- Shallow Bed by Dry The River
- The Lion's Roar by First Aid Kit
- Generation Freakshow by Feeder
- Sweet Heart Sweet Light by Spiritualized
- Ghostory by School of Seven Bells
- Like Drawing Blood by Gotye
- Electric Cables by Lightships
- Sounds From Nowheresville by The Ting Tings
- Young Man In America by Anais Mitchell
- Ssss by Vcmg
- Wonky by Orbital
- Tough Love by Pulled Apart by Horses
- Interstellar by Frankie Rose
- Let It Break by Gemma Hayes
- Human Don't Be Angry by Human Don't Be Angry
- The Family Tree: The Roots by Radical Face
- Weapons by Lostprophets
- Blues Funeral by Mark Lanegan Band
- Have Some Faith In Magic by Errors
- Hello Cruel World by Gretchen Peters
- Voyageur by Kathleen Edwards
- Fossil Of Girl by Sarah Donner
- Blunderbuss by Jack White
- Tales From The Barrel House by Seth Lakeman
- ¿Which Side Are You On? by Ani Difranco
- Eighty One by Yppah
- Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen
- First Serve by De La Soul's Plug 1 and Plug 2
- Kin Con by Alex Winston
- Underwater Sunshine by Counting Crows
- Siberia by LIGHTS
- The Something Rain by Tindersticks
- Something by Chairlift
- California 37 by Train
- Break It Yourself by Andrew Bird
- Reign Of Terror by Sleigh Bells
- Given To The Wild by The Maccabees
- Personality by Scuba
- America Give Up by Howler
- Black Light by Diagrams
Monday, 30 April 2012
An embarrassment of riches this month with new albums from Lostprophets, Jack White, Spiritualized, Counting Crows, Feeder, Orbital and Gemma Hayes...not to mention De La Soul, Seth Lakeman, Gotye, Radical Face, Lightships and Human Don't Be Angry.
"Isn't technology marvellous? This month, here's a technological experiment for ya.. You all know that I've been writing like a demon for the next album.. which means time in the studio has been short. So I thought I'd send you over something I recorded on Garageband in the dastardly iPad. It's great fun.. However, it means you are listening to my voice coming from the picturesque surrounds of my utility room.. the mountain of washing acted as a very fine vocal deadener (plus it was the only place I could sing and not wake the sleeping monster baby).."
So the song is called Hush and it's great and the production is excellent. A great vocal and melody form the basis of this heartfelt love song.
Sunday, 29 April 2012
Gotye – Like Drawing Blood
Top tracks: Thanks For Your Time, Learnalilgivinanlovin and The Only Way.
Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Top Tracks: I Am What I Am, Hey Jane and Too Late.
Train – California 37American rock band Train seemingly leapt to success with the release of their second album, and lead single, Drops Of Jupiter. But there is more to the band than the one hit single. After the reflective For Me, It’s You the band took a break to return with some of their best work, now taking life, music and themselves a little less seriously, the original trio of Monahan, Stafford and Underwood release California 37, an album that blends the experience and talent of the last fifteen years with the youthful exuberance and energy of the current crop of emo-pop-punk bands. This’ll be My Year is a great opener, poking fun at the past before an explosive chorus. When it’s good, it’s great but occasionally California 37 lapses into bland pop. The cheesy country-pop of Bruises aside, songs like 50 Ways To Say Goodbye, campfire-favourite Sing Together, and the Ricky Martin swagger of Mermaid show some life while the finale of When The Fog Rolls In and To Be Loved adds depth and storytelling.
Top Tracks: To Be Loved, 50 Ways To Say Goodbye and This’ll Be My Year.
Counting Crows – Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation)
Top Tracks: You Ain’t Going Nowhere, Meet On The Ledge and Ooh La La.
Radical Face – The Family Tree: The RootsRadical Face (aka Ben Cooper) has built an album around the genealogy of a fictional family in the 1800s. An interesting idea that has created an album of such vivid imagery and heart-breaking beauty, drawing comparisons with Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes. Family Portrait is brutal and honest, Always Gold is a superb six minutes, and Severus and Stone is dramatic and epic. The Family Tree: The Roots is often dragged down by its quieter moments, The Moon Is Down for example but these weak points are few and far.
Top Tracks: Always Gold, Family Portrait and Severus and Stone.
Jack White – Blunderbuss
Top Tracks: Missing Pieces, Take Me With You When You Go and Sixteen Saltines.
Feeder – Generation Freakshow
Top Tracks: Children Of The Sun, Oh My and Hey Johnny.
Human Don’t Be Angry – Human Don’t Be AngryMalcolm Middleton, once of Arab Strap and the failed bid to get a Christmas number one ahead of Leon Jackson (remember him?) with We’re All Going To Die, has formed a new project. The first thing that comes to mind is an electronic Mogwai with soaring guitars and a mix of instrumental and vocal songs. Opening track The Missing Plutonium is sublime and computerised vocals are added for H.D.B.A. Theme. Middleton appears for the mighty First Person Singular, Present Tense, a curious blend of artificial vocals, fuzzy guitars and piano. After The Pleasuredome is a quiet instrumental before the dramatic Monologue: River takes the album to another level. Jaded is another cool instrumental and the seven-minute Asklipiio is just breath taking. The album closes with the wonderful Getting Better (At Feeling Like Shit) with more great guitar work.
Top Tracks: The Missing Plutonium, Monologue: River and Asklipiio.
Orbital – Wonky
Top Tracks: Stringy Acid, Straight Sun and Beelzedub.
Seth Lakeman – Tales From The Barrel HouseA predictable, yet brilliant, return from one of the best folk singers in the business right now. Seth Lakeman’s Tales From The Barrel House is much more traditional fare – focusing on the lives and trouble of miners, coopers, blacksmiths and the people who craft and toil – than previous album Hearts & Minds. As always Lakeman’s work brims with storytelling and striking rhythms, none more so than the wonderful Brother Of Penryn and dramatic closer The Artisan. Opener More Than Money was recorded in the George and Charlotte copper mine of Morwellham.
Top Tracks: Brother Of Penryn, The Artisan and More Than Money.
Yppah – Eighty OneThe sixth album from Joe Corrales Jr. is a wonder – a bit of everything in a swirling electronic sea and four songs with Seattle-based singer Anomie Bell. Eight One hits the heights with the Moby-esque R. Mullen and the delicate fragmented yet majestic Never Mess With Sunday. Sadly Anomie Belle sounds a bit lost within the instrumentation but the ethereal Three Portraits is excellent.
Top Tracks: Never Mess With Sunday, Three Portraits and R. Mullen.
Lightships – Electric CablesLightships is Gerard Love from Teenage Fanclub and is a joy from start to finish. The delicious vocals and looping guitar-work add to the light and easy feel. Opener Two Lines is perfect with a gorgeous outro as is the beauty of Sweetness In Her Spark (“this old heart is beating for her…”). On Silver And Gold, Love does a very credible impression of Mark (E from Eels) Everett and produces another slice of falsetto magic. The pop sensibilities of his former life come back with the upbeat Stretching Out and closer Sunlight To The Dawn is six minutes of brilliance.
Top Tracks: Sweetness In Her Spark, Silver And Gold and Sunlight To The Dawn.
Gemma Hayes – Let It Break
Key Tracks: There’s Only Love, Fire and Ruin.
Sarah Donner – Fossil Of GirlSarah Donner is a singer on the verge of something huge. A voice that embodies several different instruments in one and never stays in the same place for long, Donner breathes freshness into a genre (Michelle Branch did the same). It all starts in style with The Pilot. Often playful but occasionally serious, the inward-looking title track is followed by the hit and miss All My Guns, likewise Signs Off Life is coupled with the country-mockery of Bitches You Can Steal My Shit. It all comes together with the vocal gymnastics of The Crane Song and the Garfunkel & Oats pop styling of Your Love Is My Drug.
Key Tracks: The Crane Song, The Pilot and Your Love Is My Drug.
De La Soul’s Plug 1 & Plug 2 – First Serve
Top Tracks: Pushin’ Aside Pushin’ Along, Pop Life and Top Chefs.
Monday, 2 April 2012
Shallow Bed opens with Animal Skins, immediately drawing on Liddle’s past as a student anthropologist and highlighting his wonderful vocal qualities. Blending bouncing acoustic guitars with choral tones, Liddle tells the tale of growing up before hitting the big chorus – a song of two distinct movements. New Ceremony has a different feel; a slightly quirky introduction and talk of ‘dancing to the Shipping Forecast’ in a quiet first minute or so, before the song transforms with the first delivery of the line “I know it’s got to stop love but I don’t know how…”. The violin and drums kick and the second verse brings the love song into light: “We’re wise beyond our years but we’re good at bad ideas”, muses Liddle before the song really explodes with a belting chorus – showing brilliant vocal power and a proficient ear for a great arrangement in one slick move. It’s so good it’s given a second round before a delicate finish.
Shield Your Eyes opens with jangling looping guitars and cold violin before vocals quickly join with Liddle, now with a slight cracking to his choirboy tones. His spiritual side is here: “When Moses was a whisper in the reeds. I carved you in the floodplain” is stirring and the Phrygian Lion is a repeated theme, “…at the gate of our love” watching over the devoted. Uplifting and enlightening. This leads wonderfully into the metaphoric History Book. “Beneath an angry Bible flood, did you and I first learn to love” is a gorgeous line leading to a lilting chorus and another mesmerising and personal love song. At three and half minutes, the song takes an unexpected turn into jaunty and ‘twee’. This is the only song on Shallow Bed that is oddly misjudged but the combination of the band saves it.
The Chambers & The Valves again shows Liddle’s curious scientific nature. “The bodies in the firmament are spinning like a plate; I was lost in the fission before you came” is another great line. The verses race into the frantic relentless chorus before the song slows again for a brief respite, only to come back with more fervour and energy. Liddle continues to question faith against science: “In the land of mistakes I should lay my crosses down” and he ‘swallows his words, closing his mouth’. Then Demons is the much-needed breath-catching interlude, all beauty and strings with a deep hymnal quality. “We fight those demons, day in and day out…day in and day out…”. The music rises to a wall of cymbals and strings for the rousing finale that becomes the connection into Bible Belt, seamlessly fusing the two songs. This is the melancholy story of growing up under the shadow of alcoholism: “Your father had drunk all the fuel. You were a low moon, steady with wintry calm. Somewhere inside the fire of your youth went dark”. This heart-breaking yet hopeful songwriting is matched by Liddle’s amazing tearful voice, rough and pure at the same time. The once-only chorus is one of many album highlights.
No Rest completes the trio in spectacular style. A slow build-up from Liddle leads to some of the best guitar-work on the album followed by an early preview of the powerful key line: “I loved you in the best way possible”. Astonishing vocals, repeated over and over as the final act with unbelievable control to finish. Easily the album’s best moment. Shaker Hymns, it turns out, breaches a gap between the two best songs on Shallow Bed, another intermission which feels like going over old ground, in spite of a neat wordless outro, before the mighty Weights & Measures arrives. If No Rest provides the best single moment, this is the finest single song. Beautifully arranged as an old-fashioned waltz, Liddle and the band build to the line “I was prepared… to love you. And never expect anything of you…” followed by the heart-wrenching “Baby there ain't no sword in our lake. Just a funeral wake”. This is light against dark throughout and the arrangement echoes this with Liddle filled with emotional energy, holding a note perfectly before the chorus crashes in again, the startling gap in the music between ‘prepared’ and ‘to love you’ even more prominent and affecting.
Shallow Bed draws to a close with another huge song, the beguiling Lion’s Den, all melody and control at the start then becoming more urgent. The vocals are (again) magnificent as they help the metamorphosis from soft to hard as choir turns to stadium chant and the harshness of the guitars builds to a crescendo. The drumming from Jon Warren is especially superb as order quickly becomes chaos and Liddle continues to yell like a madman, beneath squealing guitars, pounding bass and sharp violin.
So to conclude, the album closes with the intense Family. After the previous ‘ending’, this feels like an added extra and a step too far. That said it is another great song, heavier and darker than the beginning of Shallow Bed but just as compelling and absorbing. Liddle shows power and control, yet again proving he is a remarkable vocalist.
Shallow Bed is a wonderful piece of work. Produced by Peter Katis who has cast his guiding hand over albums by The National, Frightened Rabbit and Interpol, it is the sound of British folk-rock, with a huge slice of Norway, washed in Americana. The song writing is perfectly balanced, to draw you in with familiar emotion one minute and push you away with obscure references the next. And the band consistently delivers music of breathtaking poise and craft, throwing away the rulebook and breaking every formula to create songs that make their own structure. If Radiohead formed yesterday, this is what they would sound like. Shallow Bed is the start of something great and Dry The River is about to realise this greatness.