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Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
Mouse on one side, The Arcade Fire on the other and this lot in
between. More Canadians, but not all that brilliant an album.
I like this, I honestly
do. It's okay, starts well, and although it tails off a little,
is largely consistent. But somehow I never quite got into it. It's
a good album, but never quite swept me off my feet.
Your Hands Say Yeah
really like this. It's another product of the sort of viral marketing
techniques that made the Arctic Monkeys huge long before they released
anything of note, although this time the source is Philadelphia,
via Brooklyn, rather than Sheffield.
The voice is something
of a bone of contention here, given the lead singer patently can't
sing a note. Bollocks, as far as I'm concerned - he can't sing but
it still sounds brilliant. He is very reminiscent of David Byrne
in early Talking Heads stuff (I pinched that one from Word or Mojo,
not my own spot!) and the lilt of the music owes a lot to Tom Waits
and has a certain circus chaos that gives it all sorts of energy
I really like this
album, although I couldn't really say why. It's bedlam, and there
are all sorts of technical complaints that many reviewers have picked
up on, all of which are valid. he can't sing, the music is haphazard
at best, but I like it. So bugger off.
just raved about Canadian music I know I should be lauding an album
by possibly the first ever Canadian Supergroup in the history of
the universe. But no. Sorry.
Ultimately it all comes
down to whether or not you like a group's tunes, and for some reason
there was nothing in this album to really draw me in and get me
humming along. I doubt if I'd actually recognise one of their songs
if it was used as the introduction to Match of the Day.
The sound is good -
it sounds like the kind of music I should like - but nothing has
really drawn me into this album and I'm afraid I find it completely
New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
really hard to describe this album, but it's part of a sudden wave
of brilliant Canadian groups that have emerged recently. This is
a relief to we Canadians I can tell you, having been responsible
for the execrable likes of Celine Dion, Brian Adams and Alanis Morissette,
we now have a scene to be proud of, at long last! They accompany
the likes of Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade and The Arcade Fire
this year, adding to earlier breakthroughs by the likes of The Dears
and Hot Hot Heat.
The New Pornographers
don't sound like any of these, however. Their are shades of The
Arcade Fire at times, but it's not really similar music. They're
punky and spiky, but not in a retro or a bluesy way, as has been
the recent fashion. There are certain parallels to Modest Mouse
at times too, but again it's not quite an accurate comparison.
I'm baffled. It's an
excellent album though.
Cab For Cutie - Plans
but a little bland. They are well-loved in America, and hail from
the cold and wet state of Washington on the North-West coast. I
don't know how much of their writing they do there, but it seems
like it influences the atmosphere they create - warm, cosy, intimate
songs with a gentle, enfolding rise and fall that comfort and surround.
Some of the introspection seems to have its origins in the Washington
weather as well, not that I've even been there, of course..
The problem with all
of this is that the tracks can blend into one another a little,
but I am pretty sure they will start to take on lives of their own
as I listen to them more. Given it is winter, I am glad to have
the likes of Plans to play while I read books on cold evenings with
Fiery Furnaces - Rehearsing My Choir
It's mental, it's quirky,
it's adventurous, it's eccentric, it's mad, it's... rubbish, I'm
Band - Swords
English folksy niceness. They play proper instruments, playfully.
They are good. Their songs are excellent.
There appears to be
a bit of a folk revival underway at the moment, not quite like the
nu-acoustic movement of 2000/1, but more influenced by genuine folk
music than simple acoustic storytelling. This lot are very much
a partof this, alongside the likes of The Decemberists and Andrew
Bird. I'd say they sound more English though, although don't ask
me to define that.
They are related to
the likes of 60s folk-rock, but not in a Vashti Bunyan sort of way.
Maybe more in a Gorky's Zygotic Mynci sort of way.
Rolling Stones - A Bigger Bang
review I read of this album described it as a 'blistering return
to form', which is only partially accurate. It's far, far better
than a lot of the rather poor output that has seen them drift into
album oblivion for the last twenty years, their legend kept alive
by their apparently 'blistering' live shows. But that doesn't mean
it has to be all that good.
Some of it is, and
there are some classic-sounding Stones tunes, but nothing to compare
with the material that made them legendary. I'm tempted to say that
this will appeal to older Stones fans who want to enjoy the old
Stones one last time before they vanish, and this seems to almost
be what they themselves are thinking.
If I heard any one
of these tracks on the radio or a playlist or whatever, I would
enjoy it. But the whole album is pretty forgettable blues rock in
Postal Service - Give Up
Postal Service were foisted on me by an enthusiastic shop assistant
in Banquet Records, and it took me a while, but I am very grateful
to him for doing so. Apparently there is a songwriter who pens tunes
and sends them up North for the singer from Death Cab For Cutie
to sing, and then sets the resulting vocal track to his own music.
It's an odd collaborative
method, but it works brilliantly. This is all quirky beeps and electronica,
but as the chap from Banquet said, it's basically a classic indie
album, just performed with an electronic background.
When you add to the
lovely vocal and lush backing the lilting, intimate songs they perform
then you have an excellent album indeed. It took me a while, but
I really like this.
Snide - The End Of Love
a bit late with this one, I bought it in February actually, but
was so underwhelmed that I rather forgot about it. In retrospect,
that was completely unfair as it is an excellent album.
The fragile bliss of
Soft Spot is gone, as is the playfulness of Ghost Of Fashion, as
too the melancholy introspection of debut Your Favourite Music.
It sounds on the face of it like pleasant, harmless, standard indie-pop
which is probably why it's taken me this long to review the album.
Hidden in the tracks
are lilting melodies and little surprises, and even though the first
ones to grab you are the familiar ones - The Sound Of German Hip-Hop
and Tiny European Cars could easily fit on Your Favourite Music
- it is the surprises that get you eventually.
In each song there
is a gem of a hook, and almost invariably a gem of a lyrical twist
that will pull you in eventually, provided you don't get stuck on
the surface, which does sound like a flat average of their previous
work. It's a trick, don't fall for it! If you're not already a fan
though, perhaps best to start with Your Favourite Music or Ghost
w. Iron & Wine - In The Reins
a short experiment, and certainly not what fans of either group
would expect. The jauntiness of Calexico is reined in, and the whispered
gentleness of Iron & Wine's earlier stuff has been a little
It's certainly a traditional
alt-country effort, but well executed, with a couple of obvious
standouts in He Lays In The Reins and A History Of Lovers where
there is a brief swirl of Calexico trumpet.
The rest of the album
is good, and enjoyable to listen to, but fails to really capture
me completely. Perhaps repeat listenings will yield more.
Adams & the Cardinals - Jacksonville City Nights
has played a blinder in 2005. This is a superb album, especially
when you consider how hot on the heels of Cold Roses it follows.
So he's streaky as hell, but he's clearly on a tear right now.
If, however, Cold Roses
was getting a bit too country for you, do not buy this under any
circumstances. He has gone even further down that road here, even
to the point where it's a bit too country for me at times, and I
own a Willie Nelson album!
Willie Nelson is an
apt comparison at times, right down to the Nelsonesque cover of
Always On My Mind. But ultimately Ryan Adams has digested and interpreted
about half a dozen different genres over the last few years, since
Gold, with varying degrees of success. Rock 'n' Roll was rubbish.
This is ace.
Ferdinand - You Could have It So Much Better
feel about this the same way I felt about the first Franz album
- some great tracks, some filler, and strangely disappointing. I
grew to love most of their first though, so perhaps the same will
They're certainly moving
on though, although not beyond the familiar. The Fallen is a brilliant
opener, and Eleanor Put Your Boots Back On is absolutely superb,
and both an excllent progression from previous stuff. The former
is more complete and urgent, the second melodic and bewitching.
Eleanor sounds almost like Blur singing The White Album, although
you could say that this is largely what most of Blur sounds like
too. There's some ELO in there too, if I'm not much mistaken.
Their guitarist seems
to have an uncanny knack with an uber-catchy riff, but songs like
Do You Wanna sound more than a little lazy. So I like bits of this
an awful lot, like the last one, and like the last one I like it
better and better with each listen. Ultimately, however, I will
always like the Franzes rather than love them.
- Excerpts From the Diary of Todd Zilla
Zilla is an inbetween effort, and it shows. The sound is a lot closer
to Grandaddy's first LP, Under The Western Freeway, so not a lot
of progression in terms of sound. Fortunately, the songs are mostly
very good, and in some cases excellent.
Opener, Pull The Curtains
On The Day is Grandaddy in rather classic territory. This is straightforward
rocker that could have come straight from Sumday. Other tracks,
such as the gently rising and falling melancholia of Fuck The Valley
Fudge, which is excellent, would also be right at home on this album.
It is the other tracks, such as the brilliant (after a few listens)
Florida that set the tone as being slightly more reminiscent of
their early work.
So all in all, there
are some good songs, but it's if anything a marginal step back rather
than one forward. Jason Lyttle can still clearly write a top song
though, so I await the next full album with optimism.
Decemberists - The Tain
processing this one. I'll write more once I know what to make of
it (I ordered it from DVDLegacyUK on Amazon Marketplace and it took
over a month to arrive, as did my only other order from these clowns
- NEVER use them if you can avoid it, they're dire).
It's a fifteen minute,
single track EP in five movements, so fairly ambitious. Still, given
the slightly preposterous excellence of Picaresque I am backing
them to pull it off with aplomb.
not entirely convinced I'm afraid. There's plenty of decent punk-pop
here, with a generous dollop of ska, as is becoming increasingly
fashionable at the moment. The Dead 60s are a cross between The
Ordinary Boys, Hard Fi and late (ie disappointing) Libertines.
There are some excellent
moments to be found, mainly in the singles, but I am not convinced
there's enough here to make up a whole album. At best this lot may
sneak a track on a punk retrospective of the year, but we'll have
forgotten this album by this time next year I should imagine.
Man Half Biscuit - Achtung Bono
think Half Man Half Biscuit are the most quintessentially English
group I have ever come across, in that you never know whether they
are joking or serious. In typically English fashion, of course,
the answer tends to be both - they are rarely ever entirely serious,
nor entirely joking.
The music, on the other hand, is not a novelty
act. They do merge slightly odd tunes, like the Twelve Days of Christmas
in one rather memorable instance, into their tunes, but it fits
so well with the music and the lyrics and the mood that you want
to cheer every time they do it. It's not all great, however. Depressed
Beyond Tablets and Mate of the Bloke don't really do it for me,
but they are rare lapses indeed.
Ultimately, this lot are brilliant. The tunes
are old school indie-punk-pop, and the lyrics could hardly be more
joyously brilliant: 'Is your child hyperactive, or is he perhaps
a twat.' or 'last Ash Wednesday I had tantric sex and it was shit'
or 'I've only got three bullets and there's four of Motley Crue'
or 'In my Joy Division oven gloves' or.. oh, just listen!
Rebel Motorcycle Club - Howl
on earth did this come from? The last I heard of BRMC they were
all howling guitars (geddit?), shrieking vocals and more racket
than you could shake a disapproving hippy fist at. Suddenly, here
is a sparkling album of rootsy Americana, full of slide guitar,
bluesy chord changes and sprinklings of gospel choirs.
I found Howl to be instantly accessible,
instantly familiar and lovely. So many of the songs manage to sound
like you've heard them before, without being in any way a tired
old retread of old stuff. I am not a huge fan of the blues but this
album, whilst unashamedly wearing its influences on its sleeve,
takes them, twists them and serves them straight back in a way that
is both fresh and familiar at the same time.
I might just go and try their really noisy
one now too!
- Road To Rouen
something of a critics favourite, this lot. I am definitely a fan,
but my favourite album was by far 1997's scorching 'In It For The
Money', and this has done nothing much to change my mind. 2002's
Life On Other Planets was poppy and punky and had a few really good
tunes, and a few less memorable ones. Road To Rouen is a bit more
wistful and melancholy, has a few really great tunes and a few less
memorable ones. It almost reminds me of British Sea Power, in terms
of the change of gear from one album to the next.
A lot has been made
about Supergrass giving up on fame on this album - a lot of the
lyrics back this up - and simply going their own way. There are,
as usual, some brilliant moments here, and some of the tracks are
Ultimately though, I'd describe Road To Rouen
bit of a case of 'as before, so below' from the Frappsters. If you
own Felt Mountain and Black Cherry then there's probably no need
for this one. The songs range from disco glam to lush, electronic-infused
ballads, and they're all pretty good.
The problem with this effort is that there
is no real moving on being done. If you don't know Goldfrapp, buy
it. If you love and adore them, buy it. But if, like me, you really
enjoyed their first couple but are not really a disco diva at heart,
then the first two will probably suffice.
Decemberists - Picaresque
lot are barmy. Honestly, it's like listening to the Muppets play
ancient sea shantys. They have a distinctly vintage arrangement
style, using lots of accordions, clarinet, banjos and the rest of
it, and they sing old songs of the sea and sell it as a popular
The song titles tell
you a lot about this record - Eli, The Barrow Boy and The Mariner's
Revenge Song to name but two. There is a lot of dramatic theatricality
about the sound, but there's still the urgency of the upbeat numbers
and the heart-broken lovelorn melodrama about the ballads, so far
from being a museum piece, it's actually a very immediate album.
So, if you enjoyed
the likes of Andrew Bird, Smog and Aberfeldy this year, and are
looking forward to My Latest Novel's debut offering, then I really
recommend this. It's nuts, but excellent!
Adams & The Cardinals - Cold Roses
Adams has been distinctly off form for a while now. Since Gold he's
done some crap, but this is fantastic. It's a lot closer to Gold
than Rock 'n' Roll was, although less classic American rock 'n'
roll, and a bit more alt-country Americana.
It's the latest in
a rash of really good recent double-albums, so almost inevitably
there are a few tracks I'm not that fond of, but all in all it's
great. There's still a lot of classic American influences here -
a lot of Bruce Springsteen for example - but the atmosphere is very
There is a lush, comfortable
loveliness about this album that makes me look forward to winter,
dark nights, open fires, hot coffee and a good book.
- The Back Room
the let-downs of the likes of Hard-Fi you can always rely on some
good, old-fashioned complaint rock to cheer you up!
The British Interpol
is how this lot were touted, and in terms of the sound that pretty
much sums them up. There are some blinding tracks, such as all the
singles Blood and Munich. Lights is also superb. I love dark, moody,
stuff like this. There are even shades of The Edge's early sound
in some of the guitar riffs - a reminder that U2 were actually good,
This form isn't quite
sustained throughout the album though. There are a couple of weaker
tracks, most notably towards the end, where things tail off somewhat,
but by and large this is a very good record.
Fi - Stars Of CCTV
shite. Middle Eastern Holiday is okay, as is Cash Machine, but the
rest is poor.
This lot got nominated
for the Mercury Prize, which baffles me. But then again, so did
Athlete, and I would put this lot in the same pasty, crappy, uninspiring,
insipid, spineless Britpop-wank category.
Ordinary Boys - Brassbound
Not having been much of a fan of their last
effort I am not even all that sure why I actually bought this album.
But it's definitely better. To begin with, it's less Indie, this
one, and rather more Ska in outlook.
Their themes haven't
changed much, and this is good. They rail against indoor, telly/computer/playstation-dominated
modern life, and this time with some really killer hooks. On An
Island is terrific - and very Specials - and songs like Brassbound,
Boys Will Be Boys and Call To Arms are uplifiting, feel-good songs
with swirling brass, harmonic backing, and catchy choruses.
They're moaning about
all sorts, if you listen to the words - the Masons one is hilarious
- but the music is happy and enjoyable. It's not a great album -
there's still a lot of filler here - but it's not bad and there's
plenty to like.
& Daughters - The Repulsion Box
& Daughters are a bloody frustrating lot. I'm always on the
verge of thinking they're brilliant, but I never quite get there.
Their last EP was the
same - some great bits, a lot of the right elements, a couple of
excellent tracks, but never quite there. The Last Girl is good,
I like the vocal interplay of most of the album, and I like the
driving, punky guitars, but on the whole I don't think I'm that
fond of this album.
But I almost love it.
- A River Ain't Too Much To Love
immediate bracketing of this album is with the likes of Iron &
Wine, but it's not quite there that it belongs, I feel. It can remind
me of Lambchop at times, not so much with the music as with the
still, sparseness of the arrangements, and the rich, deep rumble
of Bill Callaghan's voice.
One reviewer on Amazon
described this as "Leonard Cohen on smarties or Fairport Convention
in a thunderstorm", and I like that, although I think the Leonard
Cohen comparison is probably the more apt.
It's sonorous and minimal
and lovely, but don't put it on a a dinner party. Not for Dido and
Norah Jones fans!
Brut - Bang Bang Rock & Roll
I didn't expect to like this lot
to be honest. They're an in-joke, formed in Camden, singing songs
like 'popular culture no longer applies to me' - honestly!
Still, despite the
rather silly posturing, it's a very enjoyable album. The singing
voice ('it's not irony, it's not rock 'n' roll', apparently) does
take a bit of getting used to, but there's a few real gems to be
found here - the title track for example, and Emily Kane too.
It's when they sing
songs declaring 'modern art makes me want to rock out' that the
real comedy hits home. It's the silliest song I've heard for ages,
and yet I really like it. In fact, that statement probably sums
the whole thing up. It is modern art, and it actually does make
you want to rock out.
Raveonettes - Pretty In Black
Raveonettes have done some patchy but brilliant stuff. "My
girl is a little animal, she always wants to f*ck...' is the rather
blunt line that leads you into a typically visceral guitar punk
rocker on the previous album, but this has all changed.
Their earlier stuff
always had a hint of classic, Grease-style rock 'n' roll about it,
despite the snarling guitars and angry feedback. As with the White
Stripes they have left the gritty garage rock behind and followed
their influences all the way back, but with markedly less success.
Pretty In Black is
a bland, homogenous album with barely a single standout track -
Somewhere In Texas isn't bad - and makes me wish they'd kept their
electric guitars closer to hand.
Park - A Certain Trigger
rather expected to be disappointed by Maximo Park - one decent radio-friendly
single is often the hook, line and sinker for mediocre albums -
but I love this.
The sound is very mainstream,
and I may be embarrassed by this in eight years, but there are no
musical surprises to be had here. What there is, however, is track
after track of briliant, spiky, energetic melody that epitomise
the good things in Indie-pop. This may be angst-rock, but it is
joyous to listen to.
Hot Heat - Elevator
album is a bit of a disappointment. Make Up The Breakdown was so
infectious I couldn't stop listening to it, and this does sometimes
touch those heights, just not often enough.
Island Of The Honest
Man, Shame On You, and a couple of others really do have you humming
along, but the rest are samey and lack the quirky twists and shameless
charm of the previous album.
- Demon Days
the success of the first Gorillaz album - which I found slightly
patchy - and the excellent Think Tank, I was rather looking forward
to this one, and rightly so.
Albarn seems forever
tagged with this dislikable, Jamie Oliver-esque mockney tag, and
I really can't understand why. Blur started out poorly, produced
the sublime Parklife, lapsed quite badly with The Great Escape,
and have since been getting better and better. Albarn himself shows
a work rate and diversity of musical interest and output to put
virtually anyone in the industry to shame, and as such is one of
my musical heroes. He deserves far more praise than he seems to
And as for the Gorillaz
album, it's excellent. It's halfway between Think Tank and the first
Gorillaz album in terms of sound, and combines their poppy energy
with trademark Albarn plaintive melodies. It's all catchy, mostly
uplifiting, and the sort of record that makes me look forward to
his next Blur album more than ever.
Fontaine - The Fitzgerald
album is all about loveliness, wispy, low key storytelling and atmospheric
nostalgia. It recalls the quieter moments of Sparklehorse, albums
like Springsteen's Nebraska and, at times, the likes of Bonnie Prince
A couple of tracks
are standout wonderful - it starts with The Warehouse Life which
is defined by the most gorgeous piano and guitar inflection - but
by and large this is an entire album to be listened to all at once
so the slow, introspective atmosphere can just wash over you.
like Black Road and Don't Look Back And It Won't Hurt lift the tempo
briefly, but in all this is a very downbeat, deliciously emotional
album dominated by the sort of plucked, melancholy storytelling
of The Incident At Conklin Creek - lovely!
Cave & The Bad Seeds - B-Sides & rarities
simply, this is a must-buy. Nick Cave himself has described it as
his favourite Bad Seeds album, and he is spot on.
There are some inevitable
misses - the one about Jazz is absolutely awful - but with moments
of genius so frequent you just don't notice the rubbish ones. Warren
Ellis' mournful violin on The Willow Garden is one of the Bad Seeds'
best ever, and tracks like Little Empty Boat, Time Jesum Transeuntum...,
Black Betty, God's Hotel, Swing Low, Grief Came Riding and She's
Leaving You give a glimpse of a band who have been consistently
brilliant now for years and years.
Ultimately, I would
have been happy with the Bad Seeds' blinding album output, but listening
to these I wonder if they actually do any shit songs at
White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan
I bought this album at about the same time as I finally got my hands
on a copy of White Blood Cells, and the contrast was quite notable.
Where White Blood Cells is raw and vital and aggressive, Get Behind
Me Satan is quirky, unusual and downright weird.
Apparently the sounds
are partly marimba, tango, Carmen Miranda and goodness knows what
else. There are a few moment where Jack whips out his trademark
guitar growl, and wisely enough they start with one such track -
Wild Orchid. But then we see what this album is really about - some
sort of glockenspiely/steel drum business dominates The Nurse, for
It just gets further
out from there, with the exception of tracks like Instinct Blues,
and all in all this is a great effort. It lacks a lot of the compulsive
grip of Elephant, but they've taken a bold new direction and delivered
a cracking album unlike pretty much anything I've ever heard.
- Blinking Lights & Other Revelations
is a fantastic record, and it's not often you can say that about
a double album. It's certainly not as tight as, say, Nick Cave's
recent effort, but it suits E to be a little more rambling, and
the content is most definitely there.
Musically this pitches
somewhere between Electro-Shock Blues and Daisies Of The Galaxy,
and there are no grand surprises for people familiar with the Eels
sound. Where the surprises manifest themselves is instead in a quiet
way in each song. A chord change here, a lyric, an inflection. This
is an album of quiet surprises and satisfying discovery.
The other thing to
mention is the fact that this is actually an incredibly uplifting
album. Despite the subject matter - death, isolation, etc.. - there's
something gently feel-good about listening to Blinking Lights.
Folds - Songs For Silverman
Folds has grown up, there aren't five of them anymore. There aren't
even three. Yet another artist who has gradually run out of inspiration
as he's grown older. It's nice enough, this one, but at his best
Mr Folds used to knock spots off Rufus Wainright. Right now, he
has a lot of catching up to do.
Imagine the blander
songs off Rockin' The Suburbs, and you've pretty much got it.
Mann - The Forgotten Arm
keep coming across bits of Aimee Mann songs I quite like, although
never quite enough to compel me to buy a whole album, so I thought
I'd give her new album a go, and see what she was really about.
Standard American alt-country/indie
is pretty much the sound but it's done well, the songs are good
and it's an enjoyable listen. I won't be dashing out to buy her
next album but I'm glad I have this one.
Miles better than the
likes of Sarah McLachlan (shudder) and that lot, so don't be afraid
of American Lady-rawk.
3 - Outlaw
is another poor album from the once-inspired Alabama 3. After the
blinding Exile On Coldharbour Lane and La Peste, they went all too
techno with Power In The Blood, released a filler with their acoustic
one and have tried to explore the more Americana-based side of their
roots with Outlaw
The biggest problem
is that for some time now they seem to have lost the knack of writing
memorable tunes. Whither Bourgeoisie Blues, Woke Up This Morning
and The Thrills Are Gone? Because gone they have.
album really is shite - please avoid. The Thrills, Athlete, The
Magic Numbers, they all do this stuff that is generally described
as dreamy and blissed out and stuff like that. More accurate terms
would be dull, bland and devoid of memorable tunes. Pleasant, pointless
tripe that keeps on reminding you why the Beach Boys were actually
British Sea Power -
really like this album, although there are fewer standout tracks
than there might be, Definitely one to stick on the player and allow
to run its course.
The hard-edged indie
of The Decline Of British Sea Power has gone, and a mellower, slightly
dreamier sound evolved in its place. The single - Ended On An Oily
Stage - is a winner, and showcases the softer sound at play here.
But it's more the really chilled tracks like Oh Larsen B and The
Land Beyond that define this album.
It's almost as if Echo
& The Bunnymen has never drifted off the radar...
supremely enjoyable effort this one. I am more of a Beck fan when
he's in a mellow mood than a raucous one, generally. I loved Mutations
and didn't really like Midnite Vultures much, except for Sexx Laws,
but this one is a bit of a marriage of the two and has funk, punch
There's a darkness
to some of the stuff here, and some very ominous baselines to go
with it, but the overwhelming mood is one of energy and life. Girl,
Black Tambourine, etc.. all the sort of stuff to listen to in a
good mood. It's a very Hispanic album - whatever that really means
- as if he's listened to a lot of Calexico and enjoyed it, but not
copied it. There's less party funk than Midnite Vultures, but it's
nothing like as downbeat as Mutations, although as I said, the musical
style is similar. Not a sniff of Sea Change anywhere!
let's not beat about the bush here - this lot are Duran
Duran. This is not a criticism, but the parallels are uncanny -
they're extremely pretty and immaculately coiffed, for starters.
Secondly, their music is incredibly similar - dancefloor-friendly
electro-pop laced with brilliant, hugely enjoyable songs.
there is absolutely no sign of substance here at all. This, I repeat,
is not a criticism. This album is the ultimate guiltless
pleasure, consistently good from start to finish, and one I find
myself singing along to all the way through. And who says music
has to be deep and meaningful to be good, I love this!
Benson - The Alternative to Love
album I'm not all that sure about. There's no doubt about it though,
Mr Benson has a tremendous knack for writing infectious melodies
that stick in your head and have you humming along whenever you
Initially, this album
struck me as incredibly bland, all Beach Boys/Pernice Brothers nice-pop.
It is sunny and lovely and washes over you without leaving much
impression, but as you listen to it more and more, those infectious
tunes start to stick. I could barely name a song on this album,
but I would recognise them all immediately if anyone else put them
So while this is not
exactly my favourite album in the world, it is steadily gowing on
me, and absolutely impossible to dislike.
Ltd - LP
lot are supposed to be the coolest new band in New York, which is
probably quite a compliment. They sound like Lou Reed/Velvets mixed
with the Beatles - high cred guitar wielding married to catchy pop
tunes. Funnily enough, the singer also sounds quite a bit like Lloyd
Cole at times, too.
The songs themselves
are good, particularly the first half of the album - Primitive,
Anecdote, Heavy Lifting and Ophelia are excellent. The album does
drift a little towards the end though. Ultimately, despite liking
a lot of what's going on here, I don't feel compelled to listen
to this album, and am not certain I'll still be playing it in a
Arcade Fire - Funeral
not sure what to say to this lot. They're sort of ultra-hip, retro,
eighties art rock, with a touch of the lunatic arrangements of Kate
Bush at times, which is an odd combo which nevertheless works.
The only disappointment
with this album for me is that it never really quite matches the
giddy heights of their brilliant single Neighbourhood 2 (Laika).
I'll stick with it though - there really is a lot there to like.
(01-01-2005 - Complete
revision of opinion, sorry, This is an excellent album - look for
it to score highly in my Top Ten of 2005. Ah the benefit of hindsight!)
Chiefs - Employment
the brilliance of their two singles, I Predict a Riot and Oh My
God, I was really looking forward to Employment, but have so far
not been that impressed.
The inevitable comparisons
are with Blur and Madness, and there's a bit of the Inspiral Carpets
and the Housemartins as well, but making these comparisons is a
little flattering. Basically, after the two singles there's not
much here. There are some half-decent tunes - Everyday I Love You
Less & Less and Modern Way aren't bad - but for any one of these
there's a couple of Na Na Nas, which is crap.
So not bad, but not
very good either.
Wedding Present - Take Fountain
a little bit difficult to know what to say about this one. It is
definitely much better than Torino - the last Cinerama outing which,
bar a couple of tracks, was poor. And it is probably at least as
good as Disco Volante, although more Wedding Presenty in style.
In fact, there are
a couple of really excellent songs here. Mars Sparkles Down is one
of the most openly painful songs Gedge has ever written, and Perfect
Blue is terrific. Add to that the singles - the very Weddoes Interstate
5 and the jangle-pop classic I'm From Further North Than You and
you have the core of a very good album here, and certainly a return
to more Wedding Present territory after the initial inspiration
of Va Va Voom dripped away from Cinerama.
But ultimately, since
the brilliance of the mid-nineties and such inspirational albums
as Saturnalia, Watusi, Mini and Va Va Voom, Gedge has drifted a
little into writing slightly formulaic songs about predictable topics
which lack either the bite or the infectiousness of his earlier
stuff. I'll enjoy this album, but not as much as I wish I could.
Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs
loved Andrew Bird's last album - Weather Systems - all plucked meandering
and wandering violins. This one is a little more straightforward,
and misses some of the free-spirited creativity of its predecessor.
Some of the departures
are splendid - Fake Palindromes is like nothing I've ever heard
from Bird, and excellent. A couple of the others are really good
too, in a more conventional way, such as Nervous Tic Motion... and
All in all , despite
one or two weaker songs at the end, like The Naming Of Things, this
is a wonderful, wonderful album. There is a gentleness about the
music that belies some of the lyrical content, but serves to make
anything Andrew Bird touches these days an absolute pleasure to
Party - Silent Alarm
bought this because I loved Helicopter, which is always a risky
strategy with albums, and initially I was really rather disappointed.
But then, as is often the way with these things, I played it again.
And then again. And then again.
I still liked Helicopter,
and already knew I loved Banquet, but slowly the others crept up
on me as well - rather like an Interpol album. They're definitely
standard Indie-pop, this lot, but none the worse for it. Like Eating
Glass and Positive Tension are excellent, and This Modern Love is
aching. The rest, although they stand out less, round out the album
fantastically. Silent Alarm is one of my favourite albums of the
year, and boasts the best opening four songs I've heard in a long
Eyes - I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
one is not immediately accessible, but thoroughly worth it in the
long run. Conor Oberst has been touted as the new Bob Dylan, which
seems totally over the top, but he has released two very good albums
here, with this the better of them.
I am hard pressed to
make comparisons, despite the fact that this is basically acoustic
Americana. A less gentle version of Micah P Hinson springs to mind,
as perhaps do Wilco in patches, but these don't really describe
the sound all that accurately.
The album starts annoyingly,
with some spoken word bollocks, before At The Bottom Of Everything
really kicks off and turns into a terrific tune. There are some
quiet, acoustic numbers, and a couple of real crackers - like We
Are Nowhere And It's Now, sung in duet with Emmylou Harris (I think).
She joins in again later on Landlocked Blues, bringing the trumpets
back with her again in another cracker. But for some reason the
defining moment seems to come when, in the final track, Oberst cuts
loose and cries 'Lets fuck it up boys, make some noise'. This may
seem like an album of loveliness, but it is in no way gentle. Superb!
Eyes - Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
second of Conor Oberst's twin releases doesn't yet seem to me to
be quite as good as the first. Both took a while to grow on me though,
so I'll hold back on that for a little while yet.
The obvious comparison
here is with the Magnetic Fields, and it holds pretty well, although
without the toy-town atmosphere Stephin Merritt has a habit of generating.
Merritt's hooks and melodies are briefer, more direct, and his lyrics
much more overtly literate. Oberst, on the other hand creates more
sweeping songs that take a while to emerge and his lyrics are lovely,
but less forward.
At times this can be
downright bleak - Easy-Lucky-Free is desperate - but the atmosphere
is never leaden. Digital Ash has a couple more songs on it that
don't really stand out, hence my rating it lower than its twin,
but it is still a fabulous record.
- Some Cities
Another whinge here
I'm afraid. I've been a right picky beggar since the New Year. Doves'
first album was sheer, unmitigated genius. The Last Broadcast was
okay - there was about half a brilliant album there, and there's
just slightly less here.
It starts well - Some
Cities and Snowden are vintage Doves - in fact the first four songs
are just the sort of uplifting stuff you know they're capable of.
After that though, it just seems to descend into filler. There are
some good bits and pieces, but really the second half is weak.
Mind you, I said that
about The Dears last year, and that one grew on me so much it was
in my top five albums of the year eventually, so I'm going to give
this one more time and reserve the right to change my mind later!
have to be honest, I didn't give this album all that much attention.
The write-ups were pretty discouraging and I confess to having been
rather influenced by them by the time I heard the album.
Consequently I don't
have a lot nice to say here. This album seems to be a much more
mainstream dance effort, moving pretty decisively away from the
playful, beguiling tunesmithery of Lost Horizons and lemonjelly.ky.
I have to say I pretty much lost interest in 64-95 after a couple
of listens and haven't bothered since.
the anticipation, this one was another disappointing effort. That's
a bit harsh, considering it's perfectly acceptable US sunshine indie-pop,
but really it's just not all that good.
For comparisons think
Joy Zipper or the Pernice Brothers. There is one terrific track
- It's A Hit is indeed one, and if they'd kept that up for the whole
album I'd be singing an altogether different tune. Ultimately I
get the impression the Beach Boys could have written this whole
album in an afternoon.
Kills - No Wow
Unless you're as plain
talented as the White Stripes, then the whole White Stripes-a-like
thing is OVER. One good song, the rest are rubbish.
It took me ages to
get into Interpol the first time round, and this one is no exception.
It's worth it though. The first record never struck me as having
been all that big, although popular amongst my music anorak friends.
The level of fevered anticipation for Antics showed how wrong I
was though - by the time this came out Interpol couldn't have been
Despite that, this
is a good album. I am not as completely convinced as I was last
time round, but songs like Evil, Public Pervert and Next Exit are
storming - they just can't be played loud enough.
It's all a bit poppier
this time too - more Killers that Walkmen - but no great loss for
that. Not so brooding, and you won't have to spend as long explaining
to your non-indie friends just why you like it so much either.
the eerie, drifting beauty of their previous album, Rabbit Songs,
Hem were always going to struggle to match it the second time. This
is good, but not that good.
The shades of Fairport
Convention are gone here, and the album's biggest drawback is that
instead of further exploring the gorgeous folk of the first album,
here they move into more conventional Alt-Country fare. There are
some outstanding tracks as well - Lucky is a real throwback to the
etherial loveliness of Rabbit Songs, and there are others too, like
Redwing and Fire Thief.
On Rabbit Songs the
exceptional voice was matched by the unusual sound and wonderful
songs. On this occasion though, the singing and musicianship are
still unparallelled, but the songwriting doesn't seem to have quite
given them the platform they deserve.
White - Drill a Hole etc..
reminds me an awful lot of my reaction to Jim White's previous album,
and I can't say I mean that in a good way, White is another one
of those musicians that I really wish I liked, but just don't.
There is one absolutely
outstanding track on this album - the first one. Static On The Radio
is a haunting story, with haunting imagery and a spell-binding duet
to carry it. The problem is that despite being able to write songs
of this quality, the rest of the album is pretty unmemorable, run-of-the-mill
Americana. That level of delicate, evocative beauty is rarely in
So, having bought both
this and his previous one on the strength of one blinding song,
I can honestly say I won't be doing it again.