Friday, 26 February 2010


Although short (as is traditional) February has been good to us. Los Campesinos! provided us with the first album of the decade that we could possibly think of as A Classic. Romance Is Boring is the sound of a band pushing themselves forward with confidence, using much of their arsenal but leaving us with the sneaking suspicion that they will continue to deliver. Of all three of the bands records thus far I get the feeling that it will be to Romance Is Boring that new fans will be directed to in the future as a place to begin with their Campesinos! affair.

I'm wary of banging on too much about Romance is Boring here as I hope to be able to write a full length piece on it at some point very soon. Thankfully there was other releases from this month that are worth reporting on. First of all, the two side projects that I've mentioned previous have come to album fruition in The Hot Rats and Everybody Was In The French Resistance...Now!. Both of these are fully enjoyable albums for those who are fans of the respective members day jobs in Supergrass (The Hot Rats) and Art Brut (EWITFR...N!) but probably little appeal outside of these fan circles.

Elsewhere Field Music came back with a double album, called Field Music (Measure) which I'm enjoying as I write this piece and which I feel that I don't need to talk any more about as I've already reviewed it for This Is Fake DIY (here). Meanwhile, from over the pond Yeasayer unleashed the bizzare Odd Blood on us. A massive improvement from their world-prog noodlings of All Hour Cymbals it combines their love of international music and varied percussive sounds with an innate understanding of huge pop hooks. Better than MGMT and Animal Collective, Yeasayer have taken the blog-pop crown hands down.

On top of ALL THAT, I've managed to find time this month to go back and investigate XTC through their singles collection (Fossil Fuel) which, although I'm only going through the first disc of right now, is rather brilliant – as one might expect from a band of such immaculate reputation. In and amongst all of this there's been the Domino Records sampler on the cover of this week's NME and somehow the time for me to get re-acquainted with old favourites Interpol and The Strokes, through repeated listens of their début albums.

You wouldn't believe me if I also said that I've watched Disney/Pixar's Up, picked up a cheap copy of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's debut album from a charity shop (£1.50!!) and managed to catch up on a lot of my reading too, so I won't tell you that. Next month promises to be even busier still with at least five albums due out that have the potential to be somewhere above par. If Gorillaz album isn't at least an 8/10 I'll eat my hat.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Back to The Futureheads

Sunderland's The Futureheads could well make claim to being, if not the best, then certainly one of the most defining bands of the last decade. Coming around during the post-punk revival explosion they've thus far put out three albums of brilliant music and are currently readying a forth. Despite their Top 10 success with their cover of 'Hounds Of Love', The 'Heads have remained pretty much critic-proof. Said forth album is to be called The Chaos and will be their second put out on their own label.

Thankfully, from The Futureheads have revealed about The Chaos, it seems that we're unlikely to see a dip in quality from the band that at the very least, I love.

The first piece of evidence to support this comes from the new single; 'Heartbeat Song'. It's all over the interweb, the fact that it is by far the band's most pop single yet. With it's huge chorus and straightforward structure it could be the best Buzzcocks song the Buzzcocks never wrote. I was going to use this as a Track of the Week at some point, but I've realised that nearly all of my TotWs so far this year have been from established artists, and also that aside from them and my This is Fake DIY reviews I've written very little about anything else recently. This should hopefully kill two birds with one stone. The video is below and I am dedicating my time this week to unearthing a track by a new or (relatively) unheard of band for next Monday. Failing that I'll just stick up something by Copy Haho.

So far 2010 has disappointed massively with regards to album artwork (Yeasayer, Los Campesinos! and MGMT all have released/announced pretty dire ones). Trust The Futurheads to have buckled this trend and provided us with the second clue that their awaited new record will be Not Shit. The artwork to The Chaos recalls that to Muse's Resistance from last year but in retaining the greys of The Futurheads previous albums (namely their self-titled debut and News & Tributes) it settles much more into a cold-war vibe. Basic and minimal, it fits The Futureheads brand of post-punk like a glove.

Now there's a lot of records due out in the next month or so, and I hope to actually have the chance to write about some of them, seeing as I have little in the way of reviewing to do.

The Chaos is due on April 26th on Nul Records

Monday, 22 February 2010

Track of the Week 2010: #8

Vampire Weekend – 'Giving Up The Gun'

I've not really made any secret about the fact that I've been enjoying Contra quite a lot. It's just really darn listenable isn't it. Similarly I've not made any secret whatsoever about the catchy brilliance of 'Giving Up The Gun'. Next to it, 'Cousins' seems like the most impenetrable and forgettable pop track going, which of course it isn't. Out of any song so far this calender year I've found myself singing or humming the brilliant chorus of 'Giving Up The Gun' to myself the most.

This week the video for the song's been aired, confirming what I already expected in that it would become the second (or third if you're counting 'Horchata') single from the band's second album. The R&B beat and wobbly synths gradually giving way to the echoey afro-pop influenced guitar part that's fast become Vampire Weekend's sonic trademark.

On top of this I just want to go on the record as being a fan of the lyrics. One of the factors that made me enjoy the group's debut album so much was the cultural niche-ness of the subject matter and the intelligence to which they approached it with. According to an interview in this week's NME 'Giving Up The Gun' is about Japan's surrendering of their projectile weaponry in favour of the traditional sword. Either way, the line “My ears are blown to bits from all the rifle hits / but still I crave that sound” and the imagery it conjurers in line with Vampire Weekend's global aesthetic is one that seems likely to be reverberating around my head for at leas the rest of the year.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Track of the Week 2010: #7

Kate Nash – 'I Just Love You More'

Was not expecting this. I really enjoyed Kate Nash's debut album a couple of years ago but her long absence from the pop scene has sadly made everyone forget about her. With the current vogue of female pop singers I was expecting any return from her to be tailor made to hit the charts and please her record label who have been supporting her for the past couple of years.

Somehow, instead of either going down the 'quirky' folk route or the accessible synth-pop route Kate's gone and recorded a mental-as-you-like rock track. To these ears it sounds like Nash's relationship with Cribs man Ryan Jarman has influenced more than her lyrics. 'I Just Love You More is a free download from her website. So go and get it!

Also from the “Welcome back ladies, and where do you think you've been for the past couple of years?” file is The Pipettes who have likewise made the return with a free download track. Sadly The Pipettes are now on Sugababes levels of original members (none) and have only one member on board from the first album (Gwenno). As a duo they're nowhere near as good but have evolved from their polka-pop days, which is something. 'Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen' is available here. You be the judge.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Track of the Week 2010: #6

ABC - 'Date Stamp'

From time to time I've been known to dig out an old album and give it spin after spin for no reason other than said album is completely awesome. For the past two weeks The Lexicon of Love by ABC has been that album. Released in 1982 it's a showcase of the mastery of the pop genre and stands up as possibly the greatest pure pop album of all time. That may sound like an exaggeration, but trust me it is not.

When I first started listening to the album it took me a while to get used to. The production is supplied by genius Trevor Horn but sounds on the surface to be a very '80's record. It's very slick and contains all manner of over-the-top flourishes (brass, strings, extra vocals etc). Still, I persevered as I was already fairly familiar with the songs due to them being played by my dad all throughout my childhood.

ABC never released anything after The Lexicon of Love that came anywhere close to it. There was the occasional single that was pretty good ('When Smokey Sings' for instance) but much of it was forgettable. Subsequently this album became much more than the band both in terms of its sound and commercial success. Albums these days seldom get as big, in terms of their scale and ambition, as The Lexicon of Love and this is sad. How amazing would it be if one of today's better pop groups forgot for a moment that the album was tied to their brand name and just produced something more than themselves?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


January has been a bit of a slow month in terms of album releases but it has given me the chance to catch up on some older ones that I had previously ignored or have come across on other people's End of Year (and in the case of The National's Boxer, End of Decade) Lists. Consequently I've been enjoying The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's début album quite a lot alongside the brilliant Two Dancers by Wild Beasts and brand new eyes by Paramore (patchy but has some great singles). Possibly the highlight from all of this though is Dananananaykroyd, whose album was one I was meaning to buy since it came out (but only got around to doing six or so months later). Said album Hey Everyone! is a frantic rock record, that although not re-inventing the wheel does some fantastic and offbeat things with rock music, that really needs to be heard to be believed.

As a side note: I've picked up a the much hyped Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective. Aside from 'My Girls' which is one hell of a pop song I'm finding it a little hard going and more than a touch dense. From the few listens that I've given it I can tell the strengths and inventiveness it possesses are apparent but I'm also aware that it's going to take many more listens for my pop palate to adjust. I am sure that it will be worth it in the end and if nothing else it's quite good for drifting off to sleep to.

New releases though. There has only been two this month that I've actually been interested in and have therefore picked up both. First out of the blocks was Vampire Weekend's second album Contra, which although not life shattering is in my opinion a immensely listenable and fun pop record. The deft touches with the band work into their template work very well, even when they shouldn't (such as the auto-tune on 'California English') and even though the album is back-weighted there's plenty of variety. Personal highlights for me would be 'Cousins', 'White Sky' and best of all 'Giving Up The Gun'.

The second record is, of course, the solo album from Guillemots man Fyfe Dangerfield. A gentler and more stripped back affair than his day job, Fly Yellow Moon is a reminder of just exactly how much I enjoy listening to the man sing. Across the album there's dalliances with Northern Soul ('She Needs Me') glitchy pop ('Walk In The Room'), British Sea Power meets Richard Hawley epic indie ('Faster Than The Setting Sun') and acoustic musings ('Livewire', 'Firebird'). None of it is really Guillemots material and is somewhat better for being so.

The last thing to mention is the sheer amount of side projects that are appearing this year. Fyfe may have just opened the floodgates. This week has seen the release of The Hot Rats (formed by Danny and Gaz Supergrass) covers record, called Turn Ons, and later in the month we're due an album by Everybody Was In The French Resistance... Now! (a project from Eddie Art Brut and one of The Blood Arm whereby responses to a variety of popular songs have been recorded). It begs the question: is there anyone who's just sticking to their day job this year? We're fully expecting to hear next that Franz Ferdinand are recording music for fashion shows... Oh, wait.....

I'm sure that there's stuff from this month that I've missed. Feel free to tell me what they are...