Archive | November, 2011

Michele Stodart ‘Take Your Loving Back’

29 Nov

Michlle Stodart is the bass player in one of my favourite bands, The Magic Numbers, and I’m pleased to hear that before the release of their fourth album, she will release one on her own. Anybody familiar with the group’s work will know she’s quite the singer, and if further proof were needed then listen to her debut single, ‘Take Your Loving Back’, below. Also, go over to her youtube page to hear more live recordings – http://www.youtube.com/user/MicheleStodartBand?feature=mhee#p/u/2/x2RJ1eWgb4s

I look forward to the album’s release in the new year.

 

 

Mystery Jets announce ‘LP4’

23 Nov

I love Mystery Jets – this is no secret. So I’m i’m pretty chuffed that we wont have to wait too long for album number four. According to a fairly fauge post on their website, ‘LP4’ (I doubt that’s the final title) will be released in April 2012!!!! Check out the full statement below

“Winter has bestowed itself upon us and once again the weatherman warns us that we will soon be brushing snow flakes from our faces. We have returned from texas with dirty boots, a family member heavier (a beautiful young lady by the name of odessa) and a quiver of new songs. Admittedly less than we went out with (such are the worlds’ ways) but damn me if they aren’t some of our favorite yet.”

Early reports suggest the album will have a radically different sound to the group’s excellent 2010 album ‘Serotonin’ and there are even suggestions that the band have ditched pop in favour of country (this wouldn’t be too surprising a twist, they have tried prog and disco in the past afterall).

For now, remind yourself why you love them

 

M83 ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’ – Review

21 Nov

I’ve never been a fan of double albums, they’re a victim of the trait I dislike most in pop music – indulgence. They only ever came to exist in the first place because drugged up rock stars of the 1960’s were too high and too arrogant to edit their albums. They stuck about because those rock stars became prog rockers, and the songs became too long to fill two sides of vinyl. Then Punk rockers saw it as a form of rebellion against record labels, and grunge rockers saw it as the ultimate form of artistic expression. In the age of downloads and unlimited space, the idea of sticking to a 45 minute rule that was created through need rather than want, may seem ridiculous (Flaming lips have just put out a 24 hour song) but personally I think the old LPs were the perfect length, and I get bored if an album is much longer.

More to the point, I’ve yet to hear a double album that hasn’t been overlong, overwrought, over ambitious and completely hit and miss; come to think about it, that’s actually what I like about the double albums I am a fan of. At their best (The White album obviously, also ‘Sign o the times’, ‘The Wall’, and ‘Blonde on Blonde’)  they are worlds to get lost in, landscapes to explore, and things you can dip into here and there. It’s about taking the good with the bad and enjoying the quirks and ambition. So whilst double albums aren’t may favourite in any particular act’s back catalogue, they’re often the ones I listen to most (just not from start to finish). Still, they fail more than they succeed.

M83’s stab at this rock staple is all of the above. It contains some of their best songs, it contains some of their worst. It’s strange and captivating, it’s strange and bewildering. It’s poppy but experimental. It’s got a small world point of view with a cinematic vision. Songs of youth told from the perspective of an adult. In a nutshell ‘Hurry Up We’re Dreaming’, is M83’s best album yet and their worst. I loved the singular vision they had for ‘Saturdays =Youth’ and that record was the perfectly nostalgic take on synth/dream pop. The difference here is that, whilst they explore the same themes and styles, they do so by putting them in a larger context, by zooming out, and by surrounding the direct pop songs with ambient seas of synth. At its heart are M83’s boldest attacks on the mainstream to date, absolute tunes like ‘Midnight City’ and ‘Steve Mqueen’, but intriguingly (and slightly frustratingly) they do everything to make this a difficult album to digest in one sitting, even for a fan.

Still, lets concentrate on the positives for now. As I say, there are some belting tunes; everyone’s probably heard the brilliant ‘Midnight City’ already, but it’s not even the catchiest song on here. ‘Reunion’ is pure drivetime rock gold, featuring an epic chanting chorus and the now traditional M83 spoken word bridge. ‘Wait’ is an authentic power ballad that builds and builds like a tidal wave before washing over, and somewhat flattening, the next two tracks (the downright bizarre ‘Racone-moi Une Historie’ and the atmospheric but forgettable ‘Trains to Pluton’). Maybe best of all is ‘Ok Pal’, which sounds like another golden oldie from the decade time forget (the 80’s obvs); it’s bursting with dodgy synths and colourful harmonies.

Vocally, this is a very different record to its predecessor. That album relied on girl/boy trade offs and half whispered melodies, but on ‘Hurry Up We’re Dreaming’ Gonzales tackles lead vocal duties on his own, and his voice is more powerful, and higher in the mix. It makes for a less dreamy listen, and it means you can now actually hear some, although not all, of what he’s saying. That’s the main difference here, otherwise this actually feels like a very slight development from what they were doing on ‘Saturdays = Youth’. It’s more ambitious obviously, but musically the core tracks are very much on the same page. The instrumental interludes have their purpose in tieing the album together but honestly there are far too many of them, and none are essential listens. A part of me thinks it would have been better if they’d gotten rid of the interludes altogether and selected the best 12 songs, but then it would be an entirely different record altogether, and it wouldn’t be half as interesting.

M83’s goal was apparently to create something ‘very, very, very epic’ and, fair play to them, they’ve succeeded. At what cost, is the question – could this have been a better album if it was shorter and more carefully selected? Whatever the case, this is a worthy addition to M83’s catalogue, and if every great band needs a double album to their name then at least they can cross this off their list. I’m not convinced on its merits just yet, but like all double albums this will be one to come back to in years to come; I’m sure there are songs I’ve overlooked, or sparks of lightning buried somewhere in the middle of this monster. It’s one of the most breathtakingly ambitious albums that has been made in years, and the fact they manage to channel this ambition into something that is relatively cohesive, radio friendly and odd is something to be applauded.

7.5/10

Surfer Blood ‘Tarot Classics’ E.P – Review

18 Nov

Nearly two years on from the release of their acclaimed debut, ‘Astro Coast’, Surfer Blood are back on a bigger label and with a bigger sound. Signing to Warner Brothers was a gutsy move and this ambition is reflected on this new four track e.p. It’s hard a hard record to judge – we don’t really know if these songs are a farewell letter from the past (before they take us down a completely different path) or a sign of what we can expect from the full length. One thing we can say with certainty is that they’ve cleaned up their sound considerably; they’ve stripped away the fuzz that muddied the debut and replaced it with glitzy, expensive production. It really compliments the group’s songs, which have always been built around bright melodies and poppy harmonies, just as much as distorted riffs. The tunes are still riff heavy, but now they wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a radio playlist.

‘Classics’ begins with the song most closely related to the ‘Astro Coast’ numbers and ends with the one that sounds most like a change in direction. Track one is a sludgy rocker called I’m Not Ready’, a song notable for sounding  like it was  influenced just as much by The Smiths as it was by prominent early influences, Weezer and The Beach Boys. The fact that they still sound like they’ve been sitting on a Californian beach for the past six months, working on their tan, betrays the fact that, yes, we’re still listening to Surfer Blood. ‘Miranda’ comes next (It’s a song that’s been floating around for a while) and it really ups the ante. The catchy hook might be their best yet and the production really lets you hear the perfectly arranged instrumentation. 

‘Voyager Return’ is denser than anything they’ve released before but it’s layered in a really interesting way – You don’t feel like they’re plodding along during these slower moments, an impression I got on their debut. Pitts voice (once a delicate and quivery thing) is now deeper and more steady, he is able to hit the right notes more capably and there is ambition in where he takes the melodies. ‘Drinking Problem’ closes things, and it might be the best song on here. Just as ‘Astro Coast’ closed with ‘Catholic Pagan’, a tender ode to sobering up for the girl you love, ‘Drinking Problem’ also deals with putting past indulgences and past mistakes to one side. It’s as if Surfer Blood are cleaning out their closets, preparing us for their inevitable charge on the mainstream.

I hate the word mature, and what it implies; Yes, Surfer Blood have made a more sophisticated, complicated, diverse and…grown up record, but they certainly haven’t lost their sense of fun. They made their name with the blog friendly anthem ‘Swim to Reach the End’, in which they combined distorted, reverb heavy verses with a stadium sized chorus and a bridge breakdown that was frankly ridiculous, but amazing, in this context. ‘Tarot Classics’ retains that mixture of indie cool, ambition and sheer laughs. At four tracks long, and clocking in under 15 minutes, this is hardly a substantial statement of intent, but its a nice reminder that one of last year’s best new bands are more than capable of outliving the hype machine.

8/10

The Maccabees ‘Pelican’

16 Nov

The Maccabees are back with the first single from their forthcoming third album ‘Given to the Wild’. The song is called ‘Pelican’ and you can hear it below.