracks for a while

So this is what they've been hiding up their sleeves. After the fairly dire Day & Age album, this is definitely a step back in the right direction for the Las Vegas foursome. Gone is the glitter and grandeur of the last album, replaced with a sombre tone that pops up in most great Killers songs. Tinkling ivories and a slow waltzing pace, along with an uplifting middle eight as well as a proper guitar solo and a bit of brass tacked on (I'm a sucker for brass instruments on pop songs. See; Maximo Park's Leeds set this year, Maccabees new album) make this a definite success and a nice stop-gap before the fourth album

New Bon Iver material is always a cause for celebration (ironic considering how Bon Iver sounds), and even though this was never going to be a massive step away from his previous songs, it's a welcome addition to the canon. A little bit countrified, thanks to the slide guitar section, "Rosyln" sounds more warm and welcoming than most songs on "For Emma, Forever Ago". This is most likely due to the spectral vocals of St. Vincent singer Annie Clark, who augments Bon Iver's typical template with ease. The only bad point is that it'll no doubt be used during a scene in which someone's looking around broodingly, or being a miserable queynte. It deserves so much better.

This song first appeared at Editors gigs in 2008, but in a much different guise. It bore more of a resemblance to the Editors of old, motorik beats, squalling echo-drenched guitars and rumbling bass. In that arrangement, it was merely a very good Editors song, but as it is on this soundtrack, "No Sound But The Wind" become a thing of beauty. Consisting of just Tom Smith and a lone piano, the simple chords combined with Smith's powerful vocal propel this to the fore of Editors songs. How this didn't make it on to the new album is baffling. But once again, the single negative point is the association with the film, which you know will be awful, and with Robert "shite hair" Pattinson, who is awful.

And now for your enjoyment, and mostly mine, some rather hilarious Twilight pics/gifs.

16 October 2009

The Time Machine: Jakobinarina - The First Crusade

The Time Machine returns! Turns out the past isn't too great, but hey, I've remembered this lost gem. Jakobínarína's first and only album "The First Crusade" released just over two years ago. They've since split-up (I couldn't tell you why, since the explanation on their blog is Icelandic) which means it's very unlikely a fantastic follow-up will be unleashed onto an unsupecting musical world. "The First Crusade" is basically what the latest Cribs album should have sounded like; furious punk rock with an undeniable pop edge, and some great Johnny Marr guitar flourishes on top. Jakobínarína manage it without the help of the Manc legend, so how The Cribs didn't is a mystery.

Anyway, it's easy to see how "The First Crusade" slipped into the indie rock ether. Released in the same year as "Favourite Worst Nightmare", "Neon Bible", "In Rainbows", "Myths Of The Near Future" and, to a much, much, much lesser extent, The View's debut, it didn't stand much chance of appearing in end-of-year polls or being heralded as an outright classic. In my humble indie nerd opinion, "The First Crusade is one of the best albums of the last decade and should be remembered as such. Crafted by six Icelandians (Icelandicers?) between the ages of 17 and 21, it's astounding how powerful and vibrant it sounds. The pace barely lets up throughout the 12 songs, both the drums and guitars play at breakneck speeds, whilst a young Bernard Sumner lookalike bellows at you about the good points and (many) bad points of being young, angry, horny, judgemental and always looking for a good time.

Lyrics like "Jump around, around, around/to the sound/of mediocrity", "And I thought to myself/ "I've nothing to live for"/ Except next weekend/Because there will be a dance revolution" and "Who wants to be wise when they're 17? Got girls to see and a world to conquer" may not be challenge for Dylan, Morrissey or Richey Edwards in terms of being poetic or world-alteringly brilliant, but they do sum up the life of a 17-to-21 year old almost to a tee (much like The Hold Steady do, but without the world-weary and wise, retrospective feel to their songs). It's a shame that nothing this exciting and/or vital has come out of the music scene in the last three years or so, and an even bigger shame that Jakobínarína have split up. I seriously reccomend "The First Crusade" to anyone who likes their music loud, angry, fun and very catchy...or just anyone who like good music. I'll leave you with the best of Jakobínarína...

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: Every single one.
FOR FANS OF: The Cribs, Johnny Marr, Johnny Foreigner, The Futureheads, Be Your Own Pet, loud and angry punk rock


The Beatles Polls Winners!

It's finally over. That is, the worldwide obsession with the Fab Four (which coincided with my own obsession) and the best Beatles album/single polls that have been on the sidebar for the past few weeks. One or two suprises in the results, but overall I'm pretty pleased to see most people have the same opinion and favourites as me. It was a double tie for both polls; "Abbey Road" and "The White Album" coming out on top for the albums, with "Help!" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" triumphing in the singles poll. I expected most to plump for the easy option and go for "Sgt Peppers", but it seems you lot are more versed in the work of John, Paul, George and Richard (apologies if that sounds patronising).

Also thanks to all those who voted, around 50-odd if I remember correctly. Nice to know someone reads this stuff.

Without further ado, here are the full results:

1. Abbey Road - 5
= The White Album - 5
2. A Hard Day's Night - 2
= Let It Be - 2
= Revolver - 2
3. Rubber Soul - 1
= Sgt Peppers... - 1
= Yellow Submarine - 1
4. Beatles For Sale - 0
= Help!
= Please Please Me - 0
=With The Beatles - 0

1. Help! - 8
= Strawberry Fields Forever - 8

2. Something - 7
3. A Hard Day's Night - 6
= All You Need Is Love - 6
= Can't Buy Me Love - 6
= Day Tripper - 6
= Get Back - 6
= Hey Jude - 6
= I Feel Fine - 6
= Let It Be - 6
4. Eleanor Rigby - 5
= She Loves You - 5
5. Ballad Of John And Yoko - 3
= Hello, Goodbye - 3
= I Want To Hold Your Hand - 3
= Paperback Writer - 3
= Ticket To Ride - 3
= We Can Work It Out - 2
6. Lady Madonna - 2
7. Please Please Me - 1
= From Me To You - 1
8. Love Me Do - 0

So there you have it. Not much love for early Beatles albums, and no love for poor little "Love Me Do". Some people...

Arctic Monkeys - Cornerstone video

This song just got a million times better, thanks to this video. "Cornerstone" is likely to be the Arctics' next big hit, and you can expect more than a few parodies of the above video over the coming months. He may look like a bit of a knob these days but it's hard not to love Alex Turner for stuff like this.

9 October 2009

Rants In E Minor: Dubstep, I just don't get it!

NME.com recently published this article, on dubstep, proclaiming 2009 to be the year that dubstep "broke". Now forgive me for being pernickity, but the term "broke" or "breaking" usually refers to becoming prominent in the mainstream, say like Arctic Monkeys in 2005/2006 or the explosion of punk in 1976/77. Let me ask you, can you see anything like either of those right now in mainstream culture? I certainly can't. NME have done this before, in 2007, when punk supposedly broke for a second time (conveniently 30 years after the original) but really it was only Gallows who achieved a modicum of fame outside of the underground. In comparison to the Atlantic Ocean-sized impact of the Sex Pistols, The Clash et al, Gallows were like the water in your toilet.

Similarly, dubstep has had little if no affect on the modern world. Okay, punk didn't exactly turn the world on it's head, but it's impossible to ignore the affect it had. Fantastic music that was different to anything heard before, a youth sub-culture that came to symbolise both the genre and the latter half of that decade and a DIY ethic that has survived to this very day. Unfortunately that ethic has helped create this abortion of a genre At the risk of sounding like a wholly out-of-touch 60-something, dubstep is little more than repetitive instrumentals with the occasional looped electronic riff thrown in. It's like listening to fucking Kraftwerk. The genre is miles away from breaking anything; its three biggest points so far, in terms of exposure, are Burial's nomination for the Mercury Prize, a Britney remix and Skream's kinda good remix of La Roux's "In For The Kill". That's it; two b-side remixes and the token urban genre nomination for a prize losing prestige faster than you can say Speech DeBelle.

Whilst almost every other epoch-defining and groundbreaking music genre of the modern era has had widespread appeal and following (Rock N Roll, Punk, Electronica, Dance and House), dubstep seems to be the preserve of either nerdy enthusiasts, with encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, or middle class suburban white kids, yearning to be cool and out there. I'm sure the creators of dubstep tracks put a lot of heart, soul and effort into their music, but it seems like the simplest genre about. Subterranean bass, unbelievably dull and repetitive beats, moody atmosphere, a little cyclical keyboard hook thrown in every now and then, and in Burial's case, snippets of noise from the urban world. Stoned braindead chimps could make an album of this tripe, no problem.

What I find immensely puzzling is that, for a kind of music derived from dance and hip-hop, it borders on impossible to actually dance normally to any dubstep track. Alright, I can't dance normally anyway, but there's actually no way of "rhytmically moving" to it. The most played track in clubs, to my limited knowledge, is Skream's mix of "In For The Kill" and that only even approaches danceable in the last minute or so. What do people do when it comes on? Shuffle and sway for four minutes, then all of sudden start throwing shapes for 60 measly seconds. This is probably one of the reasons I dread going into "indie" clubs. Already-overly-awkward and pasty indie kids pulling their most awkward moves to boring bollocks like this.

Of course I'm not a complete luddite, and hate all things not played on guitar. I like dance music, I like Burial's albums, despite the lack of variety. But to say that dubstep has "broke" and is no part of mainstream culture is as stupid as saying the Lib Dems are favourites for the next election or Katie Price is a respectable human being. The genre was 'born' around 1998, so to say it's only just broken 11 years later is evidence enough to me that we've defnitely run out of ideas and have to resort to elevating the leftovers at the bottom of the musical barrel.

NEU!: featuring Delphic, Everything Everything, Lost Knives and Copy Haho

Neu/new in the most literal sense of the word, as the following four bands are virtually unknown outside of the indie universe. So listening is not only reccomended, it's compulsory as it's pretty likely you'll discover your new favourite band.

Manchester's great hope have already scored a brace of underground hits with the astounding New Order-esque "Counterpoint" and the slightly more restrained "This Momentary". On "Alterstate", things are taken back even more, resulting in a blissful, hypnotic, almost completely instrumental piece of electro pop. It verges on dub-step with it's pulsating bass and complex beats, coupled with barely-there vocals. Whilst it probably won't propel them into the public conciousness, "Alterstate" is likely to complete a hattrick of indie hits for the Manc foursome, especially as it's available as a free download from their site.

Currently being whispered/shouted about in the "blogosphere" as the next big thing as well as gaining places on preemptive Ones To Watch 2010 lists, EE have one of the best and most confusing pop singles of the year right here. Not pop in the way that wanky alternative bands see their songs as being, despite being as accessible as a chastity belt without having the key, actual pop; choruses, instantaseous hooks and a fantastic bassline. Alright, it's not the typical fair of yer average pop-picker, but with influences as diverse as Michael Jackson, Talking Heads, Radiohead, Dr Dre, The Beta Band, Destiny's Child and The Futureheads, they were never going to churn out JLS-type bilge. It doesn't matter that you can't even make out the lyrics throughout most of the song, since when do the majority of people listen to them anyway? Embrace another Mancunian four-piece that will definitely be going places

A hotly-anticipated fresh clutch of demos from the Steve Lamacq favourites, written to show the diversity of their canon. Whilst the change in sound isn't exactly the jump from "What Goes On" to "Tomorrow Never Knows" on Rubber Soul, there are a few noticeable differences from the first three demos. "Left Alone" is the most similar, but more focused and driven, whilst "Static" is the early Horrors transformed into an arena band...except great. However, "She's Not You" could very well be Lost Knives' breakthrough track. Fizzing with Interpol-esque guitars, drums crashing like tidal waves and a bassline that Peter Hook would love to have thought up, it slides from a menacing verse to an unexpectedly epic and uplifting chorus, that should have you singing along before the end of the song. This is one more talented Manchester band headed for the top. Bastards. What, me, jealous? No...well yeah, I'd rather have three very exciting local young bands than The Beatles Rockband. Bloody Mancs get all the fun...

The Glaswegian quartet (yes! they're not from Manchester) are friends with Los Campesinos! and Dananananaykroyd and it certainly shows on this EP. Drums crash about like they're going out of fashion whilst the guitars are the most vibrant and energetic I've heard since Arctic Monkeys' debut. But sharp Sheffieldian post-punk isn't on the menu here. Skewed indie rock is Copy Haho's dish of choice with a whole heap of melody as a side order (okay I'm dropping the food metaphor now). It's probably quite unfair to compare them to their compadres (LC!, Dana and Johnny Foreigner, The Xcerts) but it's inescapable that Haho sound like all of those bands at some point on the EP, kind of like a copycat little brother. The only time the "fight pop" formula is thrown out of the window is on "Bad Blood" which sounds something like a fuzzless, un-angsty Nirvana during the verses and, bizzarely, Oasis in the chorus ("Champagne Supernova" and "All Around The World" in particular). But maybe that's just me. This one little diversion is evidence that Copy Haho can create something that stands out and sounds great at the same time. But for now, it's a case of good songs, but has been done better before.

6 October 2009

Album Pile-Up (warning: extremly positive reviews here)

There have been a LOT of albums I've neglected to review over the last few months, partly due to not listening to them enough, partly due to sheer laziness. But to clear the backlog and put my mind at ease, here they all are, in the bare minimum of what constitutes a review

WILD BEASTS - TWO DANCERSWho: Divisive Kendal quartet, with challenging falsetto vocals
What: "Two Dancers" is Wild Beasts' second album after last year's debut "Limbo Panto". The fluid guitar work and operatic vocals of that record led to a few sticking "The new Smiths" tag on the band. A lot to live up to for any band, but they've surpassed what could be seen as lazy pigeonholing to create, in what is a year of great second albums, an amazing sophomore effort that sounds like nothing else around right now. Dreamlike in parts and sexed up in others, the jump in quality is astounding, especially when considering "Limbo Panto" was a very good debut. Hayden Thorpe's falsetto will still either endear or prove and instant point of hate for new listeners, but those who endeavour to keep listening are in for a wonderful treat.
Key Tracks: The sublime "Hooting & Howling", "We've Still Got The Dancing On Our Tongues", "All The Kings Men"

JAMIE T - KINGS & QUEENSWho: The "one man Clash" or as he's probably known to his mum, James Treays
What: Yet another fantastic second album, this time from the baseball-capped bard of Wimbledon. "Kings & Queens" is just as eclectic and carefree as Treays' debut "Panic Prevention", just enhanced and improved. And to those of you who have listened to "Panic Prevention", you'll know improving on it is no mean feat. "Kings & Queens" has more than it's fair share of possible hits ("368" and "Hocus Pocus" are right up there with the cold for catchiness) but what's interesting is the amount of ballads on the album. Ballads probably isn't the right term, but introspective, acoustic songs that aren't as rabble-rousing as the rest of the album is a bit of a mouthful. It's tracks like "Emily's Heart" and "Jilly Armeen" that showcase Treays' tender side (probably why he has such a big "female following") as well as giving evidence that he isn't a one-trick pony
Key Tracks: "368", "Sticks N Stones", "Emily's Heart", "Chaka Demus", "Spider's Web", "Castro Dies", "British Intelligence", "Jilly Armeen"

JAY-Z - THE BLUEPRINT 3Who: In his own words:'For those that didn't get the memo my name is Jay-Z and I'm pretty fucking awesome'
What: The final part of Jay-Z's "Blueprint" trilogy, which features an all-star cast, from Luke Steele (of Empire Of The State fame), Alicia Keys, Mr Hudson, Kid Cudi, Pharrell, Rihanna and meme-of-the-moment Kanye West. Had this album come out two years ago, then Jigga's Glastonbury set would have been an even bigger success, such is the amount of moments of genius here. "D.O.A" is one of his best, everyone knows "Run This Town" by now (having the three biggest names in hip-hop and R&B was always going to result in a hit) and pretty much every other song has a great beat and a killer line. It's safe to say that "TB3" further cements Jay-Z's position at the top of the game.
Key Tracks: "Thank You", "D.O.A", "Run This Town", "Empire State Of Mind", "Real As It Gets", "A Star Is Born", "Young Forever"

Who: The latest one to watch in the "shoegaze" pigeonhole
What: Another year, another moody group in leather jackets with loud guitars. Not that this is in any way a bad thing, after all rock 'n' roll is built on that template. TBP have described this album as a "future soul record", an attempt to 'mix up their favourite two genres of music' in soul and noise. It's safe to say they've succeeded in that. " A Brief History..." does have a doomed love story feel to most of its songs, probably due to the apocalyptic guitar feedback they're drowned in. This isn't an easy listen, it's an album of heartbreak, melancholy and skyscraping noise and straight-up pop moments are hard to come by, other than the inescapable "Dominos", "Velvet" and "At War With The Sun". "A Brief History Of Love" probably isn't what your girlfriend/boyfriend would want you listening to, since they'd think you were a miserable bastard and isn't what your parents would want you listening to after a break-up, for fear you'd start wearing studded leathers and end up hating everything. But I digress, The Big Pink have crafted an amazing debut that stands up to almost any other released this year
Key Tracks: "Too Young To Love", "Dominos", "Love In Vain", "At War With The Sun", "Velvet", "A Brief History Of Love", "Tonight", "Count Backwards From Ten"

Who: Underrated folk-poppers, damned for all eternity to be associated with "5 Years Time"
What: Once again, it's a second album that surpasses its predecessor. "Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down" was a good, if underrated debut from NATW, unfortunately eclipsed by the aforementioned single. Little over a year later, "The First Days Of Spring" was released, and quite frankly, it's an astonishing record. From the funereal, "Be My Baby"-esque beat of the opening title track to the orchestral middle section and the hopefulness of album closer "My Door Is Always Open", this is an album deserving of all the plaudits it gains. Whereas you may have thought of NATW as a one-song, bland pop band, listening to this will almost definitely change your opinion. At the risk of descending into extreme hyperbole, "The First Days Of Spring" is one of the best albums of the last decade; grand, majestic, heartbreakingly honest and powerful lyrics ("This is a song for anyone who can't get out of bed/I'll do anything to be happy", "This is the last song while I'm still in love with you/This is the last song that I write whilst your even on my mind", "I'd be anyone to be at your side/I need your life in my life/Need your light in my life"). As you can tell this isn't the happiest album ever, and it's pretty clear it tells the story of a break-up (most likely the one of lead singer Charlie Fink and Laura Marling). But as with pretty much all great pop, it deals with the sour side of love and is all the more perfect for it.
Key Tracks: All of it, including the accompanying short film. It's worth it.

Who: Another band dressed in all black, and another band that sound like noone else around
What: The debut of the hotly tipped, barely-out-of-school London foursome, The xx are unique in the music scene at the minute. The only way to describe them is Radiohead and Florence Welch covering R&B/pop songs with Burial producing. But that's waaaaay too NME for my liking. The fairly lo-fi production and use of artificial beats gives The xx (yep, that's right, no capitals) a dubstep feel without delving too much into that overrated genre. The simple guitar lines sound almost fragile and yet push the songs forward, usually acting as the main melody. Romy Croft and Oliver Sim's hushed vocals intertwine for the best boy-girl vocals this side of Los Campesinos! debut album, and give "xx" a sultry, sexy feel. Whilst in broad daylight, the album is merely very good, it comes into its own when listened to in the early hours of the morning, I'm not too sure why this is, but come midnight, "xx" is a magical record. The tense atmosphere and downbeat mood take on a life of their own, whilst the sparseness of each song seems perfectly suited for dark winter nights. The xx will have a very tough job on their hands bettering this, but I look forward to the results
Key Tracks: "Intro", "VCR", "Crystalised", "Islands", "Shelter", "Basic Space", "Infinity", "Night Time", "Stars"

Vampire Weekend - Horchata

Last year's indie press darlings (and winners of Hitsville U.K.'s Album Of The Year) have been fairly quiet for quite some time now, apart from a great set at the Reading & Leeds festivals. But recently they've revealed the artwork for "Contra", their second album and now the first single taken from that record is free to download on the band's website. That single is "Horchata". Carefree and almost childlike in it's simplicity, "Horchata" sounds like the afrobeat constantly associated with Vampire Weekend and as straightforwardly pop as they come at the same time. Big drums, smooth vocals, easily memorable hooks and a whimsical, orchestral flourish makes this a worthy addition to VW's canon. Of course to the common garden music fan, it's not going to displace "A-Punk" as their One Big Hit™, but to any Vampire Weekend fan "Horchata" will be on constant repeat.

2 October 2009

Los Campesinos! - There Are Listed Buildings + The Sea...

The best band you probably haven't heard of return with two previews of their latest album (second or third, depending on whether you think an Extended EP of 10 tracks counts as an album). Los Campesinos! have always been what I personally want in a band; the ability to make shouty, loud, throw-yourself-around indie and rather twee 'n' tender alt.pop with at least one heart-brakingly great lyric in every song. This winning streak continues in "There Are Listed Buildings" and "The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future" which are on the as-yet-untitled new album.

"TALB" is probably LC!'s most radio-friendly track in a while, not too twee as to be straight, sugary, saccharine pop but not too spiky and indie to drive casual listeners back to their Snow Patrol. Reminiscent of the material on debut "Hold On Now, Youngster", the "ba-ba"s and humming that surround the choruses make this an obvious future sing-along classic (well to us awkward indie kids anyway), and the brass section (brass!!) is a rather welcome augmentation of the LC! sound
There Are Listed Buildings by loscampesinos

"The Sea..." on the other hand, is a much different beast to the aforementioned first single. The brooding, mournful guitar and violin combo of the intro is very similar to "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed" highlight "Heart Swells/Pacific Daylight Time" until it explodes into an epic maelstrom, which edges towards My Bloody Valentine, musically at least. Lyrically, there are more great lines here than most bands can manage in a career. For example; "you could never kiss a Tory boy without wanting to cut off your tongue again", " I grabbed hold of her wrist and my hand closed from tip to tip/ I said “you’ve taken the diet too far, you have got to let it slip”", " ask her to speak French and then I need her to translate, I get the feeling she makes the meaning more significant" and "She was always far too pretty for me to believe in a single word she said, believe a word she said". Let's see Hard-Fi top that. In short, this is the best thing LC! have done so far and makes me unbelievably excited for the album. And what's more it's free to download from their blog, so go do that and then buy the album when it's released.