Bonkers video from Taiwan documenting Steve Jobs' descent to the Dark Side. It's in Chinese, with Chinese subtitles ....but I'm guessing a dubbed version would make even less sense.
Check out this amazing real-time map of London tube trains. It takes a while to load, however, when it does the inner geek does a little dance.
Nice little video up at Vimeo tracking the re-start of air travel across Europe - following the monster airport shut down caused by Iceland's Volcano.
In no particular order:
Animal Collective – Feels or Strawberry Jam
I remember getting very scared, when I was a kid, that, mathematically, there was only a limited number of songs possible - limited number of notes and limited number of combinations. When would they run out? ARRGGH!!!! Then I heard Animal Collective and I realised it was all going to be alright. Feels probably gets the nod from me. Saw them live – bit disappointed. But YOU won’t be if you pipe them in through your headphones.
The Strokes – Is This It
Neither before nor since have I experienced such excitement about a new band and a new album. Debut single “Last Nite” blew my socks off. Seeing them live twice – in Barcelona (buying tickets from an old woman the afternoon of the gig – unimaginable in the UK) and Brixton confirmed their greatness. Shame they’ve got bloated and tired since.
My Morning Jacket – Z
Shit. Seriously. Don’t mess about. This album is fuqing brilliant. From the “burrm burrm” opening through to the long rock out bit of Lay Low and right through to the end, this album is a vortex of mind blowing ness. (Ok - apart from “Into The Woods”, but I read the lyrics for that the other day, realised it was about crackin on off in the shower and changed my mind). I saw these dudes on the Okonokos tour at the Astoria – One of the best gigs I’ve been to.
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
I’d heard of them before I heard them, and this was a most unexpected treat of an album. This surprising sub pop fare is up there as my most played album ever ever and is still on rotation now. Beautiful. And good live too (saw them at the roundhouse)
Lamchop – Nixon
Having never heard of them before, I have no idea what compelled me to by this album (ok it was £3 in the Virgin Megastore sales). Very pleased I did mind. Ok, so I skip a few of the later songs, but this is a special album. It still holds a special place in my heart. I saw them at the Barbican (mwah) when they performed a soundtrack to a silent Russian film... or something. Yawn.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – CYHSY
Apart from the first weird track (sign of things to come with their 2nd album), every song on this record is super. Easy to play on the guitar, but hard to sound as good. I drunkenly saw them at ULU with Chimpovich and his sensei bro. They were alright, but the support act - Hockey Night - were better.
M.Ward – Post-War
Ok – I’m not sure which is my favourite M. Ward album of the last 10 years, so this one’ll do. Cripes - this chap can write and sing a song. Not seen him live yet.
Yo La Tengo – Prisoners of Love (Compilation)
Not an album album, but rather a low price gem of a comp. This 25 odd track bad boy introduced me to Yo La Tengo and I’ve never looked back. These elder statesmen can seemingly do the lot – short pop numbers to 16 minute thought pieces and everything in between. Magic. Seen them about 4 times since (USA / Spain / UK) and they never disappoint.
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
KA-BOOOOOM! – this album is nothing short of mega. It came along just as I was getting into Jim O’Rourkes solo stuff and his production really elevates this album above all others ever. Some beautiful and funny lyrics blended with amazing riffs and loops – the soundtrack to many a long walk. I saw them at the Hammersmith Apollo, but I was too far away up in the gods to really dig it.
Flaming Lips – Soft Bulletin
Yeah Yeah. I know. It was released in 1999, but tough tits. It’s on my list. Seen these chaps live lots of times (highlight was seeing your man Wayne in a big zorb in Royal Albert hall). So influential, I even model my hair / beard combo on him.
Track worth a notable mention:
The Truth – Handsome Boy Modelling School
Oh my me. This song is so sweet. Staple song on nearly every mixrtape I made in the (early part of the) noughties. Before Minidiscs came along and ruined everything!
Awesome film. Brilliant Font. Cracking soundtrack. Wes Anderson is preternaturally gifted. I bet he stands up in meetings.
If you care to, you can listen to a selected track from each album (where available) on this Spotify playlist: - Locochimpo: 2000-2009Read more 5 star reviews
Check out Marco Brambilla's art installation in the new Standard Hotel in New York - a video piece that takes lift passengers from hell up to heaven.
Headline and tip-off nabbed from VSL.
Sub Pop have a new sampler up for free download, but rather than link directly to it, I insist you visit the page - which is decked out like a 1996 web disaster.
Vetiver – Strictly Rule
Handsome Furs – I’m Confused
Mark Sultan – Hold On
Red Red Meat – Gauze
Obits – Pine On
The Vaselines – Son of a Gun
Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
Iron and Wine – Belated Promise Ring
Tiny Vipers - Dreamer
Zak Sally – Why We Hide
Fruit Bats – My Unusual Friend
Pissed Jeans – False Jesii Part 2
Grand Archives – Silver Among the Gold
Flight of the Conchords – Hurt Feelings
I don't know who this Greg Rutter chap is nor why he should be the one to tell us what we should or shouldnt do, but he's pulled a list of funny stuff together. That said I've not checked them all...
Enter The Vaselines
Talking to a friend about cover versions, he said that his pal always preferred the first version of the song he heard rather than the first one recorded. Anguished, he told how his chum maintained that Jamie Cullum did a better version of High and Dry than Radiohead. With the ‘first past the lughole’ preference in mind, I was intrigued to listen to this aggregate collection of the Vaselines – ‘Enter The Vaselines’. Would the original versions of the late 80’s Scot indie band be better than the versions I knew by Messer’s Cobain, Novoselic and Grohl?
Kurt Cobain (from Aberdeen, USA) was a big fan of the Vaselines (from Glasgow, Scotland). So much so, that he is alleged to have described founder members Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee as his "most favourite songwriters in the whole world”. Which might explain why Nirvana released three Vaseline songs: "Molly's Lips” and "Son of a Gun" on 1992’s Incesticide and the more widely known "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam" on the MTV Unplugged album.
Of course it’s unfair to talk about The Vaselines only in terms of being the band wot Kurt liked (which, I’ll confess, I seem to do in this review). However, it seems clear that the loud applause from the Grungemeister has been central in widening their fan base and in encouraging Sub Pop to re-release all their stuff…again (In 1992 Sub Pop packaged up just the two EP’s and the album).
This time the Seattle label has gone the whole way with this deluxe remastered album as it once again contains all the music ever released by the band, but is rounded off with some demos and two live sets recorded in Bristol and London. The two EP’s ‘Son of Gun’ and ‘Dying For It’ were originally on sale in 1987 and 1988, while their only album - ‘Dum-Dum’ - was originally released the week the band broke up in 1989. (Though they did reform - for the first time - to open the bill when Nirvana played Scotland in 1990).
So. A word to the wise: listening to the 36 songs in one sitting is hard work. Hearing three versions of “Son of a Gun” and “The Day I Was A Horse” is tough going (though I was happily humming the former for the rest of the day). The whole thing is much more agreeable when broken down into it's composite bits - with the looseness and humour of the live shows making them the most enjoyable slices.
With strong hints of a Velvet Underground drone, at their best the raw sound delivers catchy pieces of punk pop. However, it does feel a bit one-dimensional and, while it might simply be due to familiarity, I think Cobain picked out the best tunes (with the exception of the horse song). As for the battle of versions: It’s a close run thing, but I think Nirvana just edge it. The songs on Incesticide have more power and pedals, while the Vaselines lose vital points for the squeaky toy that needlessly appears on the EP version of ‘Mollys Lips’.
Here’s an editable spotify playlist of some covers and the originals. See if you can last more than the 40 seconds I managed of Jamie Cullum.
Real ads are never as good as fake ads in imaginary movies - as this article points out....
Elvis Perkins In Dearland
Mr Perkins opened his first long player - Ash Wednesday - with the immense and emotional ‘While You Were Sleeping’. It’s so good that on listening back it dwarfs the rest of the songs. Second time round and the overall quality and craftsmanship have been taken up a notch or two and the collection feels more rounded, more varied, more interesting to the ear.
This seems to be down to Elvis being joined by, or, as the title of the album suggests, himself becoming a member of his live backing band – Dearland. Whereas last time round it was more about one man and his guitar, the lads from Dearland have brought as many instruments as they have ideas to the party. From the off you can feel that its much more than just one persons work. A broader range of styles, sounds and influences are drawn upon.
“On this new record we wanted to capture the spirit of our performances,” drummer Nick Kinsey said. And that they seem to do. The vim, vigor and energy that weren’t always present on Ash Wednesday, but appeared from nowhere on stage are present throughout the whole album. Even on the darker, introspective numbers the collective creativity has brought more punch and power to the poetic and prophetic verse penned by Perkins.
While on the opening song Elvis sings “black is the colour of a squashed rainbow” (which called to mind the manically depressed painter from The Fast Show) - it sounds like having the company has cheered Elvis up a bit. In the excellent ‘Doomsday’ - a title which hints he might be at his gloomiest - he triumphantly shouts: “I won’t plan to die. Nor should you!”
To paraphrase The Dude, it seems like he’s not really into the whole brevity thing - as some songs seem to linger longer than perhaps they need to. Though, that could just be me. I’ve been listening to the Minutemen a lot of late.
Putting that aside, this album is certainly a step forward rather than simply more of the same. It’s good and I like it. So there.
Three Songs to Spotify:
I Heard Your Voice in Dresden
Send My Fond Regards to Lonelyville
Albums of the year:
Fleet Foxes - every song's a winner on this doozy. Though it's 'Mykonos (Alternative Version)' that gets my vote for song of the year.
Vampire Weekend - This lot strike me as being a bit smug, but i guess if you release a debut album this good then you're allowed to be.
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular - The hits way outweigh the misses on this one.
Kings of Leon - Only By The Night - Not their greatest work to date, but still very listenable.
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
- British Sea Power - Do you like Rock Music?
- Soe'za - 7 Obstacles
- Acorn - Glory Hope Mountain
Greatest Hits of the year:
Dr John - The Best of the Night Tripper - a bargainous £5 (on Amazon) for this ace compilation of the best 60's and 70's tunes from Malcolm John Rebennack Jr.
Film of the year:
- No Country For Old Men - awesome
- Iron Man - super duper
- Superbad - McLovin it.
TV Boxsets of the year - Battlestar Gallactica. Frackin good stuff.
Gig of the Year - La bomba del tiempo, Konex Centre, Buenos Aires. (Ha - I had to mention it somewhere).
It was just before the music stopped on my first listen through ‘(k)no(w)here’ that I thought the first track was going on a bit. Then I read the blurb.
“Conceived as one musical piece... The eight identifiable parts of ‘(k)no(w)here’ are not readily separated from each other, such is the flow from and into each part.”
Ah ha! Clever. Very good. Well done. Carry on.
So, hats off to the 4 Baltimore Art Rockers for doing that. It works really well. The ebb and flow of the album and the blending of tunes into one long track definitely helps build up the tension here. Someone wiser than me described their skill as ‘delaying gratification’ – and that sums it up nicely. Many of the songs here seem, Escher-like, to build and build. The full force is held back, before they let fly at just the right moment.
It’s a big expansive sound for a 4 piece. It’s nervous, it’s brooding and urgent. The angry asthmatic rasp of James Johnson – who is occasionally backed up by guitarist Colin McCann (aka Lord Dog Bird) – creates an engaging contrast with the music.
These dudes are quite serious about their output being artistic and honest. A fact which no doubt contributes to them being held in such high esteem from their label bosses at Jagjaguawar and beyond. Their output certainly isn’t pandering to any fad or fashion. While in places it reminds me a bit of Captain Beefheart in places, overall it feels original and beyond comparison (though do take into account my limited knowledge of art rock).
All up, I think this album is excellent. It’s a real grower. Note, though, that some of the magic is lost if you put it on shuffle.
The Lord Dog Bird
The Lord Dog Bird is the solo alter ego of Colin McCann - the guitarist in the band Wilderness (review of their new album to follow) - and it was recorded at home on a 4-track by the spookily voiced Lord Colin himself. Sparse scratchy droning guitar, vocals and simple drums are the main ingredients here. This bare and basic sound adds authenticity and power to both voice and word. The atmosphere is a heavy claustrophobic mix of fear, honesty, and a tinge of optimism.
There is, though, a sense that these tunes are works in progress torn from a scrapbook. The similarity of the songs (both the sound and the composition), the presence of a couple of noodly instrumentals and the lo-fi nature of the whole piece gives it an unfinished feel. That said there are two exceptional tracks on here that elevate the whole damn thing:
“March To The Mountain” takes us on a compelling journey where the drums punch in to drive an urgent sense of being up against it. The words sound better delivered than written, but I like the way the end of the/my world is nigh gets expressed: “The sky is up above - the melting snow of love - and every rivers clogged - and you can’t find the sun.” The twin vocals on “The Gift Of Song In The Lions Den” add a haunting tone to this driven song that…Oh – bugger it – download and have a listen for yourself here.
This rather enjoyable 9 track album, released by the solidly rostered jagjaguwar label, was recorded when the main act were on an extended hiatus. Now, it might turn out that he has worked tirelessly to create this, his magnum opus, but I wonder if it might have reached a greater level of opus-ness if worked on for a bit longer.Read more 3.5 star reviews
Here's a match - your face and your ass. Turns out chimps take a tush over a mugshot any day.
When I was a kid what I knew about traditional folk music was based solely on watching in bewilderment at the people wearing cloth beermat waistcoats who wandered round my home town at the annual folk festival. Nowadays I like a bit of what might be called ‘alternative folk’ - Bonnie Prince Billy, Iron and Wine, etc. Yet, I still don’t know an awful lot about folky folk folk. So, at first it was hard to know what to make of the second Bellowhead album, Matachin (apparently a dance involving swords).
Initially it seemed like the traditions of English folk music were firmly in place with ye olde ballads and whiskey soaked sea shanties abounding. However, the inspiration from jazz, cabaret and also a darker, abstract, circus troupe verve are all evident and you realise that they’re not so easy to label.
They themselves say “above all this is a BIG band” – and with 11 sharp suited Bellowheaders playing 20 instruments the band is certainly big. The mix of the normal folk instrumentation – fiddles, mandolins and guitars – with glockenspiels, trombones, saxophones and frying pans creates a boisterous, quirky and drunken atmosphere. Further, the arrangements are topped off with some fine storytelling. Apart from on angry instrumental jig – ‘Trip to Bucharest’ - the centuries old tales of lost love, cholera and prostitutes who service priests are delivered with a showman’s swagger by lead singer, Jon Boden. And on pieces such as “Roll Her Down The Bay” and “Kafoozalum” the entire band join in and sound like they’re having a right good time of it too.
This probably explains why their live performances have won them high praise from their own scene and beyond. They’ve been the resident band at the Southbank Centre, performed to much applause at the Proms this year and even made a new fan in Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis after playing on ‘Later... with Jools Holland’.
So, while I thought folk might not be my thing beforehand, I found myself surprisingly enjoying the twists and turns on this album. I like the cut of their jib. Tho not enough to make a waistcoat out of beermats.
The Creek Drank The Cradle
THEN: Not to doubt their ability to unearth a great band, but at first glance Iron and Wine might appear a very un-Sub Pop signing. A mellow fellow, hushed vocals, an acoustic guitar and a tape deck do not normally make up the type of act the label is renowned for. However, it quickly becomes clear that their judgement on Sam Beam's talents was spot on.
NOW: It still sounds like some lost tapes of a folk genius from the 60s or 70s. Sparse guitar, haunting vocals whispering evocative stories on the memories of loves found and lost. While I prefer his 2nd full album (Our Endless Numbered Days), this is still a great record - easily recommended as a soundtrack to staring out the window on a long train journey.
SUB POP SAYS: “An ode to an older … part of America defined by “traditional values,” pastoral imagery and arcane manners.”
KILLER TRACK: Upward Over The Mountain - although ‘Killer’ so isn’t the right wordRead more 3.5 star reviews
Trance States in Tongues
THEN: The ZG's fourth album was their first with Sub Pop. They’d already had a reputation as one of the best live bands knocking about and this long player gave them a dozen more blues, punk and fuck-you rock’n’roll tunes to blast out live. Trance delivers a slap round the face and a punch in the gut for good measure. BANG. How’d you like that shit? I like it nicely thank you.
NOW: We’ve all heard stuff like it before (Led Zep, AC/DC, Stone Temple Pilots) and since (a paired down version supplied by the Black Keys). While the sound clearly isn’t "now", it’s still pretty good now. The intensity and power of this record are immense and it’s a shame they’re no longer "active" as I’d have liked to have seen Andy Duvall drumming with my own eyes.
SUB POP SAYS: “Their sound is as genuine and as pure as Al Green’s sweat”
KILLER TRACK: Magpie
Of late it seems that any music that has really caught my imagination and got me all excited (in the way that only good new music can) has tended to have been shipped across from America or Canada. Seemingly most of the new British Made bands rising to the top seem to follow the same unremarkable formula. However, happen as it gives me great pleasure to say that this sterling album from Soe’za has only been and gone and been made by a large bunch of fertile minded people from the South West of England.
Judging by their stats the band get two thumbs up from me: 7 or 8 people (since seeing Broken Social Scene live again I’m convinced that more is more), two drummers (name me a bad band who has two drummers), a pleasant blend of his’n’her vocals (harmonious), a cello (hello), the usual bass and guitars (check), and – best of all – a French Horn that rounds the sound marvellously (nice brass).
The album has a vital and urgent intensity throughout (shown best on ‘Don’t Bother Coming Home’) which is nicely balanced by a couple of warming instrumentals with the French Horn taking centre stage. They’ve been compared to Fugazi and Deerhoof, but if that means nothing to you then what you’re looking at / listening to is, simply put, your Alternative-Art-Rock-Improv-Noisy-Punk-Indie-Post-Hardcore genre. Which sounds a lot better than it reads.
Now then, I’ll admit that I don’t always pay close attention to lyrics (I can easily like a great tune with poor lyrics, but great lyrics over a rubbish tune might well pass me by), but some of the pleasantly odd rants and rambles did stand out here. Such as on ‘Any Road’: “Peering through the glass / there is an old dear / scrutinising the cream cakes / how long will they last?”. Sadly they never reveal the sell by date, but happily there are several more moments of bizarre lyrics which, with the occasional hint of that West Country lilt, they ably pull it off where others might not.
7 Obstacles confirms that brass is underrated and underused and that there are some really interesting British bands out there drawing up their own musical blueprints. All told, happen as I think this album is tip-top and one of the most interesting I’ve heard for some time.
There’s nothing really wrong with Forever Altered - the new album from The Great Depression. The songs are all nicely arranged and you can tell they’re a talented bunch, but there’s just not much here that’s terribly interesting or new. For some reason listening to the album reminded me of a painful experience I haven’t had to endure for a long time: trying to sit through a pre-turning-to-electronica-and-somehow-becoming-cool Everything But The Girl record, but…without the girl.
The album seems to stay at the same pace throughout which may contribute to the slightly-left-of-the-middle-of-the-road blandness of the record. In fact, by the time it swings round to the last track Colliding, the monotony is such that I thought the album had clicked back round to the start (prompting me to worriedly look at my new ipod to make sure the track count didn’t force it into the top 25).
Only on a couple of occasions do they deliver something that chimes. On Ill Prepared, the melancholy lifts ever so slightly and they let it rip a little while managing to nail some catchy vocal riffs and nice harmonies. With They’re Making Us Look Green, the Denmark based Americans have a stab at an expansive and uplifting number - which is pretty good too.
Now then, I’ll confess that I’ve not heard any of their previous albums and I’ll concede that this might well be one of those bands and/or one of those albums where you have to be in the right frame of mind to really get into the thing. Sadly, I wasn’t and didn’t on this one. It seems like they’ve shown a lot of promise before, which doesn’t appear to have been realised on this one.
I write this from sunny Chile. Internet connections are fairly erratic over her, but I've been keeping up to date with the important cultural news from chimpomatic when i can. Very excited about all things Indiana Jones, Batman, Iron Man and the new Malkmus album.
So - picking a top 5 is always tough, but it's made harder this time as I managed to lose my iPod on my way to Munich just before i came away. I didn't have time to fill the replacement with many tunes and my brain is now tuned into comedy latin american raggaton and shit pop...
However, my 5 for 2007 are:
Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
Kings of Leon - Because of the Times
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
Panda Bear - Person Pitch
Devendra Banhart - Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
The Modern Tribe
I had a quick listen to this in the car with Chimpovichs’ brother – who has been accurately dubbed a musical Mr Miyagi. (Coincidentally, our journey home was from a football match where he’d scored a crane-kick goal that Daniel LaRusso would have been proud of). However, much like watching all four Karate Kid films back-to-back we were glad when it was over.
Now, the original review ended here, but conscious that while the might of Miyagi-san's wisdom is rarely wrong, the car stereo may not have given it a fair run for its money. I can’t remember if the bass was on / was off – and as such I gave it another couple of listens. (You’ll be pleased to know I think I’ve run out of lame, unrelated, out of place, Karate based links).
So - The first thing to say on the second album from this Baltimore three piece Celebration is that it is actually pretty good. The melodic, beat driven art rock (?) tunes here have a kaleidoscope of layers while the stirring vocals of Katrina Ford lend a hot blooded rousing jolt. She’s got a set of lungs on her, oh yes, but she can also do soft and tender too..
The chief creative mind in the band pulses in the head of Sean Antanaitis. According to Wikipedia he plays Guitar, Guitorgan, Organ, Wurlitzer, Piano, Moog Pedal Bass, and Electronics and, according to the photos on their website, all at the same time. David Bergander - who ONLY plays the drums - maintains a steady and inventive beat throughout and he creates the setting for many a deep groove.
Now. Let’s say you got annoyed by the inability of this review to enlighten you as to the ‘sound’ of this band. Then, in a red rage, you break all the rules governing self-defence and launch an attack on me, force me in a choke-hold to encourage me to namecheck bands that have influenced this sound. What would I cough up? How about: the Cocteau Twins, Moloko, a hint of the intensity of Arcade Fire and, if I had any breath left in my oxygen starved lungs, a touch of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Judging by what I’ve read, I think this lot may well enhance their reputation with their energetic and engaging live shows. According to their web-site, your woman, Katrina, “wishes a violent death upon the era of glum audience members motionlessly watching glum bands with glum arms crossed” and dances around in the crowd as they get everyone going.
This whole experience has taught me that the secret of Karate is in the heart and mind. Not in the hands.
Listening to Animal Collective records is akin to listening to the sounds inside the brain of a child genius who’s hopped up on a cocktail of Ritalin and Prozac and suffering all the known side effects of hyperactive paranoid neurosis. In a good way.
Weaved waves of hypnotic beats are mixed with samples and guitar loops to produce a sometimes awkward, but always interesting experimental sound. All this complimented by the brilliantly bonkers vocals of Avery Tare (supported by some beach boys-like harmonies). One moment singing melodically, then howling like a mad banshee - the innocence, intensity and soreness in the voice, while sounding like nothing else I’ve heard, fits the feel of the songs perfectly.
Listening to Animal Collective can sometimes be a bit challenging. The album opens with some awkward beats and crackles and beeps, but don’t be put off as everything comes together to produce a right rollicking song about monsters – Peacebone. The stand out tracks on Strawberry Jam are Reverend Green and Fireworks. The former, it’s speculated, is about the things you see living in NYC and contains, I think, one of the best/funniest lines on the album: “Bulimic vegetarian wins weight contest”. The latter, I’m certain, is my current favourite song.
New York based Animal Collective - made up of Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin and Geologist - all do their own stuff and all seem pretty prolific and I think this is their 8th long player together. (Panda Bear released a brilliant solo album earlier this year – Person Pitch – which is well worth a listen). Pound for pound, I’m not yet sure if Strawberry Jam is as good as their 2005 album Feels, but this is still a contender for album of the year if you ask me.
Listening to it I have to wonder how the bejesus they come up with such abstract ideas for their tunes. However, if they’re gonna keep on serving up delicious treats such as Strawberry Jam then I hope they keep taking the tablets.
Devastations are three Berlin based Australians whose last album, “Coal”, was well received far and wide. Now they’re back with their third full length offering - “YES, U”.
The album is a sparse, sinister affair full of dark corners and bad moods. Vocalist/bassist Conrad Standish, guitarist/vocalist Tom Carlyon, and drummer Hugo Cran prove skilful in building up moody and broody songs, all the while maintaining an intensity without it ever boiling over – I refer the reader to exhibits a and b: “The Saddest Sound” and “The Pest”.
The best bits are when they layer on feedback and white noise over their slow beats and drawled vocals - such as on ‘Oh My, Oh Me’ and ‘Misericordia’. However, I’ll have to confess that I lost interest on a couple of numbers when they take us back to the 80s with some slowed down bontempi organ beats (‘Black Ice’ and ‘As Sparks Fly Upwards’).
There are obvious comparisons that can be made with Nick Cave, which is no bad thing. I saw a live performance from the big man a couple years back. He blew me away with a depth and intensity that’s never seemed captured on the recordings I’ve heard. I’ve a feeling the same might be said for the Devastations.
While not suited to all moods or occasions (I’m thinking family parties, sunny days or gittin’ it on with a lover), on the whole this is a good album that’s a bit of a ‘grower’ (if you know what I mean, which I’m sure you all do).
Lesser-known indie act The Crimea are following in Prince's diminutive footsteps and releasing their album Secrets of The Witching Hour for free - although it's via their website, rather than a well-loved newspaper. It's not-bad slice of Bright Eyes-esque indie.
So far it's been downloaded over 56,000 times, which isn't bad. That's probably costing them quite a bit in bandwidth....
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."
The Stills, who broke on the scene back in 2003 with the lauded ‘Logic Will Break Your Heart’, are from Montreal and having been spoiled rotten on good Canadian bands of late I expected much from this lot. As a difficult second album, “Without Feathers” was probably made all the more tricky by one of the main men jumping ship due to ‘musical reasons’. Not to be defeated, the drummer, Dave Hamelin, stepped up to write the songs, sing the songs and traded the skins for strings to play the songs on guitar (which looks a little bit big for him on the ‘destroyer’ video).
‘In the beginning’ appropriately starts things off as a general introduction to the type of indie-rock and lyrical themes (heartbreak and headaches) we can expect on the rest of the album. This is followed swiftly by ‘Destroyer’ a jolly sounding track with a driving beat and an uplifting horn section which backs Hamelin as he chirps on about how much he hates someone and how they better pipe down as he’s coming to kick their sorry ass. ‘Helicopters’ is another cracking little tune which has them sounding as close to the Doves as one could get without a lawsuit.
‘The house we live in’ is a nice mellow little number as he tries to persuade his special lady friend not to jump ship, but from then on in the songs never really hit the spot. It feels like they lose their way a bit and compensate for this by over egging it on the keys and horns. I would dedicate a whole paragraph to how ‘Retour A Vega’ really got my goat, but they’re from Quebec so I can forgive them for singing in French and simply mention it in passing.
The influence of the various members of Broken Social Scene who got asked to help out on a few tracks is evident throughout the album, but the ‘scene’ they are not. While there’s enough here to indicate they’ve the potential to match their peers in the future, a couple too many tracks seem like a radio friendly mixture of said good Canadian bands and middle of the road British indie pop bands (I’m thinking Snow Patrol). If it was an EP of the first four tracks then I’d love it, but as I say, maybe I’ve been spoilt and have gotten greedy.
I haven’t quite cracked the elusive unifying theory of why I like or dislike a certain song, but what I’ve sussed out so far is that the music I love the best is the music that makes me feel something. Be it happy or sad. I can only guess, having spoken to none of my musical icons on the subject, that such music must have been made by people who were genuinely feeling it.
After the first listen to “Ash Wednesday”, the moving debut album by Elvis Perkins, you get the impression that this man feels an awful lot of the melancholy that the age in which we live in can inspire. It might just be that the first listen to this album coincided with me turning 30 and the hangover that it brings, but it really struck a chord.
His take on alt.folk draws from other troubled troubadours both past and present. With a nod in the direction of Willy Mason, a crib sheet of cryptic Dylan poems and the warmth and feeling of Ray Lamontagne, Perkins has done his homework, but nicely woven the sources together rather than simply plagiarising the lot.
The album opens with the ace While You Were Sleeping which starts off with just his laidback vocal over his acoustic and is subtly built up to fill your speakers with some fine full blooded soul searching by voice and band alike. Those heights are briefly reached again on the excellent Moon Woman II, but the rest of the album is a more sombre and introspective affair.
Seeing him play live, as Muxloe and I did last week (supporting the aforementioned Willy Mason), he injected more joy in the performance than is present on the album. His backing band throw themselves into some of the songs with the gusto of an old rag time funeral marching band, but not losing the emotion of the songs.
After already being convinced of the album and its integrity, I learned that he lost his father (actor Anthony Perkins) to AIDS in the early nineties and that his mother was killed on board one of the planes on September 11th 2001. It suddenly became obvious that the feeling of end of the world hopelessness captured on this album is undoubtedly genuine.
Any band with the word ‘death’ in the title might instantly make you think: “metal”, “licks” and “German”. And, with ATPs latest act, Death Vessel, you’d be right on two counts.
Main man Joel Thibodeau, who was born in Deutschland, can certainly pluck some rifts out of his acoustic guitar. However, rather than turning up on Kerrang FM, his bands brand of “neo-traditional folk” is more likely to be played by Andy Kershaw on Radio 3.
Their 10 Track debut album, ‘Stay Close’, strays far away from any hint of “metal” with the most notable difference being the deep howl of rock vocals being replaced by the incredible soprano voice of your man Joel.
His voice sounds like this sentence should begin with “her voice” or end with “his balls haven’t dropped”. Seriously, it’s quite something, quite eerie, quite Sigur Ros like… or bjorkesque if, like me, you think you’ve been lied to on the press release. Whatever though, his voice is, as they might say in the deep south, purty.
The deep south reference not only serves to make me chuckle, but also hints at the type of tunes you’re getting here - you should prepare yourself for some proper rambling hoe downs. A majority of the tracks bounce cheerfully along with a country feel to it, and that vibe is strongest on ‘Mandan Dink’ where both banjos and vocals duel in this playful ruck up. In fact, the vocal harmonies act as confederate flags for the better parts of the album - such as on ‘Later In Life Lift’ and ‘Break The Empress Crown’.
The finest song on the album though, ‘Snow Don’t Fall’, reinforces that when Death Vessel keep it to a simple, sparse, atmospheric arrangement, the stage is set for some lovely guitar work to compliment Thibodeaus’ unique vocals.
While there are a few moments where you’re left wishing they would step it up a notch, enough of the tunes on this inventive album get stuck in your head to make this one ‘stay close’ to the top of the CD pile for a while.