Saturday, 25 August 2012

New Band of Horses single and video (Knock, Knock)

Very cool new video for Knock Knock by Band of Horses, shot in the style of a cheesy 70s nature documentary. The single is taken from the band's fourth album Mirage, out next month. Thanks to NPR.

Music Report (Mixtapes, Grasscut, Purity Ring)

Mixtapes – Even On The Worst Nights

Mixtapes are Maura, Ryan, Boone and Michael from Cincinnati and according to their Facebook profile, they are ‘a band that plays songs!’. Even with a massively saturated market for emo and punk-pop (call it what you will), Mixtapes manage to keep it refreshingly straight-forward and uncomplicated. The follow-up to Maps, Even On The Worst Nights is the sound of Mixtapes finding their voices and confidence – the album improves on their previous work in every way. Something Better, Anyways and Just When You Thought It Was Over are all superb highlights with Maura and Ryan deftly sharing vocal and guitar duties, as if they have been doing it for decades. Just the right amount of energy, raw honesty, melodies and great song writing all add to the winning formula. The title track could be Bowling For Soup or New Found Glory at their best and the combination of boy/girl vocals adds something special. The chorus: “Hey! We just don’t surrender, it’s hard to talk about it when you don’t remember…” sums up a life of wild living and unfocused dreams. Occasional surprises break the relentless energy – You & I is under a minute and leads perfectly into the brilliant I’m Wearing The Device (Bridge, Water) – about as close to prog-punk as it gets. I’ll Give You A Hint, Yes is a superb love song, name-dropping Bon Iver and descending into wordless chanting, and a fade of all things. Golden Sometimes is oddly sedate, given the frantic pace of everything around it, but is never tempted to dive into thrashing guitars and drums. The closer, Mt. Hope, he longest song on the album at four minutes, concludes the album in style, like a glorious celebration of what has come before.

Grasscut – Unearth

We all love a good concept album, even if that concept is merely about ‘location’. Not to do this an immediate and unjustified disservice, as Unearth, the second album from multi-instrumentalist and composer Andrew Phillips, is achingly beautiful in its construction and arrangement. Following the critically revered début 1 Inch: ½ Mile, Unearth is more compartmentalised in its approach – ten unique songs about place and purpose, all highlighting the talents of Phillips as a musician and producer. The most inventive of these is the ghostly melody We Fold Ourselves, featuring 1950’s opera singer Kathleen Ferrier, all set to kitchen-sink orchestra. The stark electronic-orchestral Pieces, with robotic vocals and spiky beats is in direct contrast but equally rooted. Likewise the more delicate listless Reservoir is another wonderful moment – even though it’s about a village that is drowned. The industrial Stone Lions added yet another dimension before the cold, direct, film-noir-in-a-song A Mysterious Disappearance takes Unearth in a subtly different direction. To finish, the ballad Richardson Road, with Robert Wyatt on cornet and backing vocals, is sublime. An album of constant pleasant surprises.

Purity Ring – Shrines

Canadian duo Purity Ring, aka Megan James and Corin Roddick, are Montreal’s dream-pop answer to The Kills (or maybe The Ting Tings). Shrines is the band’s eclectic and other-worldly début with James’ vocals fighting through layers of production and techno-wizardry, engineered by Roddick. It all works out like a more pleasant Sleigh Bells – all the hard-edges and pounding electronica removed and replaced with smooth synths and organic percussion. Fineshrine is the early highlight, quickly followed by the odd stuttering musical-zoo Bjork-like Ungirthed. Sadly Shrines loses its way after a promising opening. Grandloves doesn’t work – like a bad Pet Shop Boys remix, Cartographist is a lot of slow empty space and James delivers wonderful vocals on the otherwise ordinary Amenamy. Belispeak gets things back on track, in spite of random, heavily mixed vocals. Some much need creativity is injected into the rest of the album but it does suffer from style over substance. Obedear is good but often the songs get lost in the now overused sound. Spirited closer Shuck is a final two-minute lift but Shrines continually feels like owning a sweet shop.
-- CS

Music Report (Antony & The Johnsons, The Darkness, Diiv)

Antony and the Johnsons – Cut The World

It often takes a live album to highlight the considerable and overlooked talents of a great musician. Cut The World, recorded in Denmark, is as close to a ‘best of’ as you can get, with key songs performed live with a symphony orchestra. But this swathe of instrumentation never overwhelms the immense honesty of Antony Hegarty’s unique and distinct vocals, and the essence of his beautiful, and often moving, songs. Even the seven-minute monologue Future Feminism, which threatens to break the early momentum after the excellent title track, is compelling and powerful. The immediate high-point is the following song, Cripple and the Starfish, quickly followed by the heart-breaking You Are My Sister; but it is the gorgeous duo of Another World and Kiss My Name that steal the show. Another noticeable trait is that the songs are not framed with applause, ‘talky bits’ or any discernible crowd noises whatsoever, so as the majestic Twilight draws to an elegant close, when Hegarty thanks the audience and wishes them goodnight and they reciprocate, it comes as a complete surprise that this is a live performance. A magical album.

The Darkness – Hot Cakes

When Permission To Land was released in 2003, it sounded like The Darkness had been around for decades. It was often described at the time as a greatest hits album from a 70s rock band that never made it. Who was to know that three years and two albums later, The Darkness would fall apart and succumb to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and the dreaded ‘musical differences’. Frontman Justin Hawkins  attempted a solo career and failed to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest (thankfully). But now The Darkness are back, as the original band and their third album Hot Cakes is a minor triumph. There is a great mix of good songs, big riffs and a huge sense of fun – which is what it was about in the first place. Living Each Day Blind is particularly excellent and one of the best things the band have done. The retro With A Woman brings back the energy of the début, while Everybody Have A Good Time is an inanely good single with wonderful guitar/piano. Only the obvious opener Every Inch Of You cuts slightly – this is Hawkins getting the past out of his system and quickly moving on, as the rest in firmly a ‘now’ album. Forbidden Love sounds a bit too out-dated but the cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit (Fade Out) is an amazing and unexpected addition. Back, definitely. To stay? Who knows.

Diiv – Oshin

Originally a Zachary Cole Smith solo project called Dive (after the Nirvana song), Diiv is now a four-piece from Brooklyn, the current hotbed for new bands and considerable talent. These guys are no exception to this trend as the début album Oshin is astonishingly great. Packed with massive layers of guitars and ethereal vocals, from the opener (Druun) – the band’s own version of Coldplay’s Life In Technicolor, to delicate closer Home, Oshin impresses at every turn. Brimming with dreamy guitar-pop from Past Lives and Human to the catchy How Long Have You Known and Follow – Diiv add a unique complexity to each song within a very strict formula. Cole Smith and guitarist Andrew Bailey combine perfectly to create a wonderful sound. The four and half minute Air Conditioning is breathtaking – like a modern remix of a shoegazer classic from the late 80s – the guitars shimmer and dance on what is a definitive highlight. Late on, Doused is also superb, bringing in early Sisters Of Mercy riffs to the mix with Cole Smith racing through the vocals. Superb début from a band who should go far.
-- CS

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Music Chart - July 2012

Better late than never (blame the London 2012 Olympics)... Here's a summary of July's new music.

Starting off with a strange new album from Fiona Apple entitled The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do - this is getting great reviews but even after several listens I just don't hear it. Moving on, Linkin Park are back with a powerful new record Living Things, as are Metric with Synthetica and The King Blues with a more sedate and controlled album Long Live The Struggle. The gorgeous Mutual Friends by Boy is a real surprise, as is Moth by Exlovers and Wild Peace by Echo Lake to complete a sublime trio. The House That Jack Built by Jesca Hoop doesn't live up to the promise of lead song Born To while Billy Corgan brings Smashing Pumpkins back from the brink with the gutsy Oceania. Wonderful vibrant emo from Mixtapes' Even On The Worst Nights is excellent, as is Shrines by Purity Ring. Passion Pit return with the predictable Gossamer and to finish the month off, The Gaslight Anthem show real progression with the impressive Handwritten.
  1. Shallow Bed by Dry The River 
  2. Valtari by Sigur Ros
  3. The Lion's Roar by First Aid Kit
  4. Bloom by Beach House 
  5. Ssss by Vcmg
  6. Generation Freakshow by Feeder
  7. Celebration Rock by Japandroids
  8. The Ghost In Daylight by Gravenhurst
  9. Sweet Heart Sweet Light by Spiritualized
  10. Ghostory by School of Seven Bells
  11. Born And Raised by John Mayer
  12. Like Drawing Blood by Gotye 
  13. An Awesome Wave by Alt-J 
  14. Banga by Patti Smith
  15. Instinct by Niki And The Dove
  16. Electric Cables by Lightships
  17. Even On The Worst Nights by Mixtapes
  18. Oceania by Smashing Pumpkins
  19. Blood Speaks by Smoke Fairies 
  20. Handwritten by The Gaslight Anthem
  21. The Light The Dead Can See by Soulsavers
  22. Sounds From Nowheresville by The Ting Tings
  23. Mutual Friends by Boy
  24. Moth by Exlovers
  25. WIXIW by Liars
  26. Young Man In America by Anais Mitchell
  27. The Sister by Marissa Nadler
  28. Americana by Neil Young and Crazy Horse
  29. Little Broken Hearts by Norah Jones
  30. Synthetica by Metric
  31. Words And Music by Saint Etienne
  32. Wonky by Orbital 
  33. Crown And Treaty by Sweet Billy Pilgrim 
  34. Shrines by Purity Ring
  35. Standing At The Sky's Edge by Richard Hawley
  36. Internal Logic by Grass Widow
  37. Strangeland by Keane
  38. Here Come The Bombs by Gaz Coombes
  39. Tough Love by Pulled Apart by Horses
  40. Interstellar by Frankie Rose
  41. Wild Peace by Echo Lake
  42. Dub Egg by The Young
  43. Born Villain by Marilyn Manson
  44. Let It Break by Gemma Hayes
  45. Living Things by Linkin Park 
  46. Underwater Sunshine by Counting Crows
  47. Manifest! by Friends
  48. Clear Moon by Mount Eerie
  49. Tree Bursts In Snow by Admiral Fallow
  50. Human Don't Be Angry by Human Don't Be Angry
  51. The Family Tree: The Roots by Radical Face
  52. Weapons by Lostprophets
  53. Blues Funeral by Mark Lanegan Band
  54. A Monument by Tu Fawning
  55. Aufheben by The Brian Jonestown Massacre
  56. Have Some Faith In Magic by Errors
  57. Hello Cruel World by Gretchen Peters
  58. Voyageur by Kathleen Edwards
  59. Long Live The Struggle by The King Blues
  60. Fossil Of Girl by Sarah Donner
  61. Blunderbuss by Jack White
  62. Here I Am by Oli Brown 
  63. Spirits by Plankton Wat
  64. Visions by Grimes
  65. Tales From The Barrel House by Seth Lakeman 
  66. The Temper Trap by The Temper Trap
  67. ¿Which Side Are You On? by Ani Difranco
  68. Eighty One by Yppah
  69. Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen
  70. First Serve by De La Soul's Plug 1 and Plug 2
  71. Kin Con by Alex Winston
  72. Not Your Kind Of People by Garbage
  73. Gossamer by Passion Pit
  74. Siberia by LIGHTS 
  75. Europe by Allo Darlin'
  76. The Something Rain by Tindersticks
  77. Something by Chairlift
  78. The House That Jack Built by Jesca Hoop
  79. Anxiety by Ladyhawke
  80. Fear Fun by Father John Misty
  81. California 37 by Train
  82. Break It Yourself by Andrew Bird
  83. Reign Of Terror by Sleigh Bells
  84. Given To The Wild by The Maccabees
  85. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do by Fiona Apple
  86. Through The Night by Ren Harvieu
  87. Personality by Scuba
  88. America Give Up by Howler
  89. Black Light by Diagrams