Via @coslive. "It’s easy to picture Friday Night Lights hero Tim Riggins cruising around Dillon, TX with this one blaring from his truck."
Another single of the forthcoming Pearl Jam album Lightning Bolt. They're getting more and more like the 90s band people think they are.
@GoshComics have got the first look at the League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen spin-off from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. Enjoyed the series so far, glad they're moving it on with some of the other peripheral characters. Due Feb 2013
It’s 1925, fifteen long years since Janni Dakkar first tried to escape the legacy of her science-pirate father, only to eventually take on his mantle and accept her destiny as the new Nemo; the next captain of the legendary Nautilus. A thirty year-old Pirate Jenny, tired of punishing the world with an unending spree of plunder and destruction, is resolved to finally step from her forebear’s lengthy shadow by attempting something at which he’d conspicuously failed, namely the exploration of Antarctica. In 1895 her father had returned from that ice-crusted continent without his reason or his crewmen, all of whom appeared to have mysteriously perished or to otherwise have disappeared. Now Captain Nemo’s daughter and successor plans to take her feared and celebrated black submersible back to the world’s South Pole in an attempt to lay her sire’s intimidating ghost forever.
Shakycam footage from last night's Royal Festival Hall comeback. One of the great covers of all time
Symmetry (aka Johnny Jewel, Glass Candy, Chromatics, Desire and Mirage) have released a two-hour album (iTunes / Soundcloud) of tracks from an "imaginary soundtrack" (ie the stuff Drive probably didn't want, as Pitchfork hints). Same highways John Carpenter and Giorgio Moroder once drove...
Stumbling across Alligator in Fopp on a non-descript weekday afternoon in 2005 worked out to be one of the sweetest and unexpected musical highlights of the past ten years. Since then, this Brooklyn band has consistently honored that experience by confidently building on Alligator's success. 2007's Boxer raised the bar to heights that even Alligator rarely hinted at - and so, expectation was swollen and bloated beyond the humble proportions that this band cultivate. Since Boxer the Dessner brothers have proved themselves to be quite a creative force in today's industry putting out the Dark Was The Night and Long Count projects, so with all that added experience High Violet was set to be stellar.
I have to admit though to feelings of disappointment throughout many of the initial listens here. Boxer's rich soundscapes and widescreen ambition seemed to have been compromised in favor of a much more low key sound. Matt Berninger's dichotomous writing can lift you up on "A wingspan unbelievable" with confessions of inadequacy and insecurity but here seemed to fall short of those heights and feel more content to leave you wallowing. The pace also hints at this redirection of vision. Boxer was a drummers album and High Violet rarely exploits this aspect to the same extent.
But to cut a long story short, now I bloody love it. I must have had it on repeat constantly for the last week and this new direction has seeped into my soul and to this day refuses to release me. I guess a good way to describe High Violet is in depth rather than height. While Boxer could often soar, these songs bury deep and take you to much darker places and all with the same tools. The same rich pallet is employed here as it swirls and builds with intricate subtlety around Berninger's baritone hum. Having their own studio and the gift of time afforded them space to obsess over every minute of this record, but instead of suffocating under these conditions it thrives - and it takes a skilled group of musicians with enough self awareness to achieve such a result. Speaking about their approach to High Violet, Aaron Dessner says "Matt expressed a desire to hear things that "sounded like hot tar. Or loose wool." This goes some way to describe the finished product that is High Violet. Songs like Sorrow and A Little Faith drip out with such thickness that given a decent pair of headphones it's quite easy to lose yourself in their density. Anyone's Ghost and Afraid Of Everyone are hollow depictions of loneliness and isolation, while Bloodbuzz Ohio continues where the Boxer heights left us.
Seeing them on their tour of Boxer I was quite worried to witness the bloated endings that seemed to have been tacked on to most of the songs. At the tail and of the vocals the Dessners' would step forth tho the front of the stage and elevate each song to a Wilco like frenzy of feverish guitars, and it really didn't suit their style. High Violet opener Terrible Love does this too but I am very pleased to see the restraint that this album shows and it never does it again. Given their astonishing rise this band would be forgiven for letting some of it go to their heads but this record shows this not to be the case. It is a work of admirable restraint yet progressive enough to honor the memory of what's gone before.Read more 4 star reviews
As a quick precursor to the Best of the 00s list I'm currently editing, here's my Top 5 albums of 2009.
Not a stellar year compared to 2007 or 2008, but there's certainly been a few stand outs.
John Frusciante - The Empyrean
He didn't tell us he'd left the Chili Peppers, but Frusciante's latest solo album certainly upped the anti on 2004's marathon of low-key releases, blending epic guitars, a stellar guest list and a near-perfect cover of Tim Buckley's Song To The Siren.
Lightning Dust - Infinite Light
Amber Webber was missed on the aforementioned Pink Mountaintops tour, but luckily that's because she was polishing up her own project. Taking the promise of their debut, Lightning Dust moved forward with grand strides on this haunting ethereal masterpiece.
Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
The old favourites pulled virtually no surprises out with this one, just another handful of great rock songs with mind-blowing musicianship - and again backed it all up with one of the gigs of the year.
Flight of the Conchords - I Told You I Was Freaky
One great album seemed like a fluke, but the soundtrack to season two expanded the comedy duos surprising knack for blending piss-take and homage in an accomplished way, laced with fits and giggles. I'm in love with a sexy lady, with an eye that's lazy.
Somerset House have put up this year's "hope it doesn't rain" selection:
UK Premiere of Pedro Almódovar's Broken Embraces Thu 30 July
Alien / Poltergeist - Fri 31 July
West Side Story - Sat 1 Aug
Slumdog Millionaire - Sun 2 Aug
The Shawshank Redemption - Mon 3 Aug
Wings of Desire - Tue 4 Aug
Don't Look Now - Wed 5 Aug
Strangers on a Train - Thu 6 Aug
Cool Hand Luke / Road House - Fri 7 Aug
Raiders of the Lost Ark - Sat 8 July
It's quite easy to compare the progression of New York's Yeah Yeah Yeahs with the progression of modern warfare, shit I compare pretty much everything to war. Their stunning debut Fever To Tell saw them engaging in hand to hand combat, homemade shanks were used to gut the opponent or simply the pounding brut force of a bleeding fist. Show Your Bones saw them retreat from the battlefield and adopt a slightly less primal approach, whereas the latest offering It's Blitz! is modern warfare in all its polished glory. There are no ground troops just long range, expertly precise strikes. The brut force kills are now a 'mission accomplished' notice on a computer screen. But the result is always the same, victory.
The last we heard from these guys was in 2007 with the EP Is Is. Since then this short bundle of goodness has become my favored item in their impeccable back catalogue. It's Blitz! isn't quite the cavalry that I thought Is Is was calling but it's still a worthy 3rd roll of the dice and one that takes them into new and rich territory. Karren O's presence still remains steadfast at the centre of their sound but the ship on which she sails has taken a new turn. The minimal crunch of guitars and belting drums have been enshrouded in detailed production and a wealth of synthesizers. The emphasis isn't on power but on depth.
Opener Zero is a massive way to reintroduce themselves. With vocals dripping in echo Karen O is up close and personal with some of the slickest production this band has ever offered. This isn't surprising seeing as TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek is at the helm. Wave upon wave of synth carry this song in directions more suited to Alison Goldfrapp or even Blondie. It's driving power pop and it's quite surprising for this band. Show Your Bones always hinted at this direction but the change has finally arrived. While this is probably the biggest tune here the remaining high points come in more subtle ways. Their ferocity is often punctuated to great effect by their anti-ballads and Skeletons is one of their finest. With grand and distant drums building on an analogue ocean of synthesizers this song sees Karen at her most breathless. Runaway is certainly one of the standout moments on It's Blitz! Introduced with the gentle plink of an old piano Karen sounds lonely among such empty sonic space. With a rumble of strings she is soon joined by the sensitive rhythm and a full orchestra. It just rises and rises on this structure like a flock of migrating birds dancing and reveling in their euphoric freedom. It's loaded with melancholy and tinged with screeching violins but is an utter joy from start to finish.
It's Blitz! is a surprise indeed. It doesn't do what other Yeah Yeah Yeahs albums have always been there to do but isn't it special when a band start to perform other functions. It's the most sensual of their releases. At times it comes way too close to Killers territory for my liking but their front woman steers it away expertly. Her voice has always done things for me but on this record I could just swim in it. They have always flirted with synthesizers but their courage to embrace it here pays off and gives the record an old school charm without sounding retro. They've grown up since Fever To Tell, who'd of thought a woman who brought us such a guttural howl could stand before us on album closer Little Shadow and ask us "will you follow me?" with such monolithic siren beauty. It's stunning and needs to be experienced.Read more 3.5 star reviews
Not a new promo, but with John Frusciante bumping Song To The Siren back up the playlist, and Jeff Buckley riding high on his X-Factor success, check out Tim's original version of a timeless classic.
Since he escaped his tooth-consuming drug addiction and returned to the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1998, guitar hero John Frusciante has released a remarkable 10+ records through his solo projects - while of course playing a major part in the rehabilitation of the Chili Peppers from punk-funkers to stadium-filling, serious rockers.
While the results of the experimentation on his 2001 and 2004 solo albums have had an obviously positive effect on the Chili Peppers (most notably through the mind-blowing guitar-theatrics of Stadium Arcadium), he still manages to hold plenty back for himself - and there are not many albums that kick off with a 9 minute space-jam. Frusciante's own notes recommend that the album is played "as loud as possible and it is suited to dark living rooms late at night" - and the opener re-affirms that point. Slowly building from a lone drum, it's a vocal-free track where the guitar does the singing (sorry), as we are slowly drawn into the album.
The roles are reversed on Song To The Siren - a cover of the Tim Buckley classic, which is notable here for it's lack of guitar, instead relying on Frusciante's haunting vocals to beautifully carry the song - with delicate keyboards providing much of the charm, both here and throughout the album as a whole. Once we're warmed up, Unreachable provides one of the many high-points of the record, seemingly using a two minute intro as an excuse to unleash the stunt guitars for a blistering 4 minute outro.
The David Axelrod-style production tricks are in full-effect through the album, with some of Frusciante's more eccentric moments adding a great deal of personality to the record, whether he's singing in a faux booming voice on One More Of Me, or looping choral-style samples on Dark Light - which again uses a haunting intro, before segueing into a seemingly separate song and building beautifully on a simple bassline to hypnotise you through another 8 minute epic.
The relatively lavish production quality of Shadows Collide With People is still absent here and would have benefitted the record greatly, although production is certainly a step up from the more lo-fi home-studio vibe of many of the solo projects. Although, when you're a rock star living in the Hollywood hills, the home studio is not what it used to be. The vocals are sometimes often over-effected, where they would perhaps be more effective raw - but don't worry, there's plenty of room for another epic before the end and Central provides another soaring high point to the album, winding samples and booming keyboards through a heavily layered guitar track that builds and builds.
As a complete record, this is certainly a more focused release than Frusciante's six-albums-in-six-months period, as while each of those records yielded several gems, there was a certain sense of in-cohesiveness, which is clearly absent here. While Frusciante describes The Empyrean as a "concept album", he acknowledges that it may not come accross as narrative in that sense, but there is certainly a running theme within the songs, which all hold the same mood and tone - echoing feelings of loss, death and spirituality. The result is an outstanding, thoroughly involving and innovative album - which provides a sometimes challenging listen, with many rewards.Read more 4 star reviews
"It should be played as loud as possible and it is suited to dark living rooms late at night..."
Another outing from the hardest-working guitar player (in the Chili Peppers) - chimp hero John Frusciante has been blogging about The Empyrean, out on Jan 20 - maybe Obama will be chilling to it on his iPod before he gets sworn in. Nice to see that Flea's on there - and the idea of him jamming with Johnny Marr is all pretty exciting...
1. Before The Beginning
2. Song To The Siren
7. Enough Of Me
9. One More Of Me
10. After The Ending
The Stand Ins
Okkervil River are fast becoming the only band you need. Following last year's stunning album The Stage Names, Will Sheff gives us its sequel - The Stand Ins. It's the band's Amnesiac with the recording sessions for The Stage Names bearing so much fruit that a double album was momentarily considered. Thankfully they bit their tongue and kept us waiting and as much of a treat as The Stage Names was, emerging from the melancholy of Black Sheep Boy with such confidence and grandeur, The Stand Ins swift release simply serves as yet another underlining of the word 'special' when describing this band.
Artist WIlliam Schaff's embroidered artwork that adorned The Stage Names here depicts a haunting skeletal figure with an arm reaching up and out of sight. At the end of this arm is the hand that emerges from the quicksand on the previous cover and lets us know that The Stand Ins aims to be a deeper immersion into the theme of show biz that plagued Sheff's writing earlier. It's the underneath of The Stage Names, it's what goes on behind the scenes and it ain't a pretty picture.
With his cross hairs firmly trained on the world of stage and screen recently, it's the business surrounding good ol' rock n roll that Sheff has it in for here and he treads a strange and complicated line of using the very medium in question to draw our attention to its pitfalls and failings. Lead single Lost Coastlines introduces us to the journey that every band faces and the distance this ship can take you from your starting point. It describes the joys and hardships faced when trying to keep a band together, and ironically, he does this with the help of his old band mate Jonathan Meiburg who, as you all will know, recently left Okkervil River to concentrate on Shearwater. Pop Lie is a scathing attack on the dishonesty of pop music and the manipulation that is used to gather in the fans. He doesn't stop there, and goes on to accuse the fans themselves of lying in the act of singing along. Is he separating himself and his writing from this deceit or telling us, his fans, that we are all a bunch of liars ourselves? Within this doubt lies the success of these songs.
Quite often Sheff places himself on the other side of the limelight, questioning the sanity of adoration. In Starry Stairs, Sheff assumes the supporting role watching the object of his affection being stared at by "these curious sets of eyes" while his heart is stretched to its elastic limit. Similarly in Blue Tulip, Sheff's amorous goals are kept at bay and, downtrodden and beaten, he graciously exclaims "Hats off to my distant hope, I'm held back by a velvet rope." This velvet rope becomes the main theme of Sheff's writing at the moment, standing in for something or someone that keeps us from our truth or our natural home.
Musically Sheff's bow is becoming multi stringed in the most thrilling of progressions. The energetic leap from Black Sheep Boy to The Stage Names was stunning and is continued here. This album follows a similar structure putting it's mightiest songs forward to lead the charge with the more contemplative foot-soldiers following close behind, plotting every step. Lost Highways is the sparing partner to The Stage Names' Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Is It with the jauntiest of basslines rolling unashamedly throughout with Meiburg's croon adding rich texture. The vocals on Singer Songwriter ooze out with a forked tongue as we hear of the musicians who bitch about their woe's when they have everything, while Blue Tulip reluctantly builds to its climax by way of heavy, plodding beats, wailing vocals and an eventual outpouring of the grittiest guitar. As Sheff describes his "distant hope" that is getting ever further away from him the cymbals crash around his words like exploding stars. He portrays a desire of celestial proportions and through the musical magnitude we see his hope collapse like a universe in the final stages of disappearing into itself.
This band may have evolved in the most colossal way since its beginnings but the key facts remain firmly intact. Sheff's direction and obsessive attention to detail make his work endlessly listenable and his courage and forward thinking that led his band out of the type of songwriting that made their name has given rise to this inability to stop creating. The only reason for this album to fall slightly short of its predecessor is that the distance covered between albums hasn't been as jaw-dropping but it seems hardly fair to penalize one creation for being merely as brilliant as the previous one.Read more 4 star reviews
Juana Molina's fifth album opens with the line, "Undia voy a cantar las canciones sin letra y cada uno podra imaginar si hablo de amor, de desilusion, banalidades o sobre platon." And for those of you who don't know, this translates as, "One day I will sing the songs with no lyrics and everyone can imagine for themselves if it's about love, disappointment, banalities or about Plato." You don't have to dig too deep into this record or even speak her language to understand that she is well on the way to this goal. Un Dia is clearly the result of some pretty ruthless examination of her past work as here, Molina pulls out certain elements that previously lay hidden and fades other's expertly into the background. The two factors to which I refer are the emergence of rhythm and the receding of the vocals. The rhythm and pulse of this music is key and as each groove and beat writhe over and inside eachother, Molina's minimal and whispered, repeated vocals become just another tool for this truly mesmeric and seductive sound. Un Dia is as uncompromising and mesmeric as some of the finest work by Japanese experimental artist Susumu Yokota and not since Joanna Newsom's Ys have I heard such a fiercely original record.
Describing the rhythm in her previous work as being "like a hidden layer in Photoshop," the aim with Un Dia was to bring to the forefront something that had previously been obvious to her but not to others. This rhythm, being played out on wood, cymbal, gentle acoustic guitar and bombo leguero and woven from delicate electronic glitches produces trance-like compositions that slowly gather momentum, taking on more instruments with every revolution until they swirl around your head in a magical frenzy. Molina's voice is heavily sampled and looped creating a complex mesh of repetition that is at the heart of this trance. It's incredibly seductive music but not in a Siren sort of way. The seduction occurs by the sheer weight of sound that rises up before you and the unrelenting endurance of it. Most of these songs surpass the seven minute mark and all build on an initial rhythm and maintain this to the end, gathering a throng of support along the way. And yet it all plays out with the lightest of touches.
With opener and title track Un Dia, Molina's voice is so distant as are the numerous instruments that, as the song progresses, it feels like you are being slowly surrounded by sound. The expert production allows each sound to, in turn, loom out of this impenetrable ring and approach your ear. Some of these compositions are quite unrelenting and refuse to give the listener what they want. This works out to be the ultimate success but the songs that build to what can very loosely be described as a pay-off are simply dazzling. Vive Solo begins with quiet acoustic strums and Molina's voice assumes angelic simplicity. The gentle clap of the rhythm creeps in and this builds the tempo with incredible subtlety until Molina's breathy deliveries evolve into almost horn-like tone and sound out like an instrument of another planet. Los Hingos De Marosa follows a similar structure laying down complexly woven textures of electronic chirps that are eventually punctuated with Molina's blissful voice.
Whether dancing playfully around the rhythm or swirling with nagging endurance Molina evolves and contorts her voice to fit the organic sounds that surround it and its captivation lies in its ability to greet you with the most human of touches and also behave in truly otherworldly ways. Her use of voice-as-instrument here has created a restless, magical, narcotic master piece.Read more 4 star reviews
I've been a Silver Jews fan long enough to have developed my own set of ill-informed stereotypes about it’s creator David Berman. I’m sure they dovetail perfectly with everyone else’s opinions of the man and involve a hermetic and reclusive artist, deeply troubled by personal struggles of the past and a guy so dedicated to his craft that the tedium of touring and interv... read article
Cleveland born Joe WIlliams, aka White Williams does everything he possibly can to sabotage this record, but ultimately fails. His debut record is 'unapologetic pop' which strikes me as baffling. Having toured with the likes of Girl Talk and Dan Deacon, he feels compelled to lace these sunny pop songs with touches of the avant garde. His guitar will be slightly out of key or he'll hit a bum note on the keyboard every now and again which in my mind is a form of apology to being pop music. With influences ranging from the 80's electro of The Human League (Headlines) and the hazy rock n' roll of T-Rex (In The Club) this is a collection of fairly simple and straight forward songs that would make for an enjoyable listen if the creator wasn't so preoccupied with taking his sound to other directions. So in trying to turn a pop album into a challenging slice of Art Pop he ends up doing neither.
Williams is clearly caught between some fairly obvious polar opposites. Songs like Going Down try their hardest to derail the melody with out-of-tune quirkiness but fail to rival the adventures of the afore mentioned Dan Deacon and the unlistenable noise of Lice In The Rainbow, a three and a half minute headache of directionless squeaks and twitters, aims at the abstract compositions of Black Dice - whom Williams also opened for with his previous band, but just serves to irritate the listener beyond belief. The title track, with its slow, plodding electronica and muffled vocals is so devoid of any substance it crumbles at the slightest glance, like a Tarantino plot line.
I hate to be so negative as this album does show signs of potential. Danger is the best song here, as it emerges from a cloud of tuneless mess it slips smoothly into a blissed out melody consisting of one word, "Danger." But it's a sad state of affairs when the strongest song features one word repeated over and over. Williams' desire to fit into that dubious genre 'Art Pop' is ultimately what kills this record. He has a natural ability to create effortless melody and catchy hooks but his half-hearted avant-garde dressing removes this from any genre at all and thins the whole thing down to dishwater. I realise this review sounds a bit like a school report and for that I apologise, seeing as the age old phrase we all experienced, "could try harder," doesn't really apply here as Williams' ultimate failing is that he's just trying way too hard.Read more 2 star reviews
With hazy lyrics, church organs, tambourine and triangle chimes, slide guitars and narcotic vocals the obvious comparison to be made on first listening to Devotion by Baltimore boy/girl duo Beach House is with Mazzy Star. Hand over a basket of dough, cheese, tomato and red meat to an American and they'll cook you a hamburger whilst an Italian will conjure up a pizza. In much the same way Beach House have managed to cook up a sound all of their own even if they have thrown the same ingredients into the mixing bowl. Where Mazzy Star are dusk, Beach House are the dawn. Hope Sandoval sings in tones of a last seduction or a siren calling ships to crash on the rocks but Devotion is the sound of waking on the beach in the moment between sleep and conciousness. The tranquil waves lapping on the shore herald news that the storm has passed.
Mazzy Star might well be the obvious reference point but there are more strings to the Beach House bow. The production on the likes of Wedding Bell is a salute to Brian Wilson and Pet Sounds, Gila is a respectful nod to Mercury Rev's Deserter's Songs and Astronaut has echoes of the Ronnette's singing Be My Baby. Thanks to a frazzled 2007 I failed to contribute to Chimpomatic's 'best of' list for 2007. Had I done so then my nomination for album of the year would have been Can't Go Back by Papercuts. If the bed-fellows are a reflection of the lover then the fact that Beach House are currently on a extensive North American tour with Papercuts comes as the highest recommendation.
If you like this kind of thing then you'll love Devotion, but if it's not your usual bag then it should at least be added to your library for Sunday morning come downs or lazing in hammocks outside your summer holiday Beach House. In a word it is - dreamy.
Recently I was having Quite an animated conversation with a Quality journalist friend of mine who writes for a Quintessential music magasine, the name of which I shall not Quote. When I asked him what he was listening to at the moment he sighed and told me of his disillusionment with the current music scene and said he only listens to old stuff now. His point was that no one makes complete albums anymore, they just make collections of singles. "Quite the opposite" I replied but then struggled to think of any examples to back me up. Well now I have one and if you're reading my friend, you may Quote me on that.
"My Dad said I was an afterparty baby; this goes out to all the accidents out there; keep on making mistakes." And so goes the dedication featured on Do I Miss My Friends, the opening track on this followup to Cadence Weapon's critically acclaimed debut Breaking Kayfabe. " I wanted to make music that afterparty babies were created to," explains Cadence Weapon aka Rollie Pemberton. Acting as a testament to Rollie's first influence, his father, Teddy Pemberton, creator of the Black Sound Experience Radio show and introducer of hip-hop to Rollie's hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, Afterparty Babies is a hectic journey through the world of club nights and house parties. This theme is explored through stories of friends, crews, nightmare DJ nights, hometowns, heroes, media and fashion.
Musically this is quite different from its predecessor. Where Breaking Kayfabe led with swirling, back-breaking electronic hip hop this one opts for a more electro/techno pace that serves to remove this artist from the hip hop roots that he may have once planted. Having seen him slot in a Joy Division cover at his London warm-up show last year, it's no surprise this album has moved on considerably from the debut and is the product of an artist open to a healthy array of musical influences. Pemberton presents an interesting juxtaposition between this thoughtful 'Wonder Years' style reminiscing and the harsh electro sound clash that carries it.
In my review of Breaking Kayfabe I was compelled to compare Cadence Weapon to a rampaging Terminator hell bent on destruction. It was a tenuous link I admit and made partly out of boredom of review-writing and also because 30 Seconds had a chorus that sounded a bit like The Terminator chase music. So I can't help feeling a sense of irony when mid-way through Afterparty Babies the song Messages Matter features a sample from Kindergarten Cop. " Who is your Daddy and what does he do?" comes the line and with it some interesting questions. Is Afterparty Babies the Kindergarten Cop to Breaking Kayfabe's Terminator? Are we seeing the human side of the cyborg? In a sense yes. It's not as hard hitting or relentless as the debut, it definitely has a lighter feel to it, it's more enjoyable and while you're jumping along to the uncharacteristically housey beats you know he's undercover and at the start of the movie you saw him kick someone's ass.
This may differ from the debut in all the ways mentioned earlier, it may be more melodic, spacious and palatable but let it run its course and you'll see it's just as tough as Breaking Kayfabe. It plays out like a night out clubbing but in reverse. It starts off strangely downtempo with Do I Miss My Friends? and by the end it's full on techno. There's no wind down, no gentle walk home with a kebab, it leaves you at top tempo to find your own way out. At the live show songs like In Search Of The Youth Crew and Real Estate were instant crowd pleasers and they don't disappoint here but instead become repetitive anthemic chants to Pemberton's Afterparty generation. True Story and Getting Dumb are electro master-classes, chucking in vintage house techniques with cuts and scratches and all topped by the most intricately crafted rhymes. It's certainly an album of 2 halves with the final few tracks providing the weight to this extraordinary record. Pemberton exited the stage at the Amersham Arms to House Music. It had the crowd jumping like a bunch of idiots and it has the same effect here. It's a dirty, crazy five and a half minutes. It swirls and bleeps to clapping beats and air-raid style sirens and it rules. By the time we get to the album closer We Move Away the techno conversion is complete. The club is in full swing and after a while the music even overtakes the creator and rises to a life of its own ending the album in almost 2 minutes of banging beats and grinding synths that threaten to go on until first light.
This has the feel of an album released by a well established hip-hop name that suddenly breaks from tradition and goes out on a limb, thus alienating hardened fans. It's exciting to see an artist do this so early and I can't imagine Cadence Weapon ever settling into a style. With this album he joins the ranks of MC's like Aesop Rock and Buck 65 as creators of their own style of hip-hop, constantly evolving and gathering up every influence and experience in their path. I am already eager to hear what this guy's got up his sleeve next and I bet I can find a Schwarzenegger link in it somewhere.Read more 4 star reviews
We Are Him
Welcome all, please be seated, the service of the church of the Angels Of Light is about to begin. We hope your sitting uncomfortably, this will take a while, there will be no breaks but once we have finished you will all be cleansed of the filthy sins that riddle your sorry souls.
A fair introduction I feel to this, the sixth album by Michael Gira's Angels Of Light. But as Gira's previous work with Swans was unrelenting in it's post-punk avant-guard ferocity We Are Him holds you tight with an unnervingly quiet intensity and bores deep into your being with slow, controlled focus. Musically it's the lightest and most accessible of all his work adopting an Americana flavor but instead of jaunty, thigh slapping hoe-downs it's more like stumbling across a time-forgotten town way down the Mississippi where everyone seems hell-bent on saving your soul. Claims like "I am the god of this fucking land," has Gira sounding like a twisted preacher who listens to too much Nick Cave. He employs a pattern of repetition in his writing that aims to mesmerize and hypnotize and it's very effective from the word go. Black River Song's heavy, pounding rhythm and booming vocals take you by the hand and lead you down to the water for the baptism to begin. Promise Of Water uses a subtler musical approach but the intent is the same. behind Gira's deep vocals is a throng of chanting backing voices like the towns folk carrying you aloft to your salvation. But after this dark introduction you can almost feel your soul getting lighter as The Man We Left Behind has a majestic swell to it as if stepping out of your riddled body and walking forward into the light. Gira's vocals are lighter and for a minute you feel that the job's done and just as you're about to exclaim, "well that wasn't so bad,'" My Brothers Man sits you down firmly and tells you that that was just stage one, and the wailing commences
Gira's vocals are complimented beautifully by the use of the female voice. Seen most effectively in Not Here/ Not Now they come at you like beckoning sirens, seductive and enticing. They provide a much needed richness to this sound. But one of the most thrilling aspects about this album and most of Gira's work is its unpredictability. After all this mournful seduction the title track resounds like a twisted, hand waving celebration as it frolics like a possessed gospel choir, and they march on in this manner throughout Sometimes I Dream I'm Hurting You but just as you start to enjoy yourself this song turns a scary corner, a corner that really should have been predicted by the song's title. Gira's repeated vocals take on a frenzied urgency and it's clear that your exorcism is in its final stages as he becomes possessed by the demons that pour forth from your lifeless body.
But hey, don't let that put you off, it's a journey we all have to make and no matter what the outcome it's a thrilling ride. It's a work of dark, hypnotic beauty that keeps you blindfolded all they way. It's heavy yet seductively charming and a real high point in this artists expanding career.
Roaring The Gospel
The Stones once sang that you can't always get what you want but sometimes you get what you need. But such sentiments were written in the days before globalisation and rampant consumerism. These days you can you usually get what you want even if it's not strictly what you need. Our local high street doesn't need a new branch of Subway, JJB Sports or Nandos but that's what we're going to get because apparently that's what the punters want. In 2007 when everyone seems to have a voracious appetite for musical consumption one thing we definitely don't need is another singer-songwriter out of the folky troubadour mold. Another one just isn't needed. There's plenty to cater for our needs already. Where-ever one stands on the spectrum it seems your needs are catered for; from the Magic FM listening tweeness of the likes of James Blunts to the indie kid loving Bright Eyes of this world. So we don't strictly need James Yorkston but he is what we should want. When it comes to sorting the musical wheat from the chaff this boy would be top of the pile ready to be sacked up and sent to the mill.
Where many of these troubadours subscribe to the notion that 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' and make little effort to disguise the fact that they have just re-hashed the winning formulas tabulated by the likes of Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, and Neil Young, 'Roaring the Gospel' shows that Yorkston’s influences are wider and deeper than that. Yorkston is a protege of Bert Jansch and I'd hazard a guess that in addition he is not only familiar with Dylan’s back pages but also knows every nook and cranny of such albums as Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Love’s Forever Changes and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Deja Vu. 'Roaring the Gospel', his fourth album, cherry picks some of the finer moments from his heros and blends them together to tasty effect. Add to this mixture lyrics and a voice that seeps celtic folk traditions and the brew is quite potent indeed. It might not be entirely groundbreaking but it is an approach that provides Yorkston’s tunes with a character and identity which is very much distinct from his contemporaries.
It is not just the range of influences that ensures Yorkston is sacked up as wheat rather than discarded as chaff; it is also his refusal to follow the route of many of his competitors who feel the need to return to a back to basics style orthodoxy of 'man with guitar recording songs in the solace of his room.' As a result he has avoided the pitfalls of introspection and melancholy which some manage to make appealing but most don't. The range of instruments utilised in the pursuit of a sound that is warm, rich and charming is both daring and dizzying. Yorkston adds colour to his tunes with the odd unexpected flourish. On 'The Lang Toun' the humming presence of bagpipes is inspired. Accordions don't often make an appearance in modern music but add a certain panache to 'Sleep is the Jewel.' And when was the last time you heard an oboe used in tandem with a banjo, let alone to used to such magical effect as on 'Seven Sirens'?
I hope James Yorkston has sharp elbows because he really needs to be pushing his way to the front or he'll be lost and dismissed amongst the crowd of all the other singer-songwriting troubadours we don't need.
At the 2007 party of screaming dullards, where haircuts are mistaken for personality and t-shirts for opinion, Silversun Pickups would undoubtedly be the un-coolest attendees, which of course, when compared to the remaining herd of technicolour banshees, puts them in the lead and out of sight in the cool stakes.
In Carnavas, the LA four-piece have made a record that blissfully ignores current trends and unashamedly heads back to the early 90s where fuzz guitars were king. So unnassuming you might dismiss it at first or even miss it altogether, Carnavas soon gets you hooked and reels you in.
First listens recall the likes of Veruca Salt, one of the female fronted groups following the grunge troupe circa 1992-1994. Except, Silversun Pickups' singer is called Brian. However his femine voice sits comfortably over the dreamlike and wandering guitar work throughout the album and his screams hold their own as the anger notches up on the likes of current single Future Foe Scenarios and early favourite Lazy Eye. A welcome blast of nostalgia in 2007 and beyond.
The sickly cocktail of spiky electro-pop being all too rampant on the air waves recently and this bands repeated adornment of NME covers not to mention their multi remixed advert friendly singles hasn't done these London newcomers any favors in my narrow-minded over 30 opinion but it's a good job I actually listen to some these records before attempting to review them as this debut is rather good. They may be wet behind the ears and tick all the right fashion boxes but Fantastic Playroom shows a surprising oblivion to all this.
Kicking off with gangly guitars and oozing with bass Get Lucky introduces this bands sound wonderfully.Tahita Bulmer's slightly out of tune vocal style is strangely reminiscent of Seelenluft's surprise hit Manila and backed with their blend of booming beats and percussion driven texture, seen most notably on Hiding On The Staircase, Fantastic Playroom welcomes in fond memories of the much missed Luscious Jackson.
Anyone who's switched on a tv recently will be all too familiar with this bands leading track Ice Cream. But don't let the fact that it features on an Intel advert put you off this pitch perfect piece of electro pop. In fact you probably saw the advert and made a mental note to source out this sound that was forcing your toes to tap against their anti-capitalist will, because very occasionally advert tunes are picked for their clear-cut ability to captivate an audience rather than their tendency to barge into your head uninvited and set up camp indefinitely.
Their intention is quite clear throughout this album and for the most part their desire to create no-frills danceable pop tunes works perfectly. There is very little pretension here, the lyrics are intelligent yet simple, the beats are deep and crystal clear and all the surrounding synths and effects make the whole thing utterly absorbing and very hard to resist. Grey's admission "It's alright, as long as it's black or white," goes some way to describe the simplicity of this sound but as the last notes of the fantastic closer Tight Fight ring out you can almost hear the Queen Of Pop herself illuminate a light bulb above her head having found the sound to her next album.
Maths & English
My my, hasn't he grown. The third album from the young up-start sees age and experience add eight to his still gritty rhyme style. The blueprint is still the same since his 2003 Mercury Prize inning debut Boy In Da Corner but with the gift of hindsight he is able to craft a much fuller ecord not just in content but also in style enlisting the help of US rappers Bun B and Pimp C, Shy FX and finishing off with an all UK line up of Alex Turner and Lily Allen.
This new maturity is expressed from the outset with World Outside where Dizzee illuminates the importance of seeing the bigger picture that lies beyond both his fame and the ghetto roots that he has come from. You can almost hear Earl's brother look up from his beer with the start of the next track Pussyole saying "Tell me they didn't just go oldskool." Here Dizzee raps furiously over the awesome Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock beat bringing a fresh dose of grime to this classic. Where's Da G's questions fake gangsters while Bubbles is a full-on dick swinging boast-fest about Dizzee's success. But you can't argue with a word he says here as it's all true, it's all to be applauded and it's all rhymed over the tightest production.
Tracks like Hardback (Industry) illustrate just how far this MC has come. This song sounds like Dizzee Rascal's pitch at a school careers evening explaining the pitfalls of making it big in the music industry as he dishes out advice over a deep, booming beat. It's the stark contrast of tracks like this and the ego filled, abrasive moments like first single Sirens and album closer U Can't Tell Me Nuffin' that make this record so appealing. On Suk My Dick Dizzee claims "When I was a kid I had a chip upon my shoulder but it aint getting better as I am getting older." This is so true and somewhere in this line lies the success of Maths & English. The dust certainly has settled on Dizzee's life of Grime but it is the sign of a great artist to be able to preach words of startling wisdom with honest conviction while also retaining the edge that put him at the top in the first place.
Knives Don't Have Your Back
As a fervent fan of the Canadian collective Broken Social Scene I've been an admirer of Emily Haines for some time. In her BSS guise she makes me swoon. Every time I hear 'Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl' from the album 'You Forgot it in People', (the stand out track from an album packed with potential stand out tracks) I wonder why they don't make more use of the mercurial Ms. Haines. Her sporadic presence in BSS always reminds me of a skillful winger stuck out on the sidelines away from the action. As an example 'Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl' reveals all that needs to be known of Emily Haines. Its all about the voice; one that makes me fall in love, believing she must be both beautiful and cool. Beautiful, because she sings like an ethereal siren. Cool, because when she sings of how 'you used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that' she epitomises the existence of everyone who is, or ever was, a bona fide indie kid the world over. 'Knives Don't Have Your Back' explains why sometimes it's not always completely fulfilling to fall in love with the coolest girl around.
Some will know that Emily Haines is not only a sometime contributor to the Broken Social Scene but also the front woman of Metric, a more dancey and punky outfit which took London by storm with their live shows earlier this year. 'Knives Don't Have Your Back', her debut solo album backed by her band the Soft Skeleton, offers a collection of songs that one senses she has longed to reveal away from the limitations imposed by her alternative roles. It is essentially a series of confessions and tales of loss eeked from her soul via the conduit of a piano. This exposure is simultaneously touchingly tender and achingly painful. The obvious comparison to be made, based on fragile sentiments and confident piano loops, is with the early material of Tori Amos; though minus the melodrama. But more than any other act it is the Velvet Underground that springs to mind on first listen. Its not so much the music or attitude of Lou Reed and John Cale that this album recalls but it is the qualities, if not the actual tones, of the two female Velvets that haunts from the grave. 'Reading in Bed' and 'Our Hill' exemplify the manner in which Mo Tucker, on songs like After Hours, manged to display a femine vulnerability while 'Doctor Blind' and 'The Lottery' are reminiscent of Nico's brooding sexuality.
Just as the Velvet Underground were shot through with the energy of New York, Sigur Ros encapsulate the sound of Icelandic fjords, or the Beuna Vista Social Club are the essence of Cuba, the sound of 'Knives Don't Have Your Back' mirrors the geography of Emily Haine's Canadian homeland. The songs are so evocative of skating on frozen ponds with wintery skies and endless horizons. There are moments of absolute sublime beauty; 'Winning' and 'Nothing & Nowhere' are songs that can break your heart and then mend it in the space of just a few minutes. If you had your ipod set to shuffle and any one of these numbers came on randomly you would think that if this chosen song was representative of the whole album then 'Knives Don't Have Your Back' would warrant a rating of nothing less than 5 out of 5. There are no problems with any single one of the songs individually. They are subtley crafted with heart wrenching honesty in isolation, but stacked back to back they can leave one feeling a little cold. There is a longing for some comfort and warmth just as I imagine there would be if one fell through the ice of a frozen Canadian pond. Perhaps she is aware of this; on 'Reading in Bed' she asks 'after all the luck you've had, why are your songs so sad?' I'm still in love with Emily Haines but she's perhaps just a little bit too cool - no matter how beautiful a crisp winter morning is sometimes you just wish for the advent of some spring sunshine.
double-disc legacy edition of Prefab Sprout's 1985 classic Steve McQueen out now, with new acoustic versions of 8 of the songs on the second disc. (Appetite, Bonny, Desire As, When Love Breaks Down, Goodbye Lucille #1, Moving The River, Faron Young, When The Angels). still love this album, was thinking about its general greatness over the weekend - nice surprise to see this is out. still not quite sure what to make of these legacy edition reissues (ie are they just getting us to buy it all again?) but still, looking forward to checking the new stuff
Singles, B-Sides & Live
"Singles, B-Sides & Live" is a title that speaks for itself, with this album collecting together some odds, ends and non-major(ish) label releases from this Brighton based all-girl band.
Things start off well, with heavy instrumental Film Music - which is exactly that. I'd like to think it would be laid over a montage of a murderous rampage at a seaside fairground. I Love You My Farfisa is another moody highlight, building up a slow instrumental until it finally bubbles over with a screaming finale.
Cover versions have a great way of bosltering your opinion on a band - either when they cover a favourite song, or do an unusual cover that sends you off looking for the original. Bruce Springsteen's I'm On Fire does the business here, falling nicely between both camps.
Some of the live tracks are also covers and, while the sound quality often leaves something to be desired, the enthusiasm of covers of Roxy Music's More Than This and Leonard Cohen's The Partisan have definitely added this band to my live hit-list.
The album suffers from the lack of sequencing that often thwarts a compilation album. Here they have gone for Singles (by date) / B-Sides (by date) / Live (by date). That seems to lump things into blocks, making the album top heavy on sound quality, but bottom heavy on the material that is most 'new'. The album does however collect together some real gems - mostly suitable for inclusion on a flirtatious mix-tape.
Electrelane have been on heavy rotation in the office this year, so if you don't fancy this one then at least get a copy of the Steve Albini produced album The Power Out.
Last night's National gig at Koko was fantastic. Hang tight while Bear/Chimp types it up...
UPDATE: Review now up, with a picture gallery, plus some snaps and movies in surveillance. Sound quality leaves a lot to be desired.
(dir. Lexi Alexander)
Or what Frodo did next. Tired of mixing it with Orcs and the like, it turns out he decided to test his skills against an altogether different fighting challenge; the football hooligans of England.
Promising journalist Matt (Elijah Wood) gets set-up and thrown out of Harvard, so he heads to London to catch up with his sister. Thanks to her brother-in-law, he wastes no time getting in with a West Ham firm and into a series of pitched battles with rival supporters. When I say he wastes no time, literally on the same day he sets foot in Heathrow he later has his teeth knocked out by a Birmingham City thug.
Its an interesting idea, what attracts young men to the world of football violence, but Im sure it has been done better elsewhere. The shoe-horning of an American tourist into the story doesnt sit comfortably, it feels that the desire to get a Hollywood name on-board comes at the expense of deeper analysis into the minds of the gang members.
The supporting chavs are believable with special mentions to Mark E. Smith lookalike Bovver and Geoff Bell, who gives another fine display of London menace (as previously seen in The Business). However, the film is let down by the casting of the leads. Considering he has a psychotic aversion to Yanks and Foreigners the leader of the gang talks like a South African Tim Westwood and Elijah Wood looks as lost as, well, as an American trying to understand the offside rule.
Certainly not a date movie and probably more suited to a well-scripted TV drama, its better than a kick in the teeth and there are certainly plenty of those in the 90 odd minutes.
(dir. Wes Anderson)
With his career fast heading for the rocks, washed up oceanographer/documentalist Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) embarks on one final mission to find, and kill, the rare Jaguar Shark that ate his best friend. And off they set onto the high seas, under the captaincy of the pot-smoking Zissou, the watchful eye of a heavily pregnant reporter (Cate Blanchett), Zissou's soon to be ex-wife (Anjelica Huston) the on board guitarist and his Brazilian Bowie covers, a stiff from the insurance company and a few interns. Joining this crew of bobble-hatted misfits is Ned (Owen Wilson) who may or may not be his son.
Murray invests enough feeling into Zissou to lift him above simply being 'Bill Murray' in amusing costumes, whilst Wilson happily goes toe-to-toe with Murray in their Saharan battle of dry humour. The rest of the cast roll up their sleeves and get stuck into their roles, with Willem Dafoe being particularly excellent (Not something i've said for a while).
Director Wes Anderson now has 4 films under his belt and is yet to put a foot wrong. With his offbeat stories, always imaginatively and colourfully shot, excellent soundtracks and performances, he has achieved that desired goal of creative filmmakers and created a new genre 'A Wes Anderson Film'. Until further reviews are posted, his previous films - Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are all highly recommended. According to IMDB he's down to make Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox next - most intriguing.
(dir. Martin Scorcese)
I didn't have a huge desire to see this film, as I'm not a particularly big DiCaprio fan. However, I kept hearing that it was good so stuck it on the rental list and am glad that I did.
I previously knew absolutely nothing about Howard Hughes - other than the fact he had been involved in filmmaking. This story charts the first half of his life - taking us through all the eclectic events of these years, from his massive expenditure pursuing his love of aviation and movies, a brief tip of the hat to his development of a new type of bra, his relationships with his leading ladies and most interestingly his struggle with inner demons and paranoia.
The casting and acting throughout are superb. DiCaprio is excellent, as is Cate Blanchet as Katherine Hepburn. But the supporting cast all add something to the film - Jude Law makes a brief appearance as Errol Flynn and Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow.
The visual style of the film is big, in the same way that Hughes approached all his projects. Scorsese presents a very grand scope for everything and the (presumably cgi) moments with DiCaprio making the virgin flights of new aircraft are breathtaking. In contrast, the depiction of his mental health problems is also eloquently done as Hughes encamps in his private cinema.
This film is long and only covers the first half of Howard Hughes life, so presumably there is room for a sequel. The acting, directing and cinematography all add up to make this well worth watching.
in the spirit of the year of the chimp drawing to a close, here's the first annual instalment of the chimpomatic best albums of the year poll, an extensively researched, highly scientific endeavour…
Chimpomatic's Albums Of 2004
Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
as a tribute to ozzy's recent bravery
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
one of those albums you can come back to year after year and still hear something new; this year, it's the production and lyrics that's doing it
The Cure: The Cure
Had almost given up on these guys. Produced by the guy that produces Korn etc… (sketchy data - this might not be an official chart show fact)
UPDATE: Fact verified. He also produced At The Drive In.
TV On The Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
didn't quite live up to the black cocteau twins hype, but still cool to hear someone doing something new
Dani Siciliano: Likes…
insider trading maybe, but this is just awesome
Mara Carlyle: The Lovely
GBV: Human Amusements At Hourly Rates
the best of the best ofs since decade. sorts out the patchiness.
Led Zeppelin: Houses Of The Holy
some of the best getting ready to go out rock ever
My Morning Jacket: It Still Moves
thanks to ian c for making us persevere with this one…
Cat Stevens: Mona Bone Jakon
one of those albums you come back to and realise it's even better than you remember.
Bob Dylan: Desire
with some live bob sightings fitted in this year thanks to dr b, this has been a constant in 2004. just edging out love and theft; sugar baby's got to be one of the best things he's ever done... (ie, it makes it into the dylan alltime top 100)
Tindersticks: Donkeys 92-97
anyone that does a good Pavement cover is alright in our book
Hall & Oates: The Very Best Of
great drum machines, surprising to find how many are etched in your brain
John Martyn: Solid Air
one of those classics you must buy that we finally got round to buying.