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 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