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!!!