Monday, 30 December 2013

Music Chart - December 2013

The end of the year is upon us and a few late entries made it into the Underwurld chart, some more recent than others. New albums from Billie Joe and Norah, Salt House, Swearin', Factory Floor, British Sea Power (again), Small Black, Martin Simpson, Public Service Broadcasting, Josephine Foster, Courtney Barnett, Burial, Toy, Disclosure, Daniel Avery, Caveman and Lisa Knapp.


So the top five albums of 2013 (from the 162 that made it into the chart) are The National, Kurt Vile, Laura Marling, Biffy Clyro and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
  1. Trouble Will Find Me by The National
  2. Wakin On A Pretty Daze by Kurt Vile 
  3. Once I Was An Eagle by Laura Marling 
  4. Opposites by Biffy Clyro 
  5. Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 
  6. Reflektor by Arcade Fire
  7. Corsicana Lemonade by White Denim
  8. Purgatory / Paradise by Throwing Muses
  9. The Ghost Of The Mountain by Tired Pony
  10. Waiting For Something To Happen by Veronica Falls
  11. Love Has Come For You by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
  12. Hesitation Marks by Nine Inch Nails 
  13. Days Are Gone by Haim
  14. Drone Logic by Daniel Avery
  15. From The Sea To The Land Beyond by British Sea Power
  16. Kveikur by Sigur Rós 
  17. Seasons Of Your Day by Mazzy Star
  18. AM by Arctic Monkeys
  19. A Sea Of Split Peas by Courtney Barnett
  20. Innocents by Moby 
  21. Pure Heroine by Lorde
  22. Tales Of Us by Goldfrapp
  23. Inform - Educate - Entertain by Public Service Broadcasting
  24. Tomorrow's Harvest by Boards Of Canada
  25. Caveman by Caveman
  26. Rival Dealer by Burial
  27. Nepenthe by Julianna Barwick
  28. ...Like Clockwork by Queens Of The Stone Age 
  29. Sticky Wickets by The Duckworth Lewis Method 
  30. Heartthrob by Tegan And Sara
  31. Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You by Mark Mulcahy
  32. Impossible Truth by William Tyler
  33. Antiphon by Midlake
  34. The Beast In Its Tracks by Josh Ritter 
  35. Slow Focus by F Buttons 
  36. I'm A Dreamer by Josephine Foster
  37. More Light by Primal Scream
  38. Lunch. Drunk. Love. by Bowling For Soup
  39. Vagrant Stanzas by Martin Simpson
  40. The New Life by Girls Names 
  41. Regardless by Thea Gilmore
  42. Nocturnes by Little Boots
  43. Hidden Seam by Lisa Knapp
  44. Join The Dots by Toy
  45. Limits Of Desire by Small Black
  46. Join The Club by Lucy Spraggan
  47. Yes, It's True by The Polyphonic Spree
  48. Long Way Down by Tom Odell
  49. Lay Your Dark Low by Salt House
  50. Standards by Lloyd Cole 
  51. Warp & Weft by Laura Veirs
  52. Surfing Strange by Swearin'
  53. One Breath by Anna Calvi
  54. Modern Vampire Of The City by Vampire Weekend
  55. Settle by Disclosure
  56. Crown Electric by Kathryn Williams
  57. Welcome Oblivion by How To Destroy Angels
  58. Les Revenants Soundtrack by Mogwai
  59. Paramore by Paramore 
  60. Moon Tides by Pure Bathing Culture
  61. Factory Floor by Factory Floor
  62. Until The Colours Run by Lanterns On The Lake 
  63. Stars Are Our Home by Black Hearted Brother
  64. Foreverly by Billie Joe and Norah
  65. Imitations by Mark Lanegan
  66. The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles
  67. The Weight Of Your Love by Editors 
  68. MCII by Mikal Cronin 
  69. Where You Stand by Travis 
  70. Later... When The TV Turns To Static by Glasvegas 
  71. Shamrock City by Solas
  72. Let It All In by I Am Kloot
  73. The Bones Of What You Believe by CHVRCHES
  74. Bloodlines by Barbarossa
  75. Where The Heaven Are We by Swim Deep 
  76. Loud Like Love by Placebo
  77. The Sun Comes Out Tonight by Filter
  78. Spectre At The Feast by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 
  79. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
  80. Lightning Bolt by Pearl Jam
  81. Slave Vows by The Icarus Line
  82. Palms by Palms
  83. You Belong Here by Leagues
  84. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here by Alice In Chains 
  85. Soft Will by Smith Westerns
  86. Black Pudding by Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood 
  87. Rewind The Film by Manic Street Preachers
  88. Tape Deck Heart by Frank Turner 
  89. To The Happy Few by Medicine
  90. Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO by Besnard Lakes 
  91. Electric by Pet Shop Boys
  92. Howlin by Jagwar Ma 
  93. IDIOTS by The Electric Soft Parade
  94. Silence Yourself by Savages
  95. People, Hell & Angels by Jimi Hendrix
  96. Fade by Yo La Tengo
  97. Wolf's Law by The Joy Formidable
  98. The Civil Wars by The Civil Wars
  99. Vicissitude by Maps
  100. Heart Of Nowhere by Noah And The Whale 
  101. Big TV by White Lies
  102. The Graceless Age by John Murry 
  103. Elba by Laura Jansen
  104. Tales From Terra Firma by Stornoway
  105. Electric by Richard Thompson 
  106. Oblivion OST by M83
  107. AMOK by Atoms For Peace
  108. Wonderful, Glorious by Eels
  109. In A Perfect World by Kodaline
  110. Immunity by Jon Hopkins
  111. A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart by Bill Ryder-Jones
  112. Volume 3 by She & Him 
  113. Hubcap Music by Seasick Steve
  114. Wait To Pleasure by No Joy
  115. A Long Way To Fall by Ulrich Schnauss 
  116. Machineries Of Joy by British Sea Power 
  117. Flourish // Perish by Braids
  118. Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant 
  119. Performance by Outfit
  120. All The Little Lights by Passenger
  121. Tooth & Nail by Billy Bragg
  122. Sound City - Real To Real by Sound City - Real To Real
  123. Disarm The Descent by Killswitch Engage
  124. The Messenger by Johnny Marr
  125. If You Leave by Daughter
  126. Pollen by Wave Machines
  127. Sistrionix by Deap Vally
  128. Mosquito by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  129. Back Into The Woods by Ed Harcourt
  130. Clash The Truth by Beach Fossils
  131. Country Sleep by Night Beds 
  132. The Next Day by David Bowie 
  133. Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action by Franz Ferdinand
  134. Rules By Passion, Destroyed By Lust by Asphodells
  135. Blood Oaths Of The New Blues by Wooden Wand
  136. Centralia by Mountains
  137. In Love by Peace
  138. Ores & Minerals by Mazes
  139. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit 
  140. Shangri La by Jake Bugg
  141. The Invisible Way By Low
  142. Lysandre by Christopher Owens
  143. English Rain by Gabrielle Aplin
  144. Monomania by Deerhunter
  145. California X by California X
  146. Field Of Reeds by These New Puritans
  147. Save Rock And Roll by Fall Out Boy
  148. 180 by Palma Violets
  149. News From Nowhere by Darkstar
  150. Almanac by Widowspeak 
  151. Bloodsports by Suede
  152. Graffiti On The Train by Stereophonics
  153. Wash The Sins Not Only The Face by Esben And The Witch 
  154. Comedown Machine by The Strokes
  155. The Moths Are Real by Serafina Steer
  156. {Awayland} by Villagers
  157. Out Of Touch In The Wild by Dutch Uncles
  158. Lost Sirens by New Order
  159. Girl Talk by Kate Nash
  160. Beta Love by Ra Ra Riot
  161. Early Rocking by Paul Simon
  162. Collections by Delphic

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Music Chart - November 2013

Another great month at Underwurld Towers and some real challengers to shake-up the top ten. New albums from Anna Calvi, Arcade Fire, Lorde, Black Hearted Brother, White Denim, Midlake, Boards Of Canada, Bowling For Soup, Throwing Muses, Jake Bugg and Kathryn Williams.

As expected, The National hold top spot from Kurt Vile and Laura Marling.

  1. Trouble Will Find Me by The National
  2. Wakin On A Pretty Daze by Kurt Vile 
  3. Once I Was An Eagle by Laura Marling 
  4. Opposites by Biffy Clyro 
  5. Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 
  6. Reflektor by Arcade Fire
  7. Corsicana Lemonade by White Denim
  8. Purgatory / Paradise by Throwing Muses
  9. The Ghost Of The Mountain by Tired Pony
  10. Kveikur by Sigur Rós
  11. Waiting For Something To Happen by Veronica Falls
  12. Love Has Come For You by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
  13. Hesitation Marks by Nine Inch Nails 
  14. Nepenthe by Julianna Barwick 
  15. Seasons Of Your Day by Mazzy Star
  16. Regardless by Thea Gilmore 
  17. Innocents by Moby 
  18. Pure Heroine by Lorde
  19. Tales Of Us by Goldfrapp 
  20. Tomorrow's Harvest by Boards Of Canada
  21. Lunch. Drunk. Love. by Bowling For Soup
  22. ...Like Clockwork by Queens Of The Stone Age 
  23. Sticky Wickets by The Duckworth Lewis Method
  24. Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You by Mark Mulcahy
  25. Impossible Truth by William Tyler
  26. Antiphon by Midlake
  27. The Beast In Its Tracks by Josh Ritter 
  28. Slow Focus by F Buttons 
  29. Days Are Gone by Haim
  30. AM by Arctic Monkeys
  31. The New Life by Girls Names
  32. Nocturnes by Little Boots
  33. Heartthrob by Tegan And Sara
  34. Join The Club by Lucy Spraggan
  35. Yes, It's True by The Polyphonic Spree
  36. Long Way Down by Tom Odell
  37. Standards by Lloyd Cole 
  38. Warp & Weft by Laura Veirs
  39. One Breath by Anna Calvi
  40. Modern Vampire Of The City by Vampire Weekend
  41. Crown Electric by Kathryn Williams
  42. Welcome Oblivion by How To Destroy Angels
  43. Les Revenants Soundtrack by Mogwai
  44. Moon Tides by Pure Bathing Culture
  45. More Light by Primal Scream
  46. Until The Colours Run by Lanterns On The Lake 
  47. Stars Are Our Home by Black Hearted Brother
  48. Imitations by Mark Lanegan
  49. The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles
  50. The Weight Of Your Love by Editors 
  51. MCII by Mikal Cronin 
  52. Where You Stand by Travis 
  53. Later... When The TV Turns To Static by Glasvegas 
  54. Shamrock City by Solas
  55. Let It All In by I Am Kloot
  56. The Bones Of What You Believe by CHVRCHES
  57. Bloodlines by Barbarossa
  58. Where The Heaven Are We by Swim Deep 
  59. Loud Like Love by Placebo
  60. The Sun Comes Out Tonight by Filter
  61. Spectre At The Feast by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 
  62. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
  63. Lightning Bolt by Pearl Jam
  64. Slave Vows by The Icarus Line
  65. Palms by Palms
  66. You Belong Here by Leagues
  67. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here by Alice In Chains 
  68. Soft Will by Smith Westerns
  69. Black Pudding by Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood 
  70. Rewind The Film by Manic Street Preachers
  71. Tape Deck Heart by Frank Turner 
  72. To The Happy Few by Medicine
  73. Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO by Besnard Lakes 
  74. Electric by Pet Shop Boys
  75. Howlin by Jagwar Ma 
  76. IDIOTS by The Electric Soft Parade
  77. Silence Yourself by Savages
  78. People, Hell & Angels by Jimi Hendrix
  79. Fade by Yo La Tengo
  80. Wolf's Law by The Joy Formidable
  81. The Civil Wars by The Civil Wars
  82. Vicissitude by Maps
  83. Heart Of Nowhere by Noah And The Whale 
  84. Big TV by White Lies
  85. The Graceless Age by John Murry 
  86. Elba by Laura Jansen
  87. Paramore by Paramore
  88. Tales From Terra Firma by Stornoway
  89. Electric by Richard Thompson 
  90. Oblivion OST by M83
  91. AMOK by Atoms For Peace
  92. Wonderful, Glorious by Eels
  93. In A Perfect World by Kodaline
  94. Immunity by Jon Hopkins
  95. A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart by Bill Ryder-Jones
  96. Volume 3 by She & Him 
  97. Hubcap Music by Seasick Steve
  98. Wait To Pleasure by No Joy
  99. A Long Way To Fall by Ulrich Schnauss 
  100. Machineries Of Joy by British Sea Power 
  101. Flourish // Perish by Braids
  102. Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant 
  103. Performance by Outfit
  104. All The Little Lights by Passenger
  105. Tooth & Nail by Billy Bragg
  106. Sound City - Real To Real by Sound City - Real To Real
  107. Disarm The Descent by Killswitch Engage
  108. The Messenger by Johnny Marr
  109. If You Leave by Daughter
  110. Pollen by Wave Machines
  111. Sistrionix by Deap Vally
  112. Mosquito by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  113. Back Into The Woods by Ed Harcourt
  114. Clash The Truth by Beach Fossils
  115. Country Sleep by Night Beds 
  116. The Next Day by David Bowie 
  117. Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action by Franz Ferdinand
  118. Rules By Passion, Destroyed By Lust by Asphodells
  119. Blood Oaths Of The New Blues by Wooden Wand
  120. Centralia by Mountains
  121. In Love by Peace
  122. Ores & Minerals by Mazes
  123. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit 
  124. Shangri La by Jake Bugg
  125. The Invisible Way By Low
  126. Lysandre by Christopher Owens
  127. English Rain by Gabrielle Aplin
  128. Monomania by Deerhunter
  129. California X by California X
  130. Field Of Reeds by These New Puritans
  131. Save Rock And Roll by Fall Out Boy
  132. 180 by Palma Violets
  133. News From Nowhere by Darkstar
  134. Almanac by Widowspeak 
  135. Bloodsports by Suede
  136. Graffiti On The Train by Stereophonics
  137. Wash The Sins Not Only The Face by Esben And The Witch 
  138. Comedown Machine by The Strokes
  139. The Moths Are Real by Serafina Steer
  140. {Awayland} by Villagers
  141. Out Of Touch In The Wild by Dutch Uncles
  142. Lost Sirens by New Order
  143. Girl Talk by Kate Nash
  144. Beta Love by Ra Ra Riot
  145. Early Rocking by Paul Simon
  146. Collections by Delphic

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Throwing Muses - Purgatory/Paradise (Album Review 2013)


Throwing Muses, now officially a three-piece of Kristin Hersh, Bernard Georges and David Narcizo, seem to have broken-up and reformed more times than most, but this could not be further from the truth. The band reformed ten years ago after disbanding in 1997, when Hersh went solo (her début Hips And Makers is astonishing and always reveals something new on repeat listens), but Throwing Muses has always been 'her' band and her passion. The early nineties began with the last album to feature Tanya Donelly, The Real Ramona - easily one of the best Throwing Muses albums, before Red Heaven and University complete the impressive trilogy. Since then, music has been sparse and uneven. It's been ten years without material and the release of 2003's eponymous album (released to coincide with the Hersh's more interesting solo album The Grotto) and reuniting with Donelly got fans hoping for a full reformation. Hersh has continued her solo work but has now returned to Georges and Narcizo to make Purgatory/Paradise.

Purgatory/Paradise is twenty-four songs, eight in two parts and scattered (seemingly) randomly across the album in thirty-two fractured pieces. This lack of 'album structure' and apparent chaotic nature of the song order is frustrating but this creates a quirky charm as familiar reprises and sounds re-emerge at different points, throughout over an hour of music. The songs are dark and atmospheric, moody and thoughtful with highs and lows, and ebbs and flows. What else from such a unique and compelling band lead by a singer who feels that she doesn't write music and lyrics, she channels them from some higher power. This isn't ego-tripping so much as an inability to accept her genius. And to complement this, Purgatory/Paradise is both unique and compelling, and quite brilliant.

The early highlight is the superb guitars and vocals of Sunray Venus. Hersh is magnificent, as she reveals the land 'where no-one remembers to pray', as are the guitars to finish. Opiates, with rushing verses, then slower, repeated refrain: 'that's no way to bring a body down', is either a stark warning or a guide to cold turkey; the acoustic guitars and drums magnificent throughout. And a good example of a Throwing Muses pop song, Freesia, has more great guitar-work, while Lazy Eye is more riff than content with raw emotional vocals from Hersh. But the best of the 'complete' songs is the powerful Slippershell - Hersh sings 'Hard to say it's hard luck, when you're so happy. Hard to say it's hard luck, when we had it coming...'. Then Milan blends more of the same, but building to a delicate finish.

Within these highlights are eclectic shards, like pieces of a stained-glass window smashed across a stone floor. Film is all big vocals and piano, Hersh sneering. Triangle Quanitico is piano-led 'jazz', Bluff is a slow piano ballad with Hersh's fragile vocals, and Walking Talking is the start of a much longer song that fades before it starts. Terra Nova adds strings and beautiful vocals, and Hersh asks: 'what kind of loser chooses a swan-dive over a swansong?'. Static brings together multi-vocals and guitars while Speedbath starts like the middle of a 35 minute Neil Young and Crazy Horse solo, with dark and muddy guitars, and a slow fade.

And of the split songs, Morning Birds is a fuzzy guitar break from start, crashing drums and cymbals, layers of circular vocals form the intro and then a fragile start-stop vocal melody. Part 2 continues, more robust and structured. Dripping Trees is gorgeous vocals/harmonies and guitar work, in two parts, and the chaos of Blurry mixes wonderful guitar work, obscure provocative lyrics to a multi-vocal ending, and part 2 continues with lighter guitars but louder voice. Smoky Hands starts with delicate guitars, then lazy drums, while part 2 adds a short guitar solo. And with Sleepwalking, part 1 (appearing near the end of the album, after part 2) is hard, fuzzy guitars and harsh vocals, yet part 2 (the third track) is completely different.

Purgatory/Paradise is a reminder that Throwing Muses are still here, with very nearly a perfect return. It's a challenging listen; just as you get hold of a song, it drifts away or ends abruptly to move on to the next idea. The effect is like a dream within a dream in which the dreamer is switching channels constantly and even within the same songs, the arrangements start and stop, head in a different direction, or do something unexpected. This is strange, even by Throwing Muses standards, but it works beautifully as an idea and a collection of songs. And the stand-out 'complete' songs emerge magnificently from within. Purgatory/Paradise is frustratingly fragmented, brilliantly beguiling and weirdly wonderful.
-- CS

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Bowling For Soup - 'Lunch. Drunk. Love.' (Album Review 2013)


Inspiration is a funny thing. It can arrive in many forms and when you least or most expect. But sometimes it comes to you. Bowling For Soup decided that new album 'Lunch. Drunk. Love.' should be fan-funded using the music promotion website pledgemusic.com. Whatever you think about the state of the music industry and if bands should be 'taking the power back' and going it 'alone', and whether well-established bands should be using such projects as pledgemusic, this has obviously worked for the mighty BFS. With promises of backstage passes, handwritten thank you cards, autographs, Skype sessions, and house concerts - all at a price of course, BFS launched the 'Lunch. Drunk. Love.' campaign. But the headlines of shameless self-promotion and money-making are obfuscating the true nature of this project. The band's intention was that fans would be involved in the album-making process, being with the band for the journey; revealing new songs, artwork and video shoots to get immediate feedback from those who pledged, with 5% of all pledges going to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund.

It took ten days for BFS to reach their goal (not surprisingly they were halfway within 24 hours) and 'Lunch. Drunk. Love.', the band's twelfth album, was underway. And the 'inspiration' seems to have worked. Since the early 2000s and the brilliant Drunk Enough To Dance and A Hangover You Don't Deserve, BFS have been in something of a rut musically. Previous album Fishin' For Woos is the band going through the motions but without the sharp wit and pop punches - all the ingredients are there but the recipe is bland and uninteresting. Sorry For Partyin' is better, but horribly inconsistent, with wonderful songs mixed with flat fillers, while The Great Burrito Extortion Case is one of BFS's worst albums. So, what about 'Lunch. Drunk. Love.'? Does it live up to the hype, the pledges and the power of independent music-making?

As expected, 'Lunch. Drunk. Love.' is a blend of what BFS do best... Songs of personal friendships, love and relationships, break-ups, make-ups, drinking and fighting. As the Texan quartet of Jaret Reddick, Chris Burney, Erik Chandler and Gary Wiseman grow older, their music has become more reflective - even if some of it tries to hold onto the impetuous attitude of youth, with limited success. In recent albums, this balance hasn't worked but 'Lunch. Drunk. Love.' proves BFS can find it. Opener Critically Disdained is heightened self-criticism, with an acoustic start before Burney's guitar kicks in for an attention-grabbing introduction. Since We Broke Up is the early punk-pop anthem, deftly punchy and melodic, with Reddick recounting the aftermath, then building to an explosive vocal. To complete a great trio, the 80s soft-rock of Real is another highlight.

From The Rooftops is a wonderful departure from the formula - an open-hearted celebration of love with a stadium-esque gloss, but the huge surprise is Circle, the Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians cover from the magnificent Shooting Rubber Bands At The Stars album. Reddick and the band treat this with the upmost respect and the delivery is poignant and note-perfect, highlighting the beautiful bitter-sweet song-writing. Reddick even resists the temptation to mimic Brickell's oddly upbeat ending, instead bringing the song to an abrupt powerful end. Then back to the formula for the name-dropping Normal Chicks, rewinding the clock somewhat but with added social commentary. Reddick attempts to rhyme 'Scarlett Johansson' with 'Romancin'. Enough said.

Into the second half and 'Lunch. Drunk. Love.' struggles to maintain the momentum of the first but brings it together for a strong finish. I Am Waking Up Today owes much to Green Day's Minority, a blistering blast of shouty rock while Couple Of Days is middle-of-the-road and forgettable. In contrast, And I Think You Like Me Too is light-airy pop; comic storytelling with a perfect cheesy arrangement. Showing that BFS can switch between styles and moods in an instant, Envy brings back the rock but again, it adds nothing new to the party. One thing BFS do well is the big ballad and How Far This Can Go is a welcome addition, showing yet another side to the band, before Right About Now - a delicious slice of punk-pop. Closing song Kevin Weaver is another surprise, starting as a solo biographic performance from Reddick arranged as three parts in the form of three letters to the family, before the rest of the band join for the heavier ending.

'Lunch. Drunk. Love.' is a fan-fuelled return to form for Bowling For Soup. The band sound back to their best, as if the last ten years never happened. Providing the album as both clean and explicit is also respecting the fans who made the album happen (and in most cases, the clean versions work better - Right About Now is the noticeable exception - putting more emphasis on smart humour without the shock factor). While 'Lunch. Drunk. Love.' is not the best BFS album, it is far from the worst. The new approach (to the band) has given them a much needed lift and again the quartet sound energised, motivated and fun.
-- CS

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Arcade Fire - Reflektor (Album Review 2013)


Sometimes even the coolest bands on the planet take risks. Canadian indie multi-instrumentalist sextet Arcade Fire already have an impressive award-winning trilogy of albums, taking the journey from death and family (Funeral), through dark oppression and doubt (Neon Bible), to tales of social angst and community (The Suburbs). The follow-up Reflektor continues this momentum. What began as a short collection of songs (believe it or not) has become a 75 minute double album of ambitious self-indulgent electronica-infused bombastic brilliance. Almost.

From the opening title track, it is clear that Reflektor is the ubiquitous 'new direction'. James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) adds his skills as co-producer, and his vital presence is elsewhere, most evidently here. This is smooth indie-disco with Win Butler and Régine Chassagne sharing vocal duties (Chassagne in French and English), a wild juxtaposition of quiet verses and explosive chorus, with electronic flourishes building to a muddy mesh of sounds and vocals to the halfway point. The affect is startling with brass, guitars and ever-present 'Murphy' drums; then David Bowie appears on vocals for a cameo. Then the final few minutes, builds to an equally evocative climax. We Exist, while not as stylised as the title track, uses many of the same elements with added Butler intensity and drive.

The dark, mysterious Flashbulb Eyes echoes Primal Scream's Swastika Eyes, while the Rara infused Here Comes The Night Time glides into an explosive section featuring a plethora of sounds and rhythms, vocals and drums, before settling for a sedate ending. In contrast, Normal Person fuses piercing guitars with fuzzy bass and pounding drums, before an unexpected choral finale. This is Arcade Fire's statement of identity: 'If that's what's normal, I don't want to know', then 'I've never really ever met a normal person... like you...how do you do?'. Explosive and brilliant songwriting. The first moment of weakness arrives with You Already Know. Absurdly framed with ego-boosting Jonathan Ross samples, this is staple upbeat sweet and sour Arcade Fire. Likewise, Joan Of Arc stumbles into a well-intentioned but clumsy pop song, with more Chassagne and an odd, disjointed arrangement.

Part II brings the second part of Here Comes The Night Time, and a calmer feel to the album,  continuing with the enchanting pair of Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice) and It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus) - check your Greek mythology for more information. The former has a beguiling arrangement, melodic with gorgeous backing vocals, acoustic guitars and choral outro. The latter is built from harsher guitars and drums, with an electronic skeleton and punchy vocals, like a song in negative - soft, quiet choruses and big, brash verses. This is Arcade Fire at their most adventurous. And with 23 minutes to go, the final trio fails to disappoint. Porno is dark and menacing, tinged with stark cold keyboards and sharp strings. Butler delivers a superb vocal, all range and strength and the ending is a magnificent transformation from the song's beginnings. Afterlife is also impressive, with driving drums, obscure backing vocals and pulsing keyboards, with the vocals blending to create new instruments and sounds. And closer Supersymmetry belies its 11 minute running time as a subtle, soft, delicate ballad with a five minute ambient, barely audible, outro. Right at the end of the album this feels like a missed opportunity to fill the album with a massive stadium-rocking finale.

Reflektor isn't so much a risk, as a calculated and inspired move to embrace something different. And not one of those albums that is easy to 'get' immediately but its main strength is Arcade Fire managing to retain a unique, compelling identity within a musical shift - something many have achieved with considerable success, most notably U2 with Achtung Baby. While the songs here are quite different, and do not always deliver, the similarities and results are apparent. Naturally, reviews will describe Reflektor as brave and audacious (which will earn some empathy) or that it's just previous albums given the electronic treatment. It is neither. This is planned and focused, the sound of order within chaos, stylish and crafted. Reflektor is the sound of Arcade Fire remaining both cool and ambitious.
-- CS

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Music Chart - October 2013

New albums this month from CHVRCHES, Mazzy Star, Placebo, Haim, Moby, Lanterns On The Lake, Pearl Jam and Lucy Spraggan.

  1. Trouble Will Find Me by The National
  2. Wakin On A Pretty Daze by Kurt Vile 
  3. Once I Was An Eagle by Laura Marling 
  4. Nepenthe by Julianna Barwick
  5. Opposites by Biffy Clyro 
  6. Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 
  7. The Ghost Of The Mountain by Tired Pony
  8. Kveikur by Sigur Rós
  9. Waiting For Something To Happen by Veronica Falls
  10. Love Has Come For You by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
  11. Hesitation Marks by Nine Inch Nails 
  12. Seasons Of Your Day by Mazzy Star
  13. Regardless by Thea Gilmore 
  14. Innocents by Moby
  15. Tales Of Us by Goldfrapp
  16. ...Like Clockwork by Queens Of The Stone Age 
  17. Sticky Wickets by The Duckworth Lewis Method
  18. Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You by Mark Mulcahy
  19. Impossible Truth by William Tyler
  20. The Beast In Its Tracks by Josh Ritter 
  21. Slow Focus by F Buttons 
  22. Days Are Gone by Haim
  23. AM by Arctic Monkeys
  24. The New Life by Girls Names
  25. Nocturnes by Little Boots
  26. Heartthrob by Tegan And Sara
  27. Join The Club by Lucy Spraggan
  28. Yes, It's True by The Polyphonic Spree
  29. Long Way Down by Tom Odell
  30. Standards by Lloyd Cole 
  31. Warp & Weft by Laura Veirs 
  32. Later... When The TV Turns To Static by Glasvegas
  33. Welcome Oblivion by How To Destroy Angels
  34. Les Revenants Soundtrack by Mogwai
  35. Moon Tides by Pure Bathing Culture
  36. More Light by Primal Scream
  37. Until The Colours Run by Lanterns On The Lake
  38. Imitations by Mark Lanegan
  39. The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles
  40. The Weight Of Your Love by Editors 
  41. MCII by Mikal Cronin 
  42. Where You Stand by Travis
  43. Shamrock City by Solas
  44. Let It All In by I Am Kloot
  45. The Bones Of What You Believe by CHVRCHES
  46. Bloodlines by Barbarossa
  47. Where The Heaven Are We by Swim Deep 
  48. Loud Like Love by Placebo
  49. The Sun Comes Out Tonight by Filter
  50. Spectre At The Feast by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 
  51. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
  52. Lightning Bolt by Pearl Jam
  53. Slave Vows by The Icarus Line
  54. Palms by Palms
  55. You Belong Here by Leagues
  56. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here by Alice In Chains 
  57. Soft Will by Smith Westerns
  58. Black Pudding by Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood 
  59. Modern Vampire Of The City by Vampire Weekend
  60. Rewind The Film by Manic Street Preachers
  61. Tape Deck Heart by Frank Turner 
  62. To The Happy Few by Medicine
  63. Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO by Besnard Lakes 
  64. Electric by Pet Shop Boys
  65. Howlin by Jagwar Ma 
  66. IDIOTS by The Electric Soft Parade
  67. Silence Yourself by Savages
  68. People, Hell & Angels by Jimi Hendrix
  69. Fade by Yo La Tengo
  70. Wolf's Law by The Joy Formidable
  71. The Civil Wars by The Civil Wars
  72. Vicissitude by Maps
  73. Heart Of Nowhere by Noah And The Whale 
  74. Big TV by White Lies
  75. The Graceless Age by John Murry 
  76. Elba by Laura Jansen
  77. Paramore by Paramore
  78. Tales From Terra Firma by Stornoway
  79. Electric by Richard Thompson 
  80. Oblivion OST by M83
  81. AMOK by Atoms For Peace
  82. Wonderful, Glorious by Eels
  83. In A Perfect World by Kodaline
  84. Immunity by Jon Hopkins
  85. A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart by Bill Ryder-Jones
  86. Volume 3 by She & Him 
  87. Hubcap Music by Seasick Steve
  88. Wait To Pleasure by No Joy
  89. A Long Way To Fall by Ulrich Schnauss 
  90. Machineries Of Joy by British Sea Power 
  91. Flourish // Perish by Braids
  92. Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant 
  93. Performance by Outfit
  94. All The Little Lights by Passenger
  95. Tooth & Nail by Billy Bragg
  96. Sound City - Real To Real by Sound City - Real To Real
  97. Disarm The Descent by Killswitch Engage
  98. The Messenger by Johnny Marr
  99. If You Leave by Daughter
  100. Pollen by Wave Machines
  101. Sistrionix by Deap Vally
  102. Mosquito by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  103. Back Into The Woods by Ed Harcourt
  104. Clash The Truth by Beach Fossils
  105. Country Sleep by Night Beds 
  106. The Next Day by David Bowie 
  107. Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action by Franz Ferdinand
  108. Rules By Passion, Destroyed By Lust by Asphodells
  109. Blood Oaths Of The New Blues by Wooden Wand
  110. Centralia by Mountains
  111. In Love by Peace
  112. Ores & Minerals by Mazes
  113. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit 
  114. The Invisible Way By Low
  115. Lysandre by Christopher Owens
  116. English Rain by Gabrielle Aplin
  117. Monomania by Deerhunter
  118. California X by California X
  119. Field Of Reeds by These New Puritans
  120. Save Rock And Roll by Fall Out Boy
  121. 180 by Palma Violets
  122. News From Nowhere by Darkstar
  123. Almanac by Widowspeak 
  124. Bloodsports by Suede
  125. Graffiti On The Train by Stereophonics
  126. Wash The Sins Not Only The Face by Esben And The Witch 
  127. Comedown Machine by The Strokes
  128. The Moths Are Real by Serafina Steer
  129. {Awayland} by Villagers
  130. Out Of Touch In The Wild by Dutch Uncles
  131. Lost Sirens by New Order
  132. Girl Talk by Kate Nash
  133. Beta Love by Ra Ra Riot
  134. Early Rocking by Paul Simon
  135. Collections by Delphic

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Moby - Innocents (Album review)



It is business as usual for Moby on new album Innocents - a huge record featuring familiar rhythms and textures, guest vocalists and plenty of quality. The man is a tour-de-force musically and can never be underestimated. The wonderful Everything That Rises kicks off the album, like a cross between Extreme Ways and God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters - a cinematic master-class of composition, arrangement and control. The is followed by first single A Case For Shame, with beautiful piano, strings and stunning vocals from Cold Specks and Inyang Bassey. This reminds us of the majesty of Play and 18, Moby fusing contrasts and genres into his own string-laden electronic world. To complete the impressive opening trio, Almost Home with Damien Jurado is also wonderful, an elegant angelic vocal over (more) strings.

Innocents unfolds uneasily from here. Going Home is a piano-led instrumental (with, not surprisingly, added string arrangement). To the unbelievers, this seems like parts of a Moby album that he can churn out in his sleep - this may be true, but he is that good. The Perfect Life, with Wayne Coyne, and a choir that The Polyphonic Spree would be ashamed of, should work but the faltering vocal duet of Moby/Coyne is not the easiest listen. This gets in the way of the stern, relevant, social-political message of damaged youth, drugs and broken homes. Sublime guitar, and choral vocals is a much-needed organic break from the electronics, even if it gets carried away at the end.

At the centre of Innocents, The Last Day is the album highlight; the combination of samples and Skylar Grey's beautiful lyrics, with a gliding atmospheric musical landscape, is breathtaking. Inyang Bassey provides the sass for the funk-stomp of Don't Love Me, and Cold Specks is back for the completely different Tell Me. A late introduction of Mark Lanegan, and his sultry baritone on The Lonely Night is another welcome addition but it is Moby with the last words on Dogs, the intriguing nine-minute closer. He is in thoughtful, reflective mood. 'This is how we tried, this is where it died...This is how we cried, like the dogs left outside' may not read like the most inspiring lyrics but Moby makes it work. A song of two halves, the second drifts into stark electronic ambience...

Innocents is the closest to Play or 18 than anything else Moby has made in recent years. At well over an hour, the album has time to flow and build. The guests all play their part and don't disappoint with Damien Jurado and Mark Lanegan delivering in completely different ways, and Cold Specks and Inyang Bassey adding the exquisite female touch. They all help Moby lift his own talents to produce more brilliance. This is Moby's best album since 2009's Wait For Me; it is consistent, focused and plays to his strengths as one of the best composers of electronic music in he world today.

-- CS

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Lanterns On The Lake - Until The Colours Run (Album Review)


Newcastle's Lanterns On The Lake follow up their impressive début Gracious Tide, Take Me Home with new album Until The Colours Run; a more robust record with big, bold guitars more reminiscent, with the every-present Hazel Wilde adding the vocals. The effect is not too far from Cocteau Twins backed by Explosions In The Sky (the band they supported in 2012).

Until The Colours Run excels when the band exploit this hardened sound with opener Elodie and The Buffalo Days the early highlights. The latter builds on a gliding vocal structure into a exquisite chorus and superb drums from Oliver Ketteringham as the guitars shimmer and lift into the final minute. The album's title track is equally brilliant, a faster pop song racing through three minutes before the final subtle ambience, while Another Tale From Another English Town provides the album's masterpiece, like a long lost track from The Cure's Disintegration. Beautiful strings and guitars blend with Wilde's shaped vocals.

But the songs falter when the melodies are absent. The Ghost That Sleeps In Me breaks the momentum of a good start - disjointed theatre with quiet scenes and a massive cinematic soundtrack and Picture Show drifts and ambles, going nowhere and lacking ideas. A surprise break of the formula is the wonderful Green And Gold, a fragile love-song exposing Wilde's voice and delicate lyricism. It is a captivating five minute centre-piece. And closer Our Cool Decay brings the album to an unfussy, sedate, yet underwhelming, end.

Lanterns On The Lake have a long way to go to make the perfect album and while Until The Colours Run is more adventurous than Gracious Tide, Take Me Home, it lacks the consistency and the grace of the début.
-- CS

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Lucy Spraggan - Join The Club (Album Review)


X Factor has many things to answer for but occasionally it uncovers talent. Lucy Spraggan left the show in 2012 due to illness but is one of the only 'contestants' to have entered the competition as a songwriter. Having already released her début album Top Room At The Zoo, she performed three of her own songs: Mountains, Last Night and Tea And Toast during her 'journey' to the X Factor finals, and showed what she was made of. No surprise then that Spraggan's major-label début album shows brilliance; filled with honest song-writing, observations and stories. The effect is like a female-fronted The King Blues.

The overall feel of Join The Club is nothing new, but Spraggan is a unique storyteller in the post Lily Allen/Kate Nash (pre-2010) world, and her songs are a compelling blend of acoustic pop and vocally, hip-hop (this is not Chuck D or Dr. Dre). And it's great to see (and hear) an album from a 'reality television' export filled with self-penned, personal songs. Spraggan has taken work made as an independent musician and updated it for a more professional record. That said, one of the highlights of Join The Club: the poignant Tea And Toast is the only song which would have been better left 'as is' with just a voice and a guitar. In spite of the over-production, it still packs a punch with its sadness and quirky arrangement. In contrast, Mountains is now a stadium-esque, string-laden soaring masterpiece. So it can work.

Join The Club is filled with more joyous moments: opener Someone is an instant highlight, all upbeat chorus and hope-filled melody. This is another reworking of an earlier song that works well with more tempo. Lighthouse is hope in a hopeless world, and The Tourist is wonderful story-telling ('I'll be halfway round the world before you even know I'm gone') that builds to an open, unresolved, conclusion. Wait For Me could be a Mumford & Sons cover, complete with choral backing vocals, and Let Go is a listless love-song - an odd vocal arrangement mixes with stark piano and lyrical determination; personal and moving. The title track keeps things measured even through it's a metaphor too far ('life is just a gamble so just enjoy the game'). Closer, Paper Dreams is a fitting finale - inward-looking pop with electronic flourishes: 'Even if I look stupid, I'm pretty happy... If you're having fun, don't care what you look like...as long as you're smiling, you got the game right' is straight from the heart. The chaotic finish is fun but awkward.

Elsewhere, 91 shows that there is more to Spraggan's vocals than staccato delivery; a gorgeous chorus framed in an acoustic waltz. In A State tells the start-stop (bad pun) story of an America road-trip (even if LA and NYC aren't States...), and Last Night (Beer Fear) is either a misjudged celebration of drinking culture or a waning sign. It's hard to tell from the delivery, sounding like a song Alex Turner rejected ten years ago. You're Too Young is a real surprise - more spoken word than a song, delivered at speed through the verses and slowing for the choruses. This almost works but the contrast is hard to engage with - a brilliant idea, like Eminem's Stan.

Whether Lucy Spraggan would have made Join The Club without X Factor, only she knows. Either way, it is a talent showcased through a unique personality and superb songwriting. The platform created from Top Room At The Zoo and her exposure on a prime-time reality music show has produced the album she wanted; a hybrid of old ideas and emotions and new experiences. Serendipity realised and a talent enthused and energised.
-- CS

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Haim - Days Are Gone (Album Review)


Three sisters from Los Angeles are keeping the spirit of Fleetwood Mac (circa 1987) alive (in a good way). Este, Danielle and Alana have pitched their band somewhere between late 80s soft rock and modern girl band vibes to create something unique for début album Days Are Gone. To capture the mood, Falling is the perfect opener, a wonderful structure combining pop and R&B with 'hand-clap' percussion, plenty of echo, and a funky chorus. The guitars halfway are cool sublime. Forever continues the great start, with more punchy vocals, and another cool chorus. It is clear why the band has earned the FM tag. Another early highlight is If I Could Change Your Mind - one of the best vocals on the album and excellent guitar work. The chorus is simply wonderful, sparkling and pure 80s. Don't Save Me is the other highlight and an excellent single; a breathtaking hook into a flowing chorus, with verses that glide and soar.

It's not all good news. The Wire sounds more like Debbie Gibson (remember her?) before the 'Broadway' years. That said, it is another beautifully constructed song. The title track, with falsetto backing vocals and over-production just about hits the mark but is more like a long forgotten All Saints album track; as more great guitars hold it all together. A strange departure into dark brooding R&B arrives with My Song 5 and what should be hard-hitting feels like a lame slap. Let Me Go isn't much better, but closer to the sound we would expect. And thankfully Days Are Gone doesn't lose its great start, as Running If You Call My Name is the (very) late highlight to finish.

Days Are Gone is an impressive début from a band with a huge future ahead of them. A refined sound could settle critics but the association with McVie and Nicks vocally and lyrically, and Fleetwood/Buckingham stylistically, is a huge positive rather than a corrosive influence. There is more individuality here than people realise. On the whole, a hugely enjoyable album.
-- CS

Monday, 30 September 2013

Music Chart - September 2013

A quiet month in the Underwurld with new albums from Travis, Franz Ferdinand, Braids, Nine Inch Nails, Glasvegas, Medicine, Julianna Barwick, Arctic Monkeys, Goldfrapp, Manic Street Preachers and Mark Lanegan. Nothing to trouble (pun intended) The National...
  1. Trouble Will Find Me by The National
  2. Wakin On A Pretty Daze by Kurt Vile 
  3. Once I Was An Eagle by Laura Marling 
  4. Nepenthe by Julianna Barwick
  5. Opposites by Biffy Clyro 
  6. Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 
  7. The Ghost Of The Mountain by Tired Pony
  8. Kveikur by Sigur Rós
  9. Waiting For Something To Happen by Veronica Falls
  10. Love Has Come For You by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
  11. Hesitation Marks by Nine Inch Nails
  12. Regardless by Thea Gilmore 
  13. Tales Of Us by Goldfrapp
  14. ...Like Clockwork by Queens Of The Stone Age 
  15. Sticky Wickets by The Duckworth Lewis Method
  16. Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You by Mark Mulcahy
  17. Impossible Truth by William Tyler
  18. The Beast In Its Tracks by Josh Ritter 
  19. Slow Focus by F Buttons 
  20. AM by Arctic Monkeys
  21. The New Life by Girls Names
  22. Nocturnes by Little Boots
  23. Heartthrob by Tegan And Sara
  24. Yes, It's True by The Polyphonic Spree
  25. Long Way Down by Tom Odell
  26. Standards by Lloyd Cole 
  27. Warp & Weft by Laura Veirs 
  28. Later... When The TV Turns To Static by Glasvegas
  29. Welcome Oblivion by How To Destroy Angels
  30. Les Revenants Soundtrack by Mogwai
  31. Moon Tides by Pure Bathing Culture
  32. More Light by Primal Scream 
  33. Imitations by Mark Lanegan
  34. The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles
  35. The Weight Of Your Love by Editors 
  36. MCII by Mikal Cronin 
  37. Where You Stand by Travis
  38. Shamrock City by Solas
  39. Let It All In by I Am Kloot
  40. Bloodlines by Barbarossa
  41. Where The Heaven Are We by Swim Deep
  42. The Sun Comes Out Tonight by Filter
  43. Spectre At The Feast by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 
  44. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
  45. Slave Vows by The Icarus Line
  46. Palms by Palms
  47. You Belong Here by Leagues
  48. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here by Alice In Chains 
  49. Soft Will by Smith Westerns
  50. Black Pudding by Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood 
  51. Modern Vampire Of The City by Vampire Weekend
  52. Rewind The Film by Manic Street Preachers
  53. Tape Deck Heart by Frank Turner 
  54. To The Happy Few by Medicine
  55. Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO by Besnard Lakes 
  56. Electric by Pet Shop Boys
  57. Howlin by Jagwar Ma 
  58. IDIOTS by The Electric Soft Parade
  59. Silence Yourself by Savages
  60. People, Hell & Angels by Jimi Hendrix
  61. Fade by Yo La Tengo
  62. Wolf's Law by The Joy Formidable
  63. The Civil Wars by The Civil Wars
  64. Vicissitude by Maps
  65. Heart Of Nowhere by Noah And The Whale 
  66. Big TV by White Lies
  67. The Graceless Age by John Murry 
  68. Elba by Laura Jansen
  69. Paramore by Paramore
  70. Tales From Terra Firma by Stornoway
  71. Electric by Richard Thompson 
  72. Oblivion OST by M83
  73. AMOK by Atoms For Peace
  74. Wonderful, Glorious by Eels
  75. In A Perfect World by Kodaline
  76. Immunity by Jon Hopkins
  77. A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart by Bill Ryder-Jones
  78. Volume 3 by She & Him 
  79. Hubcap Music by Seasick Steve
  80. Wait To Pleasure by No Joy
  81. A Long Way To Fall by Ulrich Schnauss 
  82. Machineries Of Joy by British Sea Power 
  83. Flourish // Perish by Braids
  84. Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant 
  85. Performance by Outfit
  86. All The Little Lights by Passenger
  87. Tooth & Nail by Billy Bragg
  88. Sound City - Real To Real by Sound City - Real To Real
  89. Disarm The Descent by Killswitch Engage
  90. The Messenger by Johnny Marr
  91. If You Leave by Daughter
  92. Pollen by Wave Machines
  93. Sistrionix by Deap Vally
  94. Mosquito by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  95. Back Into The Woods by Ed Harcourt
  96. Clash The Truth by Beach Fossils
  97. Country Sleep by Night Beds 
  98. The Next Day by David Bowie 
  99. Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action by Franz Ferdinand
  100. Rules By Passion, Destroyed By Lust by Asphodells
  101. Blood Oaths Of The New Blues by Wooden Wand
  102. Centralia by Mountains
  103. In Love by Peace
  104. Ores & Minerals by Mazes
  105. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit 
  106. The Invisible Way By Low
  107. Lysandre by Christopher Owens
  108. English Rain by Gabrielle Aplin
  109. Monomania by Deerhunter
  110. California X by California X
  111. Field Of Reeds by These New Puritans
  112. Save Rock And Roll by Fall Out Boy
  113. 180 by Palma Violets
  114. News From Nowhere by Darkstar
  115. Almanac by Widowspeak 
  116. Bloodsports by Suede
  117. Graffiti On The Train by Stereophonics
  118. Wash The Sins Not Only The Face by Esben And The Witch 
  119. Comedown Machine by The Strokes
  120. The Moths Are Real by Serafina Steer
  121. {Awayland} by Villagers
  122. Out Of Touch In The Wild by Dutch Uncles
  123. Lost Sirens by New Order
  124. Girl Talk by Kate Nash
  125. Beta Love by Ra Ra Riot
  126. Early Rocking by Paul Simon
  127. Collections by Delphic

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks (Album Review)


The ever-talented Trent Reznor looked set to close the doors on Nine Inch Nails in 2009 when the band's tour came to an end and he started work with How To Destroy Angels. A few much publicised award-winning film scores and three HTDA releases later and Reznor revealed that he had been working with Atticus Ross (with whom he created the aforementioned scores and the HTDA records) and long-term NIN producer Alan Moulder, on Hesitation Marks. What started as a few tracks and ideas has become one of the best albums Reznor has made under the name Nine Inch Nails.

It is the style and mood of Hesitation Marks that makes an initial impact. The songs are controlled and balanced, with very few explosions of anger or vitriolic emotion. Reznor, as the vocal centrepiece, never overwhelms with his voice; instead creating a calming influence over the electronic-industrial backing. Even on the early Copy Of A (featuring Lindsey Buckingham), the music builds, shifts and rises but feels much like a reworking of The Hand That Feeds from With Teeth, never uncontrolled or messy. Everything is direct and measured. The final verse packs a punch lyrically without the need to ram it down your throat. Came Back Haunted follows in a similar way, choosing tension and gritted teeth over screams of pain and catharsis. Even through the muddy guitars, the music builds and throws in multi-layered vocals, to create the illusion of maddening cries all shouting together - but then calms to a low, morose finale.

The usual themes are explored with a more modern twist, most notably the piercing Satellite - an oppressive tale of 'Big Brother' paranoia, gliding effortlessly through five minutes, data pulsing in the background. The flip-side to this is the more inward-looking Find My Way, this has Reznor barely whispering by the end. Another highlight is the wonderful Everything, a post-punk riot of guitars and drums packaged into a three-minute pop song. "I am home...I believe. I am home... I am free... always here...", Reznor sings. And the sparse, fragmented Various Methods Of Escape sounds like a re-worked HTDA piece, but builds to a fantastic guitar/drum combination and some of the best vocals on the album.

As expected, Hesitation Marks is by no means perfect. The spiky funk-infused All Time Low is an odd move and about three minutes too long. That said, the juxtaposition of styles breaks the otherwise sedate flow. Running is also disjointed and, although musically interesting, brings nothing new to the album. Then there is I Would For You, which sounds laboured and jaded - a shame as the guitar work and piano in the last minute are fantastic. Thankfully, the final songs are top draw. In Two is a glorious mix of old and new (with more great guitars from Buckingham) - again Reznor is powerful and punchy without losing control and focus, as a combination of complex percussion and empty-spaces provide the backdrop. And the ending is superb, crashing headlong into While I'm Still Here, the final ballad, beautifully crafted and arranged; treading a careful path and concluding with a perfectly odd brass section, and then into Black Noise to finish.

For the most part, Hesitation Marks is a mix of everything that has come before: the chaotic intensity of The Downward Spiral, the pop-tinged hooks of Pretty Hate Machine, the angst from With Teeth, the majesty of The Fragile and the sedate atmosphere of the glorious Ghosts. And the Social Network score has had a huge impact on how Reznor now constructs songs; how they move and evolve. The 'side-project' HTDA has been a positive influence but with Hesitation Marks, Trent Reznor has proved that his heart and soul is very much with Nine Inch Nails.
-- CS

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Mercury Prize 2013 - Shortlist announced

The 2013 Mercury Prize shortlist has been announced and it's no surprise to see David Bowie getting all the headlines. Even more surprising is that The Next Day isn't a very good album - challenging, yes, but not great, in the same way as PJ Harvey's Let England Shake. So Mercury continue to write their own headlines and put forward a shortlist of albums that stir up discussion and debate and in most cases, thankfully, lead the music fraternity to revisit and reassess albums from earlier in the year that had little or no impact the first time around. Several of these made it...Villagers, Savages and Foals to name three. But it's great to see real talent acknowledged: Laura Marling (again), Jake Bugg (firm favourite) and Jon Hopkins (a much more interesting album than Disclosure's Settle). Interestingly, this year there is no classical, no folk (Marling doesn't count) and no 'jazz'. James Blake and Laura Mvula are outside chances with strong records and Rudimental are the dark horses. (And it's too early to comment on Arctic Monkeys)

Here are the nominees:

Arctic Monkeys - AM
James Blake - Overgrown
David Bowie - The Next Day
Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg
Disclosure - Settle
Foals - Holy Fire
Jon Hopkins - Immunity
Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle
Laura Mvula - Sing To The Moon
Rudimental - Home
Savages - Silence Yourself
Villagers - {Awayland}

Read the BBC Website round-up here.


Sunday, 1 September 2013

Music Chart - August 2013

New albums this month from Mikal Cronin, Girls Names, Laura Jansen, The Civil Wars, Barbarossa, Swim Deep, White Lies, Sara Bareilles, Laura Veirs, Tired Pony, Outfit and Pure Bathing Culture.

The National continue to hold the top of the chart with the album of the year.


  1. Trouble Will Find Me by The National
  2. Wakin On A Pretty Daze by Kurt Vile 
  3. Once I Was An Eagle by Laura Marling
  4. Opposites by Biffy Clyro 
  5. Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 
  6. The Ghost Of The Mountain by Tired Pony
  7. Kveikur by Sigur Rós
  8. Waiting For Something To Happen by Veronica Falls
  9. Love Has Come For You by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
  10. Regardless by Thea Gilmore
  11. ...Like Clockwork by Queens Of The Stone Age 
  12. Sticky Wickets by The Duckworth Lewis Method
  13. Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You by Mark Mulcahy
  14. Impossible Truth by William Tyler
  15. The Beast In Its Tracks by Josh Ritter 
  16. Slow Focus by F Buttons 
  17. The New Life by Girls Names
  18. Nocturnes by Little Boots
  19. Heartthrob by Tegan And Sara
  20. Yes, It's True by The Polyphonic Spree
  21. Long Way Down by Tom Odell
  22. Standards by Lloyd Cole 
  23. Warp & Weft by Laura Veirs
  24. Welcome Oblivion by How To Destroy Angels
  25. Les Revenants Soundtrack by Mogwai
  26. Moon Tides by Pure Bathing Culture
  27. More Light by Primal Scream 
  28. The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles
  29. The Weight Of Your Love by Editors 
  30. MCII by Mikal Cronin
  31. Shamrock City by Solas
  32. Let It All In by I Am Kloot
  33. Bloodlines by Barbarossa
  34. Where The Heaven Are We by Swim Deep
  35. The Sun Comes Out Tonight by Filter
  36. Spectre At The Feast by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 
  37. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
  38. Slave Vows by The Icarus Line
  39. Palms by Palms
  40. You Belong Here by Leagues
  41. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here by Alice In Chains 
  42. Soft Will by Smith Westerns
  43. Black Pudding by Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood 
  44. Modern Vampire Of The City by Vampire Weekend
  45. Tape Deck Heart by Frank Turner
  46. Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO by Besnard Lakes 
  47. Electric by Pet Shop Boys
  48. Howlin by Jagwar Ma 
  49. IDIOTS by The Electric Soft Parade
  50. Silence Yourself by Savages
  51. People, Hell & Angels by Jimi Hendrix
  52. Fade by Yo La Tengo
  53. Wolf's Law by The Joy Formidable
  54. The Civil Wars by The Civil Wars
  55. Vicissitude by Maps
  56. Heart Of Nowhere by Noah And The Whale 
  57. Big TV by White Lies
  58. The Graceless Age by John Murry 
  59. Elba by Laura Jansen
  60. Paramore by Paramore
  61. Tales From Terra Firma by Stornoway
  62. Electric by Richard Thompson 
  63. Oblivion OST by M83
  64. AMOK by Atoms For Peace
  65. Wonderful, Glorious by Eels
  66. In A Perfect World by Kodaline
  67. Immunity by Jon Hopkins
  68. A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart by Bill Ryder-Jones
  69. Volume 3 by She & Him 
  70. Hubcap Music by Seasick Steve
  71. Wait To Pleasure by No Joy
  72. A Long Way To Fall by Ulrich Schnauss 
  73. Machineries Of Joy by British Sea Power 
  74. Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant 
  75. Performance by Outfit
  76. All The Little Lights by Passenger
  77. Tooth & Nail by Billy Bragg
  78. Sound City - Real To Real by Sound City - Real To Real
  79. Disarm The Descent by Killswitch Engage
  80. The Messenger by Johnny Marr
  81. If You Leave by Daughter
  82. Pollen by Wave Machines
  83. Sistrionix by Deap Vally
  84. Mosquito by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  85. Back Into The Woods by Ed Harcourt
  86. Clash The Truth by Beach Fossils
  87. Country Sleep by Night Beds 
  88. The Next Day by David Bowie
  89. Rules By Passion, Destroyed By Lust by Asphodells
  90. Blood Oaths Of The New Blues by Wooden Wand
  91. Centralia by Mountains
  92. In Love by Peace
  93. Ores & Minerals by Mazes
  94. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit 
  95. The Invisible Way By Low
  96. Lysandre by Christopher Owens
  97. English Rain by Gabrielle Aplin
  98. Monomania by Deerhunter
  99. California X by California X
  100. Field Of Reeds by These New Puritans
  101. Save Rock And Roll by Fall Out Boy
  102. 180 by Palma Violets
  103. News From Nowhere by Darkstar
  104. Almanac by Widowspeak 
  105. Bloodsports by Suede
  106. Graffiti On The Train by Stereophonics
  107. Wash The Sins Not Only The Face by Esben And The Witch 
  108. Comedown Machine by The Strokes
  109. The Moths Are Real by Serafina Steer
  110. {Awayland} by Villagers
  111. Out Of Touch In The Wild by Dutch Uncles
  112. Lost Sirens by New Order
  113. Girl Talk by Kate Nash
  114. Beta Love by Ra Ra Riot
  115. Early Rocking by Paul Simon
  116. Collections by Delphic

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Tired Pony - The Ghost Of The Mountain (Album Review)



Supergroups are nothing new - and in recent years something to approach with caution. Jack White and Josh Homme can make it work, and so it seems can Gary Lightbody. Tired Pony brings together talent from Snow Patrol (Lightbody and Iain Archer), Belle & Sebastian (Richard Colburn) and R.E.M. (Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey) and début album, The Place We Ran From, proves that it is a worthwhile and relevant project. Lightbody wanted to make a 'country' album, and this is definitely the feel and mood of the band's introduction but follow-up The Ghost Of The Mountain is something quite different.

Claims by some that The Ghost Of The Mountain is just another Snow Patrol record are obviously absurd. Lightbody is the ever-present front-man, and his voice is both distinctive and familiar, but it is the continued contribution from Archer, Colburn and Buck that move the group up from the obvious style of their beginnings into a more established sound. Now, Tired Pony has its own identity. That said, it is amazing how the presence of an ex-guitarist from a now disbanded group can bring so much of his past into the present. Peter Buck (and to an extent, McCaughey) breaths the spirit of R.E.M. into this album as much as Lightbody brings his vocals. The effect is wonderful.

From the delicate opener I Don't Want You As A Ghost, deftly blending cool vocals with sublime guitars, and the pop-styled brilliance of I'm Begging You Not To Go, to the hard-hitting stomp of Blood, The Ghost Of The Mountain impresses from the start. The latter recounts a struggle to keep a relationship going, expletives and all; superb, honest and heartfelt song-writing. The Creak In The Floorboards continues the form, a more straight-forward and hopeful love-song. 'You know what I'm looking for now... coz I sure don't', Lightbody croons. It is clear now that this is still Americana, but a lot closer to the sounds of the individual contributors. A gorgeous vocal brings the song to a  finish.

The best guitar-work on the album is the magnificent All Things All At Once - a dark, brooding country waltz ('I will love you better than him...', is the stirring refrain, mixed with wordless choral vocals. Great instrumentation frames Wreckage And Bone - more folk than country as Tired Pony return to their roots for 'Act II'. Lightbody excels delivering the sort of fractured melancholy vocal that Chris Martin can only dream of, and again, his song-craft shows why he won an Ivor Novello.

The Ghost Of The Mountain diversifies in the second half, with interesting results. The Beginning Of The End breaks the formula somewhat and is two songs mashed together with some odd arrangements, while Carve Our Names is a smooth ballad with Lightbody augmented by female tones. Ravens And Wolves is bombastic grandstanding, backed up with some excellent guitars, strings and cold piano, and Punishment is drum-driven sleek electro-pop. Definitely unexpected, but not a massive departure.

The icing on the cake is the beautiful title track; another gorgeous vocal arrangement, blending wordless choir with stark lyrics. Lightbody is in reflective, doubting mood and musically, this is the sound of a band who have been together for decades. Buck's guitar-work is (as always) incredible. To close, Your Way Is The Way Home is an understated finish with an emotive lyric within a perfect melody. It threatens to soar, stadium-bound, but stays firmly on the ground, Lightbody stepping aside to let Kim Popper bring the song and the album to a close.

The key to Tired Pony and The Ghost Of The Mountain is songwriting and commitment from all involved. You bring together talent and that is what you get, all controlled and focused with no egos to keep in check or dismiss. This may be Lightbody's dream but the band deliver at every turn - and, while not members of the band, Minnie Driver, Bronagh Gallagher and Kim Topper add some light vocal touches. The sound is very comfortable and established; often safe ground (no massive guitar solos or eight-minute sonic-string orchestras here) but this is exactly what everyone is good at - mature, accomplished songs, elegantly produced.
-- CS

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Polyphonic Spree - Yes, It's True (Album Review 2013)

The Polyphonic Spree, led by Tim DeLaughter, and now with a mere twenty musician line-up (including six-piece female choir), release their fifth album Yes, It's True. It's hard to believe they've only made four previous albums, if you count the hit-miss Christmas album of 2012. The band's working philosophy has always been, and will probably remain from now until the end of time, that 'more is less'. This is certainly the approach here, showing the best and the worst of a band who look and feel more like a cult movement; a subversive secret society, designed to inject irony-free happiness into an otherwise unhappy world.

Yes, It's True starts wonderfully. Cool opener You Don't Know Me is the perfect introduction before the two big songs Popular By Design, with its oddly robotic hypnotic chorus against the DeLaughter inner monologue verses, and the sparkling piano-pop of Hold Yourself Up, provide an instant and early album high-point. The wistful vocals of Carefully Try, with added horn section transforms halfway from Flaming Lips to Mercury Rev with increased sound and pace, before the piano ballad You're Golden, a love-song for the geek culture (it's not your Facebook 'Likes'...) becomes a heartfelt and warming tribute.

So far, so uplifting. Sadly, Yes, It's True falls flat in the centre. Heart Talk is bad Bowie. The start/stop Blurry Up The Lines is a confused mess, especially when it builds for the second half, and Let Them Be is a mix of clashing instrumentation. But the album picks up for a strong finish... Raise Your Head is solid, from drum opening build-up into a glorious symphony with a mix of ideas and sounds that (unlike the previous twelve minutes or so) works. What Would You Do? is easily the highlight of the second half - a massive, noisy, group therapy and Q&A session with DeLaughter at the chair. It quietens teasingly for a big riotous finale. And closer Battlefield, which could be clumsy and cluttered is, instead, a gorgeous and delicate piano ballad with horns to finish.

So Yes, It's True is almost a great Polyphonic Spree album; it has the spirit and the heart of a band that is united in a cause. The message from DeLaughter and crew is always positive and welcoming, even if the songs don't work. But that is what you get when 'more is the new less'.
-- CS

Karine Polwart - Threshold

I don't normally review compilations but in this case I'll make an exception, even if it's a quick one...

Threshold is a collection of songs by one of Britain's most gifted and talented folk singers, Karine Polwart, all taken from her albums Scribbled In Chalk, Fairest Floo'er and This Earthly Spell, as well as Medusa from The-Build-Your-Own-Cathedral EP. Strangely, there is nothing from her début award-winning album Faultlines, which would have enhanced this even further. (And add the best of Polwart's latest album Traces and you'll have one of the strongest compilations of folk songs of any artist working today.)

Threshold shows many different sides of Karine Polwart, from old to new. Whereas her second and fourth albums comprise original new songs, Fairest Floo'er is traditional with new arrangements. So, both Dowie Dens Of Yarrow and The Death Of Queen Jane (with superb modern piano arrangement) are stirring, dark and powerful, matched only by the mournful messages of Medusa and the venomous Sorry, highlighting the emptiness of forgiving, through religious imagery and ideals. Elsewhere Threshold is lighter and fairer of touch. Opener Rivers Run and later Take Its Own Time are superbly arranged and performed, the former blending jolly, up-beat guitars with a reflective vocal style and some wonderful backing vocals. Daisy is simply beautiful song writing about a simple/complex soul - 'There are people in this world who don't think like you do...' is the refrain. Better Things is also excellent, a song of hopes, fears and dreams while the final trio of nostalgic Follow The Heron, The Good Years (an epic, folk-pop anthem) and Terminal Star (complete with 'surprise' ending) show Polwart's song-craft.

As a compilation, Threshold is uncluttered, well-constructed and perfectly judged. And above all it is a brilliant introduction to a folk legend.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Duckworth Lewis Method - Sticky Wickets

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The Duckworth Lewis Method, aka Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy) and Thomas Walsh (Pugwash), and named after the mathematical system for calculating a target cricket score after a match is disrupted - usually by the weather, return with a second album of cricket-themed songs. This time round, they have proved that this clever, insightful, project is more than just a novelty act for a select group of purists who understand cricket's unique and baffling 'language'.

Where the eponymous début was a tentative low-key introduction, Sticky Wickets is a triumphant celebration. The title track is deliciously tongue-in-cheek, before the attention-grabbing Boom Boom Afridi (a tribute to the Pakistan legend), to the Henry Blofeld infused irony of It's Just Not Cricket. 

The musical variety brings in influences from Steely Dan to ELO with some wonderful emotive moments. The Umpire is especially stirring, before the mid-tempo Third Man - beautifully summing up cricket's worst fielding position. Out In The Middle is equally good, before the superb electronic Line And Length, filled with unique and beguiling cricketing language.

Stephen Fry narrates the oddity Judd's Paradox and closer Nudging And Nurdling has a host of 'celebrities' repeating the humorous phrase throughout. Only The Laughing Cavaliers drags the album down late-on, back to the world of novelty. 

So The DLM are back with a well-judged concept album and a good balance between sporting cliché and genuine acute observations - one that cricket fans, and those with no interest whatsoever, will enjoy equally.
-- CS

Thea Gilmore - Regardless (Album Review 2013)

Thea Gilmore is one of our most prolific and underrated songwriters. After a brilliant run of albums, from début Burning Dorothy to breakthrough masterpiece Avalanche, Gilmore hasn't quite reached the same heights since. Recent studio albums Liejacker, the 'alternative' Christmas record: Strange Communion, and Murphy's Heart, have been mixed, while the 'original' covers of Loft Music, and audacious recording of Dylan's John Wesley Harding, are both superb. And in recent years, albeit too briefly, her Angels In The Abattoir project has produced some real gems, all unreleased and exclusive to dedicated fans. So album fourteen, Regardless, is Gilmore back a decade, to the days of folk/pop, sharp political and social statement and above all, a real sense of vibrant, energised, drive.


The mark is made with opener Something To Sing About, with spiky verses and punchy chorus, set to a driving guitar and string-filled backing. Gilmore stretches her vocal range with the slower This Is How You Find The Way, repeating the refrain 'it's a beautiful day'. Musically, this is much more industrial, with electronic flourishes and bouncy percussion. And the gorgeous title track, a moody mid-tempo waltz (something of a speciality), and easily Gilmore's finest vocal, is wonderful. This is matched only with the delicate love song, I Will Not Disappoint You. With just a hint of Everybody Hurts, this is a personal, open-hearted, ballad. In the first half, only the odd Spit And Shine doesn't quite fit - a 'Vampire Weekend' soundtrack muddies the dark, spiteful, venomous message.

In contrast, Start As You Mean To Go On is shameless 60s pop and the darker Love Came Looking For Me is just as direct, a perfect anti-love song. In between, Punctuation is an intriguing tale, like a heated discussion between angels and demons, gods and prophets - to create a brilliant intellectual interlude. The final three songs on Regardless do not disappoint. This Road and Let It Be Known are both suburb; political and honest, on the latter Gilmore sings 'Let it be known I have religion, though it was more a contact sport... I held the people I was given; prayed to the lessons that they taught' - possibly the best line she has written. After these, closer My Friend Goodbye is a downbeat finish - that said, the vocal arrangement is beautiful.

It is clear from Regardless that Thea Gilmore is in a good place, both personally and musically. She sounds equally at home on her own with a guitar or piano, or with a full band, but it appears that the 'big sound' is exactly what was needed to fuel these songs. There is great support, as always from Nigel Stonier. More consistent than recent albums and certainly more focused, Regardless is Thea Gilmore at her wonderful best.
-- CS

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Music Chart - July 2013

Over halfway through the musical year and July takes the albums in the Underwurld chart to over a hundred. New records this month from Tom Odell, Palms, Kodaline, Editors, Leagues (from earlier in the year), Maps, Deap Vally, Pet Shop Boys, Smith Westerns, The Icarus Line, Mark Mulcahy, Solas, F Buttons, The Duckworth Lewis Method, The Electric Soft Parade and Thea Gilmore.

Top spot is still The National, from Kurt Vile and Laura Marling.








  1. Trouble Will Find Me by The National
  2. Wakin On A Pretty Daze by Kurt Vile 
  3. Once I Was An Eagle by Laura Marling
  4. Opposites by Biffy Clyro 
  5. Push The Sky Away by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 
  6. Kveikur by Sigur Rós
  7. Waiting For Something To Happen by Veronica Falls
  8. Love Has Come For You by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell
  9. Regardless by Thea Gilmore
  10. ...Like Clockwork by Queens Of The Stone Age 
  11. Sticky Wickets by The Duckworth Lewis Method
  12. Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You by Mark Mulcahy
  13. Impossible Truth by William Tyler
  14. The Beast In Its Tracks by Josh Ritter 
  15. Slow Focus by F Buttons
  16. Nocturnes by Little Boots
  17. Heartthrob by Tegan And Sara
  18. Long Way Down by Tom Odell
  19. Standards by Lloyd Cole
  20. Welcome Oblivion by How To Destroy Angels
  21. Les Revenants Soundtrack by Mogwai
  22. More Light by Primal Scream 
  23. The Weight Of Your Love by Editors
  24. Shamrock City by Solas
  25. Let It All In by I Am Kloot
  26. The Sun Comes Out Tonight by Filter
  27. Spectre At The Feast by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 
  28. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
  29. Slave Vows by The Icarus Line
  30. Palms by Palms
  31. You Belong Here by Leagues
  32. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here by Alice In Chains 
  33. Soft Will by Smith Westerns
  34. Black Pudding by Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood 
  35. Modern Vampire Of The City by Vampire Weekend
  36. Tape Deck Heart by Frank Turner
  37. Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO by Besnard Lakes 
  38. Electric by Pet Shop Boys
  39. Howlin by Jagwar Ma 
  40. IDIOTS by The Electric Soft Parade
  41. Silence Yourself by Savages
  42. People, Hell & Angels by Jimi Hendrix
  43. Fade by Yo La Tengo
  44. Wolf's Law by The Joy Formidable
  45. Vicissitude by Maps
  46. Heart Of Nowhere by Noah And The Whale 
  47. The Graceless Age by John Murry
  48. Paramore by Paramore
  49. Tales From Terra Firma by Stornoway
  50. Electric by Richard Thompson 
  51. Oblivion OST by M83
  52. AMOK by Atoms For Peace
  53. Wonderful, Glorious by Eels
  54. In A Perfect World by Kodaline
  55. Immunity by Jon Hopkins
  56. A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart by Bill Ryder-Jones
  57. Volume 3 by She & Him 
  58. Hubcap Music by Seasick Steve
  59. Wait To Pleasure by No Joy
  60. A Long Way To Fall by Ulrich Schnauss 
  61. Machineries Of Joy by British Sea Power 
  62. Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant
  63. All The Little Lights by Passenger
  64. Tooth & Nail by Billy Bragg
  65. Sound City - Real To Real by Sound City - Real To Real
  66. Disarm The Descent by Killswitch Engage
  67. The Messenger by Johnny Marr
  68. If You Leave by Daughter
  69. Pollen by Wave Machines
  70. Sistrionix by Deap Vally
  71. Mosquito by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  72. Back Into The Woods by Ed Harcourt
  73. Clash The Truth by Beach Fossils
  74. Country Sleep by Night Beds 
  75. The Next Day by David Bowie
  76. Rules By Passion, Destroyed By Lust by Asphodells
  77. Blood Oaths Of The New Blues by Wooden Wand
  78. Centralia by Mountains
  79. In Love by Peace
  80. Ores & Minerals by Mazes
  81. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit 
  82. The Invisible Way By Low
  83. Lysandre by Christopher Owens
  84. English Rain by Gabrielle Aplin
  85. Monomania by Deerhunter
  86. California X by California X
  87. Field Of Reeds by These New Puritans
  88. Save Rock And Roll by Fall Out Boy
  89. 180 by Palma Violets
  90. News From Nowhere by Darkstar
  91. Almanac by Widowspeak 
  92. Bloodsports by Suede
  93. Graffiti On The Train by Stereophonics
  94. Wash The Sins Not Only The Face by Esben And The Witch 
  95. Comedown Machine by The Strokes
  96. The Moths Are Real by Serafina Steer
  97. {Awayland} by Villagers
  98. Out Of Touch In The Wild by Dutch Uncles
  99. Lost Sirens by New Order
  100. Girl Talk by Kate Nash
  101. Beta Love by Ra Ra Riot
  102. Early Rocking by Paul Simon
  103. Collections by Delphic

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Thousand Lights - The E.P. review (2013)

 
Thousand Lights is a band from Southampton based around the gorgeous vocals of Emma Cummins and Harriet Lea-Banks, the guitar stylings of Gary 'amp destroyer' Holcombe and super-cool bassist Simon Kolstoe. Their music is Christian-themed, filled with delicious acoustic strings, percussion and vocals; driven by faith and belief - a true inspiration, washing through their clear, precise lyrics and music.

The début eponymous E.P. features five songs, opening with the wonderful Already Blessed, lead by Cummins, her vocals neatly placed between Natalie Merchant and Thea Gilmore, to deliver a superb vocal arrangement. Holcombe provides supreme acoustic guitar-work to create the flowing upbeat sound, complete with a few neat flourishes. The slower, sombre, more intense, Our Creator is equally good, bringing in Lea-Banks for backing vocals and a soaring chorus, the duo blending perfectly. And it is Harriet who takes the lead for Matthew 16, centred around the biblical text in which Jesus foretells his death and resurrection. "What price to pay for my soul, there'll be no angels, no glory, no truth... Take up your cross and follow him. We surrender..." is heartbreaking and beautiful songwriting. Your Light is another superb arrangement framed with Holcombe's shimmering guitar-work juxtaposed against the stern, serious vocal - a fascinating contrast. The dual vocals at the halfway point work brilliantly, adding to the intense atmosphere. The closer, Unfailing Love is the band at their most ambitious, with a raw emotional chorus and Cummins showing her power and range. Holcombe provides the final surprise - a sharp, crisp, guitar solo - a truly wonderful moment!


Faith is obviously important to Thousand Lights and a huge energy for their music and their songwriting. From humble live band to the heights of the recording studio, it has certainly been an inspiring journey and the results show what the band can be - a delicate touch of production to bring out their message, up to the next level and... beyond? Based on this 'teaser' E.P., a full album has to be in the wings, waiting to be lovingly crafted. And maybe guitarist Holcombe can show us more of his skills with a fifteen and half minute solo in the style of Hendrix or Gilmore. Anything is possible...

-- CS

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Music Catch-up - Smith Westerns and Leagues

Now is the chance to catch-up on some new music from the last few months...

Chicago's Smith Westerns released their third album last month, Soft Will; a much more adventurous collection of shimmering sun-kissed pop songs than the band's previous albums with wonderful understated melodies, vocal harmonies and big guitars. They have stepped up to the next level in a promising and emerging career in fantastic style. 3am Spiritual is a downbeat self-referential opener with gorgeous choral vocals, echoes of Flaming Lips and swathes of guitars. Idol and Glossed provide the early pop-tinged mood before the stirring piano-led instrumental XXIII brings four and half minutes of class. The Brit-pop influences arrive with Fool Proof and the big 'ballad' White Oath, washed with smooth guitar work and  vocals from Cullen Omori. Vocally, Only Natural is triumphant, diving from low verses to high soaring chorus, while the guitars shine. Credit has to go to Chris Coady for production and maintaining a good balance between Smith Westerns' gritty 'garage' sound and this new polished sound - it's not as thick and oppressive as Beach House, for good reason. The second half of Soft Will is certainly more serious and reflective than the first, as Best Friend tugs the heartstrings, before the oddly pitched Cheer Up brings closer Varsity and a final highlight. Soft Will is the sound of Smith Westerns not so much growing up, but coming of age.

One from the start of the year that somehow slipped through...

The Pledge Music campaign is delivering some real gems (as well as less-interesting projects from more established bands trying to give 'fans' a chance to get their hands on exclusive material) and You Belong Here by Leagues yields another success. Comprising Thad Cockrell, Tyler Burkum and Jeremy Luito, the trio has added to their début EP and produced an album of punchy, upbeat pop songs. Opener Spotlight is a great introduction with Cockrell's post-funk vocals driving the song forward. The title track draws distinct similarities to Vampire Weekend before the wistful Haunted deftly blends stirring emotion with pop stylings and cool guitar work. The big highlight of the first half is wonderfully emotive Lost It All, with Cockrell providing an outstanding vocal range. This is mirrored in the second half by a completely different, yet equally engaging, sound, as the guitar/drum stomp of Magic...quickly followed by another instant hit: Mind Games with its delicious chorus. You Belong Here never capitalises on this momentum as the final duo are oddly downbeat - Pass My Way is sunny-day vocally-textured musing while Friendly Fire is a fragile piano/vocal ballad with Cockrell stretching the metaphor and his voice in equal measure. But ultimately You Belong Here is a good idea, helped by fans and for fans. Only they will know if it has met their expectations.

Moby - new album Innocents

Moby releases a new album in September, entitled Innocents, featuring collaborations with Wayne Coyne, Cold Specks and Mark Lanegan. Scary album cover:


The two new songs, A Case For Shame and The Lonely Night, sound great and can be heard on Moby's website.

The album track listing is:
  1. Everything That Rises
  2. A Case For Shame (with Cold Specks)
  3. Almost Home (with Damien Jurado)
  4. Going Wrong 
  5. The Perfect Life (with Wayne Coyne)
  6. The Last Day (with Skylar Grey)
  7. Don't Love Me (with Inyang Bassey)
  8. A Long Time
  9. Saints
  10. Tell Me (with Cold Specks)
  11. The Lonely Night (with Mark Lanegan)
  12. The Dogs