Saturday, 29 November 2008

Video Nasties – Albatross EP

The title track is a whirling rock beast; the band fronted by someone who you would imagine is a cross between Lux Interior and Iggy Pop. It calms down in the middle, centres itself and swaggers beautifully before launching into a spirited ending.
Heart & Bones is a little more straightforward and easy on the ear. Its like The Killers could be if Brandon Flowers grew a spine and developed a slightly more psychotic singing voice. Break is excellent, like The Mary Chain taking over a church and commandeering the organ to play to the congregation. Man continues in this splendid vein, more chugging dark pop. It’s weird that they saved the best for last, but at least it’s on there.

Albatross EP is out 15th December on Dead Again Records
Video Nasties myspace is here

Gramercy Arms – Shining Bright

Shining Bright is a single lifted from the patchy, but on the whole good self-titled Gramercy Arms album, expanded to an EP with a remix and some non-album tracks. Shining Bright is a good example of the songs to be found on said album. It’s a nice piece of relaxed West Coast pop, all shimmery and reminiscent of long summer days. Walking Around is more laid back, it saunters around the place, sounding like one of Lawrence from Denim’s more reflectful moments while Fell Apart 10 is a beautiful languid country duet. Things fall away after that, the Shining Bright remix doesn’t alter the original much and the closing instrumental Laramie is fairly nondescript.

Shining Bright is released on 1st December on Reveal Records
Gramercy Arms myspace is here

Battle For Prague – We Could Be Anywhere

We Could Be Anywhere is the debut EP by Birmingham’s Battle For Prague and it’s a damn fine start. Lead track Hundred Feet Below is like a languid version of Kings Of Leon, which is no bad thing. The less frantic type of tune lets the melody wash over you in a lovely way as guitars spiral the tune upwards, the drums anchoring it in a stabbing fashion. I See A Ghost is deliberately cautious, the singer moaning spectacularly about how he knows our secret, putting us on the backfoot as the song swells back into life and soon he’s wailing it from the rooftops. The Wetlands is more standard fare, chipping angular guitars keeping the song balanced, and the tune sounds a little like Buffalo Tom at times. Car/Plane/Boat brings us back round to where we started, similar in feel to the initial track, but with a bit more verve.

The We Could Be Anywhere EP is self released and out now
Battle For Prague myspace is here, where you can buy the EP

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Dropzines – Celebration Of Sorrow

Three years down the line from Between Sheets And Walls, comes their second long player Celebration Of Sorrow. This builds on the foundations laid by the first album and then some.
Cigarette Sun is a great opener, it’s catchy and upbeat, but goes through a bunch of different emotions, blissful, joyous, angry and much more besides.
Now That I’m Aware is celebratory, ramshackle and reminds me of a crazy Decemberists, My Little Red Book is a faithful but wild cover of the Bacharach original and Denmark is more laid back to start with, but then turns into a gritty pop song.
Playschool Guitar starts off all elementary school song, but carries on in that vein lyrically, a bit like a feistier They Might Be Giants. Some Of Everything ebbs and flows beautifully like a light version of Buffalo Tom, All Quiets Down is at turns a drunken sea shanty and a lovely country West Coast tune while Dinner Pills and Dancing is reminiscent of the Levellers at their most celebratory. Take That Now! Is classic power pop, Come On The Run shakes and shudders, brimming with confidence, a classic swagger to its melody while Madeline, Caroline and Nembutal is another song that reminds me of The Decemberists, main vocally but also in the persevering, nagging music. To finish all this up Not Surprising is a rollicking way to close the album.

Celebration Of Sorrow is self released and out now.
You can buy the album from The Dropzines website, which is here.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Brightblack Morning Light – Motion To Rejoin

The second Brightblack Morning Light album doesn’t start well, after a short introductory track you get Hologram Buffalo, which despite the great name is a shuffling quasi jazz track, and was no doubt recorded in a suitably smokey room.
And so it goes on throughout the whole album. Gathered Years sounds virtually the same, barely rising out of its slumbers through the whole eight minutes it bothers us with its presence. Most of it is thoroughly dull. Another Reclaimation is slightly more interesting in a druggy, hypnotic way, but that’s only compared to the boring nature of the rest of the album. Sorry to become repetitive, but it seems somewhat apt given the music contained herein, but this must be the dullest album I’ve ever heard.

Motion To Rejoin is out now on Matador Records
Brightblack Morning Light myspace is here

Johann Johannsson – Fordlandia

Fordlandia is Johann’s fourth full length, and the second in the technology and iconic American brand names trilogy, following on from 2006’s IBM 1401, A User’s Manual. The title track sets the tone, ambient and beautiful, hardly noticeable yet omnipresent, and before you know it its glacially coursing through your veins and your heart.
Melodia (I) is cyclical and hypnotic while The Rocket Builder (Lo Pan!) is string laden and becomes very sinister and doom bringing. Fordlandia – Aerial View sounds quite Christmassy, but in a sad sad world indeed. Melodia (III) is a lovely piano interlude that makes it sound like the storm clouds will break any minute and Chimerica sounds like a church organ and gives you that spooky feeling when you enter a church, its cold and the organist it playing away to himself. Its just like you’re intruding. The Great God Pan Is Dead again sounds religious, its funereal pace and elegiac choral singing lending a sombre tone to the tune. Melodia (Guidelines For A Space Propulsion Device) trundles along, never going anywhere but sounding lovely nonetheless. It does burst into life a couple of minutes before the end of the nine, becoming a swirling maelstrom of strings. The fifteen minute closing tale of How We Left Fordlandia is a slight disappointment, never really going anywhere but it doesn’t detract from what is a very fine album.

Fordlandia is out now on 4AD
Johann Johannsson myspace is here

Arctic Circle / Winston Echo / The Mountain Parade - Port Mahon, Oxford - 06.10.08

Here's a review that was published in the November issue of Nightshift, the local music magazine here in Oxford. If you want to read the magazine online, which you really should, go and have a look here.

Arctic Circle / Winston Echo / The Mountain Parade
Port Mahon

Tonight sees the welcome return of MyAnalog as a promoter, for how long or how frequently is anyone’s guess, but it’s good to have them back however fleetingly.
The Mountain Parade number 9 or 10 tonight, which is far more people than they actually need to create the noise they do, but it’s all part of the fun watching them squeeze onstage. It takes a couple of songs for them to get into their stride, but when they do its delightful stuff. It’s the horn section that makes the songs special, cushioning the tunes and gently ushering them along. This is over-populated folk-pop at it’s best, they have some cracking tunes of which Shackleton Bewley and the climatic Skyscraper are the best.

Winston Echo is a funny fellow. Rather sweet and bewildered onstage, yet slightly terrifying off it. You wouldn’t imagine such a frail yet tender voice to come out of such a man, but it does. Singing his set off mic makes people pay more attention and renders things still more lo-fi. He’s a troubadour with a funny tale to tell and some deft, witty lyrics. Bureau de Change proves the highlight and provokes a singalong and to quote the man himself, he really is a “millionaire in yen”.

Arctic Circle have a lot to follow, but trump the lot. They’re nowhere near as lo-fi as I expected, but exuberant, funny and multi-faceted. Sometimes they’re a little like Los Campesinos! with the more irritating bits taken out. Other times they’re layering loads of noise over the end of a song. The other thing that sets them apart is that usually acts with two vocalists have one that’s noticeably stronger than the other, but not in this case. They swap over regularly and seamlessly; he more laid back and tender, her more hyper and excitable. They make the kind of crazed ramshackle pop that sounds like pots and pans rattling in a kitchen too close to the railway line as a train goes past. They make me smile, which is the best thing of all.

Bricolage – Turn U Over

Here we have more Glasgow indie talent, in the form of Bricolage, releasing their fourth single and the lead one off their forthcoming eponymous debut album. Turn U Over reminds me of the cool white boy soul of Orange Juice but with more swagger and even a little venom. The singer’s croon is awesome. B-side Night Falls With Vertigo is juddery and racing with a head rush of excitement coursing through its indie veins.

Turn U Over is out now on Slumberland Records
Bricolage myspace is here

Sexy Kids – Sisters Are Forever

After the demise of The Royal We, out of the ashes and Glasgow come Sexy Kids with their debut single Sisters Are Forever. It has a pulsating indie electro pulse, a skinny rattling guitar line that has a tinny echo, and some cool as anything female vocals. B-side Drown Me has another spindly guitar line, some cool la la la bits and a brittle tune. Not as great as Sisters Are Forever but fine enough in a knocked off way.

Sisters Are Forever is out now on Slumberland Records
Sexy Kids myspace is here

The Shortwave Set – Glitches ‘n’ Bugs

The lead track on the single is an edit of Glitches ‘n’ Bugs, which is reminiscent of the ice cool glory of Black Box Recorder. It sounds like the band is tramping triumphantly along a gravel path, a tireless journey to reach the end, but one that is hard work. Somehow they manage to make this sound very cool indeed and effortless. Homesick is a beautiful slice of trip hop, some elegant scratching going on too. They cover Grace Jones’s Slave To The Rhythm in an electronic despair fashion, but it’s not a patch on such a fine original unfortunately. The Mungolian Jet Set remix of Glitches ‘n’ Bugs is not bad, but seems to rely heavily on late eighties baggy beats and is overlong at more than nine minutes. The Marshmellow Mike Remix is much better, it bounces nicely with the vocals much more to the fore in the mix, nice and crisp and even.

Glitches ‘n’ Bugs is released on 8th December on Wall Of Sound
The Shortwave Set myspace is here

Neon Neon – Dream Cars

Dream Cars sounds like something from the eighties, which is obviously the intention, the Dream Cars in question being DeLorean’s futuristic craft. It has expansive bits in the chorus that mark the advancing technology and churning verses that sound like the machinery driving the dream and the song.
There are four versions of Dream Cars here, the Radio Edit and Album Version being identical apart from length.
New song Mr Right is a minimal chug, a little like Kraftwerk, but not cold enough to work. It sounds a bit half baked. The Motor City Mix of Dream Cars, although a little more glacial, just sounds like it has had all the life sapped out of it. The Dream Drums Mix is much more interesting, if not a resounding success. It turns it into a disorientating techno lite tune.

Dream Cars is released on 8th December on Lex Records
Neon Neon myspace is here

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Saint Solitude – Disaster Stories EP

Saint Solitude is one Dup Crosson from Asheville, NC and as far as I can tell this is his debut EP. Heroes Turned To Whores, the lead track, starts off at barely a whisper, before trickling gently into life. Vocally it’s somewhere between a sneer and despairing sigh, and this echoes the way the music builds and threatens to burst into life, before dropping back down to its gentle pace again. Saints & Soldiers repeats the swelling and dropping trick, but a different kind of way. Dup sounds adrift at sea, and he’s not sure whether it’s a good thing or not. The melody is spectral, drifting and sometimes grandiose. Join The Light is more spindly and straight forward while The Laugh Track is sung over magical music box backing, and is a really beautiful song, that transports you to some enchanted forest where the hero plays a piano in the clearing. Coming to the final track, On A City, he sounds much more relaxed, and plays out a sweet laid back melody.

The Disaster Stories EP is self released and out now.
The Saint Solitude myspace is here.

The Lucksmiths – First Frost

This is album number eleven for the Lucksmiths and the quality shows no sign of letting up.
It starts with The Town & The Hills, a whimsical tune with boy-ish sounding vocals and a carefree air, complete with some sweet brass to lead the song out. Good Light is more upbeat, as the guitar chips out a tune. A Sobering Thought is a coy cousin to Belle & Sebastian’s The Boy With The Arab Strap, while California In Popular Song has twinkling folky guitar and vocally is a sigh to Californian times. South-East Coastal Rendezvous is a lot like their closest neighbours, Belle & Sebastian with a fuzzy warm feel.
The National Mitten Registry is beautiful, sparse and sombre, the choral group singing and short lines make it sound like a beautiful wake. Day Three Of Five manages to be melancholic and chirpy at the same time and Never & Always is what the band do best, cracking pop like The Go-Betweens, but with an even more romantic lilt. Lament Of The Chiming Wedgebill is a lovely male/female country duet while How We Met is downbeat, minimal and achingly sad and Song Of The Undersea and Up With The Sun are simply cool pop songs. Pines is laid back, melancholic and rather sad. Quite simply, this is the best form of guitar derived pop imaginable.

First Frost is released on 8th December on Fortuna Pop!
The Lucksmiths website is here.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Everything With You

Many column inches have been written about The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and on the evidence of this, their new single, it’s deservedly so.
On Everything With You they have a shambling Jesus & Mary Chain style cool as anything attitude, coupled with the cutesy edge of some of the best shambling bands. It’s effortlessly cool in the way that someone like Ride were. I bet The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have great haircuts too.
They also have an eponymous song, just like all the great bands, which features here on the b-side. It has a great big chiming melody, stabbed chords permeating the song’s sweet heart and a graceful and gorgeous air about it.

Everything With You is released on November 27th on Fortuna Pop!
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart website is here.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Young Sensation – Beautiful Noise

That Young Sensation’s second single comes on a lovely mint green 7” wins them many points from the start. The music wins them many more.
Beautiful Noise is all bouncy, chipping guitar and a vocalist who at times sounds like a cross between David Byrne and a preacher. It’s the way he sometimes yelps evangelically into a line that does it. There’s some lovely backing vocals, whether wordless and interjected, or questioning.
Happiness is more of the same, yet this time it twinkles like The Spinto Band and has a fine see-sawing tune. Again there are great backing vocals and this time there’s a rather odd speaking in tongues mid section.
It’s a very fine single, and one you should own without doubt.

Beautiful Noise is out now and available from the band's myspace

Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Continued

Atlanta’s Deerhunter release Microcastle, their second album, accompanied with a whole extra album, which the band say is an album in its own right and not just a collection of outtakes.
But firstly, the main album. Microcastle starts with a short instrumental, a tried and tested trick to get the listener into the right frame of mind. This makes me expect something epic and shoe-gazey, but come Agoraphobia it appears the band are more like a gentle Pavement, all rough edges shorn off. Moving on to Never Stops, you can sense a kindred spirit to bands like Midlake, the blissed out American backwoods vibe present and correct. Little Kids is the sound of rain gently splashing against a basement window in summertime while the title track is a blissful dream until it bursts into a fuzzy life a minute from the end. Calvary Scars scratches around, looking for signs of life. That’s followed up with a couple of tracks, Green Jacket and Activa, that don’t work well alone, but form an important part in the mid passage of the album, giving it a ghoulish air and moving it on to Nothing Ever Happened. This track locks into a repetitious groove, which makes your head spin. Saved By Old Times has some crazy Julian Cope style proclamations, and a sense of the band offering themselves up to the past. Neither Of Us, Uncertainly creaks and groans under the weight of its own bones. Twilight At Carbon Lake couldn’t be more aptly named, as it twinkles and sighs, barely above a whisper eventually ending up a shimmering wake.

As it turns out, the second disc is infinitely inferior to the first. They may not have set out this way, but the abundance of instrumentals and sketches renders it so.
There is some good stuff though. Backspace Century is all splashing drums and a drone like melody, Operation spins in short cycles both melodically and vocally before building to a gravely, sombre break and Slow Swords is a glacial, mechanical instrumental. The rest deviates from nondescript psychedelic sludge, to noodly snippets of nonsense, pointless jiggy instrumentals and overly drugged tunes.

Microcastle/Weird Era Continued is out now on 4AD

The Deerhunter myspace is here

Findo Gask – One Eight Zero

Wonderfully this EP kicks off with yearning vocals, like the Associates and more recently Wild Beasts. There’s a lovely Scottish lilt to the vocals, which is accompanied by some surging electro pop, upbeat and squelching. One Eight Zero is an infinitely danceable and ridiculously catchy pop tune, complete with an old skool breakdown in the middle.
Jigsaw is a little more fidgety, a little unsure of itself, but somewhat religious sounding, near to spiritual. Nubo with its brass, fall in with the Beirut crowd, yet still retains a bounce to make your feet itch to move. The Ripped Speakers mix of One Eight Zero, sounds just like that at times, clips of the song rattling around inside a wastepaper bin. Other times it reminds me of the descending beats that The Flaming Lips utilised so well on At War With The Mystics and that’s rather good indeed. About half way through the song picks up somewhat, kicking out some crazy beats, some cool bloops and bringing bits of vocals back in.

One Eight Zero is released on December 8th on Angular Recordings

The Findo Gask myspace is here