Archive | March, 2012

New Music Blast! (MARCH 2012)

30 Mar

Here are the best new songs I’ve heard recently, in no particular order.

Best Coast ‘The Only Place’

Spector ‘Celestine’

Jai Paul ‘Jasmine’

Odd Future ‘Oldie’

Keane ‘Disconnected’

Arctic Monkeys ‘R U Mine’

The Shins ‘It’s Only Life’

Jack White ‘Sixteen Saltines’

The Heartbreaks ‘Delay Delay’

Scuba ‘Personality’ – Review

22 Mar

I was introduced to Scuba through the mix that he made for the influential DJ Kicks series. I was impressed by the journey Scuba took me on; Not only does he knows the art of sequencing a mix to perfection, but he also managed to turn me onto sounds and styles I’m not really familiar with. It’s therefore interesting that I should like ‘Personality’, an album produced from scratch by Scuba, for the same reasons that I liked his DJ Kicks Mix, as it takes you on an equally fascinating  journey. This is techno via dubstep via house that is in turns melodic, dark, retro, futuristic, fun and classy.

After a shaky start (opener ‘Ignition Key’ is all over the place, second track ‘Underbelly’ stalls the record’s momentum) the album settles into a routine of being predictably unpredictable. By that I mean you don’t know where Scuba is going to take you next, but you know it will be interesting, and different to where you’ve just been. You also know that any given song is likely to feature cut up vocal samples (that work particularly well on ‘Dsy Chn’ and ‘If U Want’ but can be distracting and occasionally cliched at other points) and that at some point most of these tunes are going to descend into big beat, bright synth bangers (check out the euphoric synth that sounds like a sunrise halfway through ‘Cognitive Dissonance’).

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Scuba (apart from making me listen to dub-step again, a genre that I lost patience with a while ago) is that he manages to sound futuristic whilst sounding retro. On a song like ‘Tulips’ he uses a classic 808 beat, cheesy 1980’s keyboards, an old school rave vocal sample, and some atmospheric digital tom follery that’s been borrowed from dubstep. Like Rustie’s fantastic album ‘Gold Swords’, ‘Personality’ is a success because it can’t be kept in any generic or periodic box; it’s everything that has come before it as well as everything that’s still to come.

Whilst it lives up to its title by exuding personality, what the album lacks is something deeper – it lacks real emotional depth. It puts you in a mood, but it never makes you feel anything complex. Of course the argument would be that Dance music isn’t meant to connect on a deeper level; this is music for the feet rather than the heart, music to help you forget, not music to help you remember. But the fact is that ‘Personality’ comes so close to meaning something significant, that I can’t help but regret the lack of soul. The likes of James Blake, Mount Kimble, Burial and Seplacure have made great waves for Bass music in this department, and Scuba comes close to joining their ranks. He remains one of the most exciting prospects in dance though, and ‘Personality’ is his biggest success to date.

7.5/10

The Hives Return (at last!)

19 Mar

The Hives have been away for five years. Five years. They always take a long time between albums, but this wait has been RIDICULOUS! Finally they have released details about their sixth album, ‘Lex Hives’ (which, considering they are Swedish, means this is self-titled). The twelve track LP will come out on June 4th, and it will be preceded by the single ‘Go Right Ahead’.

Like ‘Walk Idiot Walk’, ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’, ‘Tick Tick Boom’ and ‘Main Offender’, ‘Go Right Ahead’ is a first single with swagger. Serious swagger. It’s built around a typically rocking riff, an infectious chorus and chanted refrain. The Hives haven’t reinvented the wheel (thank god), they’ve done what they were designed to do – they’ve made the world smile.

Go right ahead and listen HERE

New music from Mystery Jets

18 Mar

I maintain that Mystery Jets are in the very top-tier of contemporary British Bands. When it comes to being consistently productive, innovative and enjoyable there are only a couple of bands I would rank above them. With this in mind you should be jumping up and down with joy to hear that they will be releasing their fourth album, ‘Radlands’ on the 30th April. Below is the track listing, along with the country tinged first single ‘Someone Purer’.

1 Radlands
2 You Had Me At Hello
3 Someone Purer
4 The Ballad of Emmerson Lonestar
5 Greatest Hits
6 The Hale Bop
7 The Nothing
8 Take Me Where The Roses Grow
9 Sister Everett
10 Lost In Austin
11 Luminescense

Sleigh Bells ‘Reign of Terror’ – Review

15 Mar

Did anyone expect Sleigh Bells to still be popular in 2012? Maybe it was just me, but they seemed to be too of the moment, too current and too tied to their image; I didn’t hold much hope for them in the long-term. Not that I wasn’t a fan; they are one of the few bands to emerge in recent years who have done something genuinely fresh and exciting with guitars. Their combination of Hip Hop Beats, pop melodies and glam-metal axe heroics makes them a unique proposition. And despite the distinctively un-commercial sounds the group produce, their debut was a hit, and not just critically; their work has been sampled by the likes of Beyonce and M.I.A and their music has been used in adverts on TV, and in trailers at the cinema.

There’s no doubt that much of the thrill of their debut was the thrill of the unknown. Now that we are used to their unique sound, have they lost some of the magic? The answer is probably. Which isn’t to say that album number two, ‘Reign of Terror’ is a bad album, far from it, it’s just that now we’re no longer gushing over the sound we can focus more on the songwriting, which is not their strongest selling point. I was hoping that maybe they would have some fresh tricks up their sleeves, more wizardry to dazzle us with, but that doesn’t really seem to be the case; instead there is an emphasis on more of the same, turned up to 11. The guitars are grittier and increasingly Van Halen-esque, whilst the vocals are stickier and sweeter, which means their sonic clash of cultures is even more intense on ‘Born to Reign’ than It was on ‘Treats.’

So on to the songs themselves. Simply, they aren’t as good as the collection of tunes on album number one. ‘Comeback Kid’ was a decent first single, but it was no ‘Tell Em’. ‘End of the Line’ is a fantastic ballad, but it’s no ‘Rill Rill’. The record is let down by too much filler; album opener ‘True Shred Guitar’ is an embarrassingly bad opening statement, whilst the final trilogy of songs are all instantly forgettable. Somewhere in the middle there are songs that fight a good fight. ‘Demons’ is frantic and furious, and utterly brilliant, whilst ‘Leader of the Pack’ is as heavy as any metal song I’ve heard recently.

This time the vocals are more exposed in the mix, which allows the listener to zoom in on the lyrical content. Their debut never drew attention to itself in this respect, focusing on simple and direct messages that were often chanted on repeat. ‘Reign of Terror’ begins in the same way with the simple  mantra of ‘Push it, push it, push it/ true shred guitar.’ Things break down when the lyrics get more complicated than this. Kraus seems to think she is some kind of agony aunt, offering opinions to hopeless friends, ex-boyfriends and even her fans. My alternative theory is that she’s actually psychotic and self-loathing, and these lyrics are about herself. On ‘Born to lose’ it sounds like she’s taken on the role of her shoulder demon when she sings ‘Heard you say suicide in your sleep/ Just get on with it, you were born to lose’. Then later on she says ‘No one loves you, up above you, no one hears you.’

Ultimately these negative feelings are repressed, and the overwhelming final message is one of support and consolation. The main theme is about finding out who you really are inside, and forgetting the person you have somehow become. The final line of the album is ‘Remember who you are’, and the first single is called ‘Comeback Kid’, a song about taking with the punches and starting again. ‘Reign of Terror’, against the odds, is a triumphant album. However, It’s not a classic album – their debut is better in almost every respect. But whilst there are no musical surprises, the real surprise might actually be that Sleigh Bells are in this for the long haul. There is enough evidence here to say that this band have staying power.

6.5/10

New Beach House

10 Mar

Beach House, who released one of 2010’s standout records, ‘Teen Dream’ (no, not the Katy Perry album of the same name!), are back with a new single and details of a forthcoming album. The single is called ‘Myth’, and it’s… so so. The album will be called ‘Bloom’, hopefully it will be better. Here’s the rather bland track-listing…

01 Myth
02 Wild
03 Lazuli
04 Other People
05 The Hours
06 Troublemaker
07 New Year
08 Wishes
09 On the Sea
10 Irene

Kathleen Edwards ‘Voyageur’ – Review

2 Mar

Voyageur’ is the fourth album from Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards, and the first to be released in the UK. The fact that it was produced by Edwards’ boyfriend, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, no doubt helped in securing its release, but whilst having arguably the most influential alternative musician of the past decade in your corner is no small deal (And let’s face it, it’s probably the reason you’ve heard of her, if you have heard of her), it helps that this album is by far her strongest to date.

The similarities between ‘Voyageur’ and Bon Iver’s last album are few and far between; there is nothing flashy, experimental or alternative about this album, It relies on simple melodies, interesting but straightforward alt-country arrangements, and confessional lyrics. You’ve probably noticed that this combination is hardly a re-invention of the wheel, but it’s classic for a reason, and Edwards does a great job of reminding you why these ingredients are timeless. Influences like Joni Mitchell, Whiskytown and The Cranberries have informed her off-centre country rock sound; the more upbeat numbers are catchy and infectious, whilst the slow songs are emotive and delicate. Complimenting this style is her voice, which is Edwards greatest strength. It has a nice, warm tone, and, like the music, is simple and unshowy.

In fact this can be said of everything about ‘Voyageur’, right down to the staggeringly direct lyrics that deal with the breakdown of one relationship and the birth of a new one. They say there are five stages to grief, and on ‘Voyeguer’ Kathleen Edwards goes through all of them. From denial (‘come September I will feel brand new’) to anger (‘I hit that head until it bled, I pressed reset, goddamit!’), to bargaining (‘Call me in the night, I don’t care, I don’t mind, I can’t sleep’), to depression (‘I wanna lie in the cracks of this lonely road, I can fill in the blanks for every time you don’t call’), to acceptance (‘We’re never going to feel the same, change the sheets and then change me’).

The album accurately and devastatingly describes the uncertainty that proceeds a break up, and Edwards has a knack for articulating things that are often left unsaid. On the album’s heartbreaking centrepiece ‘House Full of Empty Rooms’, she says ‘You don’t kiss me in the way I wish you would, maybe I don’t look at you in the way that makes you think you should’ and then goes on to say ‘Maybe you don’t know me and you don’t want to be the first to say.’ Her voice aches and strains to hit the notes in a desperate and heartwrenching attempt to stay composed.

It would have been easy to end the album with ‘Soft Place to Land’ or ‘Change the Sheets’, songs that are respectively morbid and bitter, songs about feeling empty and directionless (most break up albums end on such a pessimistic note), but this is a break up record with a happy ending. On ‘Sidecar’ Edwards talks about having found her soul mate, who has saved her in no small part (‘I was feeling so lost for so long’), whilst on ‘Going to Hell’ she sings about her devotion to this new partner (presumably Justin Vernon) and says ‘anywhere you go, I’ll follow’. On this song her voice takes on a new, joyous tone that makes this a slightly misleading first single. This balance of extreme emotions allows ‘Voyageur’ to be a three dimensional album, and ultimately, a hopeful and optimistic one. Ok, some of the songs are pretty bleak affairs, but there is an overall spirit that the good will out.

8/10