Archive | September, 2009

Surfer Blood and Glo-fi

27 Sep

There seems to be a real movement developing in lo-fi pop over in America right now. Of course the shoegaze revival (nu-gaze as it’s sometimes called) has been in full swing all year and over the summer ‘glo-fi’ bands (sometimes called ‘warm-fi) have been building momentum.

The best records that could possibly be squeezed into this category thus far are probably ‘Wavvves’ by Wavves and ‘OCD go go go girls’ by Lovvers. Tommorow, Girls release their highly anticipated debut and new releases by The Drums, Best Coast and Washed Out are all eagerly being awaited.

Now add to that list Surfer Blood, another highly melodic but severely messed up rock n roll group who are currently touring America. Their single ‘Swim (to reach the end) is surely one of the best summer songs not to be released in the summer. On the surface the song is shinny and bright but there is definitely an element of darkness under the cover, something that can be said of many of their songs. Like The Drums this band seem to be equally influenced by 60’s surf pop and factory records late output which results in quite a heavy but fun sound. Can’t wait to hear more…

http://www.myspace.com/surferblood

Joy Orbison

25 Sep

I like listening to Dubstep from time to time – mainly at night or when I’m in a reflective mood – but I’m certainly no expert on the genre. I have to be in the right mood to enjoy it and I think the vast majority of it is too repetitive and bland to make a big impression on me. However every now and then an artist will pop up that some how finds their way into my ears, more often than not because I’ve read comparisons to ‘burial’, an artist who I think is amazing.

The latest dubstep producer to catch my attention is Joy Orbison who instantly attracted me with that brilliant name. I also read a brilliant description of his stuff that made a comparison to shoegaze and The Beach boys. Hmm I thought – dubstep meets shoegaze meets The Beach Boys? Sounds like the future of music. Well obviously nothing could be as good as that sounds, but his track ‘Hyph Mngo’ still ranks as one of the freshest songs I’ve heard all year. As all good dubstep should be the track is claustrophobic, dark, simple and stirring. It makes the most of a basic voice sample and a classic beat.

I’m really excited about hearing more from this very young producer who should hopefully have more substantial stuff out soon. It is n’t a perfect track (it does go on for too long and gets slightly repetitive by the end) but It certainly made me eager to hear more.

Best Coast

24 Sep

Best Coast are the fuzzy surf pop band from Bethany Consentino of Pocahaunted, and they are seriously fun. It’s hard to say much more about the group as seriously little information is available and their debut ep appears to be sold out 😦 . What I do know, is that they are a great little pop group with some seriously catchy melodies and a charming aesthetic.

Their myspace has some great songs including the delightful beach boys sounding ‘Over the Ocean’ and the lo fi joy of ‘Sun Was High’. Most of the songs have a relaxed summer vibe which makes it slightly annoying that I’ve only just found out about them. They have a 7 inch out now which may or may not be sold out (more confusion!) but here is the info and a music video.

http://artfag.us/bestcoast/

The Big Pink ‘A Brief History Of Love’ – Review

20 Sep

I REALLY want to hate ‘A Brief History Of Love’. The Big Pink are the most obnoxious, arrogant, ‘cool’ scenesters this country has produced in a long time. Every time I see them interviewed they seem stoned and self important, they run through a list of whose who in 2009 indie pop – Florence, Klaxons, Crystal Castles – and declare them all to be mere followers of their own cult. They own one of the most influential record labels in the country and their DJ nights are notorious. Throughout it all they maintain an impossible cool and ‘so what’ attitude. On top of this they have declared how great they are and how overrated The Beatles were – the cheek of them!

So it really pains me to say that this is not a record to hate, although it’s pretty hard to love. It is a cute, shambolic, forward thinking pop album that goes a tiny way to justifying the hype. The title is apt as this really is a brief history of love. Each track reveals a little insight into a relationship – ‘If this is love why can’t I just leave it’, ‘These tears are real’ and ‘Do you dream of me as much as I do of you?’ are just some of the lyrical highlights from one track. Cliched it may be but there is no denying the power of a love song, especially when the lyrics are accompanied by interesting music; and the music is intresting if completely mental.

It is a shambolic, up and down record that is only consistent lyrically. It begins sounding like an early 90’s shoegaze record, a theme that runs throughout the album but never defines it. Meanwhile The singer sounds hopelessly ‘Britpop’ and his voice certainly grates at times, even sounding out of tune. In fact the best moment is when Joanne Robertson takes over lead vocals on the title track which sounds very ‘Jesus and Mary Chain’. There is a very post new rave feel to many of the songs, not dissimilar to their former protages Crystal Castles, especially on ‘Tonight’ which also suffers from horrible singing and tuneless melodies.

When this album gets it right it really gets it right. The Title track, ‘Dominos’, ‘Crystal Visions’ and ‘Velvet’ are amazing and sound like 2009 encapsulated in song. But despite the cohesive theme of love and longing this is a record that doesn’t really feel like a stand alone piece of work, almost exactly like Klaxons and Crystal Castles debut’s. It is infuriating at times that the band choose to skip between their brilliant Shoegaze moments and the distasteful lad rock and dance aspects so readily as it ruins the flow and momentum of the album. At it’s best this is a brilliant album that justifies their own hype. At its worst it feels like a horrible throwback to a time taste forgot. And whilst they’re still arogant scenesters, they’re clearly pretty talented ones.

7/10

Cat Stevens (AKA Yusuf) Returns!

20 Sep

I was hugely excited to find out that the artist formally known as Cat Stevens will be touring for the first time in over 35 years this November, when he comes to four cities to play the classics and premiere his new musical ‘MoonShadow’. Tickets are expensive (cheapest being £50 right up to £100) but they shall no doubt be a worthwhile price to see the return of one of the all time music greats. His latest album (only his second in 3 decades) was released earlier this year so I expect him to play songs from that along with hits like ‘Father and Son’ and ‘Wild World’. Tickets go on sale this Monday.

Vampire Weekend – Contra!

15 Sep

For the last week or so I’ve been spotting an advert that seems to be everywhere – a Polaroid of a woman in a yellow polo shirt. No text, just a photo. When you click the photo it takes you to a website with the picture maximised but no other information. Until now. That is because the Polaroid has been revealed to be the cover of the new Vampire Weekend record. Not only was this a great advertising move by the band and XL (although the album is still months away) but it’s a great photo that fits in nicely to VW’s continuity.

This was not the only bit of Vampire weekend news today as now when you click on the advert it takes you to VW’s homepage which gives us yet more details of the album. The album is called ‘Contra’ and it will be released on January 11th in the UK, a lot later than expected. Below is the tracklisting…

01 Horchata
02 White Sky
03 Holiday
04 California English
05 Taxi Cab
06 Run
07 Cousins
08 Giving Up the Gun
09 Diplomat’s Son
10 I Think Ur a Contra

I’ve already heard live versions or demos of 4 tracks and if these are anything to go by then I wouldn’t expect a huge change from the band’s previous stuff. ‘Cousins’ sounded a bit like ‘Bryn’ from their debut and Run was like ‘Blake’s got a new Face’. ‘White Sky’ sounds most interesting of the tracks I’ve heard and shows a development from the more sophisticated end of ‘Vampire Weekend’. I certainly can’t wait to hear ‘Contra’ in full this Winter.

Contra

Muse ‘The Resistance’ – Review

15 Sep

One day Muse will fail and rest assured it will be an epic fail. I was half expecting ‘The Resistance’ to be it, their downfall. I mean, when a band keep making each album more spectacular and overblown than the one before it’s only a matter of time before they go too far and make something that is an indulgent, unlistenable, self imploding mess. It happened with Queen, it happened with Pink Floyd and it was only avoided with Radiohead because they had the good sense to do a complete turn around and run in the opposite direction. Luckily for Muse fans ‘The Ressistance’ is neither their step too far or their ‘Kid A’. It’s their maddest album yet and possibly their best.

First single, ‘Uprising’, is also the opening track. If, like me, you were disappointed at first with this song then I think you will be pleasantly surprised to find that it works so much better in the context of the album. Listened to through headphones and not the car radio you can really hear the little details that bring it to life. The next two songs sound like they could have been equally good singles, both rank as two of the catechist things the band have ever written. ‘Ressistence’ starts of discreetly enough before it breaks into a catchy, typical Muse chorus. It’s one of the poppier things they have ever attempted and it works excelently. ‘Undisclosed Desires’ is another radio friendly song that borrows elements of ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ and the production of Timbaland. Once again it works much better than it ever should do on paper.  The three songs get the album of to a thrilling start that continues through ‘United States of Eurasia’ and ‘Guiding Light’. If Queen don’t sue over the vocals in ‘United States…’ then Muse should count themselves very lucky because it’s a huge, brilliant rip off of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. ‘Guiding Light’ makes an attempt at being this album’s Anthem in the vein of ‘Invincible’ or ‘Absolution’ and it’s good if not great. In fact if there is one area Muse are continually lacking in it’s lighters in the air ballads, nonetheless this one will do for know.

Lyrically it’s typical Muse territory. If you heard ‘Uprising’ or in fact any of their last two albums then you should get the picture. Basicaly political dissatisfaction, summed up through references to obscure philosophical works, ambiguous nods to conspiracies and the occasional sing along chorus. If there is one difference it’s that there seems to be more hope in this album and less bizarre imagery than the likes of ‘Knights of Cydonia’. The theme of love and fighting for what you believe runs throughout the album and the album can be nicely summed up by the following line from the title track, ‘Love is our resistance, they keep us apart and they won’t stop breaking us down’.

Every Muse album this far has had it’s fair share of fillers and ‘The Resistance’ is no different, although It probably has less than ‘Black Holes and Revelations.’ Unnatural Selection’ and ‘MK Ultra’ are Muse by numbers rockers, ‘I belong to You’ is better but basically a prelude to the madness that follows. These songs aren’t terrible by any means but they are easily the weakest tracks on here. The Three part ‘Symphony’ that follows has been talked about for years now and it finally appears as the grand conclusion to the album’. It’s not quite the grand spectacular they built it up to be but once I got over my slight disappointment I found it quite pleasing. The final part in particular has a wonderful subtlety I haven’t seen from Muse in a couple of albums, if at all. If it proves one thing it’s that this is the album where Muse finally embrace strings. They have used orchestration before in dribs and drabs, but this time the strings are the backbone of the album and not just on the final ‘symphony’. unfortunately this seems to mean less full blown rock. If you’re looking for anything as shredding as ‘Hysteria’, ‘Plug In Baby or ‘Knights of Cydonia’ then you’re likely to be disappointed. Synths and strings are the order of the day here and personally I’m not complaining when it sounds this good.

So another album another epic from Muse. Just when you think they couldn’t possibly turn out another record as big as the last AND make it work, they manage to better it. It would be hard to say just yet whether this is better than ‘Origin of Symetry’, ‘Absolution’ or ‘Black Holes and Revelations’ but the fact they have managed to turn out so many classics in so little time should in itself be applauded. In its own way its more cohesive and fully realized then any of their previous records which makes up for the slight lack of classic Muse singles. And the best part is that whilst they have always made good records they are even better live, so roll on Wembley (fingers crossed)!

8/10