Archive | April, 2010

New Mystery Jets and M.I.A

30 Apr

Two of the most anticipated releases this year are the third albums by Mystery Jets and M.I.A. Both have recently released early taster’s in the form of ‘Flash a Hungry Smile’ and ‘Born Free’ for MJ and MIA respectively. Both offer something old and something new, I can’t wait to hear the albums when they are released later on in the year. See the video’s  below as well as album details. P.S the video is for ‘Born Free’ is the clean one as youtube have taken down the controversial one – I’m sure you could probably see it somewhere on the net if you really wanted to.

Mystery Jets album is called ‘Serotionin’, it’s out on 5th July and this is the tracklisting

  1. Alice Springs
  2. Too Late To Talk
  3. The Girl Is Gone
  4. Flash A Hungry Smile
  5. Serotonin
  6. Show Me The Light
  7. Dreaming Of Another World
  8. Lady Grey
  9. Waiting On A Miracle
  10. Melt
  11. Lorna Doone

M.I.A’s album is untitled at the moment, it is out on 28th of June and this is the tracklisting

  1. The Message
  2. Born Free
  3. Meds And Feds
  4. Lovealot
  5. Tequilla
  6. It Is What It Is
  7. XXXO
  8. Tel Me Why
  9. Story Told
  10. Space

Crystal Castles ‘Crystal Castles’ – Review

29 Apr

The new Crystal Castles album has creepy cover. It’s just a picture of a strange, pale girl dressed in black and hunching over a grave. It’s a striking image yet a vague one, hard to define, hard to connect with. These accusations could just as easily be thrown at the duo’s music not too long ago – sterile, distant, weird and yet striking.

Their debut album defined a certain feeling in electronic music a couple of years back. In particular ‘Alice Practice’ captured an excitement that a new age of nostalgia fueled electro was upon us. It took the beeps and sirens of rave and contrasted them perfectly with 8 bit game sounds and It was something of a revelation. But if people thought that the song would change the face of electro they were wrong, it wouldn’t even predict the major mood of their album. It sat along side a whole host of different musical styles from synth pop to digi punk, techno to shoegaze. It was a deliberate mish-mash of everything and the result was an equally brilliant and frustrrating experience.

Now they are back with album number two and to confuse us even more this is also self titled. Like the first record there is a lot to digest here, it’s fourteen tracks long and each song sounds unique.  This time though they have given us links, themes that reappear along the way, and these titbits keep the songs glued together to make a cohesive and well structured whole. A hip hop beat for example is used to great effect on several tracks, including stand out ‘Empathy’. Alice’s vocals are given the shoegaze treatment most of the time, her voice is hidden and soft making a few tracks sound like M83. It makes the album a smoother ride than the first one, which featured all kinds of crazy vocal tricks and distortion.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still lots of shouting and noise – too much on album opener ‘Fainting Spells’ and first single ‘Doe Deer’ – but the noise now seems to be more carefully considered as a part of the whole. There are no jarring departures from form like there were on the first album, instead emphasis seems to have been placed on the overall sound rather than a single hook or lyric. Therefore when their custom 8 bit sounds appear on ‘I Am Chalk’ they don’t sound gimmicky, they sound like just another instrument.

It’s hard to judge, sitting in an arm-chair, just how good this album is – it simply isn’t meant to be listened to like that. These are songs that need to be heard on the dance floor, or live at a sweaty club. Crystal Castles have always enjoyed a reputation as one of the most insane live acts around and I get the feeling that these songs will fit in nicely with their older material. As a studio band they have moved on leaps and bounds with album number two – it may not have the zeitgeist defining singles that the first one had, but it irons out the niggles and flaws of that album very well. They are still the old Crystal Castles but just more refined.

8/10

LCD Soundsystem ‘This is Happening’ – Review

28 Apr

Everyone loves LCD Soundsystem.  They are the group that indie kids can dance to at the clubs and the indie band that dance kids can listen to at home. They are anything and everything you want them to be. It’s pretty well established that they are a great band and it would take a very brave man to disagree – And also a stupid one, because as of yet they have only made brilliant records. ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’, ‘All My Friends’ and ‘Loosing my Edge’ are three of the best singles of the century so far, their two albums were also instant classics. I should say to begin with that honestly all James has to do is hit a cowbell and I’m happy, but has he done enough with the new record to justify me calling it another classic?

‘This is Happening’ is the band’s darkest album to date, it’s an intense listen and at least half these songs would clear a dance floor rather than fill them. Opener ‘Dance Yourself Clean’ is a slow builder and it’s also one of the best things they’ve ever done. Like many LCD songs it doesn’t hit full gear until about the fourth minute and then it explodes into a Technicolour rave. This mixture of darkness and light is something LCD Sounsystem pull off brilliantly on ‘This Is Happening’. On one level it feels like they have melted ‘Sound of Silver’ and their early singles together. The result is something weirder and deeper than anything they’ve done before as well as being more fun and carefree. They have spent time developing their serious side and that pays of beautifully on several tracks, in particular ‘Home’. There isn’t a slow number as there was on albums one and two but overall this is their deepest and most expressive release to date.

And yet it still party’s like the best of them. ‘Drunk Girls’ is just as insanely catchy as what we’ve come to expect from their singles, even if it offers nothing that fresh. ‘Pow Pow’ is a throwback to their early stuff like ‘Beat Connection’ whilst ‘You Wanted a Hit’ would sound brilliant in the clubs. These song in particular reintroduce a fun naivety that had been vacant on ‘Sound of Silver’. That doesn’t make this a better album and it isn’t – ‘Sound of Silver’ had a sort of resonance that I can’t imagine this having.

‘I Can Change’ has a distinctly 80’s vibe, in fact a lot of the album does. ‘Sound of Silver’ was 70s inspired, recalling Bowie and Lou Reed as well as off the wall era Michael Jackson and it seems that they have now moved onto the next decade. This works mostly to the band’s benefit and it’s nice to see progress in the group’s development over the three albums. Of course some things never change and it’s good to welcome back those cowbells on ‘Pow Pow’ and ‘Home’.

Apparently ‘This is Happening’ is LCD Soundsystem’s last ever album. If this is correct then it’s a fitting end to one of the most remarkable trilogy’s of recent times. ‘Take me Home’ is one of the final lines on the album, and it seems a shame that after finding such a perfect home for his musical vision James Murphy would disappear into the night. But maybe it’s best he exit’s on a high, afterall he’s left us some brilliant music. Flawed? Of course – after all this time he still doesn’t know how to edit his thoughts and ideas, and there is still one rubbish track you want to axe (in this case ‘Somebody’s calling me’). But on the whole this is an excellent piece of work. Another classic? Only time will tell but it certainly sounds like one right now.

8.5/10

The Futureheads ‘The Chaos’ – Review

26 Apr

The Futureheads are back! Were they ever away, you ask? It doesn’t really feel like it – afterall four albums in six years isn’t a bad run, and they must have played every club up and down the country (not to mention festival) a zillion times by now.

‘The Chaos’ is the follow-up to ‘This Is Not The World’, an album that split their fan base down the middle. It was much more straightforward and enjoyable than the clumsy ‘News and Tributes’ but there was little doubt that some of the band’s charm had been lost – and on some tracks exterminated. Personally I don’t think they will ever recapture the magic of their early singles; ‘Decent Days and Nights’, ‘First Day’ and ‘Hounds of Love’ captured a feeling and a moment that can’t easily be rediscovered four albums into a career.

Still that hasn’t stopped them having a decent crack at it, this is easily their best work since their debut.  It’s a strong and fun loving record that certainly kept my head nodding up and down, rather than shaking from side to side, something that I experienced when listening to their last two albums.

The Heartbeat Song was wasn’t a promising first single, it’s basically a regurgitation of their older material. I was quite disappointed because they have always been a good singles band, I always saw them as one of those groups who would make a brilliant greatest hits one day. Still, if it’s not a classic song then neither is it a terrible one and that about sums up ‘The Chaos’. At It’s best it’s no more than very good and it’s worst it is no less than pretty good. There is nothing utterly brilliant on here but there is no rubbish either. In fact it’s very consistent and even if you don’t like a song the next one will be along before long. This is a nice surprise from a band who in the past have included far too much filler on their albums. Highlights for me include ‘Struck Dumb’, ‘I Can Do That’ and the vocal acrobatics of the album closer ‘Jupiter’. What I like most is that it finds a nice middle ground between their poppy stuff, their loud and fast rock stuff and the more intricate post punk stuff. It’s a balance that should please most people.

The Futureheads are pioneers in a strange way. They are the first band of that 2004 indie set (Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Razorlight etc) to release their fourth album and I’m pleased to say that they haven’t dropped the ball. They have gone back to doing what they do best and the smiles are back on their faces, and those of their fans.

7.5/10

Avi Buffalo ‘Avi Buffalo’ – Review

21 Apr

On their Myspace page Avi Buffalo list The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel as influences. In an age when most artists refuse to divulge their hereos (and if they do it’s usually a mixture of obscure bands we’ve never heard of and guilty pleasures) it’s refreshing to get a group who wear their influences on their sleeves – especially when the bands they list are of the classic pop variety. Most acts refuse to draw comparisons to the fab four because it’s so obvious and just creates a weight of expectation. But Avi Buffalo are young, ambitious and wonderfully unjaded.

Personally I think they sound like a younger, slimmer and hipper version of Magic Numbers. They share a love for male/female harmonies and both sing about the strains of love over bittersweet melodies. They are hipper because they are signed to subpop, aren’t afraid to experiment and throw in a dirty lyric (see ‘Five Young Sluts’ and ‘Summer Cum’). The album is stuffed with the kind of music that sounds great in the summer sun, all claustrophobic organ, backward guitar solos and fade outs that seem to last as long as summer itself. There is a haziness and sunburnt melodrama that is present throughout the album – that and raging hormones. These guys are only just out of school and most of the songs are about a break up between two of the members, so as you can imagine this is a pretty emotional record. ‘I’ve never written a love song but I will for you’ Avi croons on ‘Remember Last Time’. The imagery is certainly a lot less romantic elsewhere but overall there is a sweetness that is hard not to like.

The highlight of this debut is the anthem ‘What’s in it For’, a song that sounds like the best thing The Shins never made. It’s the highlight but the album is full of gems, ‘Truth Sets in’ and ‘Jessica’ are two more favourites. ‘Avi Buffalo’ isn’t without its flaws but they only seem to add to the band’s youthful charm. The songs do go on for longer than they could, and sometimes the cheap lyrics can distract from the pretty melodies. But these are the signs of inexperience and an unshakable enthusiasm, which are two things to admire rather than criticise. I can’t help but really like this band and I bet you will too.

8/10

Meat Loaf ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’ – Review

20 Apr

Subtlty. Restraint. Simplicity. Those are three words that far too often have been ignored in rock music. Even in this post-Ramones world rock stars are still prone to Spinal Tap levels of excess and whats worse is that they do it without a hint of self-awareness. But then there’s Meat Loaf. Old Meat has a twinkle in his eye, a spring in his step and giggle repressed in his throat. Meat is the most bombastic and extravagant rocker on the block but doesn’t he just know it? He flaunts it, he lives it, he owns it. Meat Loaf is out there on his own going down roads good taste has made most people avoid and he loves it. subtlety, restraint and simplicity aren’t being ignored by Meat because he doesn’t even know what those words mean.

‘Bat Out of Hell’ is still a uniquely brilliant album, even in 2010 there is nothing else like it. For the last 30 odd years Meat has been trying to recapture the magic with varying results. It’s two sequels were good if not classic but the rest of his catalogue is defined by singles rather than albums. ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’ hopes to change that as this is a traditional album and care has gone into making it. Apparently it has a loose story but that really didn’t figure on my radar, it certainly didn’t distract me from the killer melodies and typically magnificent vocals. Meat Loaf has a presence that few men do and that shines through a lot on these thirteen tracks. Even on the weaker songs there is wonder to be found in the operatic control of Meat.

Meat Loaf has seen trends come and go and he has outlasted them all. At last though there are changes present on the new album. Don’t worry traditionalists there isn’t anything too radical but there are new ideas to get stuck into. To begin with there isn’t a proper ballad or duet in sight –  not something I thought I would ever say of a Meat Loaf album – maybe he feels he has enough in his back catalogue, and in fairness he’s right. ‘If I Can’t Have You’ comes close but there is more control than the typical Meat Loaf weepie and certainly more bite.

‘Living on the Outside’ is a gospel tinged headbanger, and it’s edgier than anything he’s done in years. It feels like he’s stopped trying to be cool and contemporary (something that backfired badly on certain tracks on his last album) and stuck to the  rockers he does so well; ironically the result is a sound that is more credible and more genuinely innovative than his other 21st century albums. But as I say there are new influences at play. A few of the songs (including single ‘Los Angeloser’) have a country sound that replaces the doo wop and rock n roll influences of older albums. Metal guitars are now incorporated more appropriately so rather than genre pastiches (see ‘The Monster Is Loose’ on the last album) we get a more natural rock experience.

Of course it wouldn’t be a meat loaf album if there weren’t a few absolute stinkers – you’ve got to take the good with the bad. ‘Like A Rose’ is a shocker and the album sags a bit in the middle, but that’s to be expected, Meat Loaf is in his 60’s afterall. But altogether this is a consistent, enjoyable record. If it’s missing anything it’s an out-and-out single, there just isn’t one here. And I might as well mention the elephant in the room; Jim Steinman, writer of Meat’s best material, is notable by his absence. I would like to say he isn’t missed but in actual fact he is exactly what is missed. Whilst ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’ works well as a contemporary update of the Meat Loaf sound the songs themselves aren’t as strong as the material Meat did for Jim. Even on the patchy ‘Bat Out Of Hell III’ there were still some classic Jim Steinman tunes to get stuck into.

You know what to expect from a Meat Loaf album, and you get it in bucket loads on ‘Hang Cool Teddy Bear’. If you’ve never been a fan then that probably won’t change now, even though there are some things you might not expect. Fans though should be happy despite the lack of a big ballad or Steinmam tune. So you can’t please everyone, and Meat knows that best of all, but he’s still out there on his own, doing what he does best.

7/10

Kate Nash ‘My Best Friend Is You’ – Review

19 Apr

Remember when you couldn’t walk out of your front door without hearing ‘Foundations’? No? Well then count yourself lucky because the rest of us were pretty sick of Kate Nash by the end of 2007. As far as I was concerned I never wanted to hear Lilly Allen jr again.

But shock horror, ‘I Just Love You More’, the first free download from this album, was actually very good. It reminded me that there may once have been a time when I did like ‘Foundations’ or at least understand why it was so popular. Was this an anomaly or could Kate Nash pull of a decent second record? Early signs were good, ‘Do Wah Doo’ was another great single, a slice of girl group pop that recalled The Pippettes or The Long Blondes a few years ago. ‘My Best Friend Is You’ begins on a similar note with ‘Paris’ and ‘Kiss the Grrrl’ both of which are loaded with hooks and memorable choruses. It’s also notable that Nash has a new angry streak;  it sounds like she has been listening to a lot of riot grrrl. ‘Ive got a Secret’ for example has an edge that just wasn’t present on her twee debut.

Whilst Nash has clearly moved on in a lot of areas the album is filled with the same ‘say what your thinking’ lyrics that  made up ‘Made of Bricks’. On ‘Don’t You Want To Share The Guilt’ she notes that ‘barbecue food is good, you invite me out to eat it – I should’. It rarely reaches the level of annoyance that made songs like ‘Mouthwash’ such a cringe-fest but you do wonder at times why she feels the need to open her mouth when all she has to say is ‘I hate being sick’ – newsflash Kate – we all do! Worse still is the terrible spoken word ‘Mansion Song’ where she hits us with some awful ‘words of wisdom’. Seriously whichever producer / record exec let this abomination of a song on the album should be fired, it’s a terrible diversion that completely breaks up the flow of things. Fair enough, Nash has been reading poetry and going to spoken word performances, but she’s no poet and the song will leave her fan base flat-out confused and bewildered.

In fact things go rapidly down hill after this, the second half feels very disjointed and a bit flat. The spark is definitely missing on ‘Later on’ and ‘Pickpocket’ but things pick up a bit with ‘I Hate Seagulls’ which is the song most reminicant of the old Kate – still a bit annoying but kind of likeable.

‘My Best Friend Is You’ is a good second album that introduces the world to the new Kate Nash, kind of like the old one but more experienced, less twee and with plenty of bite. The album’s a bit of a bumpy ride but it’s worth it for the moments where everything falls nicely into place. It’s worth mentioning that I haven’t mentioned Lilly Allen since the first paragraph and those comparisons have certainly been buried this time around. Kate Nash has become her own woman and It will be interesting to see where she goes next.

6.5/10