Tag Archives: Crystal Castles

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

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New Crystal Castles

15 Apr

Crystal Castles have announced details of a brand new album. The follow-up to their self titled debut will also be self titled and it will be out on June 7th. Below is the tracklisting. Meanwhile you can hear their new single here. Frankly it’s a bit of a racket and lets face it, it’s got nothing on ‘Alice practice’ or ‘Crimewave’.

1. “Fainting Spells”
2. “Celestica”
3. “Doe Deer”
4. “Baptism”
5. “Year of Silence”
6. “Empathy”
7. “Suffocation”
8. “Violent Dreams”
9. “Vietnam”
10. “Birds”
11. “Pap Smear”
12. “Not in Love”
13. “Intimate”
I Am Made of Chalk”

TOP 25 ALBUMS of 2008

10 Jun

I’ve been doing top 50 albums and tracks every year since 2004, and have them stored away under lock and key somewhere! I may put them up, I may not – depends on if I can be bothered, doesn’t seem that important. But I think 2008’s is important because it’s still pretty fresh, so with no further babble here is the top 25 (I decided to condense it down) albums and tracks of 2008 as decided by moi.

ALBUMS

1. Day and Age – The Killers

2008 was the year some of 2004’s greatest hopes – Kaiser Chiefs, Keane, Bloc Party, The Zutons and Razorlight – came back with third albums that simply wouldn’t do. None fell flat on their faces (OK maybe Razorlight) but none have lived up to the promise of thier debuts and this showed in both reviews and chart performance. Bands that once had a shot of being the next big stadium group were reduced back to playing small venues, a stark reminder of the way our society love to build a band up only to knock them down.

One band stood out however, by coming out with not only their strongest album yet but one that sold well, was well received, produced a hit single and showed they are perhaps the real stadium band of the future. The group were The Killers and the album was ‘Day and Age’.

Rarely do a band come back with a third album as self assured, confident and versatile as ‘Day and Age’. The Killers were unafraid to try their hand at anything, whether it be the 80’s pop gleam of loosing touch, the overblown ELO-esque grandeur of Spaceman, the calypso tinged ‘I Can’t Stay’ or the melancholy howl of ‘Goodnight, travel well’. Over Ten tracks The Killers produced a spectacular pop album of all killer no filler, it really sounded like it could have easily produced 8 or 9 hits. At the same time it works as a coherent album, they swerve from genre to genre whilst at the same time managing to keep it  recognisably The Killers. It reminds me of Thriller, in the way it borrows from differnt styles and twists them into the shape it wants – and still comes out intact, as a solid 10 track piece of art.

‘Day and Age’ is top of my list because it sounds like a classic album, an album that 2009 will be remembered for, the album The Killers (one of the decade’s most consistent bands) will be remembered for. It’s also the one I keep coming back to.

2. Do You Like Rock Music – British Sea Power

British Sea Power’s third album is as wonderful as could have been hoped. Their debut has revealed itself over time to be perhaps the defining British, Indie debut of the decade and ‘Do you Like Rock Music’ is a magnificent leap forward. Arcade Fire and Godspeed you Black Emperor loom over the album, BSP wear their influences on their sleeve, but this is at the same time an eccentric British record in the grand tradition of Echo and The Bunnymen, Joy Division and David Bowie. Non traditional influences are less easy to spot but clearly there, from the verse of John Betjeman to the drunken hymns of The Wurzels. ‘Do you like Rock Music’ is a fantastic British record, and everyone should own a copy.

3. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

The perfect summer band, the perfect summer record. I was impressed when I heard the early Vampire Weekend demos and wasn’t let down when the debut album proper landed in early 2008. I seriously haven’t stopped listening to it since, it’s as fresh as the morning I brought it. Spiky and twisted pop music with African influences to set them apart from the crowd. Ultimately the strength is in the songs – ‘Oxford Comma’, ‘A-Punk’ and ‘I Stand Corrected’ for starters.

4. Oracular Spectacular – Mgmt

There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said about this great debut album from one of the more eccentric acts of 2008. Wild, eclectic and deranged are three ways of describing ‘Oracular Spectacular’ and whether you hear it on the dancefloor, on the radio or stereo system this album will find a way into your hearts.

5. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

An album of staggering beauty and simplicity, this is a loud hurrah for melody and harmony. The vocals are touching, the playing is rustic and steeped in Americana, folk and pop history. You can smell deep America just from listening too ‘Oliver James’. It’s not haunting as Bon Iver’s record is, but is wonderful in an equally earthy and essential way. Top Marks for a debut of extraordinary promise.

6. The Age Of The Understatement – The Last Shadow Puppets
7. Glasvegas – Glasvegas
8. 21 – Mystery Jets
9. Only By The Night – Kings Of Leon
10. For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver
11. Man In The Mirror – Rhymefest
12. All Hour Cymbals – Yeasayer
13. 808’s and Heartbreaks – Kanye West
14. Volume One – She and Him
15. Fantasy Black Channel – Late of the Pier
16. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
17. Death magnetic – Metallica
18. Perfect Symmetry – Keane
19. That Lucky Old Sun – Brian Wilson
20. Falling off Lavender Bridge – Lightspeed Champion
21. Intimacy – Bloc Party
22. Saturdays = Youth – M83
23. Reality Check – The Teenagers
24. Angles – Dan Le Sac Vs Scrobius Pip
25. Primary Transmission – Broadcaster

TRACKS

1. Time To Pretend – Mgmt
2. Two Doors Down – Mystery Jets
3. A-Punk – Vampire Weekend
4. Paper Planes – M.I.A
5. Kids – MGMT
6. White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes
7. Crimewave – Crystal Castles
8. Geraldine – Glasvegas
9. Death – White lies
10. Sex On Fire – Kings Of Leon
11. Standing Next To Me – Last Shadow Puppets
12. The Bears are coming – Late of the Pier
13. No Lucifer – British Sea Power
14. Its My Own Cheating heart that makes me cry – Glasvegas
15. In This City – Iglu and Hartly
16. Electric Feel – MGMT
17. Ulysees – Franz Ferdinand
18. Ready For the Floor – Hot Chip
19. Spiralling – Keane
20. No Sex For Ben – The Rapture
21. DNVO – Justice
22. Age Of The Understatement – The Last Shadow Puppets
23. How to Dance – Black kids
24. Human – The Killers
25. Always where I need to Be – The Kooks