Saturday, 31 March 2012

2012 Music Chart - March

A lot of great new albums out this month - almost too many to mention. The Tindersticks return with The Something Rain, School Of Seven Bells follow-up two great albums with a third masterpiece: Ghostory and The Ting Tings continue to beguile and delight with Sounds From Nowheresville.

Bruce Springsteen is back with the mighty in-your-face Wrecking Ball and another early contender for album of the year is a début called Shallow Bed from Dry The River - a wonderful collection of songs.

In contrast, Scuba delivers a monstrous set of dance anthems with Personality while the genius of Clark and Gore collaborate for Vcmg to bring us the stunning electronic vibes of Ssss. Siberia by LIGHTS is another wonderful electronic-fuelled album.

Alex Winston's King Con and Frankie Rose's Interstellar are both gorgeous as is Break It Yourself by Andrew Bird. To crown things off Young Man In America by Anais Mitchell is superb - another album of the year.
  1. Shallow Bed by Dry The River
  2. The Lion's Roar by First Aid Kit
  3. Ghostory by School of Seven Bells
  4. Young Man In America by Anais Mitchell
  5. Ssss by Vcmg
  6. Tough Love by Pulled Apart by Horses
  7. Interstellar by Frankie Rose
  8. Blues Funeral by Mark Lanegan Band
  9. Have Some Faith In Magic by Errors
  10. Hello Cruel World by Gretchen Peters
  11. Voyageur by Kathleen Edwards
  12. ¿Which Side Are You On? by Ani Difranco
  13. Sounds From Nowheresville by The Ting Tings
  14. Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen
  15. Kin Con by Alex Winston
  16. Siberia by LIGHTS
  17. The Something Rain by Tindersticks
  18. Something by Chairlift
  19. Break It Yourself by Andrew Bird
  20. Reign Of Terror by Sleigh Bells
  21. Given To The Wild by The Maccabees
  22. Personality by Scuba
  23. America Give Up by Howler
  24. Black Light by Diagrams

Thea Gilmore - Angels In The Abattoir (March 2012)

The end of another month brings all the Angels a new Thea Gilmore song. This one is very much a new song, written and performed the day before it was sent out last week. This is what Thea says about It's True:

"I've been deep in writing mode, getting songs together for a new album.. so this month, I'm sending you a song that I literally wrote yesterday. It may end up on the record, even I'm not sure what I think of it yet but its about as hot off the press as its possible to get so let me know what you think."

It's True is a slow melancholic piece with beautiful poised vocals and a delicate production.

I hope this doesn't end up on the new album, not because it's not a good song but because it will be become nothing more than a free preview. I also don't believe it's quite strong enough for a new album - maybe as a calm closer or with a bit more work, a serene mid-point.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

New Counting Crows single: Mercy (Free Download)

It's a bit Country, it's a bit rough around the edges, but it's still a new Counting Crows single. The new album Underwater Sunshine is out soon. But for now you can download the single for free.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Ting Tings - Sounds From Nowheresville (Album Review 2012)

It’s been a hard four years for The Ting Tings. Chasing the success of a number one UK single, and a promising stylish pop album, around the world has left Katie White and Jules De Martino jaded and jilted. The music press and ‘fans’ can easily forget if you don’t keep up the momentum. Like many before them, they scrapped most of the initial follow-up to We Started Nothing after they avoided being sucked into the Berlin Euro-pop scene and single Hands was dropped after it was played on BBC Radio 1. Proof that you really cannot control your own destiny. So the second album, entitled Sounds From Nowheresville, spitefully titled and featuring the duo on the cover as skeletons, seems like a deliberate attempt to disconnect from the mainstream, just as the band need to.

The big problem with Sounds From Nowheresville is that it’s so ironic that even the band don’t realise. At times, it seems to parody the manufactured X-Factor culture, tries to prove that it’s easy to throw out a ‘sad disco’ R&B tune, and The Ting Tings take the piss out of themselves. All this adds up to a confused message – which is probably what they are striving for: the air of mystery returning, the elusive arms-length approach. Sounds From Nowheresville is like hitting the reset button. In a very good way.

Even if The Ting Tings are reluctant to keep the past, single Hang It Up is trademark punchy art-pop, all sharp edges and industrial percussion wrapped around White’s equally spiky vocals.  The centre of the song is a dual tirade against the establishment starting with White: “Could have been a lawyer; take what you can. Never been happy since time began…” and leading to a rare (and quite brilliant) De Martino vocal rant ending: “Time for you to rearrange”. It is an album highlight. This approach continues with the wonderful Guggenheim, blending 60s girl-group ‘talky bit’ with a powerful attention-grabbing chorus. The whole arrangement is bizarre but utterly unique and compelling – as White unveils each chapter of an unhappy relationship while struggling with the onset of fame and fortune.

Continuing the positive, Sounds From Nowheresville opens with the startling Silence – with its huge Joy Division keyboards and White’s soaring vocals. It would work much better as an eight-minute album closer so it always feels like a missed opportunity. One By One is a rejected Euro-pop songs revisited and consequently another high point. It manages to sound retro and modern at the same time even though it quickly becomes We Walk’s cooler cousin. And the big surprise is the tongue-in-cheek Rihanna-esque (in spite of early rumours, she doesn’t feature on the album) Day To Day that ends up a charming and engaging listen. Likewise, yet completely different, Give It Back is a solid, driving rock-pop tune with big guitars and plenty of attitude, with De Martino and White sharing the vocals and a neat catchy chorus – even though it spirals into a noisy messy finale.

Elsewhere things are mixed. Soul Killing is annoying kitch completely ruined by a horrible vocal performance from White and persistent squeaky chair (yes, really). Hit Me Down Sonny suffers from the amateurish delivery and ‘Chelsea mansion doorbell’ samples. There are only a few times ‘lair’ and ‘fire’ (and later ‘expire’) can achieve acceptable scansion. The folky yet explosive Help doesn’t quite work and is an odd fragment – White going from soft to hard as the music follows her.

Sounds From Nowheresville ends with another surprise: the perfectly judged In Your Life. Startling strings and delicate guitar work and vocals make for a serious downbeat finale. This is more evidence that White and De Martino are far from one-dimensional. And again the song could do with a Portishead style instrumental three-minute extension.

If The Ting Tings spent half as much time writing good songs, as they do trying to be cool and stylish, they would be huge. This is a frustrating trait that is shared with other duo bands like The Kills. A few more ideas and a little more polish without compromising artistic integrity goes a long way. Another issue is that Sounds From Nowheresville is offensively short (just under 35 minutes). They reportedly cut the single Hands. It’s not the best song but why not rework the arrangement and add it? Why throw average stuff away? While trying to not make each song a Frankenstein’s monster, the entire album sounds like a playlist – an odd confliction of ideals. That said, The Ting Tings still pull it off and Sounds From Nowheresville is a decent return for a band still failing to reach their potential.
-- CS