I've yet to hear 'the first great album of the year' or 'the second' for that matter, so it's with a clear conscience and complete disregard for continuity that I give the first great album of the year title to Vancouver's Ladyhawk and their great album - Shots.
OK, so it's nearly April and I'm not listening to as much new music as I used to. Partly because of various grown-up commitments and partly because there's just too much new music out there. For someone who used to base his musical jumps into the unknown on an appearance in a trusted band's Thank You list (or failing that usually buying anything on Sub Pop) - the alternative music choice in 2008 can be quite overwhelming.
An old-school rock band then, with guitars bass and drums - that stand and fall by the quality of the songs rather than a quirky hook, look or attitude, is to this cynic, a 21st century blessing. In this respect, I suppose Shots shares more in common with Black Mountain, than Vampire Weekend. Little surprise perhaps, as Ladyhawk share a label with their fellow Canadians.
Recorded in an abandoned farmhouse, over a booze-fuelled two weeks, Shots is the soundtrack to one of the great parties. Rocking hard in places, edgy and introspective in others, it's a party that could spiral out of control at any minute, but one you definitely don't want to leave. Like Neil Young and his honeyslide powered On The Beach, Shots really captures the mood of its recording.
I Don't Always Know What You're Saying kicks things off and sets the mood; with a reverbed and fuzzy production that sounds exactly like it was recorded in a booze-fuelled abandoned farmhouse. S.T.H.D., Fear and Corpse Paint, maintain the tempo - dark, edgy, rocking. Before they slow it down for a couple of tracks, I'll Be Your Ashtray calls to mind yet more fellow Canadian's - Magnolia Electric Company (“I'll be your ashtray. Because I only want to feel you burning.”) whilst Faces of Death carries the melancholic air of too much whiskey.
But before getting too down, the party kicks off again with Night, You're Beautiful a self-explanatory title that could neatly sum-up Shots. You get the idea that Ladyhawk love the night - not in a whitefaced-Gothic kind of way, more that all the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll is going on after hours ( “Darkness you touch my soul. And you fill my heart. And you make me burn when we're apart”) They love the night so much, they even include a few “do-do-do” backing vocals amongst the sludge guitars.
And what better way to round all that off than with an eleven minute epic. Ghost Blues is in no hurry to get anywhere, and even lulls you into thinking that they've succumbed to a bit of self-indulgence. Then, around the 6 minute mark, the band let out a mighty Primal Scream; a call round a campfire for a higher spirit to take them home, probably a call to the Pagan God of Awesome Parties - whose number, without doubt, is in Ladyhawk's favourites.
A. Great. Album.