Saturday, 31 May 2014

Music Chart - May 2014

More of an interesting month for music than a great one... the long awaited solo effort from Damon Albarn, Everyday Robots is as prosaic as it is charming - given his recent collaborative work and adventures into soundtracks, this is the sound of the former Blur front-man growing old gracefully. In contrast, the guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela return with 9 Dead Alive, another tribute album, with each track inspired by someone; a more varied collection than 2009's 11:11. This month also brings back The Pixies, a truly extraordinary and inventive band show their class on Indie Cindy. And the other album of note this month is A Letter Home by Neil Young, taking retrospective to the extreme - a covers album (avoiding the obvious, mostly) recorded, with the help of Jack White, on vintage equipment. This works, up to a point, and the under-production is engaging at first but slowly grates. If nothing else, this shows Young is still full of ideas, and music, and long may it continue.

Elsewhere, new material from Swans (To Be Kind) is challenging, Conor Oberst doesn't quite bring back the majesty of Bright Eyes (Upside Down Mountain), Ray LaMontagne (Supernova) goes 60s smooth and Tori Amos (Unrepentant Geraldines) twists and turns her way through a strange, but ultimately underwhelming, landscape.

(...a late addition, thanks to the recent gig supporting The War On Drugs at The Koko, Quilt's Held In Splendor makes it onto the Underwurld chart...Speaking of The War On Drugs, Lost In The Dream still tops the list...)

  1. Lost In The Dream by The War On Drugs
  2. Augustines by Augustines
  3. Rave Tapes by Mogwai
  4. Morning Phase by Beck 
  5. Gach Sgeul (Every Story) by Julie Fowlis 
  6. The Gloaming by The Gloaming
  7. Smoke Fairies by Smoke Fairies
  8. Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega
  9. You Chose These Woes by Model Village
  10. Beautiful Desolation by Paul Thomas Saunders 
  11. Indie Cindy by The Pixies
  12. The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett by Eels
  13. Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst 
  14. Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady
  15. Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen
  16. The Take Off And Landing of Everything by Elbow
  17. Word Of Mouth by Seth Lakeman 
  18. So Long, See You Tomorrow by Bombay Bicycle Club
  19. Into The Lime by New Mendicants 
  20. 9 Dead Alive by Rodrigo y Gabriela
  21. A Letter Home By Neil Young
  22. In The Silence by Asgeir
  23. Held n Splendor by Quilt
  24. Salad Days by Mac Demarco
  25. Blood Red Shoes by Blood Red Shoes 
  26. Supernova by Ray LaMontagne
  27. The Future's Void by EMA
  28. Echoes by Emily Smith 
  29. Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn
  30. Atlas by Real Estate
  31. Croz by David Crosby
  32. Benji by Sun Kil Moon 
  33. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
  34. Cursing The Sea by September Girls
  35. Wildewoman by Lucius
  36. Luminous by The Horrors
  37. High Hopes by Bruce Springsteen
  38. Songs About This And That by Karin Krog & John Surman
  39. Waking Lines by Patterns
  40. Unrepentant Geraldines by Tori Amos
  41. Here And Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings
  42. Wig Out At Jagbags by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
  43. Total Strife Forever by East India Youth
  44. Too Much Information by Maximo Park
  45. Warpaint by Warpaint
  46. To Be Kind by Swans
  47. Eagulls by Eagulls 
  48. Education, Education, Education & War by Kaiser Chiefs
  49. The Crystal Method by The Crystal Method
  50. Kid Face by Samantha Crain
  51. None The Wiser by The Rifles
  52. Oh My Sexy Lord by Marijuana Deathsquads

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The War On Drugs at The Koko (27/05/2014)

We headed for London on a rainy Tuesday night in May to the Koko, just a brief walk from Mornington Crescent tube station, for what promised to be one of the highlights of the year: The War On Drugs (Lost In The Dream tour). The venue, formally a theatre, cinema and BBC studio, hosted The Goons and Monty Python’s Flying Circus back in the day before it became the Camden Palace in the 80s, to be renovated in 2004 into the magnificent music hall it is today. So, after queuing in the drizzle and failing to recognise members of support band Quilt heading for the VIP entrance, we hurried inside…

Finding a suitable vantage point on top left walkway in front of the bar, it wasn’t long before Quilt walked on stage for one of their first European (support) gigs, a (now) four-piece band from Boston who have recently released their second album Held In Splendour. The slight (and very cute) Anna Fox Rochinski and imposing (handsome) Shane Butler, banishing guitars and microphones equally, is a delicious combination and the band made the most of their short support slot. Songs from Held In Splendour featured heavily including the brilliant Arctic Shark and Tie Up The Tides, and live the band added a vibrancy and energy lacking on the record.

[Photo credit: ThreeBeams]

During the break, the usual sound checks took place and we had our first glimpse of the mighty Adam Granduciel with his unkempt hair, sorting out his guitars and peddles. And then the band took to the stage. Granduciel has recently described The War On Drugs as a ‘one man band’ which is a huge disservice to David Hartley, Robbie Bennett and Charlie Hall. Given the intimate song-writing of latest album Lost In The Dream, we all know what he means but this was a massive performance by the quartet. The set was a curious mix of previous masterpiece Slave Ambient and most of Lost In The Dream, with new arrangements of the former framing the newer songs. It (mostly) worked, in that Slave Ambient works beautifully as a single end-to-end album; ebbing and flowing as it glides between familiar sounds and themes, constantly revisiting itself. So, within the more stand-alone Lost In The Dream tracks, songs like Brothers, Some To The City and Baby Missiles added a strange, yet wonderful, glue. 

Granduciel’s guitar work throughout was especially sublime, as was Charlie Hall’s ferocious drumming. The big highlights were Burning, Under The Pressure (without the unnecessary prolonged outro of the original) and the perfect Eyes Top The Wind. The encore provided the night’s big surprise:  starting with a cover of John Lennon’s Mind Games, which was quite amazing. The depth of songs from two great albums made this one of the best sets of any gig I’ve experienced. A great night at an iconic venue.
-- CS (with JC)