This is the second album from Seatle's Throw Me The Statue, an outfit that originally began as the one-man project of the multifaceted Scott Reitherman then evolved into the charmingly fresh sound that makes up Creaturesque. Its predecessor Moonbeams pricked up the ears of many a music critic with its ample helping of lo-fi bliss and while Creaturesque retains much of this element it's the production work from Phil Ek (The Shins, Built To Spill, Band Of Horses) that elevates this sound to maximalist indie-pop heights.
The transition to these heights is an interesting one and it's what's left in its trail that make this record intriguing. TMTS can drop in some of the most well formed pop hooks that it sometimes borders on cliche. The glittery glockenspiel that erupts on the hand-clap chorus of opener Waving At The Shore runs dangerously close to the sugary drivel that made the Magic Numbers so hard to swallow. But I think it's the fact that Reitherman has come from such lo-fi roots that this sweetness stays palatable due to an everpresent DIY presence that runs through it. I don't mean DIY in the No Age sense but in the Grandaddy sense I guess. Sub Pop's Chad Vangaalen is probably a better point of reference, with the occasional decrepit synthesiser being employed to churn out a vulnerable drum beat on which is built this impressive structure. But the intriguing thing is the contrast between the times when very little is built on this structure and a song like Tag plays out with its bare bones on full display, leading into its antithesis Ancestors. As the lead single Ancestors is a slice of indie-pop perfection. With an endlessly marketable and surprisingly anthemic guitar riff to base things on this can hardly fail and the way, mid way through the track, it pairs down to a simple acoustic strum as if he's just walked into a different room is magnificent. The drumming on all of these tracks is what really propels them. Cannibal Rays is a perfect example with its infectiously rolling pace providing a bubbling and flowing support for Reitherman's soft vocals.
And this voice is also very adaptable and further encourages the Vangaalen comparisons. Reitherman is as comfortable at the dizzy heights of the grand indie riffs of Hi-Fi Goon or the lowly folk acoustics of Shade For A Shadow. His delivery can be as gruff as old boots or so soft he could be singing his kids to sleep. So I guess what I'm saying is that this is an album of subtle contrasts. Nothing is abrasive or challenging and things may occasionally veer towards perilous lands of sugar but as The Outer Folds brings the record to a gentle close with its lounge-act melodies and softly brushed rhythms it's pretty hard not to sit back and smile at what you've just heard. This is infectious for all the right reasons, it's anthemic and intimate, it's polished and yet threads hang unapologetically from its edges. But somewhere in amongst all that is something that keeps me coming back for more and I will continue to do that until I hear any of these on a T-Mobile ad. Reitherman, you have been warned.
Read more 3 star reviews
Person To Person
Los Angeles based ‘Foreign Born’ release their new album, ‘Person to Person’- and it’s worth getting to know. This band’s sound is weighty and complex, with each song opening up like a landscape; building and growing, widening out into anthemic musical plains of guitar and synth.
'In the summer we survive the heat', drawls Matt Popieluch in the first track, ‘Blood Oranges’ - all tumbling riffs and a pulsing percussion heart. And that’s how it continues for the next nine tracks; guitar driven melodies and overlaid orchestration of strings and brass that invariably lend the songs real sonic depth.
There’s U2 in the mix, more than a hint of Modest Mouse and traces of the ubiquitous Arcade Fire. This music feels determinately optimistic - the cheerful guitars on ‘Early Warnings’ come out of the blue like a sudden interruption from some gig in downtown Lagos and bring a smile to your face. However across the album Foreign Born’s mood oscillates between hazy, summer warmth and the kind of melodramatic grandeur that comes with watching approaching storm clouds.
There are no rainbows without showers and the latter half of ‘Person to Person’ brings with it a soft melancholy in the more reflective songs: ‘It Grew On You’ and ‘See Us Home’. But even here, each track’s increasing momentum is driven along by Garrett Ray’s drums and the band’s enthusiasm that keeps insisting on something golden over the horizon.Read more 4 star reviews
The Atlantic Ocean
Firstly, I have to eat a little humble pie, for the lukewarm review of Richard Swift’s last album ‘Dressed Up For The Letdown’, which turned out to be something of a grower, sounding better and better with repeated plays.
After the unpolished garage rock of last years excellent ‘Richard Swift as Onasis’ comes his next album proper ‘The Atlantic Ocean’. Swift describes the sound as ‘Prince sitting in on John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band’ and is actually a pretty good analogy of what’s going on here, especially on the title track and ‘The Original Thought.'
However Swift is far from a one trick pony and mixes up his influences nicely; the catchy ‘The First Time’ has a touch of the Wilco about it (Swift recorded the album in their loft after meeting Jeff Tweedy on Later With Jools Holland), where as the excellent ‘Bat Coma Motown’ is pure Harry Nilsson.
A slight disappointment is that many of the best songs here already appeared on last years ‘Ground Trouble Jaw’ EP. ‘A Song For Milton Feher’ manages to be insanely catchy after only couple of bars and the closing ‘Lady Luck’, points to where Swift might be going next. With simple and soulful motown style backing, Swift demonstrate a whole other unexplored side to his vocal range.
‘The Atlantic Ocean’ is utterly listenable and cements Swift as a talent to watch, it will be interesting to see where he goes now.Read more 3.5 star reviews
After a year of critical acclaim in the UK and the US, South African art-rockers BLK JKS signed to label Secretly Canadian - who now offer The Mystery EP, a re-mastered and re-sequenced re-release, which was initially produced by the Secret Machines' Brandon Curtis.
These days 'Art Rock' seems to mean slightly erratic drums and having a couple of Paul Simon or Talking Heads albums in your CD collection, but it's a term that serves a purpose and provides a reference point to where these songs might fit in to the bigger picture. Less Vampire Weekend and more Brain Eno might narrow it down further, as the band's vocals ebb and flow around the music, becoming more of a sound than a lyric (see "Mystery"), adding another strand of subtle texture.
It's multi-layered and mysterious, and while there may be nothing new as such (Animal Collective and mid-80's INXS could provide further touchstones), there's a nice subtlety and atmosphere here - and the potential is obvious as things gain some focus on "Summertime", progressing nicely with a spiraling tune rising out of the experimental chaotic sounds. While there's not all that much to write home about at this point, this is ambitious stuff - which will hopefully distill down in the future to reap many rewards for the listener.Read more 3 star reviews
While LA, NYC and DC drew the main focus of the punk and hardcore scenes of 80's America, the Zero Boys sprouted out of Indianapolis, Indiana. With Indiana-based label Secretly Canadian re-releasing debut album Vicious Circle, the opportunity has also been taken to release History Of..., which is billed as a lost second album. The disc compiles EP Livin' In The 80's with other tracks from the time - and between them the two discs cover the entire recorded output from the bands '79-'83 period, after which they disbanded.
From the opening track, the Vicious Circle album is a pogo-tastic affair, with the title track doing away with much intro before the explosive guitar and pounding bass hammer home. Livin In The 80's provides one of the band's most memorable songs, while the sentiment of tracks like Drug Free Youth and Down The Drain is pretty clear.
Lyrically it's far from challenging - and if someone is having a "needly stuck in their brain", you can be sure they're going to be "going insane" by the end of the verse. What the lyrics do successfully though, is to transplant the aggressive sound of UK punk into a US setting - capturing a time and a place perfectly. The 'big issues' of bands like the Sex Pistols (anarchy, anti-monarchy, the usual) are translated into issues with more connection to the Repoman-loving, car fixing, skateboarding, disassociated youth of suburban Indiana. Not being able to get booze, working a nine to five and looking forward to the weekend are the hot topics here and that connection to the youth of America was a recipe for success, as the skate-punk sound exploded through the US at the start of the 80's. Bands like 7 Seconds, Youth Brigade and Black Flag developed the hardcore sound that would become such a thriving industry - creating a climate where bands like Green Day could eventually bring their punk-inspired sound into the arena-filling mainstream.
There's little notable evolution by the time we move onto the long-lost History Of album, with many of the tracks still in something of a demo form. There's actually a touch of country influence here and there which softens the sound a little - adding a nice rolling vibe to the music, making it more accessible that some of the more hardcore-leanings of a lot of the early American punk bands. The dated production let's things down a little, with some of the kick seemingly missing from the sound - where these days you would expect a solid, booming bottom end. As a document of the developing hardcore scene however, there's plenty to enjoy - and you can clearly trace the roots of many of the influential bands that evolved from this pioneering sound.
Read more 3.5 star reviews
The double disc Trying Hartz compilation brings together a sampling of the work of Daniel Smith - recorded under various names, including Danielson, Danielson Famile and Brother Danielson. Perhaps best known for his well-received 2006 album Ships, the compilation provides an interesting document of the metamorphosing artist, as he fins his feet and cements his direction.
While musically Smith is influenced by his Christian 're-awakening', this is not your typical religious recording - although gospel certainly plays a part in defining the rambling indie artist, as he pulls in guitars, banjos, sample and more.
This is a well put together package that avoids the usual inconsistency of a compilation and remains a cut above the typical demos package, with a pretty crisp production - although it is lacking when it comes to bottom end, and that doubles in intensity due to the consistently high-pitched vocals. Things also lose a little focus as the album starts pulling from a live catalogue.
From the roaring opening and shuffling drums of Animal In Every Corner to the delicate banjo balladry of Daughters Will Tune You, there is plenty to recommend here - and the seemingly scattergun approach actually forms a pretty consistent shape. The problem is, without the unhinged craziness of Deerhoof, or the dogged persistence of Sufjan Stevens, things can easily drift into no mans land.Read more 3 star reviews
Caught In The Trees
Just like this review, the 9th album by Seattle native (and former Sub Pop alumni) Damien Jurado, took a long time coming. Along with best friends and bandmates Eric Fisher and Jenna Conrad, Jurado took over a year to make ‘Caught In The Trees’ and it is a record that has clearly benefited from this considered maturing process.
Each of the 13 tracks feels like they had Jurado’s love, attention and perspiration shared equally amongst them, lightly embellishing each one with extra touches to ensure ‘Caught In The Trees’ did not simply become another record by another singer/songwriter with a guitar. Sure, it’s his delicate voice and acoustic guitar that lies at the core, but it’s the subtle piano rolls, Conrad’s backing vocals, the under-produced drums and de-tuned solo parts, added to the ambiguous lyrics, that draws you into the enigmatic world of ‘Caught In The Trees’; a world that is at the same time intense and fragile – introspective in its vision and confident in its sound.
As Alan Partridge once said: ‘Lovely Stuff”.Read more 3.5 star reviews
With an introduction that will make you almost sure you are listening to a legendary Lynyrd Skynyrd bootleg, Catfish Haven's third album Devastator kicks off with a confidence and enthusiasm that makes them hard to place. Your immediate assumption might be that the band are a 70's rock tribute act, and while the album is unashamedly retro there's a wealth of great material on here - worthy of many of of the band's obvious influences.
If Aretha Franklin has refused to let Matt "Guitar" Murphy quit the cafe and put the band back together, Jake and Ellwood Blues might have called on second choice backing band - Duane and Gregg Allman. Their southern rock could have pushed the Blues Brothers into a whole new territory, adding a heavy-rocking boogie to their Sam Cooke-influenced soulful style. Surpringly enough, Catfish Haven are not a sprawling 11-piece rock orchestra, but just a three piece from Chicago - with a very big sound.
The party train leaves the station on opener Are You Ready, before passing through the infectous Prince-tinged guitar of Set In Stone (an unmissable highlight and certainly a future Chimpomatic Song Of The Day, mp3 here), as George Hunter wails "There's a train, that leaves the station of my mind". There's no slowing down for the foot-stomping piano on Buying My Time, or the furious instrumental workout of Full Speed as this unstoppably entertaining listen plows full steam ahead, right through to the very end.
This is one retro sound that has been long in need of re-invention and thankfully the band remain firmly on the side of homage rather than pastiche - more Black Mountain than Wolfmother. You can either jump on board right here, or at the very least dust off some Allman Brothers and leave your blues at home.Read more 3.5 star reviews
Waiting For The Sunrise
A couple of weeks ago, during a particularly stressful time I received an all important and long awaited phone call. Needing to quickly write down the information relayed to me over the phone, I scrambled around in my bag for something on which to write and all I could lay my hands on was the Waiting For The Sunrise press release. Sadly this was as close as this album would come to being essential.
Believe it or not, that intro in no way suggests this to be a bad album. Vandervelde's mini-debut in 2007 was a warm breeze blowing over much of the releases that year. It was heavily steeped in rock history, particularly that of Marc Bolan but was enjoyable none the less. The trick is making that heavy emulation last over more than one album and by the sound of his followup the plan was simply to change the point of reference. This year, soft rock and the sound of Fleetwood Mac are the source in question and much the same enjoyment is gained from this as with the debut but it really doesn't seem enough.
Opener I Will Be Fine is classic Mac as it tip toes in on a delicate beat and dainty piano tinkle. Vandervelde's hazy vocals are light and breezy and allow much room to the music as they fade to the background during extended bridge sections. Hit The Road plods endlessly on amidst a fuzzed out wall of guitars while Someone Like You rises above the sun-bleached haze to produce a nice guitar driven melody and colourful injections of retro keyboards.
Much of the feeling of the 70's is evoked on Waiting For The Sunrise including theinability to stop playing when a song has run its course. Someone Like You hits the 4 minute mark and enters into an instrumental of swirling keyboards that you'd think would see out the rest of the song, but then in come the vocals and the next half begins, but the next half is much of the same and it all just seems like an inability to say goodbye. Need For Now is as non-desrcript as you'll get and it still goes on for over 6 minutes, much of that being the same kind of plodding keyboard instrumentals. Lyin' In Bed is even longer and covers even less musical ground than it's predecessor.
This is a well produced and musically solid album, while Vandervelde has an impressive vocal range and more than achieves his goal. But when the goal seems like little more than emulation, you have to ask yourself what the point of all this is. The reason why there isn't much back story to this review is that I did actually lose that press release when the information adorning the back of it no longer seemed important to me. The same can be said for David Vandervelde unfortunately.Read more 2 star reviews
Ground Trouble Jaw
Since the fairly tepid review we gave Richard Swift's breakout album Dressed Up For The Let Down in 2007, he's proved to be a grower and surpassed all expectations with a barrage of mid-season releases - from the electronica of Music From the Films of R/Swift (released under the name Instruments Of Science And Technology), to the low-key Richard Swift As Onassis, to this free EP - available from Myspace and eMusic amongst others.
This release is closer in style to his 2007 LP than any of the other releases, taking in as many styles as a Ween record, while somehow maintaining Swift's own identity (a telent Ween often seem to lack). The sarcastic taunts of The Bully make for an amusing listen, literally kicking off like one of The Pharoahs from American Graffiti, the song takes a swinging 50's vibe and overlays the sarcastic jaunts of local tough guy. "Huh. Nice ending, jackass".
60's Motown is the touch stone of choice on Lady Luck, as Swift again applies his modern touch to a classic sound. The comedy keyboards on The Original Thought and A Song For Milton Feher manage not to disrupt things, highlighting Swift's love of Lennon-era Harry Nilsson,before it's back to a rolling 50's vibe for highlight Would You.
A hook up with Jeff Tweedy (witnessed in person by our man BC) has led to Swift recording his next 'proper' album at Wilco's loft studio in Chicago - and if this EP is the kind of stuff the guy is capable of 'between' albums, I'll be paying far more attention next time.Read more 3.5 star reviews
How We Lost
Certainty is luxury these days, I mean to really know something for sure be it good or bad. I know England aren't going to go out of Euro 2008 to Portugal, I know I'll never pay money to see a Tarantino movie again. Musically, I know I'd rather stick pins up under my finger nails than go to a Kaiser Chiefs concert and that Michael Jackson's Billie Jean is one of the greatest 3 minutes life is likely to provide. So all these things are banked, I know where I stand, but the same can't be said for my feelings for Windsor For The Derby. In my vast gamete of appreciation that holds Billie Jean at one end and Kaiser Chiefs at the piss stinking other, Windsor For The Derby would probably fit in the better half - occasionally creeping towards the top but then slipping back down to the wasteland of the middle ground. When they creep slowly in the direction of the the hallowed Billie Jean pinnacle it would be during the eight minutes plus of the blissful The Melody Of A Fallen Tree which opened their 2004 album We Fight Till Death. This song is so pleasing, so complete and so sublime it tears the rest of the record down around it. The record is by no means bad, in fact there are some great moments but none that come close to its opener, and the same could be said for their follow up, How We Lost.
The success of The Melody Of A Fallen Tree throws my certainty out the window with this band. My love for it casts a searching eye around the songs that lie at its feet and though their are many a fine moment on How We Lost I am agin left wanting and confused. None of them come anywhere near the depths of the Keiser Chiefs but in a way I wish they would, at least then I'd know where I stand.
This band's talent lies in 2 thongs, their courage to go on past 4 minutes, although only 2 of them hit the 5 minute mark here, and their Krautrock/Joy Division/ New Order tendencies. When all of these things happen in the same song their position on the scale shifts in their favor. The album starts off well with the hollow sounding Let Go kicking things off and the gritty guitars of Maladies continuing the momentum. Fallen Off The Earth sees the band in familiar territory with steady rhythm building slowly but surely to a subtly layered finale. But it's Hold On that picks this album up by the scruff of it's neck and carries it to greener pastures. Running down the center of the record Hold On's patience and persistence reminds me of why I think I sort of like this band. It maintains the same steady pace as its predecessors but where lesser songs would reach for the fade button this one forges on, long outlasting the gentle vocals with a majestic guitar solo. It aint Melody but hey, it's getting there.
The trouble is it's surrounded by the usual fillers that ultimately condemn this album to yet another not quite memorable effort that does little to convince me of my opinion of this band. There's way too many ambient time wasters that only serve to dry up the once rich pastures of the mentioned high points, leaving a slightly moist wasteland of mediocrity.Read more 2.5 star reviews
Let's get the negative stuff out of the way first as I have only one solitary gripe about 'Wagonwheel Blues' the debut album from Philadelphia's The War on Drugs. At 43 minutes I just wish that it was longer.
It is oft observed that movies released early in the season miss out on the accolades when it comes to the Academy Awards. 'And the Oscar goes to...' well usually the film most fresh in the memory of the Academy members. With this in mind I shall duly make a note in my diary for December 2008. It will read 'must remember to seriously consider 'Wagonwheel Blues' for my nomination for 'album of the year'. Perhaps I'm being somewhat premature and that in due course another release will yet supersede this – but it will have to be special because 'Wagonwheel Blues' is an absolute corker of an album.
Those things that look so perfect on paper do not always prove to be so in reality. The answer is not always equal to the sum of the parts. The trophy-less years of the Real Madrid 'Galacticos' era are testimony to the difficulty of creating the dream team. It is with wonder then that 'The War on Drugs' have managed to draw up a wish list of sounds which when thrown into the mixing desk cauldron have created the most magical potion. Instead of 'the eye of a newt and toe of a frog' the band have whisked in the following ingredients;
- The Tom Petty drawl
- Choppy Velvet Underground riffs and chiming John Squire licks
- Drums of a civil war army marching into battle
- The bar room good times of Bruce and his E street band
- A Dylnesque way of dressing mystical lyrics as simple nursery rhymes
- The determination of Smog hitting the ground running
- A meandering journey like Talking Heads' on a road to nowhere
- The fuzz of the Happy Mondays at their funky and dirtiest 'Wrote for Luck' best
- The moody but (peter) hooky bass lines of Joy Division.
The resulting 'Wagonwheel Blues' mixture sounds both exactly, and simultaneously absolutely nothing, like this list of luminaries. Where some bands ape and imitate their heroes (yes that's you Explorer's Club) The War on Drugs give a polite nod of acknowledgement and thanks for the directions proffered before independently setting out to explore a path entirely of their own choosing. As the band say they roll like 'a Wagonwheel with a monkey on your back' but then remind the listener that 'there is no need. There is no need for urgency'. This road is littered with escapades that exhilarate as they build but with a tantalising tease so that the final destination remains for ever just over the brow of the next hill.
In case I have been too subtle, and I didn't think I have, then I shall bang you over the head one last time. 'Wagonwheel Blues' is a great album and I encourage you to give 'The War on Drugs' a hearing.Read more 4 star reviews
Stacked at my bedside is a pile of books patiently waiting to be read. The tower shoots up at Christmas and crumbles as the year proceeds. Some I haven’t got round to yet, some I don’t much fancy and a select few will be saved for the summer holidays; page turners of the light and breezy variety who will hopefully be perfect for whiling away spare hours in the sun. Moonbeams by Secret Canadian debutants Throw Me The Statue is the musical equivalent of the holiday read. The first time these particular moonbeams shone down on me was whilst waiting for bus in February’s pre-dawn drizzle prompting an immediate judgement that I can’t stand this. Not now at least. Haiwian guitars and blasts of sunshine blown throw jaunty horns are not meant for winter morns but could be the perfect soundtrack to endless summer evenings. Throw Me The Statue could be worth waiting for though.
If the best way to judge a man is by the company he keeps then Throw me the Statue’s frontman, Scott Reitherman, must be assessed as one who is a savvy delegator with an ear for a talent. Reitherman provides a strong foundation of melodic tunes and wryly observational lyrics but it is his collaborators who lift this group from being forgetful to forget-me-nots. Happiest Man On The Plane suggests that left to his own devices Reitherman might prove to be little more than a poor man’s Willy Mason. If he rejected the ‘man with guitar’ route then This is How We Kiss hints that maybe he would be best pleased peddling Nu-Metal lite. Luckily this is the only song retrieved from Blink 182’s reject bin.
If Reitherman has drawn the outline then it is the rest of Throw Me The Statue who have added the splashes of colour. This is an album packed with beats, synths and horns which could have graced the Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robot, Grandaddy’s Sophtware Slump or the Super Furry’s Guerrilla. When they lighten up and let the good times roll Moonbeams illuminate the spot. Stupid Stone is the muffled sound of festival stages and tents over yonder, Old Believer should best be heard through the sun roof on a bank holiday drive to the coast and if Lolita doesn’t elevate your summer shin-dig from a civilised afternoon barbie to a swinging all nighter then no song will. Let the sun shine in.
Music From the Films of R/Swift
With Richard Swift's debut release, he introduced us to the twin sounds of The Novelist/Walking Without Effort, before 2007's Dressed Up For The Let Down proved to go the distance and become one of the year's most lasting album's - providing an understated sound that was rich in detail.
With side-project Instruments Of Science And Technology, Swift takes us on another unforeseen journey, once again heading out into different territory to pull together the sountracks to a selection of imaginary films: Music From the Films of R/Swift.
Opener Ashes serves as an intro to the album, before leading into the upbeat INST - more pounding electronica that soundtrack. Themes and repetition are explored with the un-ordered Themes 3, 4 and 5 and the double barrel of Plan A & Plan B, and while there may or may not be actual films to accompany the music there is certainly a cinematic influence. The atmospherics of Brian Eno are the most obvious namecheck, with long, slow soundscapes building up and down altering the mood.
With Swift's characteristic voice virtually absent from the album, it's hard to place this alongside his existing work - as his vocal sound and lyrics are so integral to the success of both the debut and Dressed Up For The Let Down. If forced to view the album as a stand alone work it may not be perceived as the most original or unique record out there, but it's a solid album of textured electronica that adds another string to this man's bow. It also adds another subtle layer to the music he produces for his day job and that layer will hopefully be all the more apparent on future work.Read more 3 star reviews
The openly Canadian Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co is headlining the Secretly Canadian Christmas party this Saturday, playing "material not usually heard in his live shows".
Saturday 15th at The Luminaire in Kilburn.
£15, £12.50 adv (Buy here or here)
+ Leona Naess
+ DJs Laura Barton (The Guardian)
Manish Agarwal (Secretly Canadian)
There's a new favourite record label at Chimpomatic HQ, or should I say labels. Secretly Canadian have been putting out quality artists like Magnolia Electric Co / Jason Molina, Richard Swift, David Vandervelde and Scout Niblett since 1996 - and found major success in the last few years with Anthony & The Johnsons and The Earlies. Although based in Indiana, there are strong Canadian connections with the label - which plays host to several bands from the world's 'third best' musical country.
Sister label Jagjaguwar also started in 1996, before the two became closely affiliated in 1999. Home to the "Black Mountain Army" collective (Black Mountain, Pink Mountaintops, Lightning Dust etc), the label also boasts Alex Delivery, Daniel Johnston, Okkervil River, Oneida and Wolf Parade side-project Sunset Rubdown.
Although based in Austin, Dead Oceans is the new third member of the family, sharing staff and facilities with the other labels and signing the highly praised Dirty Projectors, as well as Phosphorescent, Citay and Bishop Allen.
This year has seen a barrage of quality releases from the group, so we've rounded up a bunch of them here. All this coincides nicely with last night's Black Mountain concert and sets the scene for their new album In The Future, due January 2008. Our review for that will be up after Christmas, but rest assured it's likely to be your favourite record of 2008.
Black Mountain - Live at Cargo
Phosphorescent - Pride
Citay - Little Kingdom
Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala
Bobb Trimble - Iron Curtain Innocence / Harvest Of Dreams
Bishop Allen - The Broken String
Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover
Richard Youngs - Autumn Response
Iron Curtain Innocence / Harvest Of Dreams
Growing up in the Worcester, Massachusetts suburb of Northborough, Bobb Trimble was a teenager listening to the likes of Pink Floyd, Queen, Bowie and The Beatles. Trimble began recording music and became known amongst Worcester's 'Wormtown' scene of the late 70's/Early 80's and went on to self-release these two records in miniscule quantities.
The records quickly became obscure, but an unauthorised re-issue by British label Radioactive kept them alive. With the rise of the internet, Ebay trading was taking the albums up to the $1500 mark and the time appeared right for an official re-release by Secretly Canadian.
Bobb Trimble's songs are deceptively complex - layering stings, multiple guitars, bass and vocals with ahead-of-their time samples and effects. His vocal's are strangely most reminiscent of Naomi Yang and the highlights of the album hit the same tone and atmosphere as some of Damon & Naomi's best work - although Trimble's multi-layered production is a long way from their stripped down sound. Iron Curtain Innocence sees Bobb merely finding his stride. When The Raven Calls is the highlight - a 6 and a half minute song, that cuts in on a guitar solo, giving you an idea of it's scope.
The relative commercial failure of 1980's Iron Curtain Innocence did nothing to stop Bobb Trimble's music and by 1982 he was back with an even more complex and multi-layered album. Harvest Of Dreams finds him with even bigger, more ambitious ideas. Take Me Home Vienna is a haunting, ghostly masterpiece while Another Lonely Angel is like a piece of lost 60's history. Paralyzed is the most memorable track however, cooking up a mesmerising, unforgettable sound that seems near impossible to describe.
That rich, layered sound is let down by the poor treatment of time, which gives away the original release date of these albums - 1981 and 1982 respectively. While they have been remastered as well as can be expected, the fact is that these days anyone with a computer can release a studio quality album, but back in the analog days getting an album out at all was an achievement - and an achievement that Trimble financed on his own. Not so much lo-fi and certainly not low in ambition, just low budget. These arrangements deserved the big screen treatment to fully express how much details there is in these songs - as like an Arthur Lee for the 80's Trimble is a true lost treasures, rightfully resurrected.
The Moonstation House Band
It seems that T Rex is having something of a comeback in 2007. What with the debut album by Ninja Tune's Pop Levi and now this - David Vandervelde's The Moonstation House Band. It has all the folk-slide 70's warmth-sleaze of the much missed Bolan but that being said it's still a fine listen. It's a brief introduction, weighing in at just over half an hour, but my appetite is certainly moistened.
In the traditions of the music it aims to emulate Vandervelde has created a concept album of sorts. Much like Bowies fictitious Spiders From Mars, this album is the sound of the mythical Moonstation House Band - a Lonely Hearts Club Band for the naughties. At least 90% of the record is Vandervaldt himself - and at the young age of 22 this is some piece of work. By consciously setting out to recapture the spirit and sound of his dad's 70's records, Vandervelde has managed to strip away all the bravado that came with this music. The camp, glam shenanigans have gone and what remains is crisp musicianship and classic melodies.
Nothin' No drifts in on a haze of woolly guitars and blissed-out vocals telling stories of "gettin' high on your front porch." It has a wonderfully nostalgic feeling to it. It's like squinting in the evening sun as you strain to see a memory long passed. Jacket picks up the pace a bit and has all the rhythmical catchiness and effortless melody of classic Bowie. Corduroy Blues is a sublime piece of orchestral delight while Can't See Your Face No More is a foot stomping anthem that if put to the closing credits to any movie would have the audience leaving the cinema on a high.
It's hard to write about this album and not dwell on the wealth of influences that have made it happen, but at no point does it hide behind these influences or collapse under them. The music oozes warmth - whether its the mid-afternoon blaze of the up-tempo tracks or the early evening haze of the slower ones it washes over you in hypnotic waves. After the lazy, peaceful close of the final track Moonlight Instrumental you feel like the lights have just been turned out on another glorious day in the sun. A day that had it all, laughter, tears, joy and pain but as you gently drift off to sleep you feel excited at what tomorrow has in store.
There's a free mp3 album over at Secretly Canadian from Swearing at Motorists, recorded in the echo chambers of Berlin's Gipsstra?e underground station.
"One night I finally got the courage to wait until the station closed, then climbed over the entrance gate and hurried down into the tube. I got about an hour of uninterrupted recording in before the Polizei politely informed me I had to leave."
Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go
Since 1996 Jason Molina has been delivering his sparse tales of woe in various forms from Songs: Ohia to Magnolia Electric Co. he has done collaboration albums with artists such as Alistair Roberts and My Morning Jacket and more recently has begun trading under his own name. Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go is his second full length and his best yet.
Molina opens his album with a song entitled It's Easier Now. This sends a shudder down my spine at the thought of what it was like, as Let Me Go is as bleak as it gets. But if anyone can do bleak it's Molina. The whole album sounds like a last gasp cry for release as expressed in the title through to the final note of this trickling 34-minute slope into blackness. We get bombarded with albums with the same agenda as this all the time, but most of them are a struggle to get through and the only thing that moves quickly is your emotional shift from interest to boredom. This is far from the case here. Molina has an absolutely captivating voice and coupled with the impeccable production his words chime with crystal clarity that keeps you listening and hanging on his every devastating word. Though he rarely rises above a whimper his voice has a dormant strength that threatens to roar.
All of this, and his ability to write lyrics that break your heart faster than a Live Aid appeal interlude, make this a powerfully empty experience. In Alone With The Owl, he asks "while I lived was I a stray black dog, while I lived was I anything at all?" then describes the stagnancy of his life as he "stood beside the ocean not a single wave." But it's on Get Out, Get Out that he really shows his poetic skill with the achingly sad line "I live low enough that the moon wouldn't waste its light on me, what's left in this life that would do the same for me?"