Friday, 31 December 2010

FTC 45: Roky Erickson- Okkervil River -True Love Cast Out All Evil

45) Roky Erickson W/ Okkervil River- True Love Cast Out All Evil 

As with The Black Keys work with Ike Turner and Drive By Truckers's with Booker T, True Love Cast Out All Evil works as a historical reworking of musical history and more so than the other two , a rejuvenation of a legendary artist that has transcended with this release a reawakening of one of the lost greats of psychedelia. While Erickson has struggled with mental issues for decades and this his first studio album in 14 years, is an emotive homecoming to the recorded format. The opening track an incredibly lo-fi demo of Erickson before Okkervil River are introduced, and although the album is arguably just an Okkervil River record with Erickson on lead vocals, True Love Cast Out All Evil suitably addresses the absence of the man and his return to music, and Okkervil River have enough respect for the man at the centre that he remains the star throughout.

While any return to music is appreciated, True Love Cast Out All Evil works not just as Erickson album but by anyone, "Goodbye Sweet Dreams" is from an older man who can finally bring himself to look back upon his life and admit that he will never achieve those dreams from the past with a heavy heart and a broken soul. While "Please Judge" is a sociological story pleading with the definitions of victim and criminal and the fine line between them. And "John Lawman" directly shows that Erickson has not lost his contempt towards the men of law.

True Love Cast Out All Evil was a difficult and at times heartbreaking album but given its added implications of Erickson's return, a rich and warm hearted one worthy of acclaim for fans of the alt country rock genre.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

FTC46: Former Ghosts- New Love

I loved Former Ghost's 2009 album "Fleurs" A LOT! I dragged myself to see their great show alongside parenthetical girls (who's EPs this year have been fucking amazing too) after one of the most draining weekends of my life in May and it was incredible! Xiu Xiu's Dear God I Hate Myself and Blue Water White Death (Jamie Stewart and Johnathan Melkberg of Shearwater) accompanied me to CMJ in October and were both incredible albums. "New Love" is better, in a year where a lot of my favourite albums are despairing, self-destroying and pained (in one way or another) nothing described something as clearly as "Winter's Year" synth line covering Ruppert's disparate pleas or "New Orleans" blood stopping chorus of "It's my fault I fell in love in the first place... if you leave the city, take me with you, or don't look back..." amongst the sights, sounds and smells of a past relationship.

"New Love" will be a record that will stay with me long into 2011 and I will regret it being so low on this list.... but it is one of the last records to be released this year (a day before my 24th birthday in fact) that is really important, lyrically, musically and it is sonically one of the most beautiful and intense albums that I've listened to in the last 12 months. Former Ghosts/Freddy Ruppert perfectly captured in one of the most heartbreaking and recovery albums of the year and I look forward to an album next november? 

FTC47: Jenny & Johnny- I'm Having Fun Now

I'm a life long Jenny Lewis fan, I first heard her on The Postal Service's We Will Become Silhouettes and then picked up Rilo Kiley's "The Execution of All Things" are my life (at the time) seemed complete, the way that Nick Hornby talked about the power of pop music in High Fidelity, about scores and scores of pop songs that encouraged misery and despair, Lewis did that, with some of the most introspective and sad bunch of lyrics mostly disguised in heartwarming and upbeat backings...

Two Rilo Kiley and Two solo records later, my love for Lewis hasn't really waned, of course the 16 year old boy somewhere inside me, doesn't want Rice involved in this and while this is arguably the weakest record Lewis has been involved in... Jenny & Johnny's debut "I'm having fun now" is a mighty fine and musically tight album, It's artwork and vocal harmonies harking back to another innocent time, post-war, grease/american graffti era. And like all of those albums between the first and now, Lewis still conjures up some open ended and wordly wise comments amongst a lightweight soundtrack. It's a good pop record which is unlikely to change the world but in the dire weather, it's November release recalls summer! We Need Summer! Like Best Coast's record (which features a lot higher in this list), this record plays upon both sexes fears of each other, fears of falling and fears of falling apart, Jenny & Johnny perfectly accompaning each other... I think the 16 year old me is over it now, I'm Having Fun...

FTC48: Magic Kids- Memphis

48) Magic Kids- Memphis (True Panther Sounds)

In 2010, seemingly everyone was in a way in awe of California,The Summer and The Beach Boys, with the genre chill-wave dead how about we raise the genre of "recorded in a bathroom by a group of people who loved the sixties and have heard pet sounds..."

Magic Kids were more in awe of Tennesse and the title of their debut album title confirmed this, but given the youthful age and energy of Magic Kids, the album was less filled with knock-offs and instead filled with songs in complete adoration of artists that have come before them, Hence Memphis is at 48 as Magic Kids totally seemed to wear the influences in the title, on the sleeve and in every beat of their songs with a warm fruitful production featuring an array of brass and strings of vocal harmonies which would have been plucked from my youth, if I was born in fifties america and were a member of the Brady Bunch. If "Hey Boy" gave any indication of gritty (it didnt), every song of the album was plucked from innocent days, not ones fuelled by sex but by holding hands and stolen kisses and no other album contained as much of the false memory as Memphis and who can be so against such naive aspirations in a world of self despair.

FTC49: Luke Abbott- Holkham Drones (Border Community)

49) Luke Abbott- Holkham Drones (Border Community)

Abbott's debut full length is an album which carefully combined contrasting and intricate sounds to a haunting and uplifting (in the same beat sometimes) effect. Droning, Dream-like rhythmic semi-classic in places, It's a often repressive record and hence why it continues to remind me of my home county, and there are very few "dance" records this year that really left me more than cold (as I engage so much with lyrics and singers than just beats or synths) It's an often difficult listen but enjoy with headphones and let the drones overtake you , or take some drugs and let the beats guide you. Reasons to be from Norfolk...

FTC50: Twin Sister- Vampires With Dreaming Kids/Colour Your Life

Twin Sister- Vampires With Dreaming Kids/Colour Your Life (Double Six) 

 Although Arguably not an album,  but two EPs brought together for a UK Release, there is no doubting Twin Sisters beguiling, hypnotic and genre dodging debut with the extraordinary vocal talent of Andrea Estella. The EPS are filled with emotionally driven and intoxicating anti-anthems...

Twin Sister remind me of cold winters mornings, leaving home too early, bus journeys but also of discos and when I fell in love with Feist's Let it die, it's a pretty but painful record, "Lady Daydream" recalling elements of Broadcast and Stereolab, the lyrics pleading but also comforting "If you can't find the sea I will take you there... Even though I'm losing doesn't make me a loser..."  remind me of a time this year when I needed comforting and everything seemed a bit cold. While "All Around and away we go" is playful disco (the video is below) and conjures up old nights at sonic... While not genre defining, Twin Sister makes no. 50 because of the feelings in conjures, the musical genre changes in each song, combined through a mutual sonic pattern, a vocal style and a melancholy... there have been a lot of painful records this year but not many had this sense of support and hand holding as superbly as Twin Sister's debut double.


Everyone has a favourite album of the year list... I always look forward to reading other peoples/publications/record shops for whatever reason... personal ones are the best whether your a person who listens to albums for lyrics, instruments, atmospherics or whatever, we all have a different reason for why music is/was a massive part of our lives.

I dont write for a publication, I write this haphazard blog because I have a great time listening to bands I've never heard of/reading blogs/taking recommendations and searching out for new music so that I can go to the small shows and try and make a connection with these sounds early on, for self-righteous reasons obviously. I like books and films and television shows, but I was brought up to buy Tapes and records and CDs and still do and Mp3's too, I have a big record collection and I hope in twenty years time it will be still be important to me. As I dont write for a publication no-one really gives a fuck why this album is my favourite, so fuck critical, I like these 50 records because personally they effected me, I wanted to buy them or I went to see the live show or I bought the t-shirt or I sung along or for one reason or another I CARE about this record.... and I care about most of these records. I don't wanna be BFF's with Surfer Blood or become the umpteenth member of Broken Social Scene but both of these albums were a part of 2010 and as I don't keep a diary that by looking back on these 50 albums I will recall something about 2010 that was special.

This is all a bit Peyton Sawyer, but being passionate sometimes means showing passion and declaring spirit, so these are the 50 records I loved in 2010 and why....

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

FTC Discovery # 6: Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges are your new favourite girl/boy indie pop band from Leeds, it's a fact! their new single "The French Word for love" is basically a rejection from someone telling you they just wanna be friends, looking back to the first Maccabees album with female backups, its close, its personal and it's from the heart. Blood Oranges succeed for me, out of the two songs I've heard thus far, because like their inspirations Los Campesinos, their songs seem to be written by normal people for normal people, like a visit to the supermarket that seemed like it was going to be perfectly ordinary but seems to be the one that sticks in your head everytime you think of the supermarket.

FTC Discovery Nov # 5: Dead Ghosts

Dead Ghosts

Dead Ghosts are an already influenced Vancouver Garage Rock band... everyone can do garage rock right? sure, but how many can capture the sound and feel of the experimentation and the threat of the times. Dead Ghosts self-titled debut does, with fiddly guitar leads and sixties boy band refrains, like the MC5 stabbing the beach boys to death on the devil's turnpike. Lo-fi sweet guitar jangle pop with a blues tinge, for fans of King Khan, Black Lips and Strange Boys...

FTC Discovery Nov # 4: White Fence

White Fence

White Fence is the side project for Darker My Love man Tim Presley, and if his involvement on DML's excellent album wasn't enough for one year, and an involvement in the also excellent Strange Boys Be Brave album, White Fence released his lo-fi pop self titled debut earlier this year.

The album harks back to the proto-innocence of artists like the byrds or the hollies, taking a road trip with a performance artist tribute to Syd Barrett. It's a sonically structured affair, often sounding like it's going to cave in on itself but using this potential destruction as a abrupt hook or audio reboot.
It's very much of now, a generation of musicians who wished they were lost in the misrepresented sixties summers seeking to find some of the open minded solace in our industrial time. A hell of a debut from a industrious and always excellent (thus far) mind

FTC Discovery Nov # 3 DJ Nate

DJ Nate

DJ Nate is from Chicago, Illnois and creates tracks in time to Jukin' which claims to have it's roots in african dancing, but is in musical genre not too far from Chicago House or Ghettotech. Rhythmic and hypnotising DJ Nate meshs the sub genres of house and rhythm and blues with a complexity that will awe you into a swagger not your own.

For Fans of... Solar Bears, Terror Danjah, Oriol

FTC Discovery Nov # 2: Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr Fox

Gutted that Guardian Band of the day just pipped me to the post on this one, also record of the week in DJ Mag cos like James Blake (who championed this guy) Fantastic Mr Fox is a cross genre maniac... Dubstep? Rn'b? Soul? anyone's guess? The Evelyn EP takes handclaps, synth, dense layers of competing vocals and beats which enhances the once simplistic nature of the dubstep template to a classical/digital style orchestra. It must be labourious for Mr Fox, who claimed in the aforementioned article that tracks often require hours of work on single sounds and often hundreds of tracks exist within one. Dubstep's not dead, its merely growing a new body.

For more information check the Guardian article or

FTC Discovery Nov #1- James Blake

James Blake

James Blake has been around for a while but also no time at all, still in his very early twenties, Blake has already conquered several genres in his previously released EPS, overcoming jazz structure and thick soul with a post- dub step edge, that hawks to the popular genre but also to a more fluid underground garage sound, but Blake's concepts don't need to be defined by genre rules and he's all the better for it. If you like your music mangled and often predictable, you'll appreciate Blake's classical training and ear for the extraordinary.

The Duke Spirit- Kusama EP

The Duke Spirit- Kusama EP 

The Duke Spirit were the first band I ever interviewed in April 2005, just as they were about to take the stage with Brighton's own British Sea Power and I'd heard one song and managed to get through the interview, despite having a pint of coke (accidentally) poured all over me, but since then I've been in love, I've seen them a million times and promoted them a couple... The Kusama EP, leads with single proper Everybody's under your spell (and I'd assume a track from the fortcoming third album) The Duke Spirit formula is kinda simple, soaring feedback enhanced guitars almost battling each other, pounding rhythm section and Liela Moss' soulful howl, if it ain't broke dont fix it... The Duke Spirit merely tweak it, adding in an extra couple of hooks here and there, complicating the percussion, hitting you harder, faster or with more heated emotion, the lead track goes ticks all their boxes, each verse/chorus pounds through with even more alomb, learning from the difficulties of the buzz on cuts across the land, but survived from the desert hiatus of the neptune. Additional tracks "Victory" and "Northbound" also fratinize along the same way, the former a off-kilter sixties group produced by Josh Homme, the latter is more soulful and soothing. As usual, The Duke Spirit build you up into a frenzy, only to save your heart afterwards. 9/10

Girls- Broken Dreams Club

So it's all slowing down in the world of new music, people compiling lists for the end of year polls and looking at bands to put on the all important who's going to be hot shit next year, so let's look a few returns to the world of music...

Girls- Broken Dreams Club 

Girls return with their (is it an EP, is it a 2nd album) Broken Dreams Club which in two words can be described as truly magnificent, the glass eyed wonders return with something that truly opens up their sound to a unbelievable new possi. Opening track "Thee Oh So Protective One" soars with it's brass backing and although cliched this EP takes them from the confided and afraid teenagers of their debut to a lot more self satisfied and less self hating future... as one of the lyrics lullabys "I'm not so young anymore..."  While that may be true, Girls always seemmed like a band with more life experience than their youthful years suggested especially amongst their stories (or lack of) involvement in religious cults. Broken Dreams Club suggests so much more in its seven track thirty minute experience that suggests Girls sound has plenty of maturing and analyzing of itself beyond the fuzz pop confines of it's debut, a "snapshot of the horizon" you say? Can't wait until we get there! It's going be one exciting journey!  10/10

Monday, 25 October 2010

Small Black- New Chain (jagjaguwar)

Small Black- New Chain (jagjaguwar) 

Azure Ray- Drawing Down The Moon (Saddle Creek)

Azure Ray- Drawing Down The Moon (Saddle Creek) 

Azure Ray is a weird concept in 2010, a duo that had a real importance in 2003-2004, just as the saddle creek was crossing over into mainstream crediblity, the likes of Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley and Cursive enhanced the Omaha, NE scene as the hottest place in the world to make music. Azure Ray could have been the right hand woman to Conor Oberst/Mike Mogis' possessive baby, but instead they split to focus on their respective solo projects/other bands, and Azure Ray was left to be featured on countless TV Shows and live on many peoples love but never seen live lists. Maria Taylor was arguably the more successful of the two, with three solo albums which saw her featured and quite highly on Grey's Anatomy (which has in the states launched several high profile acts) and tour the world with varying degrees of popularity with each album being more pop than the previous one. Orenda Fink's solo projects were more daring and varied, the question is do Azure Ray have a place in 2010, as many people have done what they did in varying degrees since their initial break through, (compare in part to this week's album of the week Warpaint for an example of a band which feature on Azure Ray's historical importance), Drawing Down The Moon succeeds because it's very knowing and even responds to their limitations within the confines of the song as they sing on Silver Sorrow "what we do, we do the best that we can..."  and they acknowledge their TV exposure with a wink and a smile.

Drawing Down The Moon is an incredibly split album, rising to each woman's obvious strengths, Maria is left with some of the more upbeat but conversely bitter pop songs ("Don't Leave My Mind", sounds like a lot of the songs from Taylor's three solo albums) while Orenda's are more dreamlike and experimentally arranged, with broken beat percussion and haunting harmonies ("In The Fog's" soaring duet over the static feedback beat.) Azure Ray do what they do very well, no-one can create haunting female popsongs as well as they can and the Taylor/Fink combination has not been bettered over the previous eight years, ("Larraine" is the perfect example of the abilities of building a sinister ballad). But sadly, it also feels a little too late for Azure Ray to really get the appreciation that many who came after them got instead, but "Drawing Down The Moon" is an album created with love and tears and hurt feelings, and thus it has the ablitity to make you laugh and cry quite like any album you've heard this year, if you don't feel tingles on "On and On again" as Taylor sores above the wild synth or your foot doesn't tap during the warm country patter of "Make Your Heart" or the heartbreaking opening verse on "Signs in the Leaves" "I'm a little worried that I killed something inside of me when I let you go/Days were dark with you in my mind, I thought it best to be free, but now the birds don't sing and the trees dont speak and I dont see signs in the leaves anymore.

Azure Ray are still vital because there is still no other artist who can convey light and dark quite like they have been able to and like The Concrete's return, they have come back with something new to say and yet to continue to improve on what already made them an interesting concept in their origin. Azure Ray's attempts are simply more valiant, darting from thirtysomething pop to country to trip hop with the haunting build that even the excellent Tamaryn and the overrated Zola Jesus have still yet to achieve. Suprisingly still vital listening then, Maria and Orenda please stay around this time! 9/10

The Concretes- WYWH (Something in Construction)

The Concretes- WYWH (Something In Construction) 

Welcome to 2010! Things are scary here! The World is in the midst of a global recession, which may or may not get worse due to banks being even more greedy (despite being bailed out by public money), but isn't like to get better thanks to an unelected governments cuts on all public sector and arts and pretty much everything. There are lunatics in America, calling for a new right wing fundamentalism, complaining that Obama isn't doing enough, those claiming that they are embarrassed that they are black and he is black too. In fact 2010 has been a pretty good year to be bitter, angry and heartbroken, and suprisingly WYWH is also a perfect record to be bitter, angry and heartbroken to.

None of those words would essentially be paired with the Stockholm pop band Concretes, a band best known for their two incredible poppy singles from their debut album. The Concretes songs were poppy and sparky and twee and even at their more bleak moments there was still a wistful innocence, a second chance, a new tomorrow, whether in the lyrics or in the click click of the accompaniment, on "New Friend" (2002) despite it's regret of a ended friendship, the protagonist is still open for the other person to call them, and despite the departure of lead singer Victoria Bergsman, their third album was still undetered, former drummer and now frontwoman Lisa Milsburg walked away like Renee and the lush orchestration remained in tact, in fact if anything Hey Trouble (2007) signalled a brighter day tomorrow as "Simple Song" (2007) disappeared with a plodding electronic beat and a upbeat brass and guitar line... The Concretes did their pop very well, a mixture of interesting percussion, sixties influenced guitar harmonies and a great and often suprising mix of orchestration....

The Concretes WYWH is akin to seeing a once eternally optimistic friend after several years, beaten up and bruised after the one they thought was the one has kicked them face and shat out their heart. WYWH doesn't give up the pop ear that the previous records have but the words are heavier and from wearier hearts. Opening Track and first single "Good Evening" is all sparse with a single disco like beat and a downtempo guitar line (one of the most noticable guitar lines on the album, as it is mostly absent), the lyrical themes on the album are mostly regretful stories about a relationship gone sour, begging partners asking for second chances and a heavily bitter conclusion of what is essentially no. "My Ways" tells of a soured relationship as one half of the relationship abruptly says on a date that they've lost what they had, the chorus is the heartbreaking "if you take me back I will change... I can promise more than I try, I'll try and try..." with a real sense of apologetic emptiness.

Lyrically, the album has a couple of very close moments which are brutally honest with a real sense of ill ease and hatred towards the other person, almost too difficult for the listener to hear. WYWH also deals with post-break up songs and stories of going out a lot to escape these feelings. "I wish we never met, I wish you'd never got them thoughts into your head, now you needed me for a while you wouldn't let it lie, I wish we never met, I wish I wasn't so easily impressed, I wish I didn't feel the need for you to see me," are an example of some of the saddest, while "What We've Become" spouts domestic memories before crooning the soul disco esque "I just wouldn't believe it, I just couldn't see it..."  The album also cleverly progresses, as the title track seems to hint at some togetherness/self recovery as she bids with a knowing goodbye "Wish you Were here

Muscially, The Concretes have really paired back from their huge sounding distorted tracks, most contain a consistant (disco-esque) beat, and a guitar line that is mostly accompanied by some sort of dominant synth. Together they work very well, the spareness and the base selection of the odd orchestration on the album compliments the darkness of the lyrics suitably. The production is crisp and clean and mainstream seeking, many songs are potential dancefloor hitters. The problem is that a minority of the songs fail to differentiate from each other enough to make every song a bonafide success, they just beat along to the a silmilar single drum beat, awaiting the chorus to come along, and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. which is the one great criticism of the album, because in so many ways this is the most daring and bold move the swedish popsters have made since their debut. WYWH is however on the most parts a sad, blunt and sonically soulful record, which shows a band ready to take a step forward and find a new sound and a new direction and most importantly recover from any previous setbacks made by themselves or people they once loved. 7.5/10

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Forthcoming This Week

This Week's New Releases from:

Plus Seven More Discovery reports from CMJ and around the world

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

FTC DISCOVERY ROUND-UPS 2 (Blackberry Edition)

It's done to such a bad effect so often that when you find someone doing it with some degree of accuracy and in the case of Quilty to an excellent degree, it's so refreshing. Quilty is from Brooklyn, New York and captures the real alternative rock of the late 80s, emboding the sort of Kim Deal freshens that she herself hasn't had since Last Splash, to create some fragile epic alt rock pop songs that haven't been heard for decades. This is cool shit guaranteed to make Best Coasty's (and I can say this) and fans of the aforementioned piss themselves with excitement. Solid Hooks, swirling Feedback up to 11, sardonically gentle vocals, they dont make bands like this anymore.

Sleepy Vikings 
My biggest regret is not seeing these guys in person, chilled beach rock and roll with an agressive edge, strong vocals my other regret is listening to their EP this morning and now I can't get their fucking songs out of my head and they have all by all accounts one of the most alluring frontwomen in music right now. Check these guys out, nobody is doing something this dark, poppy and sinister right now.

Ma. Mentor 
Ma Mentor hark back to what was daring about British Music pre-Brit Pop with a bit of swagger and bassy edge, almost like if The Big Pink were actually as good as their singles suggested they could be. 

Red City Radio Heavy Hearted Punk Rock from Oklahoma, with some great authentic fist in the air moments, a welcome change in a world filled with fake punk bands in a world devoid of heart and filled with problems. Loud, Rowdy, Real American punk rock for fans of Hot Water Music et al.

Ill Ease
Female Fronted Indie Pop from New York with a sorta deelite wrestling with Sky Larkin quality, find that hard to imagine...

Body Language 
Another New York Band that sit comfortably on a record collection with Phoenix, Caribou & Dirty Projectors, Upbeat experimental instrumentals and vocals, almost if ice cream men formed Hot Chip.

Me You Us Them 
More Brooklynites Indie Rock with soaring vocals, off-kilter guitar lines which appear to drop out of nowhere, for fans of the sub-pop/barsuk/pinback sound. If you like well crafted American indie rock as much as I do... I'll be writing more about their album post data when I get back

Dominque Young Unique 
Me and My Boy Buyyourself checked this girl out when she played Old Blue Last earlier in the year, let's just say it was one of the most unimpressed UK crowds I've ever seen. Domique embodies Lil Kim's filthy mouth, Yo Majesty's indie crossover appeal and the spitting skills of Nikki Minaj  over some of the smoothest synth lines and beats you've heard this year, she started accidentally at  12 and they claim she is still under 18, but boy this girl has talent and it's only amount of time before everyone is talking about her.  PAAAAAAARTY! 

Kitten the Band are a female fronted band with huge chorus admist fractured intimacy, over in the UK with Twin Shadow at the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen before some of their own dates and their EP is available for free until November 1st. Keeping my eye on these guys

Fences' Resume is pretty special, striking up a friendship with Sara Quin (of Tegan & Sara) leading to her producing his debut album "Fences" a plesantly morose record hidden under the guise of a near straight up pop record coming across as a metaphorical collaboration between the aforementioned and perfume genius. But ultimately woeful tales told the way they should be, through the beauty of a tuneful knowing smile.

The Phantom Band- The Wants (Chemikal Underground)

 The Phantom Band- The Wants (Chemikal Underground)

While The Phantom Band return with an invariable feast of sides of scottish Indie rock, like most of the Scottish scene, "The Wants" heavily registers from many established acts (like a lot of English bands too) but stumble upon throughout their various styles, from straight up post rock to stand out track "Walls'" synth lead some original ground of their own. "Wants" is filled with some excellently performed and perceptive Indie Rock, some harmonies Sitek would be proud of, epic glam stomp to simplistic folk, I'm suprised the band hasn't seen more attention placed upon them, but at the same time there is no stand out track here which makes "Wants" an interesting journey to enjoy in one long listen then capable of a full out assault on the music scene just yet. 6.5/10

Kurt Wagner & Cortney Tidwell- Invariable Heartbreak (City Slang)

Kurt Wagner &Courtney Tidwell present KORT team up for Invariable Heartbreak (City Slang)
which presents some beautiful and touching alt-country moments with Wagner's weathered voice mingling with Tidwell traditional country twoon, but beyond the tide of seeing these two artists work together, there is nothing here that hasn't been said or done somewhere else before and I can't imagine an audience craving this if they were not already fans of either artist or heart broken country,which practically proves this to be an exercise best saved for unreleased ideas that look good on paper than in reality. Graceful and sublime sure but not as good as the Chart Records finest originals, nor Tidwell and Wagner's dayjobs. 4/10

Kisses- The Heart of The Nightlife (This is Music)

Kisses- The Heart of The Nightlife (This is Music)

I've been meaning to review this album since I got it a few months ago, but I could never bring myself to sit down and put words to paper,  now on it's official UK Release is the time.

Kisses debut is filled with familiar throwbacks to disco, it's created with a lot of love for the genre and it simply shimmers, and in comparison to the subtext heavy of my previously reviewed Twin Shadow album, Kisses have created a fun 70s/80s revival and The songs are carefully stripped from what could have been a full on disco/pop anthem and present themselves as an alternative exploration of that commonplace sound, somewhere between a friday night post-work disco for fans of The Smiths meets cheesy bossanovva disco and modern day chill wave nostagia from Washed Out, Small Black or Little Girls.

While Kisses certainly are able to create pop tunes, it doesn't stop it from getting rather old, rather quickly, and it all becomes rather repeative after a handful of songs, with very little hooks and very little to sing and dance to. Given the amount of inspiration and love of the genre, "The Heart of Nightlife" never encourages the dancefloor to neon glow nor gets weird enough to engage it's audience, simply sleepwalks through some pleasant if momentarily forgettable electro pop. 6/10

Twin Shadow- Forget (4AD)


Twin Shadow is probably the most personal album I've heard this year since Perfume Genius' "Learning," but "Forget" isolation is meant to be a shared experience, something warm and to be learned from, instrumentation limited mostly to fractured guitar lines and synths, carefully peaced together in a hotel room production by label mates and producers Grizzly Bear. Like the aforementioned masters, "Forget" pulsates its feelings through a senses of 80's new wave (this could have easily soundtracked Donnie Darko), a melancholy longing that Grizzly Bear have been unable to repeat since their debut. 

Forget"'s opener "Tyrant Destroyed" is as introspective and based around the feeling of teenage isolation with its "I know you spent some time from the town to the city looking for your life to start, I know what you said when you were 15..." opening lines. Each song is filled with a story of teenage confusion and a time of discovery, the production is crisp and each familiar sound adds to drawing out your nostagia but also the regret of your youth and the hidden memories you'd care not to even admit to yourself. "Forget" at times may sound sweet and innocent but dig a little deeper to find the sinister underneath the glossy eighties synths to discover not is all well which cements the quality of Twin Shadow's pop songs. Flirting between secret crushes and forgotten flirtations to suggestions that these stories are not very good at all. Brought upon in "Yellow Balloons" lines "Secret Handshakes, the swimming hole, keep awake, we will not grow old." or the creepy "Tether Beat" and it's message of breakup "Does your heart still beat?"

Twin Shadow in the context of modern music makes a lot of sense, it's not a million miles from the 80s pop revivalists from  Pains of Being Pure at heart, The Drums (at their darkest) or How to dress well on the surface, but "Forget" subject matter from the good to the bad to the ugly draws attention to repeated listening, as every heartbeat signifies something bigger, something more violent, something more tragic with every play, forcing you to recall every fumbling, every heartache and as Twin Shadow points out on the title track "this is all of it this is everyone..." and its also everything we've been trying to forget. 9/10

Marnie Stern- Marnie Stern (Souterrain Transmissions)

Marnie Stern- Marnie Stern (Souterrain Transmissions)

Just before the release of her third album, Stern launched an attack on her west coast counterpart Best Coast, and while I wouldn't usually point out such bitchy gossip, apart from being a big fan of "Crazy for You," it's easy to draw a comparison between Marnie and Bethany. Both records are particularly emotionally driven, Stern's "Transparency is the New Mystery" recalls the line "In order to see it, you've got to believe it, I do..." in relation to a relationship to a difficult boy who she is waiting for, the song a plea to see how good she is in comparison to this other girl, is simply not a million miles from "Girlfriend" or "Crazy for You." Bethany is young and naive, Marnie is older and arguably more experienced.
The difference being is Best Coast is backward thinking, her songs are often in past tense and her music seeks for a nostagic California before many of us were born, in fact it is the gimmick for the whole band.  Stern's arsenal is the complete opposite, Her album ploughs through with Superhuman Zach Hill's distinctive drumming style, Stern's mathcore frenetic guitar lines and an urgency to get to the end as fast as possible. It's a musical exploration which may alienate many of those who were hoping Stern would open up her essentially melody soaked songs to some of kind mainstream listenability, but fuck that, this album is dripping with ideas, heartfelt lyrics (when Stern's voice isn't cleverly used as a part of the awkwardly brilliant and out of nowhere thrusts of noise) and the album contains some essential hits in the making, see "Risky Biz" which could very well soundtrack our current governments plan for cutting the public sector "I tear the desert up, But it's not enough, I got something in my soul, pushing me to hold on to the pain." or the summer pop almost classic rock anthem "Cinco De Mayo" with its soaring vocal harmony.

So enough with the bitchiness between female artists, as Kim Gordon said "What's it like to be a girl in a band, I dont quiet understand, it's so quaint to hear..." and Stern's very own "Female guitar players are the new black" we should stop pointing out sex and  accept that this year has had some amazing records which happen to be written and performed by some exceptable female artists, than continue with the year of the woman tag,exploited last year. All for forward thinking, all for Marnie Stern 8.5/10

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

FTC Discovery Round-Ups

Midnight Spin

Midnight Spin are a great band that bring back what made college rock important a couple of decades ago, part indie rock, part a battle between old/new school emo, really catchy rock songs stuffed with hooks. Energetically driven (although terribly titled) "Through the Mojo Wire" is a must listen for those who enjoy high energy radio-friendly pop rock.


Saadi can steal your soul after one song, with a voice that can make you stop in the middle of a motorway along the same lines of everyone's favourite canadian princess Emily Haines with a street cred MC Edge (no rap here though folks). Her tunes are electic, one a guitar ballad, another encorporating a lively world beat closer to Imogen Heap's Frou Frou project with piled on harmonies part of the puzzle

Sean Walsh & The National Reserve

I'm a big Bruce Springsteen fan this is no suprise or secret to anyone who knows me personally, I own every record/live record/rareties/best of/dvd/video and a couple of t-shirts. As a result I like anything that sounds like Bruce, Gaslight Anthem, Hold Steady, Lucero, on the other hand I hate all cover versions of Bruce Springsteen (even the ones done by aforementioned bands), so as an uber fan (and probably amongst the youngest, I'm 23) I am still very critical of people that call the boss a influence. Sean Walsh calls Bruce an influence and while there are a few musical cues to New Jersey's number one son, the real connection is in the honesty and personal storytelling elements to his songs, which do bring him closer to Jesse Malin more so than the boss.
Sean Walsh & The National Reserve have already played with Dr. Dog and Vampire Weekend and self-released an album "Homesick" and his music is already self assured and warm that beyond his inspirations is a young artist with rich songs worthy of your time and attention


Kidstreet are a sibling threesome from Waterloo, Ontario who make dance pop with a striking female vocal, "Grow Up" is the most striking example of their current canon, recalling mid 90s girl fronted electro pop with naive although strikly frank lyrics "I don't want to grow up, but being young ain't that great I'm sure that you can relate to..." is the peter pan role call of 2010. Although still a way to go to humanize their poppy anthems to a wider audience, keep your eyes out for these three. (Great remix of Caribou's standout track Sun on their myspace too)

The Travelling Band

The Travelling Band are from Manchester, UK so it puts me to shame that I hear about them whilst in New York. Big English pop with group vocals, great orchestration and some anthemic bridges that could easily out heart a lot of current critic and audience darlings.

Street Chant

For Fans of more simplistic scuzzy punk rock, look no further, great rock and roll riffs, some great male/female call and response vocals, fresh from Auckland, New Zealand, and let's face it there are simply not enough bands from New Zealand getting any sort of international exposure. For Fans of The Thermals, Screaming Females and a rocking good time with plenty of sing-a-long indie rock harmonies! I think you'll like this @buyyourself


Telenovelas are from Brooklyn, New York (my current holiday spot) and I couldn't tell you anymore about them (as I missed them to see the above) but their music is shoegazey thrashy surf pop, and their three songs on myspace/bandcamp are what is good and pure about hazey guitar screaming lo-fi lazy creep pop in 2010. Supposedly they are great live too!

Hazard Adams

Hazard Adams is good time rock and roll often drifting into country and americana, based in Boston, MA their solid guitar based pop songs with a raw and unnerving vocal performances and some good feelin' percussion, "Golden Oldies" is the ideal party music for a college dock party with a side of whiskey and a glance at the mainstream.

FTC Discovery 5: Freedom or Death

Freedom or Death

Freedom or Death come from Toronto, ON and make some of the most earnest/thought provoking indie pop this side of the first Band of Horses record, the duo met through major record label and decided to make an artist record rather than something they knew would sell or be perceived wrongly as a hit and thanks heavens for that because their debut EP, which includes simple drum machines, soaring guitars and some direct vocals is a discovery for all fans of good diy/bedroom indie pop. The duo have various experience throughout their personal and musical scene, writing lyrics which have a mass appeal but also as they describe a truth to them with an ambition to simply make music that they enjoy and that appeals to them, thankfully Freedom or Death is a project which I believe many will hold close to the hearts for years to come.

FTC Discovery 4: Bad Books

Bad Books

Bad Books is the side project is Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra's Andy Hull but their debut record is in no way tied down by their musical influence or previous work. Bad Books' self titled debut is filled with fully formed alt-rock songs not a million miles away from their previous work either, but the confident exchange they achieve from each other brings the songs alive. The album is amongst the hyperbole organic and based around pop melodies and more importantly is excellent because it brings together two of the worlds biggest joys; music and best friends.

Darkstar- North (Hyperdub)

Darkstar- North (Hyperdub)

Darkstar were/are underground dubstep masters but like many of the now famous tags ("Dubstep" "Emo" "Drum n Bass") over popularized and thus meaning often the exact opposite, Darkstar had to rejuvinate their sound if anyone going to pay attention. Dubstep is currently a horrible term, popularized to the degree that there are a half a dozen over zealous compliations trying to flog this "hot new thing" to tweenies desperate to be a enjoy tinie tempah with a side of the cool. Further judging by the supergroup team of the completley over hyped and under sauced Magnetic Man, which in a way proved that the sub genre was progressively running out of ideas and basically restepping the sound to the mass mainstream. Darkstar added vocalist James Buttery to their double minded production duo, it's not easy to forget the dubstep tag because obviously much of the album hypothesis comes from the famous style, but at the same time Darkstar have moved away from their roots on "North"

"North" opens with "In The Wings" A Huge Explosion of Sonical bliss paths the way for a piano solo pulled straight from 90s house and a delicate injured vocal harmony, which then in turns fades away into "Gold," a song which contains the same vocal aesthetic (comparison point- As if you robbed the disco joy out of the recent metronomy album) and a beat structure that could be created by Jimmy DNTEL/Postal Service if his broken beats were more inspired by minimal techno then fluid drum and bass. "Deadness" is accompanied by a pulsing haunting guitar line before jumping into the upbeat and better known "Aidy's girl is a computer" which takes the dubstep beat and time travels back to its underground garage form.

Darkstar is forward thinking in a time when the genre needed it to be, it takes risks but is also very willing to stick to the enjoyable and not overdone elements of the genre but can also be considered as beyond genre and simply an enjoyable downbeat dance album, for fans of minimal techno, downbeat electro and the (sic) term of Dubstep. 8/10

FTC Discovery 2: Water Borders

Water Borders

Water Borders hail from San Francisco, CA and conceptually aren't a million miles away from magnificient Glasser, the hotly tipped Kisses (although less fun) or the painedcore collective from the likes of Xiu Xiu, Former Ghosts and Paranthetical Girls, while also creating something mysterious, noisy and intensely distinctive. Recently released in the UK through uber blog 20 Jazz Funk Greats. Their self titled EP demands your attention if your a fan of any of the above, or just a fan of disturbing nightmares and a slave to the sonically destructive.

Warpaint- The Fool

Warpaint- The Fool

Warpaint have taken a while with this their debut album proper, and while some may argue that the heat on the band has died down since the hype made them possibly the most namechecked and anticipated band of the end of 2009/2010, it takes you less than one song to appreciate the time we have all been waiting for this extraordinary album to come along. Without adding anything further "The Fool" is one of the effortlessly brilliant albums of 2010.

The gentle glide of "Set your arms down" opens with little more than a fractured guitar and simple drumbeats, before the graceful howl sets the song in motion, guitars growing in the background. It is painstakingly subtle whilst been lyrically blunt at the same time "They want to find me/They want to fight." While "Warpaint" opens with the pop stride of "How Soon is Now" before bewitchingly all with it's azure ray alike group vocal simplicity, and mathish guitar build, designed for repeated headphone enjoyable.

Nothing about "The Fool" is done without careful planning and plotting but everything glides beautifully as if the album was recorded in one take, its an uncomfortable beautiful listen with each song combining a shoegaze progression with the threat of maleviolent menace at any moment. The Fool references a few expected heroes within the songs, but underplays it so delicately that comparisons seem so incredibly lazy and useless that there is no time to speak of them here or anywhere else. "The Fool" takes a template and smashes it, piecing it back together with a downward soaring guitar, fade out drum machine samples and handclaps hidden under overlapping percussion. At times there is so much going on in the mix that it will take you several listens to fully appreciate the highs and lows it provides.

Because most importantly "The Fool" is an incredibly naked record, few tricks exist in the recording, and takes a lot of pride and it's subtle build in emotion. The vocals glide from near whispered to "you must listen" sensiblity. It's lyrically at times straight talking very difficult and accusing with "Undertow's" "Why you want to blame me for your troubles? You better learn your lesson yourself, nobody has to ever find out what's in my mind tonight." While "Baby" is strictly acoustic and once again reminisent of the work of Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink, pointing to the same lyrical strive and strengths of their work together and solo with the heartbreaking refrain "You live your life like a page from the book of my fantasies. Don't you call anyone else baby"

If there is one complaint, "The Fool" doesn't display much growth from the critically acclaimed Exquisite Corpse EP, but there really isn't any need, Warpaint emerged almost fully ready for this debut, and have now created an album which will be unlikely to leave your head for a hour from the moment your hear it until the day you die. "The Fool" is something beyond this universe and should be the final chapter in our recent obsession with stripped back female fronted chill wave, which its contemporaries Zola Jesus and even the talened Tamaryn could only dream of... 9.5/10

Monday, 18 October 2010

CMJ Discovery # 1 Your Youth

Your Youth

Your Youth are among Brooklyn's finest, reinventing indie pop with some massive power chords and some lo-fi pop punk hooks.
Their Debut EP Aloha (Available from itunes) is effortlessly catchy and lovable, with an infectious energy of their own. Your Youth fit within the cool lazy creep scene and recommended for anyone who is a fan of the surf pop scene the likes of Wavves, Cloud Nothings, Surfer Blood and Best Coast

Monday, 23 August 2010

Women- Public Strain (Jagjaguwar)/Zola Jesus- Stridulum (Souterrain transmissions)

Women- Public Strain (Jagjaguwar)

The once heavily hyped Women are back with their 2ND album, after last January's debut, gone are their beach boys esque harmonies and the summer vibes, this is a comedown record although not devoid of their walls of sound opening with the haunting heavy "Can't You See." While "Heat Distraction" is the closest the album has to a hit, with it's hooky repetitive guitar line leading into a despondent pop song. However Public Strain takes five tracks to find its real stride and then on the instrumental "Bells" Women are taken hostage by white noise and the come out the otherside a lot better for it, as Public Strain is dominated by a guitar possibly stolen from sonic youth circa 1985, for some of the most intoxicating, violent and visceral songs this year often achieving some of the paranoid and edgy dystopia of Wire and the youth with clever incantations and a focus on the power of the guitar. The album closer "Eyesore" does suggest some spring after what it essentially a very dark and difficult second album, but Public Strains and Women are better for it, as harsh and cold as it's artwork suggests, this is one of this years most essential albums, challenging, blunt and aware of it's very obvious influences. 9/10

Zola Jesus- Stridulum ii (souterrain transmissions)

Not a sequel to Stridulum as such, more as a re-release with some extended scenes, Zola Jesus' UK awakening Stridulum II, showcases her haunting talent to anyone who is partial to atmospheric instrumental backing tracks (often looping synth lines, echoy guitars and lurking building beats) to a powerful and haunting voice, from Kate Bush to Tori Amos to the current string of similar (although not the same) artists, Zola Jesus is build on the same principles. No-one can deny her talents, ZJ voice is incredible and has an impressively large range and every song is passionately performed with the same umph as the aforementioned artists but also allowing her to stand out amongst her current musical contemporaries. But if earlier this year Los Campesinos termed the line "more post-coital and less post rock feels like the build up takes forever but you never get me off" seems to define Stridulum ii perfectly, or imagine someone standing over you with a knife to stab you death, lunging down but never stabbing you, and eventually himself getting so tired of not doing it, he wonders off. ZJ is the best of a group of acts that have kinda had their five minutes of fame in this particular style, not interestingly minimal enough but not nearly as complicated or lush sounding as intended and often derivative 6.5/10

Friday, 13 August 2010

Sky Larkin- Kaleide (Wichita)

Sky Larkin- Kaleide (Wichita)

I've already had a long relationship with Sky Larkin without even knowing it, I'd mistakenly got their debut album mixed up with Ida Maria's on HMV Western Road's multi-disc random CD changer when they came out around the same time 18 months ago, often confusing their three minute girl pop with irritating Maria's whiny odes to nakedness and nicotine. While I wasn't over impressed with the Leeds trio's female fronted rocked up pop debut, Sky Larkin's live show (which I've seen by accident and then eventually with intention several times) was more pointed and throughly entertaining, their snarling drummer bringing fear and laughter to me on every occasion and proved that it would be only a matter of time before they produced an album really WORTH repeat listening. Their debut was just too familiar, too samey and as an album there was little to go back to over and over. Sky Larkin were more of a mate that you meet for a drink every six months and chat shit with then the person you call after a long and hard day at work.

If your looking for Sky Larkin to become anything more (and suprisingly I was) Kaleide is the album you've been sweet dreaming about. Dramatically varied and light/dark/light then its predecessor and lyrically increasingly pointed, poppy and precise. The first single and album opener "Still Windmills" dismisses criticisms from it's initial blast "I Know there's potential like still windmills" and works as the albums mission statement slamming through pop hooks which recall the class of nineties female pop of Throwing Muses and The Breeders with a British confidence, "Just like all that's waiting to get made, stacked up and filed in brain cell hallways, you anticipate the day that everything somehow click into place... Why Wait?"
The Album then precedes to answer it's own early question by introducing the listener to a collection of massive sounding pop songs easily bettering even The Golden Spike's most memorable moments. Lyrically the album takes some aspects about personal experience whilst dealing with an overall ambition as a band. "Kaleide" sets up along the lines of classic Pretty Girls Make Graves with the same intense ambition mixing simple chords with the unknown. While "Tiny Heist" deals with taking something small and trying to make it larger and hoping for a positive outcome by "decide whats brave and what isn't wise." While "Anjelica Huston" is simple with it's lyrical refrain "As the train pulled out of the station, the light hit your face like Angelica Huston" but its one of the albums most musically ambitious track (and the bands) thus far. It's beats pulsating with malice, while the synth mourning laments behind frontwoman Katie Harkin's often innocent but weary vocals. Then "Year Dot" proves to be Larkin's most personal with the thought provoking inditement of friendship "Aim your parts at mine as they fall off, let's leave a message for the next year dot, so when life begins again, there'll be one pile of bones so they'll know we were friends." Lastly, "ATM" proves to be a pained anti-love song with its hopeful yet mournful "Things we will always wonder, Things we will try to measure, Things we will never shake, never shed. ever. Things will we will always wonder. There are questions written through bone as if words are sticks of rock, like whether a selfish heart is a truthful muscle or not... I will always wonder If I gave up..."
Kaleide is ambitious, experimental and a personal listen, often reflecting on the personal/band successes, failures and the bigger picture seeking to secure a future, deal with the past and find something to rely on. It's ambitions seek to expand their simple set up and give it a soaring edge and capture their largely exciting live show in a way the debut did not. As with Los Campesinos "Romance is Boring" John Goodmanson's production makes the loud and quiet dynamic still seem as personal as if Katie Harkin was singing directly to try and capture you soul on every take. It relies partially on the simplism of the three piece limitations but also shocks when several tracks build to capture a large anthemic sound. Ultimately with this record Sky Larkin have achieved something near impossible and re-defined their genre, its pop rock, its indie, its shemo, its a plethora of ambitions often only assigned to the US Underground, whatever it is, Kaleide has songs which will haunt you for months, heartful and addictive like a blossoming new romance. 9/10

Thursday, 5 August 2010


I'm really sorry It's been so long, I've moved to London and started flogging Ipod Speakers to weirdos, despite not having an ipod or caring about technology or headphones or phone covers whatsoever, hopefully this feeling of angst will end shortly, but there's nothing more Alanis Morrisette Ironic then moving to London to get a job in music to be working a filler job so close to music yet so far away.

My pours are literally screaming new reviews onto the computer and I will post them very soon!!!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Best Coast- Crazy For You (Wichita)

Best Coast- Crazy For You (Wichita)

Best Coast is Bethany Consentino, a Californian who bases Best Coast on her memories and longings for home whilst attending college in New York City. Bethany has already taken part in several talent contest, created a teen pop band which saw her being chased by music industry interested in making her the next teen pop sensation. Bethany then promptly ran a million miles and joined pocahaunted and now this precocoious young talent reincarnates her spirit in Best Coast, following the wake of the Dum Dum Girls, uses noise-pop as a trampoline to create Crazy For You an album which shimmers with the California Summer's lethal cocktail of drugs, love and longing.

"Crazy for you" is a vision of a time we've all had/dreamed of/imagined, it is at times a album about longing, about boredom, about breaking up, about pain, about self punishment but also about strength. Best Coast has essentially created a simple summer surf pop album which easily addresses so many issues that everyone can in one way or another relate to, proving what a massive appeal Bethany's songs have to a mainstream audience. The relationship(s) that BC explores throughout the record with herself and other people teeter between love and hate depending on the move, essentially making this either a summer love or a breakup album, at times both.
Starting from the strong teenage like longing in "Boyfriend" which is a simple tale of having a crush on someone which feels like so much more but you have to overcome the hurdles (in the case a girl prettier and skinnier) to get what you want. While "The End" maintains a prescribed view of a teenage girls diary stating how vitally important love is singing "Last night, I went out with this guy, he was nice, he was nice and cute, but he was not you."

While the title track and "Goodbye" toy with the destructive side of love, the latter's drug induced paranoia playing out as Bethany sings "Everytime you leave this house, everything falls apart, I dont love you, I dont hate you, I dont know how I feel. Everytime you walk away I feel like I could cry, but I would never really cry because your the worst at goodbyes..."

Crazy for you is the most complicated relationship you've ever had, at times so sweet and loving while other times self-destructive and harmful, never once deciding whether you are better off together ("Happy") or literally a country apart ("Bratty B"), but despite the situation it seems that anything is better than being alone, that love can be hurtful but it's worth it in the end. The songs are dripping in some loved up resentment as Bethany's voice is dripping in reverb fuelled by meaningful promises and introspective insights into herself. While musically the album constantly borrows so many 90s riot grrl-isms (Bethany herself credits Hole and Courtney Love as an influences) but delievered in a harsh sweetness that Jenny Lewis (again a noted inspiriation) would have made on The Intitial Friend EP.

Crazy for you could be easily dismissed as the soundtrack to a girls first relationship and subsquent heartbreak, when it turns out her soulmate is merely a bag of shit interested in a lot more than what is a sweet yet fucked up relationship. But this album is so much more, it's joyfully naive, older than it's year bitter and contains something that will appeal to anyone who has ever experienced a heavy resentful heartbreak and has as in the lyrics to middle track "I Want To," "Go Back to the first time, the first place." One of the most brutal, sweet and sour records of our generation. 10/10

Friday, 9 July 2010

O Children- S/T (Deadly People)

O Children- S/T (Deadly People)
Attention was turned to O Children on the back of their early live shows in some part down to the music industries inherit obsession with all things Ian Curtis/Joy Divison and off the back of the success of The Horrors "Primary Colours." O Children simply do their inspirations with enough precision to make their debut a moderate entertaining album but simply treads the boards Editors, Horrors, Interpol et al have exploited previously. However O Children thrive because their debut is done with more pizazz, gut and a love of the production style then silmilar current day wannabes (no names) but quite frankly O Children fall a little flat due to repetition and flat unimaginative song writing 4/10

Eliza Doolittle- S/T (Parlophone)

Eliza Doolittle- S/T (Parlophone)
Oh for fucks sake! Is she the Frankenstein of a major label laboratory incorporating all of the essential traits of a 00s-10s pop star, presented as responsibly cooky (because kids love cooky) and because Lily Allen was far too uncontrollable, Amy Macdonald was too scottish and Paloma Faith was just a bit too far up her own arse. Doolittle is Parlophones creation as much as Zach Efron was Disneys, only Efron was at least vaguely talented.
Doolittle's self titled debut (an early sign of a lack of creativity) is piss poor PG Cert Allen, complete with the Quirky (Vomit!) Cover and the same "CRAAAZY" Font but with none of the spunk or the sass or the sex, I reckon you'd really only be able to get to first base with Doolittle given the boring characters in her songs.
"Moneybox" sounds like the themetune to some ninties CITV kids show but obviously written by a fourty year old record executive trying to appeal to the kids (of course Doolittle "co-writes" everything) but what under 18 year old would "lounge on our coach and listen to our 45s" Uhhhh what the fuck is a 45 anyway? most teenagers would proababy reply, do teenagers own 45s, I didnt, and I was 12, 11 years ago, do teenagers even buy CDs these days, It's all i-tunes and illegal downloads right?
Note to Doolittle's writers maybe it should be "sit on the sofa, and download some tunes from itunes and listen to them bruv"
"Rollerblades" is an ill-advised early ballad with its "quirky" un chorus "I was on my rollerblades, Rolling on, moving on" Gah! what a metaphor for a breakup! Kate Nash come back! all is forgiven!
Throughout the album all the familiar things are in place
and ome of the lightest/naffet pre-teen trying to be like their older sister lyrics "I don't want to be all the above, dont fit in with me, not me" by writers who probably only associate with teenagers with statistics or an "accidental" shag "Sorry didn't realize she was only 15 officer" after a indie club night.
If anyone referred to Kate Nash as the diet coke version of Lily allen, THEN WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS? Dolittle isn't completely devoid of talent, she can hit the notes easily but her quirks are as a fake as a Big Brother contestant and her performances are about as engaging as Cameron Diaz. Doolittle has no connection to her songs, they are merely trotted out as if trained by some stage school troll (oh wait she's the daughter of a stage school troll!) While not particularly offensive (no time for actual feeling), this is so inoffensive it's sickning especially since the current music scene has enough quirky and geninuely so female vocalists that anyone who wouldn't disregard Doolittle and her debut after hearing half a second on the radio should be shot instantly. 0/10

Chris Shiftlett & The Dead Peasants- S/T (RCA)

Chris Shiftlett & The Dead Peasants- S/T (RCA)

Besides from being the lead guitarist in the Foo Fighters, Chris Shiflett has a rich history of bands including No Use For A Name, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes and Jackson United.

So his debut solo album comes as a disappointment, while as the Dead Peasants is a pleasant experience, country tinged rock with some touching lyrics "We love a grief we can rally behind" creating a perfect soundtrack a triumphant, romantic or tragic moment in M.O.R. US Drama Series

All the emotions are set up nicely and its performed with significant gutso but nothing about the album really rings true and while certain exchanges seem geninue, its never particularly eye wateringly heartfelt, despite it's best intentions to be more than a rocked up record for fans who wished the foo fighters were more suitable for country stations and given the hooked up bridges and the hand in the air attempt you'd expect it to deliver that in spades. Not that this album does not have appeal, pass the FF association, DP has songs to entertain middle america and fans of the genre, but it certainly misses several opportunities to be much much more and at only nine tracks long it's almost like Shiftlett is referring to his bandmates other work and saying "well if they're all doing it, i am too." 4/10

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Grasscut- 1 inch/ 1/2 mile (Ninja Tune)

Grasscut- 1 inch/ 1/2 mile (Ninja Tune)

Instantly the best thing about Grasscut's long awaited debut album is how English it sounds, "1 inch/ 1/2 mile" could not be made by a band of any nationality with it's obscure eccentricity which by and far defines it as a clever debut never ducking out when it could be pigeonholed as difficult.

This debut is interesting mainly because it is a difficult listen but at times still essentially pop, opening track "High Down's" synth line exploding in various formats throughout the song, make it one of the albums stand out tracks, but the synths effectively make up the chorus, with lyrical verses building up to the classical and electronically minded extended middle sections. Grasscut combine vocal samples and out there noises and adjust them into perfectly constructed songs. While their live performance may be cold, the songs stick to the ear to make Grasscut's debut a haunting pressure which is at time both appealing and frightening, the latter particulary down to the variety of noises which appear at random in between and in the middle of songs with no warning. Also the cleverness is not just rooted in technology (of course grasscut clearly love the various gadgets included on the album) but within its connections to its traditional sound and the feeling of a very unique countryside essence, many tracks create a feeling of late night back road drives with the lights off, teetering beauty and certain tragedy.

An incredible and playful debut which proves that it is very possible to defeat contradictions by combining technology with traditional, electronic with humanity and the gritty with the smooth, perfect to absorb the multi textures with headphones to fade into a beautiful and unknown world. 8.5/10

The Coral- Butterfly House (Deltasonic)

The Coral- Butterfly House (Deltasonic)

Its been a while since a new album from the Wirrals favourite sons of the last decade, who released four albums and a mini album (which was in itself the length of an album) over five years, while Butterfly house has taken significantly longer and has been described by the band as the hardest record to make since their debut. "Butterfly House" is never going to convincce any doubters that The Coral are an extraordinary band, but anyone for a previous appreciation for the band or in for jangly British indie pop in general will find something to like on the new album. Disappointingly as jangly as it is, there is nothing here you haven't heard from them or any other band before and there is actually no truly stand out single like on the past four albums.

However that's not to say the album is without merit or without songs, their inspirations have grown and The Coral embrace the rich tapestry of their home city and country, at moments utilizing Beatles harmonies and Clinic's experimental moments to create a experimental (if slightly more downbeat than previous albums) warm and textured album. They flirt with complex vocal parts, soaring guitar solos and create an atmosphere that would still make Ray Davies proud, utlizing different instruments and textures to bring the whole album together. There's elements of a wider sound that embraces 60s/70s poppy psychedelia, middle of the road love songs, Crosby, Stills & Nash with a coolness that will see them as one of the chillout albums of the summer. As always with the Coral there is an ill at ease confidence which sometimes slips into a sense of nonchalance which often can be mistaken for a lack of effort. "Butterfly House" is not without its charm and effort though and as an a group of songs, it's pretty ambious and ebs and flows perfectly, but simply does not have a sing-a-long standout which made the band effortlessly infectious and a stand out in the scene of nostaglia that emerged around the debut and it's quick followup. It also mistakenly sometimes drops into some bad british indie cliches at times particularly on the schmaltzy and too twee "Falling all around you" but gradually the album picks up pace and John Lackie's production and experience serves the band well. "Butterfly House" as previously stated will not convince doubters that The Coral are anymore than they are/were but its a pleasing listen which should fairly re-establish them as a British treasure able to write good pop melodies and embrace British Music History with a sometimes fresh ear. 7/10

Bombay Bicycle Club- Flaws (Universal)

Bombay Bicycle Club- Flaws

It is no secret that I fell massively in love with debut album "I had the blues but I shook them loose..." which was released barely a year ago, a debut which managed to be significantly mature while still maintaining the naivety and love lorn innocence of being 16-18 years old. Most of the album truly nailed on the head some of the confusion of early adulthood and the resentment and struggles that it brings. Importantly it sounded like four young men finding their musical feet with significant ease but Jack's lyrics often described that finding the road of life was far harder especially in social and romantic situations.

From "Evening/Morning"'s near desperate heart entering plea of "I am ready to owe you anything..." to "Dust on The Ground" (also featured on flaws) belief in ancient love that you will never lose even after the person leaves you feeling heartbroken. "Ghost" relating to the endless time you have versus the productivity you actually put into anything with the social awkwardness of " You should be around they should just say whenAnd you should make time, you should make time for them." While my favourite was "Magnet" which captured quite perfectly lyrically and musically that teenage feeling with it's soaring melancholy feeling and its magnificent post house party chorus "I'm sorry I left so soon, IDidn't want to break anybody's mood 'Cos last night you woke me up We almost fell in love But then you said It is time for bed" engaging so readily teenage lust and not acted upon teenage romantic feelings.

Let's just put some massive cliches out there... Flaws was always going to be a difficult listen for me for several reasons, I had such strong personal feelings for the debut that anything less was going to be a disappointment, I actually feared putting the album in the CD player, and the fact that it was so clearly an acoustic album released so soon after their debut also made me feel a little confused. Especially since sonically the debut worked so well that something would be massively absent from being unplugged.

It's also a cliche to say something along the lines of "Flaws" prepares you in it's title to be a letdown or alternatively concurs the zeitgeist by accepting people will have fears about it. It is also a growing record as many of the tracks for the debut were written years before it's release.

Have Bombay Bicycle Club grown up significantly on "Flaws", the answer is yes and no, they've grown older some of what made them naive has obviously left them but the songs are still lovelorn and of a time and place and more importantly those same emotions as the debut.

The Opening track "Rinse Me Down" opens with the line "Chasing the night to make it right, oh when you had it, caught like a rabbit" instantly engages in overcoming the fears of teenage relationships only to realize you had it right before.

Including "Dust on The Ground" at first seems pointless but when you see how it works acoustically, the influences stressed in different ways add to how much these narratives of youth are growing from excitement to near resentment in itself. On "Flaws" the emphasis is how the "ancient love" can be outgrown and you can move on, as much as you may never want to, it plays like a melancholy wistful campfire song of another day.

"Many Ways" sings "I've always been a coward, been a coward to this day, there are many ways this way..." almost a direct reply to "Magnet," the songs all show significant growth from their hopeful beginning, and musically Bombay Bicycle Club are far more accomplished then their years may display. Any fears that this band suffer sonically from being stripped down are dispelled instantly and any comparisons to band like Storonoway or Mumford & Sons are easy and childish. "Flaws" reinforces BBC as a lyrics band, stories of young life told from an urgent, fragile and hopeful point of view, written by young people for young people about young experiences. So if Blues was about sixth form downs and (often near) ups, then Flaws is about what comes next, undecision about the future, regrets, forgetting and more hopes. It's maybe not as accomplished and an instant listen as the debut, but it's grasp on emotion, particularly about social and gender interactions prove that lyrically and musically this band are ever changing, adaptable and open to interpretation and gradually over time this band will make one of the most impressive albums of the decade. 8/10

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

My New Discoveries 8- Radical Face

Radical Face

Radical Face is Electric President's (Another amazing band) Ben Cooper and his first album the excellent "Ghost" is a dark little selection of ditties based around the concept that if houses had memories what would they recall. It's a nice little concept and the various songs are linked together by it, but exist in their own private narratives of seperate events occuring in these memories. The songs are mostly shimmeringly sunsetesque upbeat with soothing harmonies, playground whistling and driving percussion but with a real sense of melancholy underneath through Cooper's intimate vocal delievery, layered instruments and subtle pop songs.

My New Discoveries 7- Miniature Tigers

Miniature Tigers

Two Things- Thanks for Bicycle Voice Last Fm profile for this one, when anyone has listened to a band 2,460 times, it's always worth a listen (unless it's the crazy paramore fan on who claims over a million plays!) and secondly, I realized that I've never really had to spell miniature before and therefore don't really know how to...

Anyway Miniature Tigers are a four piece from Arizona and have had already had loads of attention from Spin, MTV2 and have toured with the likes of Ben Folds, Morning Benders and Spinto Band and are suiting to the summer mixtape I'm unintentionally compiling. Their new album Fortress is due out later this month on Modern Art and their infectious melodies and pitch perfect harmonies are enough to slay any cold hearts in the summer of 2010. Their lyrics are clever wordplays often linking together deeply personal and popular culture which makes this band something to keep your ears wide open for.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Why I Loved... KaitO

Throughout your life you are destined to fall in love with a variety of different women (or men), some are blonde, brunette and red heads, most of the time it's not really love, sometimes its lust, other times its like my brother said "funny w(h)ere things wanna go,"

Music is the same, throughtout our lives for one reason or another we fall in love with bands, my first love was Smashing Pumpkins, who channelled for me all the teenage angst when no other bands could. But my real teenage music affair where bands in Norwich, most importantly Bearsuit (who I will talk in another one of the Why I Loved...) and KaitO. For me at one point these bands were all far more cooler than the biggest rock stars in the world and far more important and scary, they obviously weren't in actual fact scary but I was massively in love with the Norwich Scene when I first heard these bands via radio/early blogs from the age of 14.

KaitO got me into so many bands that I love from personal recommendations to the bands I saw them play with, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Liars, Radio 4, Le Tigre. I got a copy of their debut album through SpinART "You've seen us... You must have seen us..." (and I certainly did see them, by my count at least thirty times). While I'd been too young for brit pop, kraut rock and not cool enough for techno parties, noise bands and guitar pedals, KaitO were the perfect starting ground for how much my music taste would be shaped through those formative years of record buying, poppy enough to be danceable, noisy enough to be daring, cool as fuck and from Norwich! I would still now pay a small fortune to have a copy of the never released third album which I travelled miles to see them play songs from even after I moved to Brighton for University in 2005.
The band in my opinion never receieved the critical acclaim/popular fanbase to which they obviously deserved and I still hope that in 20 plus years time another band (in a way that Franz Ferdinard lead to a re-release of the Fire Engines) will credit KaitO as a huge influence in their sound, they certainly are/were a huge influence in my adopted sound. The band split in 2006 and went onto different projects (one of which Factory Floor have received a fair amount of press recently and fulfiled my teenage dream of a bigger audience when they were referenced in the NME Recently). Unike a lot of bands and girls I've loved in my lifetime, KaitO never stopped being my band and I'm still immensely proud that I had a (very little) part of it. Essentially KaitO were way before their time and have already been recreated and ripped off by a hundred bands as diverse as Bloc Party, Klaxons through to Sleigh Bells and the new generation of girl lead pop noise bands.
Check Out Their Debut album You've Seen Us You Must Have Seen Us or it's follow up Band Red released on Mute (2004)
Below is a interview I did as a 16 year old for the fanzine I was writing for at the time...

KaitO have been around for a long time as Nikki will say later in our interview but is it hasn’t been until recently that KaitO have started to get the attention over here they deserve. For KaitO endless touring of the US has seen them because a famed band in the US Underground receiving similar plaudits as US underground darlings Pretty Girls Make Graves. But Over Here the Release of their 2nd Album “Band Red” was delayed in this country by nearly a year, meaning that fans had to import the album from the states just to hear it. Eventually after years of struggling, touring the US and sleeping on people’s floors, KaitO finally got a record label deal here on Blast First/Mute, a major independent with ties to the infamous Rough trade. The Album received critical applause that resulted in there being an actual buzz about the band for the first time. We spoke to the band, Nikki Colk (Vocals/Guitar) Gemma Cullingford (Bass/Vocals) Dave Lake (Guitars/Vocals) and Dee Quantrill (Drums/Vocals) about the band without asking about where the name KaitO comes from, so if you want to know the answer, ask them yourselves.

But in order for those of you who have never heard of KaitO here is some background knowledge, but you really should know the story now.
“We kinda formed in 1997, and the other two (Dee and Gemma) came in 1998/99 or 1997, did you?” Turns to Gemma who nods, “That’s when it really started to get our arse moving into gear.
“I Knew Dave from our home town and we just got together cause you know in the country you need something to do, and we just met these two from the “Norwich Band Scene,” not any great historical story like meeting on the tube.
“We had been through a couple of bass players and drummers, we just gelled together.”
Where there any changes to the band when Gemma and Dee Joined?
“It Just Felt Right” Nikki Replies
“I’ll cover my ears, just be honest.” Gemma Jokes which makes everyone titter.
“When you do work with musicians some bass players…”
“Want to be guitarists” ends Gemma
“Gemma played Guitar, but then she took up Bass and she kept it all together because me and Dave go off on a tangent with experimenting on our guitars. So she put a discipline on it. Dee, his percussion isn’t straight forward it’s just played with the sounds.”
“It’s in time with the music, it’s just chaotic.” Gemma Muses
“I Think that’s a compliment” Dee Jokes
After The Magnificent albums the band have created so far and given the current support that KaitO are achieving in the underground music circuit at the moment. I for one really want to hear some new songs from the band, so we asked if a 3rd album was on the way.
“We’re working at the moment, we’ve got about five songs.”
“There’s a couple tonight that we’ve never played before.” Dave Says
“They might be a bit messy so bare with us.” Gemma Laughs
“We’re going to record for a couple of days in July. We’re looking to emulate our live sound because we’ve got more confident live and got more confident with songs, and everyone says we’re better live then on record. Recording on a small budget is a learning process and we’re really happy with it, but now were on a label, it’s given us the chance to experiment in different studios and producers if we need a producer.”
“We Met Jon Spencer briefly in New York” Dee Explains when we ask if they have any producers in mind, “nothing definite but he mentioned that he would be interested in working with us.”
“We’d probably go to his studio just do an EP in August and go to Andy Gill from Gang of Four’s Studio. We’re going to take Charlie our sound guy to come into the studio with us this time; we just want to find the right people, not necessarily big names. We’re quite controlling over what we want we sound like, so we want people to work with us, rather than people telling us what they want.”
“Lyrics are usually the last thing I will do, the songs you hear tonight don’t have any lyrics, so I just make up the words. Lyrics are usually written like 2 seconds before we had to record, because of the pressure thing, and I know I have to do it. The Actual Melody and Vocal Line is always there, there’s just no formula to how we make songs.”
“They Grow a lot, I record most of the songs when we practice them and they change a lot. The idea is there, but then Dave will add a noise and then it will change because of that.”
“Like With Band Red, I can’t remember how those songs we’re recorded or written.”
“We all feed off each other so much that it’s hard to say how songs we’re made.”
Band Red sounds more like KaitO live then the debut, so noting back to Nikki’s previous comments about trying to emulate the live sound, they have already partially achieved that with their 2nd record.
“We did have more time in the studio for You’ve Seen us… so Band Red is more basic, with our instruments.”
“I haven’t listened to that record (The Debut) For Two Years, I keep meaning to put it on but I don’t want my flat mates to know that I’m playing KaitO.” Gemma Laughs “I think it would be a real treat to hear it.”
“We don’t really know what the new album is going to sound like ourselves.” Dave Replies when we ask what can we expect from the new album.
“More Structured Songs” Replies Nikki “Some of them haven’t got any distinctive choruses but they are still poppy, becoming more clever because we have more time to think things through instead of just banging it out. But we haven’t got any ballads, no nervous breakdowns… yet.”
The Real Meaning of Life in KaitO’s songs are hidden in the yelps is a theory that Lack of Communication are pleased to put forward, as the yelps seem to be a minor criticism that the band sometimes receive.
“Yeah, you yelp when you see a spider.” Nikki Says “I Think Moi on Band Red Really is emotional, there are really emotional songs and other angry angst songs that make you think.”
There are lyrics if you look for them in KaitO which you would never expect to be there just like when we spoke to Ikara Colt Last Month, and found a hidden surprise in the lyrics.
“But its funny in Europe on Try Me Out when they sing along to “He’s The Cool…” bit and one person thought we were singing, “He’s the cool, He’s the Cool, he’s the police.” I was like What?”
“There was this time when I made Band Red T-shirts and we were selling them somewhere like France. When it got printed out it actually said Band Er because my design wasn’t clever enough.” Nikki Explains “But Anyway apparently it means erection in French so we were selling all these badges and T-shirts and this little kid comes up and goes oooh.”
From Left To Right: Dave Lake (Guitars) Dee Quantrill (Drums) Nikki Colk (Lead Vocals/Guitar) and Gemma Cullingford (Bass)
KaitO have played with some of the most successful bands in the world at the moment, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, The Walkmen, Clinic, British Sea Power the list goes on and on. So we asked if the band had any particular Favourite people to tour with or places to play.
“Liars” Gemma and Nikki say collectively
“There has been so many it’s hard to say just one, venues in America are hard to say, places in the mid-west which you always dread. But they are so entertaining because the people are so different. They are also more fun gigs but hard.”
“Oh… Yeah” Nikki Laughs “Norwich of course, Norwich is scary to play.”
“Playing in front of your friends.”
“You go home and talk to your friends about what you are doing and they expect something of you, and your up there and you think oh what they gonna think. So it’s quite scary.”
“A Good Thing about all the tours we’ve been on, is the bands we play with want us to play with them, its not going through booking agents. They’ve come and approached us. They are so diversified as well.”
What’s it like being on these vast tours with people.
“It’s a bit weird because you know your going to spend weeks and weeks with these people but as long as the people are really great which they have been so far. Like With British Sea Power none of us really knew their music too much and after a while we just really liked it.”
“All the bands have been about the music in their own way, no posey bands, real genuine people, so we’ve at least got that in common even if the music is different. It’s always worked out.” Dee Says
“I was listening to that CD the other night.” Gemma Says “and it brought back some memories” They Laugh
Nikki offers up an explanation for why the band get on so many diversified tours;
“You can’t put us in a genre, we’ve got different influences and we never stick to one type, we haven’t got a plan. We just play from an honest thing.”
“I think people have categorized us in the New York Thing, my concern is that people are going to think we sound like that sort of thing.” Gemma Says
However in KaitO’s music there is a real Britishness, although you probably could align it with whatever you want, as however diversified as the tours the band have done they seem to fit with everyone.
“I’m glad you say that” Dee Replies, “That’s one of the things I liked about British Sea Power, such a Britishness to them, it’s great to see.”
“Le Tigre was a scary tour at first because of Kathleen Hanna (Legendary Riot Girl and Queen of DIY.) But it was cool because we were soundchecking and she was dancing on her own to us. But the biggest thing for me was meeting Jon Spencer because he is such a hero of mine.”

The Next Time you will be able to see KaitO is as a part of a package show with The Gin Palace and Selfish Cunt. The Vortex of Now Tour, free shows for fans and potential fans to have a good time for nothing.
“It’s about bringing bands together and letting people go to a free show again. Seeing what’s going on.” Nikki Explains “There are so many underground things in London, we figure that putting it together is the best way to go. There’s the NME and stuff who kinda dismiss it a little bit, so we figured we will try our own thing, because we’re doing it for the music’s sake rather then getting hoards of fans, we just wanna play our music.”
“There all English bands as well, because the sort of scene we’re on, people say what English bands are there about?” Gemma Explains about the reasoning behind the tour, “There doesn’t seem to be many in England, there all from New York or America. So we want to show that there are bands here as well.”

The band prior to this show has just played a festival in Bologna with Morrissey and Muse, when we asked how it was, Nikki replies;
“It was raining and muddy and it was voting day and it was the start of the football so we didn’t play to that many people but then neither did like Morrissey or Muse.”
“We met this band called TV on the Radio and they were cool. I Felt a bit small.”
“I Felt like a bit like an outcast, like you do at school” Gemma Says
“We had a dressing room at the start of the day and half an hour after we played they told us to get out cause Jet need to use your dressing rooms.”
The Band will play at Truck Festival July 24- 25 and you can find out more about that at, and a feature about the whole festival will feature in Next Month’s issue. But hopefully KaitO will explode onto the Carling Weekender next year.