16 March 2010

PLAYING CATCH-UP: Albums I've missed over the last two months

In my 64 day absence, I've missed out on reviewing a fair few albums, so I'm making up for that now.

1. Beach House - Teen Dream
Beautiful melodies, ethereal vocals, heavenly arrangements, but there’s only so many times you can listen to the same aural equivalent of a cloud. There’s nothing too heavy or groundbreaking on Beach House; take the songs individually and they range from okay to amazing (“10 Mile Stereo” being the best track on the album), but in one go, it’s just a bit too much.
SOUNDS LIKE: Someone dreaming of Grizzly Bear
ESSENTIAL: "Silver Soul", "10 Mile Stereo", "Take Care"

2. Blood Res Shoes - Fire Like This
Blood Red Shoes have struggled to escape the indie tag they’ve been tarred with, and rightfully so. They are a lot heavier than, say, Two Door Cinema Club. In fact, a hell of a lot heavier as seven minute sludge-rock closer “Colours Fade” shows. But being a little harder and heavier than their contemporaries doesn’t really excuse them from not moving on from their debut “Box Of Secrets”. And when I say heavy, I don’t mean “In Utero”/“The Holy Bible”/“Master Of Puppets” levels of distortion and disturbance; more like Radio 1 midday-heavy, or Hollyoaks soundtrack-heavy. Had this been their debut, it would have been quite impressive, but there’s feeling of déjà vu on pretty much every track.
SOUNDS LIKE: Nevermind-era Nirvana, fronted by a girl.
ESSENTIAL: "Light It Up", "Heartsink", "One More Empty Chair", "Colours Fade"

3. Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - The Logic Of Chance
In the two years since their debut, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip haven’t been given the kindest ride by critics. Why? I’ll never know. Le Sac’s beats now rival those of the biggest DJs around, whilst Pip’s flow has come on tenfold. Alright, the opening to Great Britain sounds alarmingly like Hadouken! and the spoken word “statistics” bit may sound cringeworthy depending on your fandom, but the insanely catchy chorus makes up for everything. Sticking with cringe moments, the “Rehab”-pisstake in “Last Train Home” doesn’t sit well with me, but I digress. For a band known for something of a novelty hit (“Thou Shall Always Kill”), the subject matter of most tracks is quite deep and, in the case of “Cowboi”, slightly unnerving. Cynics and year-round grinches will decry Le Sac vs Pip as preachy and overly political, but, at the risk of sound too much like Jon McClure, it’s better than album about girls and drinking. “The Logic Of Chance” is undoubtedly a step-up from the pair’s debut “Angles”, if only for the opening line of “Get Better”; “Imagine a song/that really reached out and touched kids/Not in a Daily Mail way/Innocence corrupted.”
SOUNDS LIKE: That cool-but-brainy teacher who's into hip-hop being let loose in the music department
ESSENTIAL: "Sick Tonight", "Great Britain", "Get Better", "Inert Explosions", "Stake A Claim", "Cowboi"

4. Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be
It would be easy to write Dum Dum Girls off as a third rate female Ramones, based on appearances alone. They’ve got the cool scowls down to a tee, leather jackets, names like Dee Dee, Frankie Rose and Bambi and they look as if they would almost definitely beat you in a fight. But instead of dumb, three chord, bubblegum punk, “I Will Be” contains some of the sweetest pop tunes you’re likely to hear this year, albeit hidden behind swirling shoegaze guitars and a few walls of distortion. “Bhang Bhang, I’m A Burnout” is an ideal sunny summer day soundtrack, whilst “Blank Girl” is already a forerunner for one of the tracks of the year. With only two tracks crossing the three minute line, the Girls don’t outstay their welcome, but leave you with enough hooks and harmonies to keep you satisfied.
SOUNDS LIKE: Girl group pop, with a metric ton of attitude, behind MBV guitars.
ESSENTIALS: "Bhang Bhang, I'm A Burnout", "Jail La La", "Yours Alone", "Blank Girl", "Baby Don't Go"

5. Eels - End Times
Excluding the refrain of “Mr E’s Beautiful Blues” (“Goddamn right, it’s a beautiful day”), Mark Oliver Everett has never been one for looking on the sunnier side of life. Having just gone through a divorce before recording “End Times”, that was never going to change on this album. If you’re having a bad time at the minute, it would be advised to avoid this album, unless you’re a) of sound mind, b) away from anything noose-y or razor-blade-y and/or c) enjoy revelling in downbeat acoustic laments. “End Times” isn’t fill with up tempo indie rock a la previous hits “Souljacker Pt 1” and “Novocaine For The Soul”, but turning misery, heartbreak, divorce et al into positive rock ‘n’ roll is a tricky thing to do, and luckily E steers clear of trying. At fourteen tracks, it may drag a little, but as usual with Eels, it’s never boring, and often brilliant.
SOUNDS LIKE: Music you'd need to make/hear after a break-up
ESSENTIALS: "Gone Man", "In My Younger Days", "Mansions of Los Feliz", "A Line In The Dirt", "End Times", "Nowadays", "I Need A Mother", "Little Bird"

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