Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 Music Chart - December

Only one new album this month to round off the year: the soundtrack for the film Tron: Legacy by Daft Punk. A decent effort that doesn't fall into obvious traps and strikes a good balance between traditional orchestral score and electronic dance.

So the year belongs to Laura Marling, Arcade Fire and The National with The Black Keys and Kate Rusby forming the top 5 albums of 2010.

  1. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling
  2. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
  3. High Violet by The National
  4. Brothers by The Black Keys
  5. Make The Light by Kate Rusby
  6. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
  7. Special Moves by Mogwai
  8. Hawk by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
  9. The Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit
  10. Infinite Arms by Band Of Horses
  11. Flamingo by Brandon Flowers
  12. Murphy's Heart by Thea Gilmore
  13. The Place We Ran From by Tired Pony
  14. The Betrayed by Lostprophets
  15. TRON: Legacy OST by Daft Punk
  16. Acolyte by Delphic
  17. The Courage Of Others by Midlake
  18. Close-Up Volume 1: Love Songs by Suzanne Vega
  19. Close-Up Volume 2: People & Places by Suzanne Vega
  20. July Flame by Laura Veirs
  21. Further by The Chemical Brothers
  22. Sea Of Cowards by The Dead Weather
  23. Year Of The Black Rainbow by Coheed & Cambria
  24. How To Destroy Angels EP by How To Destroy Angels
  25. Sky At Night by I Am Kloot
  26. The Quickening by Kathryn Williams
  27. Hearts & Minds by Seth Lakeman
  28. Immersion by Pendulum
  29. Handmade Life by Chris Wood
  30. End Times by Eels
  31. When Colours Flow by Ambeson
  32. Crystal Castles (II) by Crystal Castles
  33. When This Was The Future by Lisa O Piu
  34. Fire Like This by Blood Red Shoes
  35. Graceful Bow (EP) by Jason Ward
  36. Rotten Pear by Andrew Vincent
  37. Renegades by Feeder

Thursday, 30 December 2010

BBC Sound of 2011 - Top 15 review

The time has come for a review of the BBC Sound of 2011 top 15 artists – those musicians that are trying to make it big next year. Chosen by 161 industry experts, these artists have a lot to live up to and may join esteemed company such as Adele, Little Boots and Keane. So after a listen to some of their material, here is my review of the BBC Sound of 2011.

Anna Calvi

Somewhere between Nick Cave and Patti Smith, and with aspirations to sing the next Bond theme, Anna Calvi is a striking, guitar-wielding singer. Powerful stuff, dark and haunting with a tinge of country – mainstream pop this is not.  

Clare Maguire

Signed a couple of years ago, Clare Maguire has been working on her debut album and it looks set to happen just at the right time. Another powerful female solo artist, her music is orchestral pop with plenty of soaring vocals and strings. A great voice and just the right side of gloomy.


Having already provided guest-vocals for Gorillaz, soulful Daley is now making his debut album with Bernard Butler (Suede). This is nothing new for me, but DJs and critics are hailing Daley as a unique and new talent vocally. This may be but some more focused song writing and less rambling would be improve things.

Esben & The Witch

Thomas Fisher, Daniel Copeman and Rachel Davies are Esben & The Witch (title from a Danish fairy-tale), described as ‘nightmare pop’ their music is a stark mix of gothic vocals from Davies and horror-movie soundscapes. Beguiling stuff but hard work – and the band inject the same nastiness into their visuals as can be seen on video for Marching Song.

Jai Paul

This 21-year-old Londoner is blending glass-shattering falsetto with hard-hitting lyrics and shaky synths and people are already calling it a new fresh vision. I’m not convinced on the strength of a few underground hits and demos.

James Blake

Probably the best singer in the BBC Sound of 2011 list, it is a shame that London’s James Blake takes his song writing approach from Antony & The Jonsons – this is bleak and empty when it should be uplifting and full of life.

Jamie Woon

BRIT School graduate Jamie Woon has been mentioned in the same sentences as James Blake but his music is more soulful and mainstream.  Wonderfully evocative music but like many of this year’s artists the delivery is serious and prosaic. A sign (and mood) of the times, perhaps.

Jessie J

There had to be one, And this is it.  Looking like Marilyn Manson’s succubus and sounding like she’s actually swallowed the auto-tuner (laughably people are genuinely saying she has a great voice), Jessica Cornish and her music is a horror show. Also anyone who feels is necessary to namedrop themselves at the start of a song immediately loses all credibility.


Nashville 4-piece Mona might not be doing anything new but they do it well – somewhere between The Clash and early REM. Fronted by Nick Brown, who does a passable Eddie Vedder straining baritone, this is energetic moody post-rock.

The Naked & Famous

From New Zealand, and sounding just a bit close to MGMT with a female voice at the helm, The Naked & Famous mix 70s throw-back with modern electro-pop loops. Not sure if they are new or unique enough to stand on their own.


Two more producers trying to make their own music and seemingly unable to find a singer who doesn’t need the thick auto-tuner treatment. This is stuttering pre-90s electronica that is nothing new or interesting.

The Vaccines

Another band, this time from indie-folk roots – although you wouldn’t know it from the stuff on their MySpace page. This is more gothic surf pop than anything else. A bit retro and a bit present day, this has promise but sounds like too many other up-and-coming bands these days.


The most established band in the list, Warpaint is a glorious blend of female vocal harmonies and gloomy guitar melodies. Formed in 2004 and from LA the band is unlikely to make the top of the list in favour of ‘home grown’ talent. Undertow is a decent song and a good showcase.

Wretch 32

Easily the best and most interesting of the urban artists, Jermaine Sinclair, aka Wretch 32 is an emerging force. His lazy flowing vocal delivery is sickly sweet but relevant and showpiece Traktor pushes the right buttons.


Yuck has been described as the new Dinosaur Jr. with bits of Teenage Fanclub and Red House Painters. Influences are clear in the band’s jangly guitars and tambourine music and layered harmonies. Shoegaze revival anyone?

Monday, 27 December 2010

Thea Gilmore - Angels In The Abattoir (December 2010)

This month Thea Gilmore's Angels In The Abattoir song is a bit of an odd one. During her recent live shows Thea has performed a version of the Guns 'N' Roses anthem Sweet Child O' Mine and this version is from the Gateshead show recorded this month during the tour.

Typically Thea's version focuses on the words - Sweet Child O' Mine actually has some wonderful lyrics and here they take centre stage. There are two excellent string pieces to replace the Slash guitars and the only issue is the sound quality at the top end of the choruses.

Hopefully Thea will record 'a proper version' in the studio soon.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

New REM song Discoverer - free download

The lead track from the new REM album Collapse Into Now is called Discoverer and available for free!

It's a bit of a Stipe shouty number mixed with whiny guitar work to start with and has echoes of What's The Frequency, Kenneth? from Monster. Let's hope the album isn't as bad as that. The song is not great but it's not completely terrible either.

Download it here:

Monday, 6 December 2010

Cage Against The Machine

Musicians have gathered to 'record' a cover of John Cage's silent piece 4:33 in a vain attempt to keep Simon Cowell and the X Factor machine from bagging the Christmas no. 1 (again!). It is an audacious campaign that brought together the likes of Orbital, Suggs and Pendulum to 'do nothing' during the recording. Pete Doherty didn't turn up. And in an attempt to relive last year, they have named the project Cage Against The Machine.

I'm all for upsetting the X Factor ethos but this is a step too far. Cage's 4:33 is not the 'most avant garde piece of music ever recorded'. It is all too easy to jump on that bandwagon. It is what it is. Nothing. And even the X Factor single is better than that, as a piece of music. Music competition or giving people false hope. It it all the same.

The only positive note (pun intended) is that all proceeds go to charity. I say don't buy it and give some cash to charity instead. Then buy some proper music.

Read about the utter ridiculousness of it all here.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Upside Down - The Creation Records Story

New Film. About Creation Records. Excellent.

Official website.

YouTube trailer.

Pearl Jam - New Fan Book: This All Encompassing Trip

There is a fascinating new book out by a Pearl Jam obsessive Jason Leung who followed the band on tour in 2005 and 2006.

The website is here.

As a huge Pearl Jam fan I will certainly get a copy and there is a wealth of information on the website including a chat with Vedder and McCready about the project.

If you order from the website, a portion of the money goes to Pearl jam's Wishlist foundation.

The Duke Spirit - new EP and free download

A band I have been following for a few years, back before they were well known and the BBC pushed them through their breakthrough acts programme, The Duke Spirit is back with a free download track from new Kasuma EP, Everybody's Under Your Spell. This is a brilliant return to form; vibrant and filled with dirty guitars.

Also read a great article and listen to another new song Villain on In One Ear. Much slower and darker but just as wonderful.

Bestival 2011 - The Cure and Primal Scream to headline

The Cure will headline Bestival next year in what will be the band's only European show. Also featuring will be Primal Scream as part of their Screamadelica tour and Brian Wilson.

Read about it here.

Coldplay's Christmas single

I used to be a big Coldplay fan. And in a lot of ways I still am. The début Parachutes is good, A Rush Of Blood To The Head is fantastic and X&Y showed the likes of U2 how to make a stadium album again. But it all went wrong with Viva La Vida.

So now Coldplay have released a Christmas single: Christmas Lights.

Judge for yourself. I think it's better than the songs they have released recently but the wheels fall off in the second half when Martin seems to think it's the best Christmas song ever made. Shame the production ramps up so much.

Jason Ward - Promotional Download Okay B-Side You're A Fool

To promote the new single Okay, Jason Ward has released the b-side as a free promotional download You're A Fool.

Much slower and longer than Okay but filled with more delicious multi-layered vocals. And lyrically it compliments the single in both feeling and subject. The sudden Dylan-esque harmonica break is a bit of a surprise and doesn't quite fit but it helps break things up.

More good vibes for the forthcoming album.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Jason Ward - new single 'Okay'

Jason Ward has released a new single entitled Okay. As great as anything from his last album Almighty Row, this is fairly upbeat (for Jason!) and a pleasant alt-country/indie pop song. It's a love song about forgiveness and retribution, and understanding someone's discretions. Excellent production, including some gorgeous strings and backing vocals to create a deeper sound. Jason says he's written 30 new songs since the Graceful Bow EP. I can't wait for the new album.

Okay is released on iTunes on 6th December 2010.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

2010 Music Chart - November

Only one release in November but it's a every sense of the word. Kate Rusby's Make The Light - a new album of all original compositions. It is a definite contender for album of the year and straight into the top five. Also added Infinite Arms by Band of Horses - an album that came out earlier in the year but I've only just caught up with. And it's a bit special too.
  1. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling
  2. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
  3. Brothers by The Black Keys
  4. High Violet by The National
  5. Make The Light by Kate Rusby
  6. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
  7. Special Moves by Mogwai
  8. Hawk by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
  9. The Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit
  10. Infinite Arms by Band Of Horses
  11. Flamingo by Brandon Flowers
  12. Murphy's Heart by Thea Gilmore
  13. The Place We Ran From by Tired Pony
  14. The Betrayed by Lostprophets
  15. Acolyte by Delphic
  16. The Courage Of Others by Midlake
  17. Close-Up Volume 1: Love Songs by Suzanne Vega
  18. Close-Up Volume 2: People & Places by Suzanne Vega
  19. July Flame by Laura Veirs
  20. Further by The Chemical Brothers
  21. Sea Of Cowards by The Dead Weather
  22. Year Of The Black Rainbow by Coheed & Cambria
  23. How To Destroy Angels EP by How To Destroy Angels
  24. Sky At Night by I Am Kloot
  25. The Quickening by Kathryn Williams
  26. Hearts & Minds by Seth Lakeman
  27. Immersion by Pendulum
  28. Handmade Life by Chris Wood
  29. End Times by Eels
  30. When Colours Flow by Ambeson
  31. Crystal Castles (II) by Crystal Castles
  32. When This Was The Future by Lisa O Piu
  33. Fire Like This by Blood Red Shoes
  34. Graceful Bow (EP) by Jason Ward
  35. Rotten Pear by Andrew Vincent
  36. Renegades by Feeder

Monday, 29 November 2010

Thea Gilmore - Angels In The Abattoir (November 2010)

November's new tune from Thea Gilmore for all Angels In The Abattoir fans is something very special. Thea describes Lovers as a song about relationships, decline and longing but also adds that she hopes it has 'life beyond her' which is an odd thing to say but makes perfect sense. I think every singer wants their music to continue through others, not ripped-off and used as an easy option but given new breath from new blood.

As for the song, Lovers is a beautiful ballad with a sweet premise and wonderful melody. Again Nigel Stonier provides the co-write and as a duo they are making great music. This could easily be a track from Murphy's Heart and I would have put in place of one or two of the others that actually made it. But I'm glad she didn't. This is a song worthy of her fans and the way they are contributing to Thea's vibrant and energised career.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Close-Up Vol. 2, People & Places by Suzanne Vega Album Review (2010)

American musician Suzanne Vega continues her self-examining rerecording of her own songs with volume two of four Close-Up albums, subtitled People & Places. Like volume one, the songs are taken from four albums: two are chosen from the eponymous debut, four from Solitude Standing, four from 99.9F°, three from recent album Beauty & Crime, and one song not featured on any of her studio albums. These means nothing again from Vega's third record Days Of Open Hand. And Nine Objects of Desire and Songs In Red and Gray are not used at all, but given that Close-Up Vol. 1, Love Songs focuses on these albums, this is no big surprise. As with volume one this reinterpretation is not just an 'acoustic' album – the instrumentation is retained as needed and stripped down to let the words tell the stories.

The two songs most associated with Suzanne Vega feature on this album. Her biggest hit, Tom's Diner, was only so because of music producers DNA who used the original a cappella version set to Soul II Soul. Instead of suing, Vega bought the version and her record company released it. Here, it would have been easy for Vega to ignore this and attempt some mash-up of the original vocal and the horrible instrumental 'reprise' that closes Solitude Standing. Instead the People & Places take is closer to the DNA version, with barely audible backing on the verses and strings to accompany the wordless chorus. More than just a compromise, this is a definitive version. The subtle arrangement ensures the song remains as powerful as ever: the line '...when I'm feeling someone watching me, and so I raise my head...' still creates one of the most amazing spine-tingling images. The only odd move here is the change in musical accompaniment for one of the verses. The second of these songs is the brilliant Luka. Here this is a faultless version stripped of the huge '80s' guitar arrangement while retaining the core melody and message. And Vega injects more personality into key lines to stress the power of the song, most notably '...If you ask that's what I'll say. It's not your business anyway'. Incredible song writing and a flawless performance.

The two songs from Vega's debut highlight how far she has come. The Queen And The Soldier is wonderful poetry but vocally clumsy. Credit is due for not updating the lyrics and changing the soul of the original as it is still supreme storytelling. The second early song Neighborhood Girls is more on the money, the outdated guitar sound now replaced with a crisp acoustic one. Vega handles to torrent of lyrics that shape this story with ease, the vocals styled more like a echo of the production used for some of 99.9F°. Moving to that album, two more songs continue the high standard. Rock In This Pocket (Song of David) is an often forgotten gem, taking the Biblical tale of triumph through smart thinking in the face of adversity and weaving in menace and retribution. Again, the essence of the music and production is retained while given more breathing space for the vocals. Of the other three songs from the same album, In Liverpool also stands out. This is very close to the original simply because it has to be. Anything else would not work. The swinging waltz chorus is the best Vega has produced. The only difference is one that is now evident on this and the previous collection: the balance between music and vocals is equalised to great effect.

Another brilliant moment is the playful cabaret of Fat Man And Dancing Girl. Gone are the silly bird samples and clunky kitchen sink production in favour of keeping the glorious collection of sounds and textures. Way too short at just over two minutes. But not all the songs stand out. One of the earliest, Calypso, suffers from wayward vocals and a rambling arrangement. From Beauty & Crime, only Zephyr & I impresses as the punchy backing percussion and choral backing vocals are softened to release the song. Conversely New York Is A Woman suffers from the opposite effect and likewise Angel's Doorway takes away from the interesting original and offers nothing new in return. The oddball song here, Man Who Played God, co-written for the Danger Mouse/Sparklehorse album Dark Night Of The Soul, is just that. Vega never sounds comfortable vocally and it is out of place.

With Close-Up Vol. 2, People & Places the compositions centre around two albums: her most commercially successful release Solitude Standing and the wonderfully textured and adventurous 99.9F°. This adds a lot more room for expansion and even though Vega is never one to outdo herself, you get the impression on People & Places that this is a chance to rework as much as revisit. Arguably many of the songs here are better than the originals due to careful re-treatment, but there are also some stumbling blocks that make People & Places more inconsistent than Close-Up Vol. 1, Love Songs. That said, the great moments more than make up for the discretions. The Close-Up series is proving to be an absorbing experiment and an engaging listen.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

New P J Harvey album announced

PJ Harvey has a new album out in February 2011 entitled Let England Shake.

Read about it on Pitchfork here.

The National reissue High Violet with 2 new tracks

If you don't have it already, check out the new expanded version of High Violet by The National.

News by Pigeons & Planes here.
Spotify link. The National – High Violet (Expanded Edition)

REM - Collapse Into Now tracklisting

The track list for the new REM album entitled Collapse Into Now has been confirmed.

It is...
  1. Discoverer
  2. All The Best
  3. Uberlin
  4. It Happened Today
  5. Every Day Is Yours To Win
  6. Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter
  7. Walk It Back
  8. Mine Smell Like Honey
  9. That Someone Is You
  10. Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I
  11. Blue
The album is set to be more like Automatic For The People than last release Accelerate, and features vocals from Patti Smith (who also features on New Adventures in Hi-Fi) and Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam.

Read the Mike Mills interview in Rolling Stone here.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Hawk by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan (Album Review 2010)

Hawk is the third collaborative album from ex-Belle & Sebastian cellist/pianist Isobel Campbell and ex-Screaming Trees front man Mark Lanegan. During a turbulent life, both musically and personally, including five years with Queens Of The Stone Age, Lanegan has made six solo albums. The last and best of these is the wonderful Bubblegum, released in 2004 and coinciding with the start of this, the fourth chapter of his career. Where Bubblegum is Lanegan's finest hour as an individual (albeit with help), the trio of albums combining his exquisite baritone rasp and the delicacy of Campbell's celestial tones outclasses most of the material produced with John Homme and Mark Pickerel. Like the two albums before, Campbell brings out the best of her musical spouse with her songs, each the perfect muse, in what is another brilliant collection.

Hawk opens with the excellent We Die And See Beauty Reign, a dark folk duet with a simple guitar loop forming the third vocal. Lanegan adds bass and depth to the lightness of Campbell in what is a great introduction to the album. You Won't Let Me Down Again could not be more different. Lanegan is in control of this heavier bluesy stomp but within is an incredible breathy vocal from Campbell, like a cool wind blowing through a harsh unforgiving desert. Complete with a central guitar solo and an excellent addition of Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha, the menacing lament continues and if anything is way too short. Snake Song is the first of two songs written by veteran American country musician Townes Van Zandt (both songs are taken from Zandt's album Flyin' Shoes) and given a modern take. Slightly faster than the original, Lanegan and Campbell give Zandt a lot of respect vocally – not imitating but always on the same course. Likewise the whole arrangement retains the core guitar work but drops the obvious rattlesnake percussion. Wonderful.

Come Undone again changes the mood and is more jazz-induced easy listening than country. As sultry as it is spiky, Lanegan's rough words unfold like gravel over the smooth Campbell delivery to create a unique mesmerising fusion. All this framed with a superb string arrangement. No Place To Fall – the second Townes Van Zandt song is a bit out of place thanks to a guest spot from Willy Mason. More delicious backing vocals from Campbell but the whole thing does not feel right with a different vocal mix. No doubt though it is an excellent love song given a new life. Completing a trio of sings that prove how diverse and interesting a record Hawk is, Get Behind Me is honky-tonk rock n roll. A bit cheesy but the sheer brilliance of the guitar-work shines through – especially the jolly instrumental finale. Vocally Lanegan is dominating but Campbell adds the sleek shine.

Time Of The Season is another gem. Like the opener, roles are reversed and Campbell leads the vocals in what is revealed to be a Winter love song: 'In your embrace I found my place...outside it's freezing'. The duo recall a cold meeting in London, name dropping Kings Cross, then off to Zanzibar and Amsterdam, weaving wonderful lyrics into the story as they go. The title track throws the album right back into turmoil and a truly unexpected move: a two and half minute squealing guitar, brass and drums blues instrumental. The ending is a complete hapless, fantastic shambles.

The first of two songs that feature only Campbell's vocals is the breathy Sunrise. This adds a deeply personal touch to a tale of longing and loss. 'Too much pain, too much pressure. And why must I have to wait so long', she sings, adding 'For the one that I treasure; tomorrow that's when I'll be gone'. To Hell and Back Again has a just a touch of Mazzy Star with Campbell doing a very passable impression of Hope Sandoval. The dense sultry production mixing sharp guitars, echoing percussion and the distant whimsical vocals is an irresistible combination.

Into the final trio, Cool Water is the second guest vocal from Willy Mason with very little production, gimmicks or tricks. This sounds like it was recorded in the back of a tour bus or a motel room at the end of a long day and there is a real honest connection between the two singers. 'Lovers swim; jump right in. You're my favourite clown. On demand; my right hand. And we're chained and bound. Feels so good; like it should. Let me bring you round...'. It's such a shame that this intimacy isn't shared with Lanegan. Eyes Of Green is a short blast of unashamed folk formed from a short introduction and a neat kitchen-sink solo. But to finish, Lately is an excellent Dylan-esque ending, with Lanegan on solo duty for the first and only time – albeit with female gospel choir for the choruses. More excellent song writing and observations from Campbell: 'It will come clean in the wash, no that much is true. You cannot foresee this would happen to you. Best to sit and wait until the sun's breaking through...'. This is a soundtrack to Lanegan's life with lines like 'You can wish your whole life through; be a sleepy John. Choose your favourite poison on your way to get gone. If it's what you're thinking then I got to move on...'. Campbell gives Lanegan the final poignant words.

With few exceptions, Lanegan and Campbell sing Hawk as a duo and instead of letting one voice dominate one song they form a single dual vocal, one voice creating two distinct sounds. The compliment is beguiling and wonderful – add in the dependable guitar work of Jim McCulloch and one great turn from Willy Mason and it is the perfect combination. Hawk rarely falters and has enough controlled twists and turns to keep momentum and ideas flowing. The raging seas of a man with a past are continually calmed and his spirit and inner demons consistently provide and promote her inspiration. She makes him happy and he gives her purpose. Long may it continue.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie sings the US national anthem

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie sings the US national anthem before Game 3 of the NLCS at AT&T Park.

Watch it here.

The Beatles go digital.

Albums from The Beatles are available in digital form on iTunes for the first time.

Read about it here.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Thea Gilmore - Angels In The Abattoir Update (October 2010)

The end of another month and this means another Thea Gilmore song for us Angels In The Abattoir. This month is another revisited song written by Thea and Nigel Stonier: Blue Shadow from Nigel's album Brimstone & Blue, reworked by Thea.

Thea describes it as 'a song of longing and loss.. maybe of a friend or a lover, but I remember very clearly when we finished this song that we both really loved its simplicity and ache..'.

I like the take, in particular the simple piano leading into the middle of the song, and it's another solid vocal from Thea. That said, something new and more upbeat would be great.

2010 Music Chart - October

Only one new album this week. Too many other things going on. I always have time for Suzanne Vega and the second volume of her Close Up series 'People & Places' is out. Hope to pick things up towards Christmas and write some reviews for albums I missed earlier in the year.

So for now, here is the album list for the year so far:
  1. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling
  2. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
  3. Brothers by The Black Keys
  4. High Violet by The National
  5. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
  6. Special Moves by Mogwai
  7. The Betrayed by Lostprophets
  8. Hawk by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
  9. The Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit
  10. Flamingo by Brandon Flowers
  11. Murphy's Heart by Thea Gilmore
  12. The Place We Ran From by Tired Pony
  13. Acolyte by Delphic
  14. The Courage Of Others by Midlake
  15. Close-Up Volume 1: Love Songs by Suzanne Vega
  16. Close-Up Volume 2: People & Places by Suzanne Vega
  17. July Flame by Laura Veirs
  18. Further by The Chemical Brothers
  19. Sea Of Cowards by The Dead Weather
  20. Year Of The Black Rainbow by Coheed & Cambria
  21. How To Destroy Angels EP by How To Destroy Angels
  22. Sky At Night by I Am Kloot
  23. The Quickening by Kathryn Williams
  24. Hearts & Minds by Seth Lakeman
  25. Immersion by Pendulum
  26. Handmade Life by Chris Wood
  27. End Times by Eels
  28. When Colours Flow by Ambeson
  29. Crystal Castles (II) by Crystal Castles
  30. When This Was The Future by Lisa O Piu
  31. Fire Like This by Blood Red Shoes
  32. Graceful Bow (EP) by Jason Ward
  33. Rotten Pear by Andrew Vincent
  34. Renegades by Feeder

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Solomon Burke RIP

Ting Tings go acoustic for XSession

Three great videos of acoustic sessions from Ting Tings for the News Of The World online XSessions. Brilliant session from a brilliant band.

Enjoy The Silence/Love Will Tear Us Apart
Shut Up And Let Me Go

On the News Of The World site.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

2010 Music Chart - September

Just the one new album this month: Flamingo by Brandon Flowers, which proves that the Killers front man has a lot more to offer when he branches out.
  1. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling
  2. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
  3. Brothers by The Black Keys
  4. High Violet by The National
  5. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
  6. Special Moves by Mogwai
  7. The Betrayed by LostProphets
  8. Hawk by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
  9. The Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit
  10. Flamingo by Brandon Flowers
  11. Murphy's Heart by Thea Gilmore
  12. The Place We Ran From by Tired Pony
  13. Acolyte by Delphic
  14. The Courage Of Others by Midlake
  15. Close-Up Volume 1: Love Songs by Suzanne Vega
  16. July Flame by Laura Veirs
  17. Further by The Chemical Brothers
  18. Sea Of Cowards by The Dead Weather
  19. Year Of The Black Rainbow by Coheed & Cambria
  20. How To Destroy Angels EP by How To Destroy Angels
  21. Sky At Night by I Am Kloot
  22. The Quickening by Kathryn Williams
  23. Hearts & Minds by Seth Lakeman
  24. Immersion by Pendulum
  25. Handmade Life by Chris Wood
  26. End Times by Eels
  27. When Colours Flow by Ambeson
  28. Crystal Castles (II) by Crystal Castles
  29. When This Was The Future by Lisa O Piu
  30. Fire Like This by Blood Red Shoes
  31. Graceful Bow (EP) by Jason Ward
  32. Rotten Pear by Andrew Vincent
  33. Renegades by Feeder

Thea Gilmore - Angels In The Abattoir Update (September 2010)

A new song from Thea for all us lucky Angels this month is Carousel Queen, a slow purposeful waltz that Thea describes as 'a combination of enjoying the ride and being nicely worn in. So I guess a song about growing up really'. Lyrically the song is interesting as the metaphor begins and quickly turns into something else: 'the louder you scream, the faster I go', and the sinister nature and usual spikiness is great but it lacks a decent chorus (Thea is too high). Musically it tries a pseudo-roots vibe but constantly feels like a fragment or a Murphy's Heart out-take. We can't hope for the quality of songs such as God's Got Nothing On You and You're The Radio but it would be nice once in a while...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network Free 5 track EP

The soundtrack to David Fincher's new film The Social Network by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross is out soon. But until then you can get a free 5 track EP featuring music from the soundtrack.

Check it out here.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The 2010 Q Awards have been announced. Here they are in full:

Breakthrough Artist Presented By Red Stripe
Ellie Goulding
Laura Marling
Plan B

Best New Act
Mumford & Sons
The Drums
The xx
Two Door Cinema Club
Wild Beasts

Best Video
Arcade Fire - We Used To Wait
Biffy Clyro - The Captain
Chase & Status - End Credits (ft. Plan B)
Gorillaz - Stylo
Vampire Weekend - Giving Up The Gun

Best Live Act
Green Day
Lady Gaga

Best Album Presented by Ravenswood Wine
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Paul Weller - Wake Up The Nation
Plan B - The Defamation Of Strickland Banks
The National - High Violet

Best Track Presented By Barclaycard Unwind

Biffy Clyro - The Captain
Florence And The Machine - You've Got The Love
Mumford & Sons - The Cave
Owl City - Fireflies
The xx - VCR

Best Female Artist (New for 2010)
Corinne Bailey Rae
Ellie Goulding
Florence And The Machine
Lady Gaga
Laura Marling

Best Male Artist (New for 2010)
Brandon Flowers
Dizzee Rascal
Paolo Nutini
Paul Weller
Plan B

Best Act In The World Today Presented By RSV

Arcade Fire
Green Day
Kings Of Leon

It's not usually like Q Magazine to be behind the times but can anyone tell me how and why Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons are nominated in Breakthrough Artist and Best New Act respectively? They have not just appeared from nowhere. Arcade Fire and The National get my votes for best album in a short list of awards that has Arcade Fire also listed (rightly) in the Best Act In The World category. Laughably so have Kasabian and Kings Of Leon. As always, great work Q and keep up the irony.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The xx win the Mercury Music Prize with debut album

On the quality and depth of music it was a surprise that this year's prize went to The xx and not Mumford & Sons or Laura Marling. That said, I thought it would be Paul Weller's year but I would have not been dismayed if Dizzee Rascal took top spot. But the judges went with a new band and a début album.

The short list was:

Biffy Clyro 'Only Revolutions'
Villagers 'Becoming A Jackal'
Corinne Bailey Rae 'The Sea'
Mumford & Sons ‘Sigh No More’
Paul Weller 'Wake Up The Nation'
Wild Beasts 'Two Dancers'
Kit Downes Trio ‘Golden’
Laura Marling 'I Speak Because I Can'
Dizzee Rascal 'Tongue N’ Cheek'
Foals 'Total Life Forever'
I Am Kloot 'Sky At Night'
The xx 'xx'

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Mogwai - Special Moves (CD version) Album Review (2010)

A ‘live’ album is always a tricky thing. Fans have been waiting for Scotland’s Mogwai to release a live recording for years and now it has arrived in the form of Special Moves, the band’s first collection of live performances taken from their US tour in 2009. The issue here is if the band are able to translate the carefully choreographed music not only onto the live stage but into a live package. This is a review of the CD/digital version of the album.

The set list for Special Moves is eleven songs with three over nine minutes. So with space and time limited, the band has picked the chosen few from the entire back catalogue. There are two from début album Mogwai Young Team, one from Come On Die Young, two from Rock Action, two from Happy Songs for Happy People, two from Mr Beast and two from The Hawk Is Howling. So no room for the mighty Auto Rock, no room for the wonderful Kids Will Be Skeletons, no Stanley Kubrick or Ratts Of The Capital and no Kings Meadow. Given the quality of Mogwai’s last three albums, this could have been a four hour 3 CD box set but credit is due for making this an aural account of three gigs across three consecutive gigs in Brooklyn and not a mash-up of six or seven to create a huge lumbering behemoth. Likewise it is not just stacked with ‘recent’ songs. Yes, Mogwai’s last two albums have been their best but many of their most arresting songs were conceived earlier. So the noticeably absent New Paths To Helicon Part I, Batcat and Scotland’s Shame are included as part of Burning, the eight track film DVD included with the physical album.

Special Moves opens with the delicate piano intro of I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead and slowly builds to a multi-layered swathe of guitars, more entwined than the original and swamping the piano in a buzzing electronic swarm. The precise arrangement is now replaced with a free-flowing louder liberated and feedback-infused sound. The majestic Friend Of The Night is given a kinder treatment, as the piano is allowed to breathe within the murky sea of crashing cymbals and guitars. Without this, the song’s important central core would be lost. The sound mix is perfect. Hunted By A Freak is excellently delivered, complete with vocoder vocals that breathe and flow through the spine of the song.

At nearly twelve minutes, Mogwai Fear Satan is the longest song on Special Moves. The two minute introduction shimmers with subtle ambience before drums kick in and the guitars build for what is the high point of the first half of the album. At three minutes the sound is complete and the arrangement swirls like an open sea before a storm. Into minute five and the sound steadies and calms, drifting quietly away. Those who know the song are waiting for it to return and as expected, it does, after what seems like an eternity, for a final three minute blast of noise. The guitars squeal and strain through the relentless pounding drums then gradually subside. An exhilarating performance.
Cody, the only song in the set with ‘proper’ vocals (a rarity in the Mogwai repertoire) works to a point as the words add context to the sad guitar arrangement. But it’s not a great rendition and would benefit from a smoother softer production. You Don’t Know Jesus follows the more typical Mogwai formula: start quietly and deliberately then build over two minutes into a crescendo of guitars, a central riff piercing the surrounding chaotic soundscape. The song predictably slows and quietens again only to return for a second defiant last stand. It is almost the ‘complete’ Mogwai song and is executed expertly within the now familiar ‘live’ style. And this brings the album to the only song that doesn’t work when the creative forces of the stage invade the original intention of a song. I Know You Are But What Am I? is over a minute shorter than the studio version and is given a space-aged feedback guitar treatment during the ordinarily melodic sections. And the whole song feels uneasy and rushed.

Thankfully this is not the signs of wheels coming off and the whole thing descending into and exercise in self-indulgence as I Love You, I’m Going To Blow Up Your School is near-perfection. With a louder introduction leading to the menacing build-up, this is an example of focus and control throughout the eight minutes as one of the best tracks from The Hawk Is Howling becomes a standout song on Special Moves. Every note and arrangement is given an extra burst of energy, an extra notch on the volume control. After the second build-up and with just over a minute to go when the explosive (pun intended) ending arrives, the barrage of noise is spectacular.

The quality continues into the final three songs. 2 Rights Make 1 Wrong, an early favourite and second song to use vocoder vocals, quickly becomes the most mellow chilled-out song on the album. This is Mogwai at their most pleasant and their most pleasing, even if things do start to break up towards the end. The second ‘epic’ Like Herod is another huge master class of noise control; the song is soft and delicate one minute and explosively unpredictable the next as it fuses stabbing guitars and feedback. This is the big brother of Mogwai Fear Satan, taking a similar path from loud into spine-tingling ambience only to return suddenly, more ferocious than before. The final three minutes is a torrential downpour of sound. Excellent. Mogwai end Special Moves with Glasgow Megasnake which is an odd choice that leads to a relentless charge to the finish instead of a subtle sign-off. That said, it is a perfect execution.

Special Moves is a fantastic snapshot of a band performing a wide ranging collection of songs with precision and skill. Mogwai’s music is intricate and complex and the band show this through their live performances of songs that build to rousing finales or burst into explosive torrents of guitars and drums. There is delicacy and poise within the layers of sound. Mogwai are not the most vocal of bands (as in their music) when performing live and there is very little atmosphere between the songs - a simple introduction to namedrop Glasgow and a few thanks to the (mostly) respectful crowd. But no signoff or extended applause which is a shame. You don’t always feel like you are part of the experience which is a point of a live album. This is minor discretion as the music more than makes up for it. Special Moves is an excellent addition to the Mogwai catalogue.

- CS

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Thea Gilmore - Murphy’s Heart Album Review (2010)

Thea Gilmore has been making music for twelve years in a career that now includes eleven albums. Thea is very much an album maker, having only released nine singles in the same time, and chooses to promote her music through gigs, festivals and radio performances rather than embracing the usual tedious channels as is the nature of popular culture. In 2009 Thea embarked on an ambitious, although not entirely original, venture to further promote and fund her art, entitled Angels In The Abattoir. This is designed to provide fans, in exchange for a yearly subscription, direct and exclusive access to new music (mostly low-key simply produced and more intimate recordings), signed lyric sheets, demos, videos, Q&A etc. But within all this have been two new commercially released albums: last year’s seasonally themed Strange Communion (which works as an alternative leftfield Christmas album) and now Murphy’s Heart.

The first thing to note about Murphy’s Heart is the musicianship involved. Unlike recent albums, Thea has includes thirteen other ‘band members’ including, of course, Thea’s partner and stalwart producer/player Nigel Stonier, playing a plethora of instruments - including bizarrely table tops and flight cases, as is the folk tradition. The effect is a much bigger pop-folk sound giving the music a lighter easier feel. Not that Thea doesn’t include the occasional moody waltz - something she does so well - but Murphy’s Heart veers away from this ‘safe’ territory to take risks, most of which pay off. Importantly the album contains two of the best songs Thea has made. Early on is the gorgeous God’s Got Nothing On You, re-exploring a favourite theme of religion but masking a deep dark secret and juxtaposing the obvious with images of power, corruption and fame. Couple this with a beautiful swirling arrangement and a superb vocal chorus and you have an instant slice of perfection. The second obvious standout song is the overtly poppy commercially friendly You’re The Radio - a blatant attempt to create a big hit with all the boxes ticked. A brilliant guitar-led arrangement around Thea’s bittersweet delivery: ‘I’m the heart and you’re the soul, I’m the part and you’re the whole, I am stronger than you think, the spike that turned up in your drink’ is clever and edgy. The song even gets a cliché pop fade.

But around these obvious moments are other more subtle gems of genius. Love’s The Greatest Instrument Of Rage is right on the button and has distinct echoes of teenage rebel Thea banging out her pain and frustrations. Proof that there is an old fighting political spirit inside the new: ‘Oh I don’t know its name baby but it keeps me up at night’ and the wonderfully direct: ‘It’s taken 30 years, and a little pill to learn…’. Opener This Town, kicking off the album with the line ‘well hello my little train wreck’ before laying on the grim reaper treatment, is a warning sign for getting trapped not only physically but also mentally: ‘and soon you’ll be a memory of a shadow of a lie…’. This is more darkness within the light. The flip side of these is a different approach entirely. Automatic Blue and How The Love Gets In are both gorgeous ballads, the latter providing a lift in what turns out to be a weak ending to an otherwise strong album (with the exception of the dark frantic brilliance of Not Alone). There are only a few moments of unsteadiness: the overtly ridiculous cabaret of Jazz Hands and the uncharacteristic uncomfortably sultry Teach Me To Be Bad which suffers from a drawn-out nursery rhyme chorus and kitchen-sink production. With risk comes reward but also the inevitable misgiving.

Motherhood and companionship has certainly changed Thea. One would expect nothing else. Gloomy naysayer and wide-eyed dreamer has been replaced with grounded-realist and a calmer more measured approach. She is certainly loving where she is and those around her and has new inspiration to take care of and inject into her music. Those expecting another Avalanche or a Burning Dorothy (or ideally a hybrid of the two) will be disappointed but Thea’s music can still pack a punch, and Murphy’s Heart continues to mix sharp lyrics with cutting arrangements to keep things unique and characteristic, as Thea continues to tackle serious themes, weave important metaphors and make good music.
-- CS

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

2010 Music Chart - August

Four excellent albums this month. First up is Hawk by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, one of the best musical collaborations in a decade. Second is the mighty Arcade Fire back with The Suburbs - a more sedate and light follow-up to Neon Bible but with all the charm and spirit of début Funeral. And third is the new Thea Gilmore album Murphy's Heart - one of her best with twists and turns, highs and lows and a full-band sound. Last up is the cream of this month's new albums: Special Moves by Mogwai - Scotland's finest back with their first live recording and new film Burning. Best month of the year so far.
  1. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling
  2. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
  3. Brothers by The Black Keys
  4. High Violet by The National
  5. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
  6. Special Moves by Mogwai
  7. The Betrayed by LostProphets
  8. Hawk by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
  9. The Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit
  10. Murphy's Heart by Thea Gilmore
  11. The Place We Ran From by Tired Pony
  12. Acolyte by Delphic
  13. The Courage Of Others by Midlake
  14. Close-Up Volume 1: Love Songs by Suzanne Vega
  15. July Flame by Laura Veirs
  16. Further by The Chemical Brothers
  17. Sea Of Cowards by The Dead Weather
  18. Year Of The Black Rainbow by Coheed & Cambria
  19. How To Destroy Angels EP by How To Destroy Angels
  20. Sky At Night by I Am Kloot
  21. The Quickening by Kathryn Williams
  22. Hearts & Minds by Seth Lakeman
  23. Immersion by Pendulum
  24. Handmade Life by Chris Wood
  25. End Times by Eels
  26. When Colours Flow by Ambeson
  27. Crystal Castles (II) by Crystal Castles
  28. When This Was The Future by Lisa O Piu
  29. Fire Like This by Blood Red Shoes
  30. Graceful Bow (EP) by Jason Ward
  31. Rotten Pear by Andrew Vincent
  32. Renegades by Feeder

Monday, 30 August 2010

New Arcade Fire 'interactive' film

Check out a wonderful new project from Arcade Fire called The Wilderness Downtown. Type in your home town (or where you were born) and it adapts to your life. It's made for Google Chrome but runs ok on Firefox.

The website is here.

Philip Selway solo album Familial

It seems as if it's not just Thom Yorke who is branching out from Radiohead, now drummer Phil Selway has a new album called Familial.

Interesting stuff and as you would expect: this is acoustic, reflective, haunting and thoughtful.

Check out the website.

Thea Gilmore - Angels In The Abatoir (August 2010)

This month's Angels In The Abattoir song coincides with the release of Thea Gilmore's new album Murphy's Heart so it's been a busy time for an artist who is making so much new music. So I'm not that surprised that the song for August, entitled Got To Run is about flight over fight. Thea describes it simply as 'an abstract song about flight and hiding'.

Got To Run is a stripped down, single guitar and vocal piece that has a work-in-progress demo feel about it, at least musically. Lyrically it hits the mark with some good lines and the production is deep and clear. But it would be too rough around the edges to be an album track of any note and possibly an out take from Murphy's Heart. Not bad...but can do better!

Find out all about the Angels scheme here.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Springsteen confirms Darkness On The Edge of Town boxset

Bruce Springsteen has confirmed the release of a new Darkness On The Edge Of Town (his best album imo) box set featuring a remastered album, live footage and plenty of unreleased stuff. Excellent news.

Rolling Stone has all the details here.

Natalie Merchant gets poetic on new album

Former 10,000 Maniacs lead singer Natalie Merchant has a new album Leave Your Sleep. The album is an interpretation of nursery rhymes and poems set to music. An interesting concept that has taken Natalie seven years to complete. You can hear it all on the website.

Dear New Orleans - 5 years on benefit album

Dear New Orleans is a new album released to commemorate the 5 years since the New Orleans floods. Artists who donated tracks include Laura Veirs, Steve Earle, Tom Morello, Mike Mills and My Morning Jacket.

The website is here.

Track listing widget:

James Murphy - Never saying never to LCD Soundsystem

James Murphy is not ruling out more material from LCD Soundsystem but it is the end of the band as a 'professional entity'. Whatever that means.

From Drowned In Sound.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Brandon Flowers goes solo!

Brandon Flowers, front man of The Killers has a new album Flamingo and lead single Crossfire next month.

Crossfire is a bit more poppy than The Killers usual stuff but follows on from the recent sound from the Las Vegas band - a bit 80s retro but still modern. It's instantly likeable and radio friendly.

Hear the single on Spotify here and check out the website.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

John Mellencamp - "The internet has destroyed music"

The story is here. It would be useful if this stalwart of American music explained himself. He obviously doesn't realise how the internet and technology is revolutionising music and the way it is made and marketed. This makes him sound like he's out of touch which is unfortunate.

Thea Gilmore - You're The Radio Video

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs Album Review (2010)

I don't like reviewing Arcade Fire. I don't know why but I just can't write good reviews of their albums. I don't mean positive - I like the band and the three albums, I just can't explain why. Anyway, here is the (rather convoluted, over-long and confused) review:

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

When Canadian multi-instrumentalists Arcade Fire released their début album Funeral in 2004, it was hard to see how it could be beaten. Easily the best music of the year and one of the albums of the decade, it propelled the band from the shaky start of the self-titled EP to global stardom. Six years later and after extensive touring to follow a blistering second album - the wonderfully huge and dark Neon Bible, Arcade Fire, lead by the duo of Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, are back with The Suburbs.

As you might expect, The Suburbs is a concept album centred around growing up and the childhood experiences of Win and William Butler. Most notably the music is more uplifting that the previous album while retaining all the energy, exuberance and charm of Funeral - an album that managed to find hope from despair and joy from misery. The Suburbs, which combines the good and bad with chaotic abandon, takes a similar approach and is, importantly, equally expansive. Sixteen songs spanning an hour sounds a daunting prospect but Arcade Fire manage to keep the listeners’ interest, with only one obvious downturn, for the entire album.

The delicate country lilt of the title track introduces The Suburbs. A very strange way to start an album, almost understated, as a prelude to the music that is to come. This is followed by an early highlight Ready To Start - an excellent example of harnessing far too many sounds, concepts and ideas and controlling the song. In a teasing first half, there is no chorus at all, just a drawn out hook followed by a empty spaces in what is a beautifully constructed piece of pop music. In contrast to the upbeat music, Butler warns “Businessmen will drink my blood, like the kids in art school said they would”. A last minute forms with a lull and builds to a sudden climax swathed in electronica.

Modern Man, with its stuttering ’missing note’ arrangement continues the sedate start and has echoes of fellow kinsmen The Tragically Hip (see Trouble In The Henhouse). Butler’s vocal floats high one minute and is dramatically forceful the next. And the guitar work in the last thirty seconds in breathtaking. The second highlight Rococo (most likely referring to the social ethos that developed from the ‘late Baroque’ style, than the interior design and fashion) is seeped in the usual deep vibrant string, guitar and vocal arrangements but also an explosive nature, developing from a beguiling looping hypnotic chorus. This is the first time Chassagne adds her vocal and the band lose themselves in the wonder of their own music in the second half.

Opening with more glorious guitars, Empty Room has Chassagne on lead vocals for the first time, slowing down what is a frantic arrangement until the short chorus. This is far removed from the raw outpouring of emotion of In The Backseat but does build to a rousing finale. City With No Children, after another great intro, suffers initially from clumsy vocals/lyrics from Butler in what could be a deliberate attempt to sound childlike, reciting some naïve and amateurish poetry. It quickly recovers into another solid highlight, with some smart observational lyrics, great backing vocals and consistently good guitars.

In one of the album’s more mellow moments, Half Light I is a delicious blend of strings and soft vocals. Butler and Chassagne combine perfectly. Part II (subtitled Celebration) replaces strings for shimmering synths with Butler reminiscing on the past . As the album becomes more ambiguous and obscure, “Now that you have left me here, I will never raise my voice. All the diamonds you have here in this home that has no life” is some of the most interesting and beguiling lyrics on the album. Brilliant stuff and a song that would not be out of place on an Editors album.

Into the second half of The Suburbs, Suburban War is one of the album’s darker moments. The song veers between two arrangements and two moods - one reflective and one aggressive, paralleling the concept of moving away from a childhood home and returning to being drafted to fight for your country - “…my old friends, they don’t know me now…”. From this highlight, the album takes a sudden unexpected move. Why Month Of May wasn’t dropped is anyone’s guess but it does not work, revisits old ground and would benefit from a completely different tempo, arrangement and sound. The second half sounds like something even The Jesus And Mary Chain would reject.

Thankfully this is a minor glitch as Wasted Hours gets The Suburbs back, almost where it starts with the feel of the title track, and the piano-led Deep Blue is more musing through the ages. Only when We Used To Wait starts is there a real sense that The Suburbs has more to offer. “Now our lives are changing fast…”, sings Butler as the songs takes shape and the story unfolds through the five minute epic. Sprawl, in two parts: Flatland and Mountains Beyond Mountains, completes the odyssey in some style. Butler handles part one, a subtle melancholy introduction, for Chassagne to take over for part two - Kylie-esque disco-pop that is not as ridiculous as it sounds. Her vocal is over-produced but it’s a great song, even when Jean Michel Jarre keyboards bring in the final verses. Yes, really.

As the last indulgent final minute and a half - revisiting the title track in a slower arrangement - fades away, it is clear that The Suburbs isn’t perfect. But music never is. Anything that is inspired by, formed from, and chronicles, life is by definition, flawed. It is as if Arcade Fire have deliberately fused this imperfection directly into the heart of some of the songs, to highlight the experiences that are so central to the music. The overwhelming euphoric emotion of Funeral is replaced here by a more reflective sound. The band sound more in control of their music, something evident on the previous album - this is light and airy compared to Neon Bible, more focused and multi-dimensional than Funeral - but with, importantly, all the quality, ideas and brilliance of both.
-- CS

Saturday, 31 July 2010

2010 Music Chart - July

No new reviews this month but three great new albums to add: The Place We Ran From by Tired Pony and the new Mercury Prize nominated Sky At Night by the always wonderful I Am Kloot. Also, a real surprise from Ambeson, aka Rich Keyworth with his second album When Colours Flow - a gem of a record that mixes acoustic, electronica and sampling.
  1. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling
  2. Brothers by The Black Keys
  3. High Violet by The National
  4. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
  5. The Betrayed by LostProphets
  6. The Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit
  7. Sea Of Cowards by The Dead Weather
  8. The Place We Ran From by Tired Pony
  9. Acolyte by Delphic
  10. The Courage Of Others by Midlake
  11. Close-Up Volume 1: Love Songs by Suzanne Vega
  12. July Flame by Laura Veirs
  13. Further by The Chemical Brothers
  14. Year Of The Black Rainbow by Coheed & Cambria
  15. How To Destroy Angels EP by How To Destroy Angels
  16. Sky At Night by I Am Kloot
  17. The Quickening by Kathryn Williams
  18. Hearts & Minds by Seth Lakeman
  19. Immersion by Pendulum
  20. Handmade Life by Chris Wood
  21. End Times by Eels
  22. When Colours Flow by Ambeson
  23. Crystal Castles (II) by Crystal Castles
  24. When This Was The Future by Lisa O Piu
  25. Fire Like This by Blood Red Shoes
  26. Graceful Bow (EP) by Jason Ward
  27. Rotten Pear by Andrew Vincent
  28. Renegades by Feeder

Thea Gilmore - Angels In The Abattoir Update (July 2010)

An interesting new song from Thea this month, a cover of How Little We Know from the 1944 film To Have And Have Not, originally sung by Lauren Bacall in the film. This is released as the winning entry in the Song Lottery in which us Angels suggested songs for Thea to record. Thea, who didn't know the song before, describes it a 'a truly beautiful piece of writing' with 'a complex melody that is a total bugger to learn'. A fantastic result all round and great support as always from 'musical superhero' Nigel Stonier who plays the melodica on the song.

So, as Angels In The Abattoir enters its second year (yes I have resubscribed), we look forward to more wonderful songs, gigs and the new album. Thanks Thea. x

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Mercury Music Prize 2010 - Shortlist

The 2010 Mercury Music Prize nominees have been announced. They are:

Biffy Clyro 'Only Revolutions'
Villagers 'Becoming A Jackal'
Corinne Bailey Rae 'The Sea'
Mumford & Sons ‘Sigh No More’
Paul Weller 'Wake Up The Nation'
Wild Beasts 'Two Dancers'
Kit Downes Trio ‘Golden’
Laura Marling 'I Speak Because I Can'
Dizzee Rascal 'Tongue N’ Cheek'
Foals 'Total Life Forever'
I Am Kloot 'Sky At Night'
The xx 'xx'

My choice (you won't be surprised to know) is Laura Marling. That said, I haven't heard half the albums and I would be happy with Mumford & Sons, I Am Kloot (about time they got a nomination), Biffy Clyro and The XX.

All the albums are here.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Ra Ra Riot - new album and single preview

You can hear a preview of the new song Too Dramatic from Ra Ra Riot's new album The Orchard. Check out the website.

Tired Pony (Gary Lightbody and Peter Buck)

Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody and REM's Peter Buck have joined forces as Tired Pony. This is an interesting prospect and the debut album The Place We Ran From has now been released. The sound is obviously lead by Lightbody's distinctive vocals but the music is more Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers than REM. The rest of the band comprises Richard Colburn of Belle & Sebastian, former Snow Patrol lyricist Iain Archer, producer Jacknife Lee and REM collaborator Scott McCaughey. There is also contribution from actor/singer Zooey Deschanel (She & Him) and Tom Smith (Editors).

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

2010 Music Chart - June

A huge month for new music thanks to an influx of activity for the music website In One Ear. New albums from Seth Lakeman, Suzanne Vega, The Chemical Brothers, Crystal Castles and Feeder. Plus an honorary mention for Trent Reznor's new project How To Destroy Angels.
  1. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling
  2. Brothers by The Black Keys
  3. High Violet by The National
  4. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem
  5. The Betrayed by LostProphets
  6. The Winter of Mixed Drinks by Frightened Rabbit
  7. Sea Of Cowards by The Dead Weather
  8. Further by The Chemical Brothers
  9. Acolyte by Delphic
  10. The Courage Of Others by Midlake
  11. Close-Up Volume 1: Love Songs by Suzanne Vega
  12. July Flame by Laura Veirs
  13. Year Of The Black Rainbow by Coheed & Cambria
  14. How To Destroy Angels EP by How To Destroy Angels
  15. The Quickening by Kathryn Williams
  16. Hearts & Minds by Seth Lakeman
  17. Immersion by Pendulum
  18. When This Was The Future by Lisa O Piu
  19. Handmade Life by Chris Wood
  20. End Times by Eels
  21. Crystal Castles (II) by Crystal Castles
  22. Fire Like This by Blood Red Shoes
  23. Graceful Bow (EP) by Jason Ward
  24. Rotten Pear by Andrew Vincent
  25. Renegades by Feeder

Feeder - Renegades Album Review (2010)

First up I am a huge Feeder fan. That's what made this such a difficult review and one, on hearing the album for the first time, I didn't want to write. But I never back away from a challenge and I subjected myself to repeated listens to hear if it was just my initial reaction. Sadly, no. Ultimately I like the review even though the album is a real problem and I think I have made my views clear in a concise (for me) and honest way.

The review for In One Ear:

Feeder makes the kind of melodic indie-rock that most bands can only dream of. Brilliant lyrics blended into a plethora of wondrous anthemic stadia-worthy choruses, hooks and soaring verses. Or at least they did. Once. After a wonderful run of albums, the tragic death of original drummer Jon Lee produced Feeder’s best work, Comfort In Sound, and this remains a beautiful lasting tribute to Lee. Still with much to offer, Grant Nicholas and Taka Hirose continued but Feeder were never the same and, in spite of the spirited and uplifting follow-up Pushing The Senses, the band’s last album Silent Cry is sadly lacking in ideas and focus. A return to the liberated early energy of Feeder’s wonderful debut Polythene was required. The band had the right idea but Renegades is the disastrous result.

To put this into perspective you need to understand how Renegades was conceived. After Silent Cry and in the summer of 2009, Feeder’s second drummer Mark Richardson left to rejoin his former band Skunk Anansie, to be replaced by Karl Brazil (from the woeful Ben‘s Brother). Later that year Nicholas, Hirose and Brazil changed the name of the band for what was to become a side-project called Renegades. It seemed as if Feeder was no more. Renegades toured the new “loud, uninhibited and exhilarated sound of Feeder doing what they want without a care in the world”. And herein lies the problem. The band’s reason for this was to play new different songs and not just roll out the old Feeder hits, and whereas the band reverted to the name Feeder, the Renegades ‘alias’ caused much confusion. This identity crisis has now manifested itself in the seventh Feeder album.

The problems start early on Renegades. Grant Nicholas is always the fourth instrument in the Feeder three-piece. His voice is always full of passion and emotion, not just in the softer gliding ballads but the big faster moments of blistering punk-pop. Renegades mostly comprise the latter but without Nicolas’s wonderful vocals. Mostly, his voice is flat and gritty, devoid of any melody. As for harmonies, there aren’t any. Opener White Lines is a muddy swirling vortex of guitars and repetitive rock lyric clichés. This is the next issue: the lyrics. This is further evident on Call Out: “If you wanna hear this song, you won’t have to wait too long…just call out” is the rather uninspired lacklustre chorus. The horrible vocal echo on the title track is a lame attempt to inject some emotion into a song that sums up the position: “we must hold on, yeah, we must hold one yeah, “we are not the problem”, sings Nicholas in what must be irony, and then “we must find out who we are”. All this framed by inane thumping drums.

Moving on, things don’t get much better. Saying that, Sentimental is a decent attempt at early Nirvana with great guitar work. In contrast This Town, while well intentioned and thoughtful in its subject matter, is a horrible mishmash of other songs. It just doesn’t work. And the big five minute epic Down By The River is trying desperately to be classic Feeder with no ideas and no lyrics. And the vocal echo is back. “We climbed every mountain, we crossed every bridge, just to get back to you, where the other side live” is probably the worst line Nicholas has written. The great opening of Home is subsequently ruined by the vocals and even though the chorus attempts a much needed lift, we are yet again subjected to thoughtless song writing as Nicholas asks “is this the right way?” and the crass “I know you like it…” montage. The least said about Barking Dogs the better - flat and uninspired and possibly the worst Feeder song ever written.

Late on, Renegades does provide a few rays of hope. City In A Rut is genuinely good, like the token pop-punk track on any of Feeder’s other very good albums. The guitars are superb and Nicholas does his best with the few words and ideas he has. Left Foot Right could be bad Kasabian and a melodic chorus suffers from a shaky vocal. Again it’s a serious subject wrapped up in a questionable delivery. But it’s the last song, appropriately named for so many reasons, The End, that provides the final insult. Nicholas croons “This is me, I can’t be someone else. I won’t be someone else” followed by “is this the end of the road?”. More irony one hopes.

Renegades sounds like Feeder pretending to be another band. And maybe that’s the point. Like Peter Cook and Dudley Moore as their retched darkly funny and obnoxious alter egos Derek And Clive, Feeder are now this down and dirty rock band. If this is so, why go back to the name Feeder? Why go back and be someone you are not? Cynics would say it was marketing and ‘free publicity’ to keep fans interested. Hopefully not. And forgetting about the fact that Renegades rarely translates into any form of good music, why tarnish the name of Feeder with such obvious catharsis? As a huge Feeder fan I really hope that this is just that: Grant Nicholas getting all of the past out of his system so that Feeder, as they did with Comfort In Sound, can return to their superior and majestic best, very soon.
-- CS (for In One Ear)

Monday, 28 June 2010

Thea Gilmore - Angels In The Abattoir Update (June 2010)

Back from seeing Thea at Glastonbury :) and a song for June. Reason Enough is the 12th song from Thea during the Angels In The Abattoir project and one of her best. Described as "A song about love I guess.. and viewing yourself with the eyes of someone you love to try and improve the way you do things", this may not sound like Thea in a 'good place' but it is. More great lyrics: "I'm so tired of chasing answers, with my back against the wall..." and the Crowded House-esque "...I will earn your love... that is reason enough...". Beautiful song writing.

I have enjoyed being a part of Angels In The Abattoir and will continue supporting the project.

Glastonbury 2010

So I’m back from Glastonbury 2010 (the 40th anniversary!). It was hot, sticky (TMI?), busy, noisy, smelly, but above all… bloody marvellous. I’ve been twice before (2003 and 2004) and despite being underwhelmed by the headliners this year there was plenty to draw me to the ‘other’ stages. Highlights for me were Mumford & Sons and The Black Keys at John Peel on Friday, Laura Marling and Midlake at The Park on Saturday, and (of course) Orbital on the Other Stage on Sunday.

This was my festival…


I arrived on Friday morning at 11 ish and headed straight for the Park area to find a campsite. I was aiming for Park Hill or even the Dairy Ground as I knew Pennard Hill would be packed. I lucked out when I saw a couple of people moving pitch and grabbed it - just off the path to the south of the Dance field opposite the Other Stage. Away from the hedge, slightly in shade, and flat. Perfect.

First up was Seth Lakeman at Crossiant Neuf which was very busy and I didn’t have a great view. He sounded on top form though. After a bite to eat, I wandered back past the Tipis to The Park for the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble then back up through the packed markets to get my first proper view of the Pyramid. Snoop Dog was on, effing and blinding and doing this thing so I made for my destination for the evening, John Peel, via the Dance Village.

Two bottles of water and a slice of pizza later I arrived just in time to see the end of Ellie Goulding (in very fetching hot pants and flailing blond hair) and snaked my way under the canopy (John Peel is the only big stage that is covered by an enormous ceiling which turns to whole thing into a sweaty greenhouse). Mumford & Sons were fantastic and even though I wasn’t a massive fan before, I am now. Surprisingly quite a few people left after and during their sound check, I got further forward for The Black Keys. Another amazing set, with most songs just the two of them and Patrick drumming his heart out. There was what seemed like a huge wait for the headliners Groove Armada. I had never seen these guys live and they are Glastonbury veterans and (from what I had seen, and heard) always put on a good show. I was not disappointed as they mixed new stuff with old with a very energetic new front woman Saint Saviour on vocal duties. A mesmerising laser show was a visual highlight.


I got up surprisingly early on Saturday morning and headed straight for the Green Fields and stone circle. Lots of people about, not all of them conscious. I got a couple of bacon bagels and an energy drink smoothie (I didn’t ask what was in it but it did the job) and went for a sit down in the sun.

First band of the day was Coheed & Cambria, back at the Other Stage, who made a glorious racket. A huge crowd for early in the day and lots of talk of Kate Nash later. I had a tough decision to make and one that I had still not made. Do I stay at the Other Stage for The National or head for the even busier Pyramid for Seasick Steve and then The Dead Weather? Over some lovely Mexican chicken, rice and beans and lime iced tea I mentally flipped a coin and made for the Pyramid. One of the reasons was The National (who were bound to start late) clashed with Thea Gilmore at Leftfield and no matter how hard you try, the irony of actually being at Glastonbury is that you can’t see all the bands. Seasick was great and a real crowd pleaser (he got a girl out of the audience for Walkin’ Man) but most of the hangers on didn’t really get White and Mosshart in what was more of a dark downbeat set. They would have been better on a smaller stage later in the day. Some odd song choices too, especially from the new album Sea of Cowards. Apparently The National were superb but not really a ‘festival’ band - something contradicted by the guys I was chatting to on the train on the way home.

So I did manage to get to Leftfield for most of Thea Gilmore’s set. Again it was packed but very respectful and Thea was resplendent in a gold and white sleeveless t-shirt. The guitar-free Icarus Wind was incredible. I wanted to meet Thea but thought that she would think I was a creepy stalker or something. And she seemed to vanish after the set. So from one superb female to another - Laura Marling at the Park. I had heard that she was on stage at 7:30 which made little sense as she was on second from last. Turns out it was 9.30. So when I got there some band (I assume it was the surprise set from Biffy Clyro) were just finishing and then it was Candi Staton. I had a wander around The Park, got a horrible hotdog and a beer (first of the weekend) and headed back for what was another brilliant night. Staton showed Florence Welch exactly how to sing You Got The Love and Marling was with her band which worked better on The Park stage and I’m sure a couple of new songs (maybe older ones) slipped by. The headliners were the majestic Midlake, again full of emotion and energy with the songs from latest album The Courage Of Others. Even the news of The Edge joining Muse on the Pyramid didn’t drag me away from this one.

Wanting to make the most of the festival (and still buzzing from Marling/Midlake) I had a quick trip over to Shangri La, Block 9 (this place is weird) and Avalon (I resisted the urge to venture too far into the Cabaret areas). There is always plenty going on ‘after dark’ including strange puppet shows, fire throwers/eaters, and circus acts. There was a huge crowd singing round a campfire (turned out this was Bombay Bicycle Club). I thought about seeing Oli Brown at Bourbon Street but a) he was due on at 1am, b) I couldn’t find the place, and c) I was knackered. So I called it a night.


Woke early on Sunday but didn’t leave the tent until 10 - and only because it was just too hot. Got a late breakfast, juice and coffee and went to the Other Stage for Frightened Rabbit. The Joy Formidable were finishing up in front of a sparse crowd as I found a decent spot. Taking full advantage of a big venue, Frightened Rabbit were excellent mainly thanks to material from the brilliant Winter of Mixed Drinks album. Then it was Norah Jones at the Pyramid. Got some water and fruit and sat down on the grass with a good view of the central big screen. A really mellow set from an artist I had fallen out of love with in the last few years. Discarding piano for guitar (maybe because she was ‘opening for Slash’), the Johnny Cash cover Cry, Cry, Cry was great.

Then was the small matter of the World Cup. The festival opened a field especially to show it and thousands of people made their way across the grounds. Including me. I wish I hadn’t. I was hot and tired. I didn’t need to be annoyed too.

Back to the music, and with slightly deflated spirits, I always try to see a new band (new to me anyway) at Glastonbury and this year was no exception. And I hadn’t been to the Queen’s Head yet so Field Music followed by I Am Kloot was a tempting prospect. I got an early snack and wandered over. Not sure about Field Music but Kloot were great - again I’m not a huge fan but recognised many of the songs. And it wasn’t that busy.

For the final stint I had another choice. This could be (and I would be surprised if it wasn’t) my only chance to see Stevie Wonder live. But getting anywhere close to the guy was impossible. Likewise this could be LCD Soundsystem’s last big gig and I would never see them. And given that I had discarded Orbital for Muse before, and the mighty Hartnoll brothers were headlining, I gave up Faithless and Wonder and spent an exhilarating night at the Other Stage. I don’t think James Murphy was expecting a crowd at all, let alone one as big and full of energy as LCD Soundsystem got. The set was a bizarre mix of reworked hits (a very funky Daft Punk Playing at my House) and more straight-forward new stuff from This Is Happening. As you would expect most people were actually there for Orbital and after another long wait, the finale to the weekend kicked off. Opening with the blazing Satan, a cornea shattering light show complimented what amounted to a supreme DJ set of continuous brilliance, all topped off with a surreal appearance from Matt Smith (the new Doctor) and a rousing rendition of the Doctor Who theme. Even Smith seemed to wearing the classic ‘head torch’ glasses as he helped on the decks.

So 17 artists in three days and the site bathed in sunshine. I didn’t get to see Stevie but apparently he was everything his genius would suggest. Even with the finale duet of Happy Birthday with ‘flat’ Michael Eavis.

Happy Birthday Glastonbury. Thank you.