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A$AP Rocky

LiveLoveA$AP Mixtape

Still bitches and money but spat with plodding intelligence. Totally fresh.


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28th Nov 2011

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Radiohead

TKOL RMX 1234567

Never thought I'd say this but what a YOL (Yawn Out Loud), totally unnecessary.


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14th Oct 2011

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DJ Shadow

The Less You Know The Better

Got a definite late 90's vibe but these beats are booming. Welcome back.


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7th Oct 2011

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Girls

Father, Son, Holy Ghost

This band just keeps getting better. More muscle, more romance, more great songs.


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27th Sep 2011

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Wilco

The Whole Love

Touching on the musical bravery not seen since A Ghost Is Born this is a return to form. Ish.


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26th Sep 2011

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Skying

The Horrors

Fleshing out their sound with every release, this is the most solid so far. Esp Endless Blue.


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26th Sep 2011

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The Drums

Portamento

Nowhere near as fresh and punchy as 1st album. Even tempo throughout makes for few peaks


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21st Sep 2011

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The War On Drugs

Slave Ambient

Impressive expansion from Future Weather EP. Nicely rocking the Kurt Vile vibe.


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2nd Sep 2011

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The Cool Kids

When Fish Ride Bicycles

Retro style diluted when stretched over a whole album but some nice jams


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2nd Sep 2011

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We Are Augustines

Rise Ye Sunken Ships

Formed out of the ashes of Pela this is a worthy debut. Welcome back boys


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2nd Sep 2011

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My Morning Jacket

Circuital

I'm trying but this really is a big pile of poo. Will the real MMJ please stand up.


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1st Sep 2011

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Baxter Dury

Happy Soup

Sounding more and more like his dad this is a worthy follow up to Floorshow. Loving Isabel


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1st Sep 2011

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Beirut

The Rip Tide

Another joyous installment from Zach Condon. Not a whole lot of change but who cares.


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1st Sep 2011

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All Of My Friends Are Superheroes

Andrew Kaufman

Delightful short story full of insight and heartbreak. Recommended.


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30th Aug 2011

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Girls

Broken Dreams Club

Had this for ages but cant stop listening to it. Carolina is endlessly appealing. Perfect


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12th May 2011

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Panda Bear

Tomboy

I'm convinced the world doesn't need Panda Bear AND Animal Collective. One's gonna have to go.


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10th May 2011

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Low

C'Mon

Not as dazzling as Great Destroyer but this puts them firmly back on track after subpar Drums And Guns


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19th Apr 2011

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The Vaccines

What Did You Expect From The Vaccines

The new Strokes? Err no. The new Editors? Very possibly. So so


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17th Apr 2011

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Radiohead

Supercollider/The Butcher

More minimal techno to pad out/compliment Limbs. Builds to little but great.


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17th Apr 2011

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Atmosphere

The Family Sign

Disappontingly down beat new one form Slug and Co. Lacks all the bump of before.


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15th Apr 2011

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Moon Duo

Mazes

Driving Krautrock, hypnotic rhythms, dark guitars but with touches of clarity previously missing


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3rd Apr 2011

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Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

Belong

As before retro haze over breathy vocals, but now with added muscle, perfect 4stars


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2nd Apr 2011

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Pharoahe Monch

W.A.R

Tight and gloriously clever rhymes spat over earth shattering beats, pure class, end of


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2nd Apr 2011

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Coldcut Journey's By DJs

Dug this classic out today. 70 mins of pure genius mixing. Highlight is King Of The Beats


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30th Mar 2011

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Newsflash Chimps: Street Art

Stuffed bear, Berwick Street.

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19th Dec 2010

View this picture and comment at Flickr

Jaill

That's How We Burn

Sub Pop

Sub Pop's newest signings are really lightening my mood of late with this debut album of effortless indie rollers. With lead singer Vincent Kircher's grasp of melody and the ease of which this band deliver their message, That's How We Burn emerges as a record beyond its years. This could be due to the band's stint in relative musical obscurity - a stint that saw them develop their style and form a sense of unity that, well, unites this sound.

Nothing's being rewritten here; there are few stand-out moments and the album works more as a whole as it runs on a pretty even tempo for its entirety. But it's in this simplicity and familiarity that my enjoyment has found its foothold. With songs like Everyone's Hip Jaill inject a certain degree of muscle into the archetypal indie jangle and a good dose of the surf rock vibe presides throughout. Falling neatly alongside bands like The Soft Pack, Jaill have stuck to what they know and done themselves proud.

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3rd Sep 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Sufjan Stevens

All Delighted People EP

All's been quiet from the Sufjan camp in terms of new material since 2005 - and out of the silence emerges this 8 track EP. To put it mildly I think I'd prefer to watch reruns of England vs Algeria 2010 than listen to this again. It's equally as dull, but just doesn't have so much riding on it. To be honest I think I'd given up on Mr Stevens somewhere between Illinoise and one of the endless Christmas albums. Bookending the now pretty formulaic delicate and breathy ditties are two songs that stretch out in a bloated and directionless yawnfest. I'm even getting bored of writing this review, I'm officially done with Sufjan Stevens, shame I won't get to see the conclusion of his American States project.

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27th Aug 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The Drums

The Drums

Island

Emerging bleary eyed from the Christmas/New Year haze I was confronted with nothing but talk of immanent financial hardship and the merits of a New York band called The Drums. I laughed off both as mere hype but lo and behold they've both come true and after hearing this debut album the latter certainly certainly makes the former rumor more easy to bear. If you have the Summertime Ep released last year then you'll be familiar with a lot of this but that shouldn't dampen your enjoyment in the least. Swamped in British eighties warmth but infused with a charm and freshness that seems to only emanate from the States at the moment The Drums continue in part what bands like Vampire Weekend started. These are simple songs heavily recalling bands like The Cure or New Order but laced with a rolling surf-rock sensibility. It's a fine mix and one that benefits form a full length format. They've bravely left off two of their most popular songs from Summertime, I Felt Stupid and Submarine, but left their flagship Let's Go Surfing, a song that won them their considerable acclaim on the blogs.

In these dark times I continuously look across the pond for indie-pop alleviation and with The Drums I look no further. It's not reinventing the wheel but who needs reinvention with a record as joyous as this. Highlights include Forever And Ever Amen and I'll Never Drop My Sword.

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11th Jun 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The Ponys

Deathbed Plus 4

Matador

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.

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11th Jun 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Active Child

Curtis Lane

Merok

As the dying beauty of opener I'm In Your Church At Night fades gently into the background you'll ask yourself where on earth this sound came from and how dare it pop up and steal your heart this damn easy and with such little warning. Well it's the momentous achievement of Pat Grossi who's soaring falsetto vocals are the instant attention grabber. They float with a fragility that caries with it real power. Miscellaneous fuzz and effects follow it's every movement and when supported by the calamitous drums on Weight Of The World the effects are utterly dazzling. This music is dream-like in its production with different planes of sound from twinkling harp to great synth oceans sliding in front of the vocals and pushing everything into the distance and rendering it all untouchable. This only serves to encourage your ears and soul to strain even harder to reach the prize.

With such simple strokes Grossi produces epic magnitude and though the EP only spans 6 songs its power is astonishing. It's the soundtrack to a momentous event in your life.
Killer tracks: When Your Love Is Safe, I'm In Your Church At Midnight.

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11th Jun 2010 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Wild Nothing

Gemini

Wild Nothing is the work of Virginia's Jack Tatum and though Gemini wears its 80's mope influences on its sleeve it does it with pride. Drenched in hazy sunshine, vocals buried in texture, swirling jangle guitars and synth washes all combine to create a glorious mud of sound that penetrates every pore of your being. It has the nostalgia of Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and the subtle mesmerism of The XX. It doesn't however have the heart stopping captivation of either of those bands but comes a close third. Like a gently drizzly day, you'd have to spend some time in this music for it to soak through, but soak through it certainly will. It sounds familiar but gloriously so.

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11th Jun 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The Soft Pack

The Soft Pack

Heavenly

I know this has been out for ages but I'm just loving it. Formerly known as The Muslims, this San Diego four piece wisely changed their name and emerged with a belated release of this debut proper. It doesn't rewrite anything but just hits all the indie-punk buttons in quite a mild mannered, but endlessly pleasing way. The formula is very much two minute breakneck shots of garage rock full of jangle guitars, frantic drums and all propelled by singer Matt Lamkin's deadpan swagger. Where this formula is broken is where this band really come alive. Midway through the record you get Pull Out. It establishes a steady beat early on and keeps it steady throughout. Lamkin's repeated vocals give it an almost Krautrock kind of mesmerism. It builds up on this pace then crashes down to return to the rolling drum beat, then starts the process again. Closing track Parasites continues this structure but eases down on the gas and finishes things with at a belting pace. It employs extended areas of driving guitar between Lamkin's shouted vocals and sees the last minute out in this fashion. I's the final sprint and it's electrifying.

There's been much hype surrounding this band, largely due to the name change but also some pretty memorable live shows. This hype has taken its time to manifest here in the UK and it might have been difficult for a small band's reputation to precede them this much. But this release does all that justice and more than wets the appetite for the future.

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4th Jun 2010 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Darwin Deez

Darwin Deez

Lucky Number

The problem with this record is evident from the opening bars of the second song. You'll find it's a slowed down version of the first. And this feeling of familiarity runs from song to song and ultimately masks their merit. And they do indeed display their fair share of merit. Running very much in the Strokes / Albert Hammond Jnr school of indie pop this debut is comprised of very simple songs built around the guitar/ drum machine structure. Standout tracks are Constellations and Radar Detector and the reason being that they and a few others are the rare times when the song structure varies. This debut shows promise but does it over and over in the same way.

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4th Jun 2010 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Male Bonding

Nothing Hurts

Sub Pop

Male Bonding are trio from London and after an early spell of pretty abrasive noise-pop they've evolved into a more well rounded band and have been scooped up by Sub Pop the lucky little beggars. Their early noise excursions still remain in the mix here but have been filled out with a delicious serving of mangy punk-rock packed full of hooks, fierce guitars, crashing cymbals, basically everything you'd want from this label. Very much in the neighborhood of bands like No Age or Abe Vigoda these guys marry perfectly the lo-fi scuzz with the garage-rock sensibility and always keeping a sideways glance in the direction of melody and structure. Nothing Hurts doesn't quite match the reckless abandon of Japandroids but it's brimming over with excitement and raw passion. Killer tracks are More Things This Way and Franklin.

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4th Jun 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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James Murphy & Various Artists

Greenberg Soundtrack

Parlophone

Arranged and composed by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy this soundtrack to Noah Baumbach's film is a fantastic mix of genres, tempos and moods. Kicking off with The Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner this features many heavyhitters, the highlights being Galaxie 500 and Duran Duran surprisingly. But the real delights, unsurprisingly, come from Murphy himself. This is obviously the perfect vehicle for him to flex muscles not permitted in his day job. And these muscles conjure up a more thoughtful and etherial sound comprised of minimal song structures and reflective, fragile vocals. The whole collection is perfectly conceived and further illustrates Murphy's dominance of everything creative in the whole world ever.

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4th Jun 2010 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Holy Fuck

Latin

Young Turks

This is the third album from the beautifully named Holy Fuck and it's an altogether tighter affair than its predecessors and dwarfs them all in terms of size. As the the ambient 4 minutes of 1MD opens the album it looms into view like an advancing apocalyptic, 7 storey doomsday machine. As its debris clears Red Lights booms with colossal rhythm and the pace and magnitude rarely lets up until the dying textures of the brutal closer P.I.G.S. Their combination of synth melodies, crunching rhythm and booming guitars seem to gel more concisely here and as each song serves to build this machine higher and stronger and the even more threatening Latin will leave you wasted and spent in its wake.

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4th Jun 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Radio Dept.

Clinging To The Scheme

Century Media

This record is the moment you pull open the curtains on a bright summers morning and your eyes gradually adjust to the change in light as the day creeps into focus. They come from Sweden and Clinging to The Scheme is their third release. It's a dreamy blend of 80's indie-pop and gentle dance beats. It glistens with freshness and clarity as unassuming melodies drift up, out of the sun-soaked haze to take your breath away. Highlights include Heaven's On Fire and Never Follow Suit.

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28th May 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Moon Duo

Escape

Woodsist

Moon Duo are a San Francisco duo consisting of Sanae Yamada and Eric Johnson who in case you didn't know is the guitarist behind the swirling psychedelia of Wooden Shjips. Escape, their debut full length is very much a continuation of the head-fuck hypnotics that Wooden Shjips ooze out. It spans only 4 tracks and clocks in at just under half an hour as you'd expect. As the guitars whip up a monotonous pounding rhythm Johnson's vocals emanate with a whisper and get buried under the calamitous sonic onslaught. Some are slow and driving and some are nimble but all are bloated with strength.

Escape is a worthy addition to what Wooden Shjips do so well. Eight minute opener Motorcycle, I Love You never lets up with it's narcotic repetition and Stumbling 22nd St fizzes with scuzz. Awesome.

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28th May 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Harlem

Hippies

Matador

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.

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28th May 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Phosphorescent

Here's To Taking It Easy

Dead Oceans

I guess there's two ways to approach a critical analysis of this record. Firstly on its own merit and as a piece of work independent of its predecessors and then secondly in direct comparison to said predecessors. Taking the first route, Here's To Taking It Easy is blissful. Matthew Houck's fragile vocals are complemented and bolstered by a full band and swelling, rich orchestration full of horns, meaty rhythm and soaring backing vocals. It comes off the back of 2009's For Willie, an album of Willie Nelson covers, and sees Houck's writing happier, fuller and and more linear.

Now for the second route. Houck's 2007 release Pride was an exceptional piece of work. It was uncompromising and difficult, it was haunting and utterly bewitching. As track after track sprawled out over nine minutes it hypnotized you with its looped vocals and stark atmospherics. Houck's same fragility threatened to break under this weight and the tension was what kept you hanging on. There is very little of that approach in this record and so I must admit to a certain degree of disappointment. I had figured the tempo and general upbeatness of For Willie was due to it being covers. But it looks like this is the way Houck is heading. Having said that, I love it as a country record, full of heartfelt tales of sorrow and love-lost. I think I'm over-thinking this way too much.

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28th May 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The Week That Was

You may have noticed this year that the review section has been rather malnourished. Well we figured, why keep adding to the endless critical sewage that's pumped from the internet every second - who even reads this shit? I certainly stopped reading lengthy track-by-track reviews a long time ago. So, as well as the occasional review of a release that really warrants chatter, we're going to start including a quick weekly rundown of records that have been pricking up our ears - mostly new releases but the occasional lost classic might squeeze in as well....

This week:
Radio Dept.
Sage Francis
Moon Duo
Harlem
Phosphorescent

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28th May 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

LCD Soundsystem

This Is Happening

DFA

From the solid dance record that was their self-titled debut, LCD Soundsystem have managed to successfully evolve into one of the most essential acts around today. As solid as the debut was, you'd be forgiven for pegging them as a one trick pony. 2007's Sound Of Silver put paid to any of that by topping all the 'best of' lists that year, including All My Friends gaining the top spot on my "best tracks of the decade" list. With that record they stepped out of their dance shoes and became so well-rounded it's almost annoying. James Murphy's got his shit locked down. He hooks the chicks with his onstage antics and charisma, and appeals to the guys by looking like a record company executive that's trying his hand on the shop floor - and aceing it every time.

So what next then for Murphy and crew? Well there's only one thing for it. You follow all that up with an equally tough record and meet the throbbing expectation head on. I say "equally tough" but This Is Happening isn't quite as satisfying as Sound Of Silver although it's close enough. Opener Dance Yrself Clean is a hell of a way to kick off a record; starting slow then punching in with the most pleasing beats since Daft Punk last played in his house. All I Want is the other power-track here and one that really displays the multi-string bow with which this band wield their charm. Centered around a looping guitar chord, it stretches out over six minutes with very little in the way of chorus, it just goes on and on with trance-like sensibilities which are interjected with bleeps and synths that swirl and dive around this structure. Pow Pow is reminiscent of I'm Losing My Edge and also Talking Heads' use of spoken word. Closer Home wraps everything up so perfectly with a near eight minute swirler of unbridled joy. It's another one that's gloriously reminiscent of Talking Heads and one that displays Murphy's trick of "all verse" delivery. The length of these songs coupled with the "all meat and no fat" structure gives an album like this some considerable might.

Everything James Murphy creates under this banner will ultimately be classed as dance music but this has an intelligence rarely seen in the genre. It's fiercely contemporary with songs like All I Want but then gloriously retro with Change and You Wanted A Hit. It's got its weak points however. Somebody's Calling Me is a bit tedious and lead single Drunk Girls (which just sounds like a lazy attempt to prick up the ears of radio listeners) is a touch thin. Having said that, along with I Can Change it's really the only conceivable choice they've got in terms of releases, when every other song here averages out at seven minutes. But when you're surrounded by such quality it seems darn-right picky to pinpoint these as weaknesses. It's a pretty rare thing when you get an album that I clearly haven't enjoyed as much as the predecessor that's so good there's really no reason to mark it any lower. (Having said that Sound Of Silver should really have been 4.5)

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17th May 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The National

High Violet

4AD

Stumbling across Alligator in Fopp on a non-descript weekday afternoon in 2005 worked out to be one of the sweetest and unexpected musical highlights of the past ten years. Since then, this Brooklyn band has consistently honored that experience by confidently building on Alligator's success. 2007's Boxer raised the bar to heights that even Alligator rarely hinted at - and so, expectation was swollen and bloated beyond the humble proportions that this band cultivate. Since Boxer the Dessner brothers have proved themselves to be quite a creative force in today's industry putting out the Dark Was The Night and Long Count projects, so with all that added experience High Violet was set to be stellar.

I have to admit though to feelings of disappointment throughout many of the initial listens here. Boxer's rich soundscapes and widescreen ambition seemed to have been compromised in favor of a much more low key sound. Matt Berninger's dichotomous writing can lift you up on "A wingspan unbelievable" with confessions of inadequacy and insecurity but here seemed to fall short of those heights and feel more content to leave you wallowing. The pace also hints at this redirection of vision. Boxer was a drummers album and High Violet rarely exploits this aspect to the same extent.

But to cut a long story short, now I bloody love it. I must have had it on repeat constantly for the last week and this new direction has seeped into my soul and to this day refuses to release me. I guess a good way to describe High Violet is in depth rather than height. While Boxer could often soar, these songs bury deep and take you to much darker places and all with the same tools. The same rich pallet is employed here as it swirls and builds with intricate subtlety around Berninger's baritone hum. Having their own studio and the gift of time afforded them space to obsess over every minute of this record, but instead of suffocating under these conditions it thrives - and it takes a skilled group of musicians with enough self awareness to achieve such a result. Speaking about their approach to High Violet, Aaron Dessner says "Matt expressed a desire to hear things that "sounded like hot tar. Or loose wool." This goes some way to describe the finished product that is High Violet. Songs like Sorrow and A Little Faith drip out with such thickness that given a decent pair of headphones it's quite easy to lose yourself in their density. Anyone's Ghost and Afraid Of Everyone are hollow depictions of loneliness and isolation, while Bloodbuzz Ohio continues where the Boxer heights left us.

Seeing them on their tour of Boxer I was quite worried to witness the bloated endings that seemed to have been tacked on to most of the songs. At the tail and of the vocals the Dessners' would step forth tho the front of the stage and elevate each song to a Wilco like frenzy of feverish guitars, and it really didn't suit their style. High Violet opener Terrible Love does this too but I am very pleased to see the restraint that this album shows and it never does it again. Given their astonishing rise this band would be forgiven for letting some of it go to their heads but this record shows this not to be the case. It is a work of admirable restraint yet progressive enough to honor the memory of what's gone before.

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13th May 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The Coolest Guy in the World...?

Not quite sure what to make of the multi-faceted talents of this dude...

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14th Jan 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

Best Fails of 2009

Here's a 2009 round up with a difference. Best Fails Of 2009 is like a skate slam section crossed with You've Been Framed crossed with every other police chase show but there's some real gems in there.

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13th Jan 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

Best Of 2009

BC

It's been a crazy old year 2009, not quite the end of the modern world as predicted from the rubble of 2008 but strange nonetheless. And what better soundtrack for utter misery than the New Jersey new boys Titus Andronicus who stole the show for me early on this year. Heavyweights Sonic Youth returned with the solid The Eternal and Doves continued their run of form. Punk duo Japandroids were the unexpected highlight this year with Post Nothing. They sat proudly on top of an over subscribed DIY noise scene. Disappointment came in the form of the bloated Decemberists album and the equally bloated Monsters Of Folk gig at The Troxy Here's my lists...

Titus Andronicus - The Airing Of Grievances
It's pretty sad when the album of the year arrives in January and technically this is a 2008 release but really, who even reads this shit? No matter what came after this nothing could match the shear might of this debut.

Japandroids - Post Nothing
This came out of nowhere and has been rocking my world ever since. It's raw, simmering energy just makes you wish you were young again, when making out and living forever were as important as as likely as eachother.

Doves - Kingdom Of Rust
They've been pumping out solid albums since the start of the decade but Kingdom Of Rust seemed to be the most perfectly formed of them all. The opening 3 tracks are the strongest starting line up this year.

Girls - Album
This gets my award for the most original release, even though it sounds like so many other things. Achingly sad from start to finish but utterly uplifting nonetheless.

Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer
After the compelling yet bloated and slightly confusing Random Spirit Lover I was surprised to find Dragonslayer so succinct. It's some of Krug's finest work.

Honorable Mentions:
Sonic Youth - The Eternal
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Loney Dear - Dear John
Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
Why? - Eskimo Snow
The XX

Gigs:
Wilco - The Troxy
Pearl Jam - O2
White Denim - Old Blue Last
Titus Andronicus - 100 Club
Jason Lytle - Islington Academy

Songs:
Japandroids - Heart Sweats
Sonic Youth - What We Know
Doves - The Outsiders
Animal Collective - My Girls
Girls - Hellhole Ratface

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23rd Dec 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Fuck Buttons

Tarot Sport

ATP

Having produced one of the most intense and energy draining albums of 2008, Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power return with a much more user-friendly take on their drone headache and one of the most succinctly perfect dance records I've heard for a good while. Street Horrrising had its fair share of melody and pop sensibility, but that's before a tone of ear scraping noise was dumped on it from a high height and all but obliterated any nod towards recognised form. That's not to say it wasn't an endlessly intriguing piece of work, but I must admit the shift that has occurred with Tarot Sport comes as a welcome change and one that retains all the edge we associate with this band, but channels them into subtler and more palatable structures.

There are various factors behind this change of approach and therefore sound. The enormous expanse of songs like Sweet Love For Planet Earth that opened the first album came from a post-rock school of thought and while this thinking still drives every song here it comes from a more electronic place. The other factor to bear in mind would be Andrew Weatherall at the helm. His influence is stamped all over this record and the combination of his techno history and Fuck Button's post-rock drone tendencies is a near-perfect marriage. The band explain Weatherall's input: "There are so many more layers of sound that we needed somebody with the ability to spread these out over a wide plane... The ambition of sound in this record required him to realise it." The result is massive synth textures that grow and evolve around meticulously constructed rhythms which together expand into epic sonic journeys.

Their skills are put to way more mature work here. These constructions are subtle and slow to evolve but carry with them such gravitas. They unfold with narrative melody and throughout their lengthy progression they become more like mini life-spans than actual songs. Where brutality was the flavor on their first record, it is merely suggested in the might of these tracks. It's in this restraint that Tarot Sport really succeeds. Opener Surf Solar employs a clipped synth melody to build tension growing fiercer with every mangled texture, while The Lisbon Maru is built around a military drum beat that threatens an onslaught but always holds back. The central song Olympians could be the soundtrack to one of Godfrey Reggio's Quatsi movies. Over the course of its near eleven minute length it could only be fitting for something this grand to accompany the evolution of the universe itself.

Tarot Sport is a seismic shift away from the first album but a conscious and meticulous one. It is a pure exploration of sound that holds the listener in mind all the way. It's a record that demonstrates an obsessive commitment to their art and one to be exceptionally proud of.

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24th Nov 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Atlas Sound

Logos

4AD

Deerhunter's Bradford Cox continues his creatively lucrative side project with a stunning followup to 2007's Let The Blind Lead Those Who Cannot Feel. Adopting a more introspective addition to day job's astral soundscapes Let The Blind was conceived from the loneliness of a hospital bed and emanated as a whisper from the cracks of Deerhunter's wall of sound. After the unbridled confidence of Microcastles. Cox reintroduces Atlas Sound with renewed energy and the results are impressive.

Logos is the sonic equivalent of an overexposed photograph. Bleached out with excessive warmth the vocals are absorbed by each sound that gets introduced into the intricately structured sonic compositions. As light permeates every corner of these songs details are washed out with sound creating the trademark dreamscapes that accompany all of Cox's music. But as with Deerhunter it's the moments where the album pulls focus and these otherwise hidden details come into sharp view that the power is unleashed. A prime example is the transition between the lethargic An Orchid and the emerging skip of Walkabout. Similarly the presence of the epic Quick Canal in the middle of the record resembles a fire-break in a forest. As its delicate rhythm creeps into view and stretches out over eight blissful minutes it's like stepping out of the thick undergrowth into a magnificent clearing. Laetitia Sadier's otherworldly vocals blow through the song with such refreshing lightness.

Musically this album is a treasure chest of ideas and sounds. Much like Let The Blind we get programmed clicks and bleeps that jostle against buried acoustic guitar and muffled drums support airy melody that shuffles along awkwardly. Cox's words almost trip over themselves in their reluctance to pick up any kind of pace. The result can be akin to a fine rain that ends up soaking you right through. But it's a welcome soaking.

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20th Nov 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Girls

Album

Fantasy Trashcan

This debut album from San Francisco duo Girls is so subtly engaging, so quietly addictive that it's virtually impossible to pinpoint exactly when, during the listening process, you fell in love or remember your life without this sound in it. It is the work of frontman Christopher Owens and Chet White and though it comprises twelve startlingly simply tracks it seems to encompass a whole history of love songs, each of which rises to the surface at one time or another but never dominate or detract from the central voice, and it's in this voice that the addiction begins.

Recalling as much Elvis Costello as Buddy Holly or Roy Orbison, Owens' 50's drawl is so unique that it could have been the undoing here while stretched out over 44 minutes. But instead it removes the listener from this time and takes them somewhere else. It has the Golden Oldies feel to it but with sometimes crudely produced jangly guitars and Owens' acutely contemporary writing this reference simply adds to the timeless quality and injects a beautiful element of nostalgia. These are heartbreaking songs that are often centered around love lost or yearned for but the quiver and vulnerability in Owens' delivery suggest a deeper hurt. Without this suggestion Album would just be an enjoyable Beach Boys do-over but the simplicity of these songs are underpinned by an emotional complexity.

Musically it's a pretty mixed bag. It tends to divide a lot of its time between the playful jangle-pop of songs like opener Lust For Life or the heart-wrenching croon of slow-jams like Lauren Marie or Headache where we join Owens as he floats weightless in cavernous chambers of loneliness. It can then glimmer with contemporary flair and serve up the lo-fi shoegaze scuzz of Morning Light or the clipped guitar ditty God Damned. The central and most addictive song has to be the first single to be released from Album, Hellhole Ratface. It's by far the longest track and lyrically the most intriguing. As usual it's built around the simple structure that has held our hand all the way through this record. But out of this structure where Owens pines for the brighter days that are surely around the corner he lifts the song into something profoundly special as the chorus is repeated into an unnerving swirling mantra. It's pure genius and might just be one of the best songs to delightfully grace my ears this year. And it sits proud on top of an exceptional pile. These are songs that could so easily have fallen into the category of forgettable pastiche, but instead dazzle with originality and integrity. Highly recommended.

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16th Nov 2009 - 4 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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No Age

Losing Feeling EP

Sub Pop

Since No Age's exceptional second record Nouns the DIY punk scene has gone mental with a new band emerging every week and if these four songs are any kind of prediction as to Dean and Randy's musical gravitation it looks like their letting everyone else get on with what they started and embracing a more subtle sound with guitar loops and buried vocals being the general approach. Having said that this EP does manage to bring their sound full circle, falling more into line with much of Weirdo Rippers' abstract atmospherics. Losing Feeling displays a firmer grasp on their intentions and leans more heavily on melody than has previously been seen. However it sure is good to get to the final track You're A Target which punches out the heavier sound that we've become accustomed to of late.

What this EP manages to do is further confound this duo as one of diversity and movement. Their background may have been full of Black Flag and The Misfits but there's way more to them than the sum of their parts and Losing Feeling bodes very well for a future full-length release, whenever that may be. Please make it soon.

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26th Oct 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Port O'Brien

Threadbare

City Slang

The progression that occurred between this Californian bands first installment and 2008's All We Could Do Was Sing hinted at a road that could take them to the momentous heights of Arcade Fire. Sounding like a raggedy relative of the Canadians they shone with effortless grandeur and lifted their sound way beyond their acoustic starting point to one that rivaled the crashing waves they often sung about. But as art often takes its cue from life, singer Cambria Goodwin's brother tragically died during the recording of Threadbare and the result is a more sombre and reflective followup but one that gleams with quiet beauty.

Goodwin gets more of the singing duties than last time and her distant vocals on opener High Without The Hope set the tone of the record early on with a delicate and achingly vulnerable delivery. As it fades from earshot the opening bars of My Will Is Good creep in to replace it and with it comes the husky vocals of Van Pierszalowski. His writing on All We Could Do Was Sing became slightly repetitive in its complaint of the sea fairing life that had been chosen for him, but here there is a darker feel and a more mature one. On this and Tree Bones - which recalls Nirvana's unplugged Plateau - the somber mood gains muscle and brings with it an interesting darkness. But instead of being weighty, this prevailing mood gives the album structure and the many punctuations that lift you high from the doom are well placed and essential. Songs like Sour Milk / Salt Water and Leap Year race along with uncharacteristic pace and with it Pierszalowski's vocals strain with raw energy.

It may not be the record we expected, but it's solid and more developed than before. Life's harsh twists and turns have brought out some truly thoughtful and searching music in this band and there are delights along the way that line this record with more than a glimmer of hope

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22nd Oct 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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