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