1. The 100 Greatest Singers
2. The 100 Greatest Music Videos
3. The 100 Greatest Novels Of All Time
4. 100 Best TV Shows Of All Time
5. The 100 Greatest Artists Of All Time
6. The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time
7. The 100 Greatest Movie Characters
8. The All-Time 100 Greatest Toys
9. 100 Greatest Shut-Ups In Films
10. The 100 Best TV Shows For Men
11. 100 Greatest First Lines In Books
12. 100 Greatest Director Cameos
13. Top 100 Movies of All Time
14. 100 Greatest Guitar Solos
15. Top 100 Comic Book Villains
16. 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time
17. 100 Best Apps For iPhone and Android
18. 100 Greatest Songs Of The 00s
19. 100 Best Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time
20. 100 Best Graphic Novels And Comics
21. 100 Greatest TV Theme Songs
22. Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books 2000-2009
23. Top 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Movies
24. 100 Greatest Album Covers
25. Top 100 Literary Novels of All Time
26. 100 Greatest Punk Rock Songs
27. Top 100 Special Interest Movies
28. The 100 Greatest Movie Spaceships Of All Time
29. 100 Greatest Shoegaze Albums
30. Top 100 Comic Book Heroes
31. 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time
32. Top 100 Hotels & Restaurants In The World
33. 100 Best Graphic Novels Ever
34. The Best 100 Closing Lines From Books
35. The 100 Best Running Sneakers Of All Time
36. The 100 Greatest Drummers Of Alternative Music
37. 100 Greatest Television Episodes
38. The 100 Best Sneakers
39. 100 Greatest Movie Posters Of Film Noir
40. Top 100 Games Of All Time
41. The 100 Greatest Mash-Ups Of All Time
42. Top 100 Television Movies
43. The 100 Greatest Detroit Songs Ever
44. The First 100 Shoes To Cross The NYC Marathon Finish Line
45. 100 Greatest Wrestlers of The 90s
46. 101 Best Written TV Series
47. Top 100 Art House & International Movies
48. Top 100 Trailers
49. The 100 Best Games Of All Time
50, The Top 100 Global Brands
51. Top 100 Works In World Literature
52. 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time
53. Top 100 Books
54. All-Time 100 Best TV Shows
55. America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses
56. 100 Greatest Drum Beats of All Time
57. The 100 Best Horror Films
58. Top 100 Most Popular Modern Pinball Machines
59. 100 Best Villains In Video Games
60. 100 Greatest Graphic Novels
61. Top 100 Animation Movies
62. Top 100 Soundtracks of All Time
63. The 100 Most Iconic T-Shirts Of All Time
64. World's Best Top 100 Bars
65. All-Time Best 100 Albums
66. 100 Best Movie Soundtracks
67. 101 Best Stomp Boxes
68. Top 100 DJs
69. 100 TV Shows That Defined The Decade
70. The 100 Greatest American Novels 1893-1993
71. Top 100 ESA/Hubble Images
72. The 100 Favourite Novels of Librarians
73. 100 Greatest Cartoons
74. Talib Kweli's Top 100 Hip Hop Songs
75. 100 Greatest Songs Of All Time
76. The Greatest 100 Movies Ever
77. Top 100 TV Drama Series
78. All-Time 100 Gadgets
79. Top 100 Albums Of The 1990s
80. Top 100 Indie Love Songs Of All Time
81. The 100 Best T-Shirts Of The 2000s
82. 100 Best Novels of The 20th Century
83. 100 Best Movie Quotes
84. 100 Best Singles Of All Time
85. 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time
86. 100 Best British Films
87. The 100 Best Eminem Songs Of All Time
88. The 100 Most Begun "Read But Unfinished" Books
89. The 100 Most Important Art Works of the Twentieth Century
90. 100 Major Works of Modern Creative Nonfiction
91. 100 Pop Culture Things That Make You Millenial
92. The 100 Greatest Entrance Themes in Wrestling History
93. The 100 Greatest Movie Soundtracks
94. Top 100 Richest People in The World
95. Top 100 Prime Numbers
96. Top 100 Most Valuable Records Of All Time
97. 100 Most Controversial Films Of All Time
98. 100 Best Opening Lines From Films
99. 100 Best Burgers In The World (OK we had to cheat a bit for this one - here's 50 Most Amazing Burger Joints in the World, and here's another 51 Great Burger Joints)
100. The Hundred Best Lists Of All Time
Deluxe Daze: new bonus track/extendo version of Kurt Vile's Wakin On A Pretty Daze is due, featuring EP It's a big world out there (and i am scared) added onto the album. Bonus mixtape here too if you missed it. Tracks:
01 Never Run Away (string synth)
02 NRA Reprise
03 Feel My Pain
04 Snowflakes Extended
05 Wedding Budz
06 The Ghost Of Freddie Roach
07 (reprise reprise)
The new @TheRealKurtVile record "Wakin' On A Pretty Daze" is out April 8th. Check out the rocking 9m30s MP3 "Wakin' On A Pretty Day" here. And be prepared for some spelling issues with all these titles.
6th Jan 2012Read on Twitter
New Stephen Malkmus album 'Mirror Traffic' due August 23rd.
Beck is behind the controls.
That's the awesome cover above.
Don't make the same mistake I made with Real Emotional Trash. That was a grower after all.
Kurt Vile is putting the finishing touches to his next full length album, but to tide us over he's putting out another 7" first. Tracks are In My Time (mp3 here), with 2 b-sides: Early Dawnin' and Sad Ghost.
While the MPFree format usually means filler, if Kurt Vile's recent EP is anything to go by that will not be the case here. I even bothered to buy that last free EP.
In the words of Matador themselves:
"...although you're likely to hear one of these tracks on Kurt's next album, this 7", like every other of his releases, is an item that's worthy of it's own recognition."
6th Aug 2010Read on Twitter
Matador Records are celebrating their 21st birthday in style - with a 3 day blow out at The Palms in Las Vegas. Highlights include a Guided By Voices reunion ("The classic '93-'96 line up"), Superchunk, Spoon, Chavez and Kurt Vile.
I'll be honeymooning in LA at the time, so will see if I can trick Mrs CSF into attending.
Update: The tour is expanded, and GBV will be playing in LA. Too tempting.
Deathbed Plus 4
This 5 track EP comes into view as another darkly looming juggernaught in this impressive bands back catalogue. It continues on form the success of 2007's awesome Turn The Lights Out and though doesn't really aim to make much ground in terms of progression it manages to more that solidify this band as one of Matadors more steady exports.Read more 3 star reviews
Hippies is the Matador debut from this Austin three-piece and it improves on the previous Free Drugs effort. This doesn't stray too far from the archetypal dirty knees of your favorite garage bands and is all the better for it. Out of the ramshackle compositions come sugary choruses, rolling guitars and a frantic rhythm section. Vocal duties are often shared and the hooks are spat out at an alarming rate. It's non stop for just over forty minutes and sixteen of the finest jangle-pop you'll hear for a while.Read more 3 star reviews
Kurt Vile's new EP is free for 24 hours, as of yesterday. Get it now.
If you haven't already, check out his excellent album Childish Prodigy.
Domino and Matador have a great competition up to guess the tracklisting for Pavement's upcoming Greatest Hits compilation Quarantine The Past: The Best Of Pavement.
The competition is to guess the track-listing of the album, starting with mpfree (get it here) Gold Soundz. First prize is a pair of tickets to see the band at the Chimpovich-endorsed Summercase festival in Barcelona. The real best prize is for second place, however - with the second best guess of track-listing winning 5 custom pressed editions of the album, made up from re-mastered version of their choice cuts.
Although the compilation does not include any unreleased material, it definitely goes deeper than the "hits."
More at Matador.
Oh boy did I need Kurt Vile in my life. This second album couldn't have landed at a better time. With the beleaguered lo-fi scene experiencing something of a wind-down, Childish Prodigy stands proud as a more muscular sound but one that still maintains the ethos of the DIY scene. You couldn't really call this lo-fi with production as tight as this but there is a trail of fuzz that follows Vile's every word throughout the record. It's ragged and loose in its construction but is full of new ideas and blows a fresh and welcome breeze through this scene.
Growing up just outside of Philidelphia, Vile's love for music stemmed from his bluegrass aficionado father who also gifted him with a banjo at the age of fourteen. From this grew an absorption of everything musical which started to manifest itself in the form of a series of lo-fi bedroom recordings that incorporated everything from delta blues and skiffle to the minimalist aggression of bands like Suicide. With a number of releases on various labels Vile's free-flow style and signature languid drawl started to win him quite an underground following. Childish Prodigy is Vile's second album but first for Matador and while it retains much of the magic that pricked up ears years ago it is a much more diverse concoction of scuzz-rock and psychedelic folk and is enhanced hugely by the production of Philly engineer Jeff Zeigler. His touch turns this lo-fi sound into something deeper and more substantial while still drenching everything in feedback and echo.
The dirty blues-rock of opener Hunchback booms with muscle while the following Dead Alive is a simple construction of delicate guitar and vocals which are drowned in hazy fuzz. Like many of these songs it meanders almost without direction with Vile's casual style emanating as a stream-of-conciousness outpouring. Then you've got the mammoth Freak Train and Inside Looking Out which both stretch to around the seven minute mark. Freak Train assumes a brisk Krautrock pace and keeps with it until the fade-out. It's like taking the turning onto the M6 Toll and seeing only open road in front of you. Like the Toll it's long, open and you really don't mind paying for it. While Inside Looking Out is slow and aimless and plods on relentlessly. It's cavernous and dirty, it's claustrophobic and overflowing with effects with Vile hitting the red-line with his shrieked vocals. Then in total contrast you get the following track Unknown which shines in its simplicity. It's just Vile and an acoustic guitar and a bucket load of reverb. It recalls early U2 in the way it paints vivid sonic landscapes with the fewest of brushstrokes. The music undulates on waves of guitar for four and a half minutes of pure bliss. And it's in this contrast that the beauty of this record resides. You can get a whiff of John Lennon then be seduced by the intimacy of Springsteen's Nebraska-like minimalism. It demands patience from the listener though but this patience will be rewarded. His effortless style puts up a mask of simplicity but get this on some headphones and this apparent simplicity reveals untold depths and the songs just stretch out in front of you.Read more 4 star reviews
Born Again Revisited
The world of DIY noise-pop is a different place now than when we last heard from Ohio trio Times New Viking. In 2008 their Matador debut Rip It Off gate crashed the scene and sounded like a major malfunction in the recording room with red lined production drenching what sounded like good pop songs. It arrived with due critical acclaim but now seems quite run-of-the-mill due to the constant stream of like minded music that has descended upon us ever since.
Whereas the master recording for Rip It Off was delivered on cassette the followup, Born Again Revisited, arrived on VHS and claims to feature "25% higher fidelity." After hearing opener Martin Luther King Day you may start to get excited about this fact. It's the most coherent song they've given us and peals away some of the tape hiss to reveal great song structure and shining vocals. Don't be fooled as this coherence is short-lived and with the arrival of I Smell Bubblegum we're back in the grit and hiss that carried with it Rip It Off.
This isn't really a criticism but merely a minor disappointment. The abrasion that dominates the next few tracks seems rather too familiar now. But things have changed with this release and without sounding like they give a monkeys what other bands are doing these songs show a greater maturity. None so effectively as No Time, No Hope. With its chiming guitars and booming bass this song gives due space to the vocals, an element much overlooked with this band, and as the narcotic organs swirl into place we get a damn near perfect song in this genre. More highlights include the Japanther-like These Days and the anthemic Move To California.
Born Again Revisited has a pleasing amount of change to it after the wealth of DIY that has come since its predecessor but also enough of Times New Viking's trademark rawness. It's far more layered and varied and that extra 25% really shows in the gleaming high points mentioned. With the genre plodding on - albeit in a somewhat tired manner now - it's up to pillar bands like this to pave the way to new lands and this is a good start to the journey.Read more 3 star reviews
It was always going to be a hard act to follow. The title of Yo La Tengo’s 2006 LP, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, sits at the pinnacle of my exhaustively researched; top-ten-album-titles-in-history-EVER-super-chart.
I.A.N.A.O.Y.A.I.W.B.Y.A was also noteworthy given that Yo La Tengo’s sound might best have been associated with a kind of low-key, shoe gazing dreaminess. They were certainly not obvious candidates for the brilliant wall of aggressive guitar which opens that album, under the moniker ‘Pass the Hatchet’.
The reason I’m banging on about I.A.N.A.O.Y.A.I.W.B.Y.A is not just because the New Jersey 3 piece's new release clearly doesn’t make the cut for my chart. It's also that the album is not as good as its predecessor, period.
But that’s as far as the criticism goes. The album title may indeed redeem itself after all in terms of accuracy; much of the music here deserves to be popular. The songs are good, by turns romantic and melancholy but generally minus the rocking teenage swagger of 2006.
There are exceptions, Nothing To Hide, and the album’s closing track (a 15 minute guitar jam) And The Glitter Is Gone, dish out plenty of energy and angry chords. For the most part, however, the band act their age (this is their 12th studio album). On stand-out tracks When it’s Dark and More Stars Than There Are In Heaven, they stick to reflective and wistful; plenty of harmonies, strings, organ and gentle acoustic guitars.
Whereas I.A.N.A.O.Y.A.I.W.B.Y.A was bookended by the band’s trademark long playing epics, Popular Songs saves both until last; And The Glitter Is Gone preceded by, The Fireside. The latter track may remind you a little too much of the busker in the high street you’ll have heard, riffing chords and peddling the reverb on his slide guitar. Regardless, this is a haunting instrumental clocking in at over 11mins and entrancing for every one of those.Read more 4 star reviews
Rising from the ashes of Pretty Girls Make Graves, the Cave Singers have quickly expended beyond the success of that band and carved out a nice niche for themselves. Debut record Invitation Songs was an unknown quantity, bringing a certain mystery and uniqueness that was initially a little difficult to crack. Was it a guy singing? A girl? Marge Simpson? Are they taking the piss? Once those initial questions had settled down a little, the record settled in to become an easy stand-out of 2007.
There's certainly less mystery to this new record, but instead just a welcome anticipation that this is going to be good record. On first listen there's certainly little disappointment, but the initial reaction is 'here's some more Cave Singers' - 10 new tracks that sound like a direct expansion on the first album. Repeated listening quickly dispels that simple notion.
Over the course of opener Summer Light and second song Leap, the album ramps up to a higher tempo than Invitation Songs and it never looks back. The eclectic folky sound of the debut is subtly pulled back, stripping away some of the washboard and the melodica influence and giving way to a more traditional rock sound. That sound is bolstered by the production of Colin Stewart, who returns to man the decks after the debut, plus stints producing favourites including Black Mountain and Ladyhawk.
As the record settles in, the evolution of the band's sound starts to emerge, with them now sounding somewhat more grown into their sound. Songs are belted out with a more self-assured style and what was something of a novelty with the first record is now the definitive sound of an accomplished band. Songs like Townships, At The Cut (mp3 here), Beach House (mp3 here) and VV have an instant familiarity, sounding like old classics that you haven't heard in a while.
Warm, nostalgic, rocking and powerful - this is the ghost of Fleetwood Mac, channeled through the Pacific Northwest with magnificent success.Read more 4 star reviews
Julien Plenti Is ...Skyscraper
I'm not sure if I'd just temporarily had enough of Interpol, but 2007's major label debut Our Love To Admire failed to engage me. Tracks (and lyrics) like 'No I In Threesome' or 'Rest My Chemistry' just made the band seem like parodies of themselves - making it easy to imagine a Saturday Night Live sketch with Will Ferrell singing his shopping list, Interpol style. I just wasn't in the mood and after a few attempts it slipped away into the abyss.
Lead singer Paul Banks is back with the band's original label - Matador - for his first solo record, under the guise of alter-ego Julien Plenti. Banks had performed under the name prior to joining Interpol in 1998 and returns to the moniker here perhaps in an attempt to to scale back the arena-baiting sound of the band's recent work. While Banks' distinctive vocals certainly define the album, it's not a simple case of lumping this in with Interpol's main body of work.
The distinctive Interpol fuzz bass is often present, and pounding drums echo around Fun That We Have and to a certain extent Games For Days (unsurprisingly drummed by Interpol stick man Sam Fogarino), but the songs maintain a more low-key approach throughout, roughing up some of the over-applied polish of later Interpol. Banks' vocals are never quite unleashed to their full volume, but songs like No Chance Survival, the strings of Girl On The Sporting News or stand-out freebie Fun That We Have show another side to Banks that works very nicely.
While this makes is a nice addition to the Interpol cannon, the record does lack wallop in places - and the aforementioned thumping drums of old favourites Obstacle #1 or Not Even Jail would certainly add a bit of clout. Hopefully this side-project will give the day-job a re-boot and we'll leave that for Interpol #4 - I'm in the mood again now.Read more 3 star reviews
Pavement cohort Scott Kannberg is re-booting his Spiral Stairs persona - and releasing a 'debut' album in October on Matador and Domino. Much like Batmans 3 and 4, he's decided to overlook the overlooked Preston School of Industry releases.
As a teenager, once I got over the total, utter, complete sell-out of Sonic Youth moving from legendary indie labels like Homestead and SST to undeniably major label Geffen in 1990, it was obvious pretty quickly that nothing had changed for the band. While my interest seemingly waned after Experimental Jetset, a quick scan through the back-catalogue reveals that I have inadvertently absorbed every major release - and none could be described as disappointing or flat. After releasing 9 albums with the label, Sonic Youth left Geffen in 2007, before pulling the typically left-field move of releasing a greatest hits exclusively through Starbucks, then self-re-released Master Dik and finally settling with Matador for the release of The Eternal.
While The Eternal is being promoted as something of a new chapter for the band, there's no need to reset your expectations - and you're certainly in no danger of being disappointed. Early single Sacred Trickster kicks things off, before the abrasive pummel of Anti-orgasm lets you know the band have lost none of their power - or their ability to craft a catchy tune. The sing-a-long style of Leaky Lifeboat (For Gregory Corso) sits comfortably alongside the screeching rock of Calming The Snake, making for a strangely cohesive record.
Jim O'Rourke may have departed in 2005, but the open slot in the line-up made room for former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold and his contribution is note worthy here, providing a focused spine through many of the songs that the guitars swirl closely around. The best songs on the album follow the same pattern that my Sonic favourites always did: a simmering, bubbling pot of sound that harnesses the power of a storm and takes its shape as a subtly catchy leviathan. Antenna, What We Know, Malibu Gas Station - there's more than a handful of excellent tracks on here that will disappoint no one.
While 2006's Rather Ripped and Thurston Moore's own solo album have arguably moved the band into a more conventionally structured sequence of songs, it's easy to forget how much the musical landscape has shifted since the band's early, pioneering albums of the 80s. The feedback drenched sounds of Sister or Daydream Nation are now considered essential listening - due to the popularity of the 90s alternative explosion that Sonic Youth helped enable. As a result, it's easy not to appreciate how radical a custom-tuned 9.43 minute closing track like Massage The History may have once seemed.
While the girls may be commenting how good Kim Gordon's legs are for a 56 year old, I'm just happy that the band have kept their ambition and refusal to conform. It may not be so much of a new chapter, but at least The Eternal is the continuing story of an old favourite.Read more 3.5 star reviews
New Jersey's most famous Hal Hartley fans - AKA Yo La Tengo - are back with a new album through Matador.
Popular Songs is out in September, but you can listen to Periodically Double Or Triple now.
Surprise favourites the Cave Singers (review here) are back with a new album in August. Beach House will be out through Matador, and you can get an early peek by getting an mp3 from the Matador website.
Sonic Youth's new album The Eternal arrives on June 8th and they've already posted lead track Sacred Trickster for free download on the Matador blog - as well as details of a not-too-secret show at The Scala in London on April 27th.
You can pre-order the album through Matador's Buy Now Get Early program and start listening from April 28th.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that the new album by Connecticut trio Condo Fucks was a long lost demo from a band who's proper recordings sounded awesome, and actually you wouldn't be far wrong. That band is called Yo La Tengo and Fuckbook is basically their new album. Way back in 1997, in the liner notes of Yo La Tengo's I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, was listed a tongue in cheek discography of oddly named Matador releases, Condo Fucks being among them. This led to quite a following of this mysterious garage punk band. Most of these releases became so rare and limited edition that most people never even heard them. Well they're back and though it's not really publicised as the new Yo La Tengo record the fact that Georgia Condo is the drummer, James McNew the bassist and Kid Condo on lead guitar and vocals and the the album's title itself is slightly reminiscent of Fakebook, Yo La Tengo's cover record of 1990 it's not difficult to work it out, oh, and did I mention that this is a cover record as well?
All that aside, Fuckbook is a triumph no matter who gets the credit. It's like a whole album of those gritty garage jams that crop up amid the blissed out numbers on a Yo La Tengo record. It borrows from the 60's and 70's for it's cover material taking songs from the Small Faces, The Kinks, The Beach Boys and Slade and forcing them all through a decrepit mincer. The main point to note here is the production quality, and before all you uptight Hunches fans start lining up in the car park with your knuckle dusters, I like it. It's gritty as hell with great fists of guitars and crashing drums being swamped in feedback and muffled chaos, the vocals are launched from the back of the room and often get totally buried in this onslaught of grimy mess. It's The Stooges, but hardcore.
However, with the line up of songs this approach works magnificently. It sounds like a band free of their usual day job and loving the anonymity of their disguise. It's apparently a recording of a secret rehearsal that took place last March and it sounds like it. From the opening butchering of the Small Faces Whatcha Gonna Do About It? they lurch from one song to the next counting each on in with hurried impatience. The disguise slips on their version of the Kinks' This Is Where I Belong. If Ira's vocals weren't so buried it would be very clear who is behind this record. The Beach Boys' Shut Down brings the mask back up to the face as it races through the surf rock cover with gleeful abandon. The Flamin' Groovies' Dog Meat is a magnificently chugging brut, with James McNew at the helm and the spirit of the era in which this song was originally recorded is evoked to great effect. The band crash their way through this song without a care in the world and the same can be said for most of this record, actually all of this record. It sounds like what happens when the teacher leaves the room or fails to turn up at all. Cast your minds back to that magical moment when it looks like the teacher has forgotten your class and this is what it sounds like. Since I'm Not Afraid Of You... I was feverishly awaiting the new Yo La Tengo record, I'm ok now.Read more 3.5 star reviews
The Snow Leopard EP
It seems that having gone their separate ways Jonathan Melburg and Okkervile River's Will Sheff have become two of the hardest working and most prolific songwriters on the Americana underground scene. This year saw the release of Rook, Shearwaters mighty and deceptively impressive follow up to Palo Santo and just as the year draws to a close they sneak in this EP, The Snow Leopard. Named after probably the most stunning track on Rook, this EP rounds up many of the non-album B sides and giveaway tracks from the year and also some quite striking recordings from various radio sessions over the summer.
The title track just swells with a power that has become, over the last 2 albums, an expected element in this bands sound. Melburgs sweet voice quivers with all the vulnerability of a flickering flame but then rises with the music to below with dazzling confidence. There's a glimmer of madness in his voice as it reaches its peak only to fall to the floor and quiver once more. Much of this EP demonstrates Melburgs ability paralise the listener with an intimacy that can both freeze you with an icy chill and breath through you with unbelievable warmth. His radio K session performance of Rook, a song that flexes the muscles of this songwriter is stripped of it's strength and whispered with lonely acoustic accompaniment to great effect. Two of the tracks are covers, So Bad, originally by Baby Dee and Henry Lee, a traditional American folk song. They sit perfectly amongst the original Shearwater material and altogether form yet another valuable entry in this bands catalogue. They are an endlessly rewarding group who are really starting to master the many facets of their sound.
Read more 3.5 star reviews
The Dark End Of The Street (EP)
Another round of mix-tape ready covers from Cat Power - with these leftovers from the Jukebox album sessions taking in Creedence, Otis and The Flying Burrito Brothers amongst others.
As with Jukebox itself, this record provides something of a mystery. While the song choices are more in keeping with my personal favourites than the previous album, the delivery is just plain predictable. Marshall gives a perfectly acceptable delievery of every song, but adds little personality to the originals and just sounds like a lounge room crooner - leaving you to think, "what's the point?".
Like watching X-factor, you occasionally are struck with how difficult that last high pitched warble might have been, and although you know Simon Cowell won't be giving her any grief there's just not much future in it past that Christmas number one.
Read more 2 star reviews
New Intended Play sampler available for download over at Matador's website. Quite a few as-yet unreleased tracks on there - including a rarity from Pavement's upcoming Brighten The Corners re-issue. Full list:
1. A.C. Newman There Are Maybe Ten Or Twelve
(from Get Guilty, due out January 20)
2. Belle and Sebastian The State I Am In (BBC Version)
(from The BBC Sessions, due out November 18)
3. Jennifer O’Connor Here With Me
(from Here With Me, released August 19)
4. Shearwater The Snow Leopard (Remastered)
from Rook, released June 3)
5. Lou Reed Caroline Says, Pt. II (Live) (from Berlin: Live At St. Ann’s Warehouse, due out November 4)
6. Mogwai The Sun Smells Too Loud (from The Hawk Is Howling, released September 23)
7. Fucked Up No Epiphany
(from The Chemistry Of Common Life, released October 7)
8. Jay Reatard An Ugly Death
(from Matador Singles ‘08, released October 7)
9. Jaguar Love Humans Evolve Into Skyscrapers
(from Take Me To The Sea, released August 19)
10. Pavement Cataracts
(from Brighten The Corners: Nicene Creedence Ed., due out December 9)
11. Brightblack Morning Light Oppressions Each
(from Motion To Rejoin, released September 23)
12. Times New Viking Call & Respond
(from the Stay Awake EP, released October 14)
13. Condo Fucks What’cha Gonna Do About It?
(from Fuckbook, due out March 2009)
The Chemistry Of Common Life
The word "fuck" has become more acceptable throughout the "noughties", leading to bands casually incorporating this once offensive descriptive word. Not too far in the distant past I recall a dreadful funk metal band having to drop the fuck from their name to be replaced with funk; it was fortunate that their songs featured a sprinkling of slap bass. We currently have a batch of bands that incorporate fuck but this does not necessarily define the band to fit a obvious category of music, for example Fuck Buttons and Holy Fuck. Fucked Up in contrast are far more blatant with their intent: they are what it states on the tin - or in this instance on the album cover.
Having spent my teenage years influenced by then present and past performers of hardcore, both Minor Threat and Guerrilla Biscuits are two bands that I still listen to and have great affection for. It has on occasion briefly crossed my mind if any bands had emerged and managed to give this genre a kiss of life - unfortunately Fucked Up fall flat on their angry faces.
Hailing from Toronto, Fucked Up have been banging out their high brow hardcore since 2002, releasing numerous singles and producing energetic memorable live performances. Kicking off their second full length album with a pointless eighties thrash album tactic of beginning a song with a flute or a gentle tinkle of piano keys which is predictably kicked aside with the subtly of a hammer. As an indication of how unadventurous and dull The Chemistry Of Common Life is, the first few seconds are the highlight.
It is annoying to hear a supposedly aggressive band sound so boring. The guitars sound weak and lack any energy or ferocity, vocalist Pink Eyes (all the band have wacky names) is very reminiscent of Nick Sakes from the Dazzling Killmen which is a comparison to a more complex and far superior band.
Fucked Up did make me annoyed but that was due to having to listen to such offensively inoffensive music.Read more 1 star reviews
Matador Singles '08
I'm not going to bother with the back story to this prolific punk maverick as it wasn't that long ago that he put out the more than cohesive compilation for his In The Red Records releases. Reatard is a new signing to Matador records and for the last six months they have been putting out a limited 7" which. Each release has been put out in a progressively more limited run, starting with 3,500 worldwide for single No. 1 and ending with only 400 for No. 6. They experimented with multiple formats from picture discs, split 7" and colour vinyl and together they really show Reatard's love for this format and the freedom it brings.
As you'd imagine this collection covers a smaller timescale than the previous one and so sounds a whole lot more coherent. The fierce power-house bursts like It's So Useless have disappeared and the whole sound has changed in an interesting way. It hasn't mellowed, but Reatard has managed to morph his energy into fully-formed rock songs - but still shoehorns them into punk-length packages. So what you get is verse, chorus and guitar solos but all at breakneck speed like each song really has to be somewhere else, like, yesterday. The exception to this general rule is the Deerhunter cover version Florescent Grey which appeared on the split 7", the other song being Deerhunter's returning the favor with a version of Reatard's Oh, It's Such A Shame.
This collection will more than fill the gap for those eagerly awaiting Reatard's follow up to Blood Visions as it plays out like an album. He has experimented with his sound and spans a wide range, from the punk stab of Screaming Hand to the psychedelia of the Deerhunter cover to the full on pop of An Ugly Death. These new strings to his bow and the willingness to experiment are turning Jay Reatard into a power-house of an act that is always guaranteed to surprise. He displays a wealth of of ideas and an exciting lack of preciousness about releasing them. As a compilation this works very well but the real winner here is Reatard's resurrecting of the magic that goes along with the 7" release. It's a dying form, but since joining Matador he has shown that there's plenty of life in it yet.Read more 3 star reviews
The Hawk Is Howling
Scottish post-rockers Mogwai are back, with The Hawk Is Howling - their sixth studio album. Wall Of Sound are the label this time, with Matador releasing the record in the US.
The obtusely named I'm Jim Morrison, I'm Dead starts with a delicate piano, before building slowly as bass, guitar and drums layer on top of each other, steadily heightening the intense atmosphere. There are no vocals or lyrics of course, and as Jim Morrison didn't play guitar it's hard to know what he's saying. In fact, without lyrics the song titles are all we do have to decode this album and work out what Mogwai are trying to say. Thankfully "The Sun Smells Too Loud", "I Love You, I'm Going To Blow Up Your School" and "Thank You Space Expert" spell it out in black and white.
While titles like these might offer little in the way of explanation - seeming more like very personal thoughts and ideas - they do add a certain intensity and suggestion to the music, however misleading they may in fact be. Eschewing some of the more left-field experiments of previous records, the album plays a fairly straight bat - with most songs concentrating on a slow-burning intensity that leads to eventually reward, rather than the more pummeling up/down sound of some of their post-rock contemporaries. Where Explosions In The Sky virtually never fail to deliver an unmitigated rock-out, some of these songs do tend to boil a bit too long - failing to bubble over and ending instead in anti-climax by going for a more constant atmospheric approach, raher than hugely distinctive peaks and troughs. As a result, much of the album can slip by unnoticed - all thorurughly fine, but just slightly dis-engaging.
Mogwai have always seemed to have a bullet-proof mystique to them, from their cult name, through obscure concerts on Scottish islands, to the superior artwork of this and other records - dismissing potential commercial projects to work on the likes of the Zidane movie. The Hawk Is Howling does nothing to damage that reputation, instead just becoming another piece of a diverse cannon of work, much of which doesn't quite encapsulate the band as it seems like it should.Read more 3 star reviews
Take Me To The Sea
Fans of disbanded Seattle bands Blood Brothers or Pretty Girls Make Graves , may be excited to know that certain members of each (Cody Votolato and Johnny Whitney from BB. Jay Clark from PGMG) have joined forces, relocated to Portland, formed Jaguar Love, signed to Matador records and now released their debut album "Take Me To The Sea". Those same fans might also like to know, that while the complex and creative intesity that marked previous incarnations remains in place, the hardcore brashness has been smoothed down into something altogether more melodic. Not too melodic mind, as they have already snagged a support slot for leading rockers Queens Of The Stone Age in the States. Those fans need fear not either, Johnny Whitney's unique vocals are certainly present, correct and unique as ever.
And here's the crux of the matter; personally I've never engaged with either of those two former bands - so I'm taking no emotional currency with me into "Take Me To The Sea". The tunes are indeed complex, interesting, well put together, energetic and all the rest of it - but there is no escaping those vocals. Some of the more favourable critical comparisons out there include "pure Bolan-esque glam" or "Robert Plant on Steroids". Some of the less favourable "...like Perry Farrell after a sex change" or this gem..."..like a child being tortured". I'm in the latter camp - and while the music maybe "At The Drive-In', the vocals are definately more "Alvin The Chipmunks", which unfortunately makes the album pretty much unlistenable.Read more 2.5 star reviews
As the title may suggest, this compilation covers a very short space of time for this energetic songwriter, but one listen and you'll see that Jay Reatard has produced more quality material in one year than many bands get to in a life time. Jay Lindsey has been around for a while fronting various bands, but most notably The Reatards, which was actually just him alternating between vocals, guitars and a beat played out on an up-turned bucket. His recent solo work consists of one album, 2006's Blood Visions and a whole host of singles and EP's that are now out of print. So In The Red Records offer us this 17 song run through that collects together all these rare loose ends and the result is a startlingly consistent sonic clenched fist that repeatedly pounds your face for 38 minutes.
Opening track Night Of Broken Glass will let you know exactly what to expect from this collection as it launches in to screams and machine gun punk rock like a slightly polished Beastie Boys a la Heart Attack Man. Another Person is slightly more melodic, incorporating swirling synthesizers around the rapid drums and Reatard's voice that assumes an almost 80's New Wave monotone. The refreshing thing about Jay Reatard is that he never tries to do anything else but punk rock, but that's not to say that this collection lacks variety. Every song sounds like Jay Reatard but to write this off as a punch-in-the-face punk hammering would be wrong. Songs like I Know A Place and Hammer I Miss You keep a healthy pace but allow more percussion and melodic vocals with the latter evolving into a blanket tone of rising group vocals that seem remarkably majestic. Don't Let Him Come Back rides on a Monkey's-like rhythm section and is quite pedestrian by Reatard's standards.
But then, by contrast, you get the twin assault running down the middle of the record beginning with It's So Useless. Sounding like a possessed Marc Bolan, Reatard creates a near perfect punk song with the chorus being shrieked in time to crashing cymbals gladly recalling my Sham 69 days. All Wasted is slightly less abrasive but manages to merge the New Wave monotone with So Useless' catchy chorus, this time ending with the repeated chant of "All zombies are wasted, all zombies are useless to me."
For all its might and pace this is well crafted and slightly over polished punk rock. I may have described it as a clenched fist but I wouldn't be surprised if the fist had well manicured nails, maybe with glam-polish and relatively soft skin. Reatard's voice is very melodic no matter how much he tries to hide it. You do start to cry out for more short, sharp bursts like It's So Easy or Blood Visions with their classic punk urgency and pogo capabilities. This collection is less Black Flag and more Pop Levi, but at the same time he gives you enough indication that if it came to it he'd kick Levi's ass in a punch up. But if this doesn't satisfy your Reatard cravings then look no further. Having recently found his home at Matador, we lucky people get another round up of Reatard with the imaginatively titled "Matador Singles '08" compilation hitting stores on October 6th. The two compilations should undoubtedly show this guy as an artist of unrivaled energy and enthusiasm who seems physically unable to stop spewing out quality rock at an alarming rate.Read more 3 star reviews
Matador are now on the download store bandwagon, with a comparable effort to the recently announced Domino store. They offer mp3's for $0.80 and more-or-less uncompressed FLAC files for $0.99 - or $10 for an album, including whoppers like the 49 track Crooked Rain re-release.
While FLAC is marginally more fiddly than the uncompressed WAV's offered by Domino, the current exchange rate makes Matador an attractive offer - nearing my suggested £5 for an uncompressed new release.
2006's Palo Santo marked a bit of landmark for Shearwater with Jonathan Meiburg taking center stage as lead vocalist and the result was a much fuller sound that was way more ambitious than any of the bands previous work. The followup Rook has much work to do to keep up with its predecessor and despite a few bumps I'm pleased to report a worthy successor has taken up the crown.
The arresting cover image depicts a dark figure of a man with arms outstretched and cloaked head to foot in a swarm of rooks, His face is unrecognizable through the mass of feathered bodies and as you make your way down his solemn frame birds burst through his coat and emerge from pockets. He stands on a barren shoreline and the pallet for this scene is somber and dark with no hint of colour. While listening to the 10 tracks within, this image starts to take on new resonance and meaning. Rook is very much concerned with man's intersection with the natural world in all its facets from hunter to prey to the eventual extinction of species including mankind itself. Much of the record seems to come from a place so barren and wild that the very existence of human beings appears as nothing more than a haunting memory. Much like Palo Santo the music here can shift violently from a frail whisper to a calamitous boom and with Meiburg's unmistakable guidance Rook becomes a record of great visual power.
Though this record starts and finishes with two fine songs they don't seem like the right choices and had they been put in a different order Rook would work better as a complete concept. On The Death Of The Waters breathes life into the record with the faintest of breaths. Meiburg's vocals are as grey and as still as a winters day until the crashing waters change the scene in the form of a cacophonous orchestra. The violence of the two halves do seem to jar this early on in the record and it's not until the warmth of the opening guitar chords of the next track the we really start to settle in. Rooks is a glorious piece of work and one that we have come to expect from this band of late. With a steady drum pace and glistening musical rhythm section Meiburg's sweet tones drift gently throughout but show signs of teeth at just the right point. For me this feels like the album opener and it heads up a run of songs that form the spinal chord of this album and it's from these five songs that the structure and strength radiate.
Leviathan, Bound is a slow building song based around a gentle rhythm that ends in magnificent strings and ever increasing percussion subtleties while Home Life employs a similar structure originating from crackling drum taps and working towards an orchestral middle section that takes flight amid the soaring vocals of their captain. The music simmers like brooding weather patterns and changes direction with a glorious unpredictability, rising and falling, swirling and trickling.
Lost Boys struts proudly to a marching rhythm and triumphant horns tapering off slowly to the boiling might of Century Eyes. This is the first time the guitars have been given a proper run and they beat their fists with an energy of a force that has been kept under wraps for too long. Unfortunately the momentum that has been gathering ever since Rooks is somewhat dampened by some of the later tracks. I Was A Cloud seems to revisit this bands past at a time when the record was bravely conquering new territory and South Col's conceptual insistence might play to the theme of this album but slows things right down here.
Thankfully the shear scale of The Snow Leopard gathers these stragglers up in its all-encompassing arms and carries them away. It's often the case that a voice's true nature is found in its extremities and though Meiburg's vocal range is certainly extensive it is often held back like a force too powerful to unleash. Well there are fantastic glimpses of it here and it is only matched by the titanic mariachi horns that rise from the depths to accompany it. It's a colossal song and should really end the record. It feels like the band are giving it their all in a last chance show of power and the gentle melody of The Hunter's Star, achingly beautiful though it is, whispers in its wake like something of an after thought. It hurts to criticize as this song, had it appeared anywhere else in the record, would pierce you to the core with it's melancholy. But if song-order is the only thing that tries to drag this down then so be it, for at the beating heart of this album are some of the richest musical moments this band have created.Read more 3.5 star reviews
Rip It Off
There's lo-fi, and then there's TNV. I can't see the point, really. There might be some good tunes buried in this collection somewhere, but who's to say? I simply can't get past the TRULY APPALLING sound. The way I understand it, lo-fi is more of a musical ethic rather than a description of sonic qualities, but in the case of TNV it's taken much more as a literal way of life.
It's like being played a demo recorded on a cassette tape by someone who didn't know how to set the input levels. The entire signal is broken up and overloaded across the whole mix, thereby reducing the definition of any single instrument - you can't hear any bass frequencies for example. It's like being shouted at for half an hour, or played a sex pistols bootleg down a bad phone line. So much so, in fact, that it's just too wearing to pay close attention to. I don't want to have to wade through a river or crackle to reach the music, after all, it's supposed to be about the songs isn't it?
Perhaps TNV would be pleased to hear me say all this - yeah! Punk Rock! You know, if this stupid reviewer can't be bothered to extract the tunes, then he's missing the point and we don't want him as a fan. Well, if that's the case then fair enough. But folks, since someone's gone to all the trouble of releasing this record it might have been better to put something out that people might want to listen to more than once. Any chance of remixing it a bit cleaner...?Read more 1 star reviews
What could be better that a free album? A free compilation of Matador's forthcoming releases maybe - Intended Play.
Get it here.
Like an England early goal, a January love affair with an album almost certainly spells the inevitable slump into obscurity and defeat when it comes to the final whistle at the end of the year. Seattle's Cave Singers provided me with my first job of the year and though we all look set for a steady economic decline and general misery in the coming 12 months Invitation Songs has taken up the slack with its generous supply of much needed warmth this winter and only time will tell if it's still emitting this warmth come the end of play but I sincerely hope it is.
Cutting their teeth on a post-punk background and name-checking such bands as The Replacements, The Pixies and Fleetwood Mac as their influences this 3 piece has shocked everybody including themselves by creating what can only be described as a folk album. They never listen to folk music, they never intended to make folk music and until recently the guitarist had never even picked up his instrument. But all this can be seen to contribute to the honesty of this music and in this honesty comes its warmth, charm and power.
The music is uncomplicated with gentle guitar melodies being padded out with brushed and slapped drum beats and singer Pete Quirk's nasal drawl provides this music with the abrasion that is often missing from similar artists. Effortless stompers like opener Seeds Of Night (mp3) and Dancing On Our Graves recall Civil War marches with their relentless rhythm, while Helen is a tortured tale of lost love that swells slowly but then fades to nothing. This is the power of these songs as they hold in their repertoire the latent ability to freeze you with a sparse chill or scoop you up and cary you away on a thermal sky rocket, and they do all this without you knowing. This album makes no mission statements so it's effects are not easily spotted but deeply felt. This is very physical music and conjures up a whole host of landscapes around you as it plays. Called swirls around in a barely visible darkness with haunting cries looming out at you while Royal Lawns expands into cavernous halls that echo its melancholy. Elephant Clouds is the backbone of this record and is a curious affair indeed. It bears a strange resemblance to Richard Marx's Hazard and is still a corker. It tip-toes along on what is by now a trade mark nervous tension but then picks up into a galloping torrent of emotionally soaring awesomeness, but as is also a trademark it never fully puts out and leaves you breathless and wanting more.
The aptly named Invitation Songs has welcomed me into this musical year. It is an album dripping with mystery, its melodies are ghostly and empty and yet can turn with dazzling ease into foot-stomping rousers or delicate heart-warmers. Its humility will make it a slow burner but it has the power to seep into every corner of your life and once it does your life will be a better place.Read more 3.5 star reviews
Following her recent mainstream success with The Greatest and her rollicking cover of Stuck Inside of Mobile on last year's I'm Not There soundtrack, Chan Marshall AKA Cat Power returns with a whole album of covers - something of a sequel to 2000's aptly titled The Covers Record.
This swirling unfocussed blur of technically prefect renditions ranges from the bonifide classics like New York, New York through Hank WIlliams' Rambling (Wo)man, Dylan's christian-era I Believe In You and even including a re-working of her own Metal Heart from the album Moon Pix. The backing band pulls together another list of legendary performers - including Spooner Oldham, Teenie Hodges and Larry McDonald, as well as more contempaorary players like Matt Sweeney and Jim White.
With Cat Power's appeal seemingly moving beyond music and into fashion and celebrity it all feels a bit like an indie version of X-Factor. Like someone at the Karaoke bar with a bit of talent, it's impressive but not as fun or impassioned as a group singalong to Freebird ...and certainly doesn't fulfill the promise of hear earlier records, or the power and subtlty of songs like Cross Bones Style. WIth the low-key ethic of earlier albums like You Are Free polished away into oblivion, Chan Marshall could well be heading towards a 200 night stint in Vegas, especially now that Celine Dion has called it a day.
Marshall often adds her own lyrics to covers - as Dylan would do and even Led Zeppelin would to to Dylan with In My Time Of Dying. While this can inject a more interesting twist, it only highlights what's wrong with this record. While covers have always been an integral part of Cat Power's repertoire - and undeniably part of her live presence - it's the original material that works best here. With Song For Bobby, she tells of meeting long-time idol Bob Dylan and it's that personal touch that gives the song something more than just being an interesting rendition.
Seeming little more than a minor diversion as Chan runs for President, this album might just tide you over until she gets back to the main event.Read more 2 star reviews
Is Malkmus joining us in our Wire obsession? the new single's called Baltimore MPfree over at Matador. McNulty doing one of the freak-out prog-solos no doubt
Over on their You Tube channel, Matador have a couple of videos of Cat Power in the studio working on her Jukebox record, due this month. There's some other nice bits on there too, from new band The Cave Singers and old(er) favourites The Ponys.
Palo Santo (Expanded Edition)
For those slackers who missed 2006's dazzling fourth album by Shearwater, Matador are here to save your bacon with a pimped-up re-release consisting of 2 discs and new deluxe packaging featuring some stunning artwork. Palo Santo is the bands first album where Jonathan Meiburg assumes full vocal duties and the result is a grander, more rounded sound that sees them rise like a phoenix from the thick melancholy that engulfed their earlier work. This isn't to suggest that this isn't melancholy. The record is inspired by the life of Warhol muse Nico so it isn't going to be a bag of laughs but while they keep to the icy chill that has become their trademark Palo Santo serves up many moments of awesome grandeur only hinted at on previous records.
Formed in 2001 by Meiburg and Will Sheff, Shearwater was meant to be a vehicle for the quieter songs penned by the two musicians while working on their principle collaboration, Okkervile River. But after the addition of new multi-instrumentalists Shearwater soon grew way beyond initial intentions and Palo Santo is their crowning glory.
La Dame Et La Licorne opens the album and actually mirrors the career of this band quite nicely. It creeps into view with Meiburg's frail, quivering voice barely audible but gradually swells to thumping piano and howling declarations. And this sets us up for Red Sea, Black Sea, one of the albums many highlights. This takes no time to pound with all its heart on the galloping rhythm that dominates this song. It's these moments of real muscle that make this record pull away from the bands back catalogue and race forward with renewed energy and confidence. Seen again in White Waves' gritty electric guitar and Seventy Four, Seventy Five's pounding piano. Having said that, there's still plenty of room for the feather-light delicacy of the title track and the achingly beautiful Failed Queen where hollow landscapes are created with sparse acoustic guitar and the frail musings of Meiburg.
This element is explored in more depth on the second disc where we get demo versions of four of the original tracks. These are drastically stripped down renditions showing the extent to which this vocalist can vary his delivery. Having seen the heat of this voice on the first CD we now get the drifting whisper like a feint trail of smoke from a newly extinguished flame. There are also 4 new songs on this bonus disc including a cover of Skip James' Special Rider Blues.
This is an expansive album from a band who started from humble beginnings but are now evolving into a great rock outfit. Shearwater have always fitted into a tradition of songwriting that seems to capture the great American landscape in all its sparse, lonely beauty but with Palo Santo they have started to evoke the power and strength of this landscape and this refurbishment only serves to enhance that.
I went to see The New Pornographers a couple of years ago at London’s Borderline. I hadn’t really heard many of their tunes, but this Canadian 7/8 piece came highly recommended. I can’t say every one of their hard driving indie pop tunes clicked with me, but I was certainly impressed and puzzled by their style. There was something about the structure of their tunes that was odd and original and very compelling. (Plus, their drummer was mental and who doesn’t like to see that?).
Their fourth album, “Challengers”, is similar – there’s such variety in the way they build songs, and some great riffs dotted throughout, that on my first listen I kinda knew I liked it but at times I was perplexed as to why.
“My Rights Versus Yours” is a brilliant catchy opener that builds from a mellow folky start to flourish into an air-punching, foot stomping tune. This is followed by the equally ace “All the Old Showstoppers” which houses some great hooks and again made me do a little jig when it hit the heights. “All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth” is where they sound closest to fellow Canadians Arcade Fire, but the next two tunes, “Failsafe” and “Unguided”, are battling it out as my favourite on the album.
"Myriad Harbour", is another cracking tune where the singer starts the lines only for the rest of the band, like an annoying girl I once worked with, to finish his thoughts for him. This song also heralds the first of a couple of moments on the album, as the vocals get a bit Tenacious D (he asks his local record store for “an American music anthol-low-geeee” – Jack Black stylee), where I’m not sure if they’re having a laugh or being deadly serious.
Singing duties are, however, swapped around four band members (lady singers Kathryn Calder and Neko Case have - I can exclusively reveal - nice voices) and they pepper songs with some pleasant harmonies. These come through strongest in the splendid “Mutiny, I promise You” and the sparse “Adventures in Solitude”.
The main man of this side project (all band members release records as solo artists or with other bands), A.C. Newman, says “Over the years I’ve just learned how to write better songs”. It certainly seems apparent here as it feels like there’s more depth and diversity than on their previous albums. While it might not be as constantly full on as, say, Electric Version (their 2nd album from 2003) - which some of their fans may not thank them for - I think with repeat listens you’ll reap the rewards of this interesting and enjoyable album.
- The New Pornographers name, its suggested, was inspired by a quote from American Pentecostal Televangelist, Jimmy Swaggart, who declared that music was, yep, the ‘new pornography’.
- Jimmy Swaggart also hated gays: “'I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm going to be blunt and plain: if one ever looks at me like that, I'm going to kill him and tell God he died.”
- Jimmy Swaggart also publicly exposed one of his buddies for having an affair - claiming his mate was a "cancer in the body of Christ."
- What goes around comes around… Jimmy himself got busted – twice - for sleeping with prostitutes, but was less forthcoming in criticism on this one: "The Lord told me it's flat none of your business."
In what seems like a good move for everybody, Rough Trade records has joined forces with the Beggars group - already home to 4AD, Matador, XL and others. Hopefully that means we'll have a few more reviews from Rough Trade coming down the pipe....
Rough Trade, the seminal UK Independent label founded and run by Geoff Travis and Jeannette Lee, have today joined the existing labels within the Beggars Group, following the purchase by Beggars of Sanctuary's interest in the company.
Olé! Matador do it again. Since its formation in 1989, the New York label has maintained its position as one of the main players in Independent underground garage rock n roll whatever you want to call it. Such luminaries as Superchunk, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Pavement have passed through their doors and now, as the good music revolution version 3.0 keeps on rocking, they show no sign of dropping the ball.
Hot on the heels of the fantastic album by The Ponys, Matador have now added Melbourne 3 piece Love of Diagrams to the stable. As CSF has already posted, they are probably tired of the Gang of Four comparisons, so I won’t tire them further with that one. But there is no getting away from their stripped down sound of driving bass, urgent drums and sparse, reverbed guitars underneath it all, with Guitarist Luke Horton and Bassist Antonia Sellbach sharing call and response vocal duties. But this economy of parts does not sacrifice the whole; as smalltown butchers once said (before getting swamped by Major Label, Tesco) whilst extolling the virtues of a particularly fine piece of meat “Look at That. Not a bit of waste on it.”
And they waste no time in kicking off the album, Form and Function is a 90 mph statement of intent, Sellbach and Horton’s dual vocals recalling Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. The next few tracks continue in the same urgent vain, before they treat us to an interlude with the track ’Interlude’ - a nice and moody bass heavy instrumental, which shows they aren’t mere one-trick ponies - it reminds me of how fugazi used instrumentals to break up an album and take a breather. The next track Ms V. Export, is one of the strongest, Sellbach’s chantlike vocals take sidestage to her bass that practically eats up everything else around it.
Pretty much every press release that accompanies the latest hot new group, comes with the promise of incendiary live shows. The energy of the songs alone, makes me think that Love of Diagrams, wouldn’t disappoint on that front. However, until they are passing through your town - give some love of your own and get hold of this record.
June 4th will see the return of look bad/sound good favourites Interpol, with their new album Moderation ....which is not on Matador.
Love Of Diagrams EP
Melbourne band Love of Diagrams are a band that instantly conjure up a dozen influences, and while I can't put my finger on exactly what they most sound like, Blondie, Gang of Four and Yeah Yeah Yeah's are certainly a handful of suggestions. For once however the strong comparisons are not a criticism of unoriginality - instead giving their music an instantly recognizable feel that makes the songs seem like old favourites that you haven't heard in a while.
Pace of the Patience has catchy interplay between singers Antonia Sellbach and Luke Horton, with the girl/boy contrast giving them a sound like the mathematical punk of Gang of Four. The Pyramid is where the Blondie influence is most obvious - although mainly in Antonia Sellbach's voice rather than the actual sound of the music or song structure, which is often less traditional that the more obvious Blondie hits.
The production could do with a bit of sharpening up in places - as the muddy vocals are a bit low and sometimes that undermines what seems to be crisp pop-rock trying to get out. although No Way Out does address this problem a bit - using that mathematical rhythm to create a track like a beefed up version of Bis' Eurodisco. I'm sure the band are sick of the Gang of Four and Blondie comparisons by now, but having "One way or another" as the hook in your song was just asking for that.
Turn The Lights Out
Flying in the face of Chinese Wisdom, 2007 could well turn out to be the Year of the Horse. Chimp favourites Band of Horses are in the studio and on the European road, and now their equine-ly named contemporaries The Ponys release a strong album - that is setting the early pace for my Album Of The Year awards. Recently signed to Matador, Turn the Lights Out is the 3rd album from the Chicago 4 piece and is assured and promising in equal measure.
Theirs is a confident, multi-layered guitar sound that recalls Goo-era Sonic Youth and the Jesus and Mary Chain, but The Ponys aren‘t simply a fawning tribute band, there are enough ideas across the whole album to ensure that no lame tracks appear.
Out of the gates strongly and I’ll tip ‘em to remain ahead of the pack for the year to come. Good stuff.