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Monday, 26 April 2010

Track of the Week: 2010 #17

Kate Nash – 'Do-Wah-Doo'

Kate Nash's second album, My Best Friend Is You came out last week. Sadly I'm a little bit poor at the moment, so I've not bought it yet. However, I have been on Spotify and had a listen. First impressions would be that it's one of the best of the year so far and sounds in places a little bit like Los Campesinos! if they had an unlimited budget. It's serious fun and if one thing is for certain it is that by comparison the rather good Made Of Bricks sounds nothing more than a demo.

I was planning on waiting until I'd bought the album to check out the single but when I realised that it wasn't going to be until the beginning of next month and with MBFIY getting really some good reviews from unlikely places I thought I better had head to youtube.

Bloody good job I did, as 'Do-Wah-Doo' is one of the best songs that I've head in a long time. And yes, I know that a lot of people are talking about Ms Nash and that I'm just adding to the deluge. Still, this has been implanted in my skull and heart. There's a combination of Motown strings, indie-rock meets surf guitars, trumpets and a '60s girl group chorus that shouldn't work at all. Somehow it's perfect.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Track of the Week: 2010 #16

The Lovely Eggs – 'Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion?'

So, what's the track of the week this week then? Something to do with the Supergrass split? Maybe it's one of the sexy pieces of vinyl that was released for record store day? (I got away with Gorillaz 'White Flag' and the Dangermouse/Sparklehorse/Gruff Rhys 7” - both apparently limited to 100 copies. Go me!) But it's neither of those, is it. It's not even the free Blur download, which is pretty darned good. And you can see that it's none of them because it says above what the track of the week is, and it is by The Lovely Eggs.

My friends and I took a punt on this gig on Friday night, on the strength of this one song and were far from disappointed. Support act Hexicon were on the right side of listenable and closed with one remarkably good track. The Lovely Eggs meanwhile turned up late, mucked up a couple of times and stopped one song because the singer didn't like her “voice going all space age”. In other words The Lovely Eggs were adorable and I couldn't help but invest in a copy of their album If You Were Fruit from the merch stand afterwards. (I'm poor and yet I keep spending cash on music)

'Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion?' was the set closer and is currently their best known song. A list of activities that Holly and David, who make up the duo, believe are essential to prevent you from burning in hell, not only will this song provide you with a few laughs but it could also save your soul. There's not many songs, Track of the Week or otherwise, that can have that as a selling point is there.

This is the epitome of lo-fi indiepop goodness.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Supergrass R.I.P.

This knocked me for six. Not since The Long Blondes announced their departure in 2008 has the split of a band meant this much to me. Supergrass have long been one of my favourite bands and there's a lot of my life that's happened because of the group.

In 2005 I moved away to University and I had accepted an offer from Sheffield. In the October of that year Supergrass were due to play the Octagon at the Students Union and I'd be lying if I said that when I failed to get the grades I needed (and had to find a Uni place through clearing) this wasn't a factor in deciding to go to Sheffield anyway and study a different course. At the time Supergrass were by a distance my favourite group. At the time my listening habits were almost exclusively indie rock and britpop and the sense of fun that Supergrass imbued their records with and the craftsmanship with which they constructed their albums was unmatched by anything that I'd heard at the time, and remains this way until that day.


Far from prolific, between 1994 and 2008 the band put out only six albums and were due to release a seventh (Release The Drones) this summer, but it's now unknown if said album will ever be heard. I sincerely hope that we do. All six of Supergrass' albums were stunning pieces of work with their own distinctive identity. Their greatest hits album, Supergrass Is 10 was released in 2004 and remains my favourite CD to this, containing as it does the first thirds of an unparalleled run of singles along with pretty much the greatest B-side of all time ('Wait For The Sun').

Looking across the career of a band that across many years refused to go shit, and then hearing that they've decided to call it a day is at the same time gutting and inspiring. One the one hand we know that Supergrass are never going to turn into the embarrassment that many of their 'britpop' 'peers' became, but on the other we've been spared seeing what they could possibly have become with another few albums under their belts.

There's really not much more that I can say. I'm pretty cut up about this and am just hoping against all hope that Release The Drones will surface and prove a fitting eulogy.

Here's some of their finest video moments (of which there's more than a few). Sadly, the embedding is disabled, so you'll have to follow the links

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Track of the Week: 2010 #15

The National – 'Bloodbuzz Ohio'

I've been really slack this past week. Sorry about that. I've been off work and therefore busy doing other things. As an apology here's a song that every single other music blog in the world has been wetting themselves over for the past month or so.

I've only recently gotten into The National, and that is at the moment the single greatest regret of my life. It was 'So Far Around The Bend' from last year's Dark Was The Night compilation which bought them to my attention and since then I've been enjoying Alligator and Boxer to a greater extent than I can really put into words.

When I've tried to describe The National I've only ever been able to say that they sound like a band. Sonically there's nothing massively distinctive about them, and yet they sound like no other band on the planet. If you're unfamiliar now then new single/free download 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' is as good a place as any to start. It has all of the hallmarks of The National's best songs with the star being the heart-wrenching baritone of Matt Berninger and the affective yet abstract lyrics.

High Violet, 'Bloodbuzz Ohio's parent album is due out on May 10th and is probably the most highly anticipated album of the year in most parts (or at least is joint so with the next LCD Soundsystem one). The single is due out on a 7” on May 3rd, but you can download it for FREE! NOW! HERE!



The next few updates are probably going to be reviews. I've got a sizeable pile from This Is Fake DIY to go through from artists as varied as She & Him and Atari Teenage Riot. Because of this the (much delayed) pieces on why Romance Is Boring is great and why The Libertines reunion is/isn't important to me, are going to have to wait that little bit longer.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Track of the Week: 2010 #14

The Neat – 'In Youth Is Pleasure'

As much as the 'alternative' music press will try and argue against the fact, we have a lot to thank Kaiser Chiefs for. Not only did they record one of the single greatest pure-pop albums of the decade in 2005's Employment, put out a string of unbeatable singles and maintained one of the best live experiences in mainstream pop music but now they've set up their own record label and given us The Neat.

Underpinned by some excellent machine gun drumming, 'In Youth Is Pleasure' sounds like the work of a fully formed band and is amazingly fresh sounding for a debut single. There's a debt to Mark E Smith of The Fall in the part-spoken/part-sung style but The Neat are able to get away with this by coming across completely unpretentiously. Although not a frantic song there's an energy running throughout and a very individual mash of styles. If these guys are as good live as the single implies then it's entirely possible that through their shows they will create a cult following.

With most art-pop at the moment drowning itself in synthesisers and retrosim The Neat are a band that really stand out. With the right push and some more singles of this strength they will really have what it takes to carve out a decent size niche for themselves. With the idiosyncrasy of Young Knives or The Long Blondes, if we were currently in 2006 then 'In Youth Is Pleasure' would have a decent shot at being chart-bound. That's not going to happen in 2010, but The Neat could end up being a band that really matter.

'In Youth Is Pleasure' is due out on April 26th on the aforementioned Chewing Gum Records.

Friday, 2 April 2010

March

These past four weeks have been a bit hectic with new releases. So much so, in fact I'm having to re-check what I wrote about February to see exactly what has come out when.

Soundtrack to the month proper, has been the third album by Gorillaz which is a contender for the Album of the Year crown. Plastic Beach, although arguably two or three tracks too long is a wonderfully eclectic and accomplished pop record. That the guest appearances manage to gel into something cohesive despite being as disparate as Lou Reed and Snoop Dogg frankly beggars belief. Still, due to the eclectic nature of the record it is difficult to pick out highlights, although for my tastes the more mellow, Damon Albarn-focused moments are the one's that stick with me. 'Melancholy Hill', 'Rhinestone Eyes' and 'Empire Ants' being prime examples. What I feel recommends this album above those factors however is the beautiful exotic atmosphere that it conjures. With its clean production and tropical themes it manages to stay resolutely human being shot through with a vain of sadness that's present in all great pop music.

Other albums that I've been getting on rather well with this month include newbies from two ends of the spectrum of Brit-rock credibility. At the critical panning end, The Automatic put out their third record Tear The Signs Down. Having multiple front-men suits them well and gives them a chance to fully incorporate the several-part harmonies into their post-hardcore influenced pop rock. The choruses are frequently massive (see 'Interstate' or 'Run and Hide') but when this is juxtaposed with the more experimental moments ('Race To The Heart Of The Sun') a picture is fully painted of a band who are really enjoying the music that they are making.

That other end of the aforementioned spectrum is Blood Red Shoes, who have gotten plaudits from everywhere and are bloody great. The two piece make one hell of a rock n roll racket with their simple set up of drums and guitar and although their second record, Fire Like This, isn't quite up to the standard set by Box of Secrets, it's still one of the years best and most ferocious records. Closing track 'Colours Fade' is epic, and 'Heartsink' is a personal favourite, even if it is one of the duo's more conventional tracks.

The other two releases this month that I've been getting my ears around are Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobious Pip's Logic of Chance and Love Is All's Two Thousand And Ten Injuries. The latter of which I've already reviewed and don't need to go into detail about again. Bitesize quote: indiepop masterpiece. The former however I've yet to really mention and should say now that I really like. Le Sac and Pip frequently get a slating from sites like Drowned in Sound and Pitchfork, with most of this being based around a misunderstanding that the two are a hip-hop act. Whilst The Logic of Chance is closer to this than predecessor Angles, it still feels much more like a spoken word record for the most part. In comparison to it's predecessor The Logic of Chance doesn't quite live up. Pip doesn't have as much to say as last time but Le Sac has come on leaps and bounds with his beats being strong enough to work on their own.

The only other album that I've picked up from the new releases this month is Alphabeat's The Beat Is..., which you already know about. So I won't go into that again. In compilation news Rough Trade Shops Counter Cultre '09 is two discs of brilliant underground gems from the past 12 months or so and comes massively recommended.

To close; a list of older releases that I've picked up this month: The Smiths The Sound Of The Smiths, M83 Before The Dawn Heals Us, Kenickie At The Club, She & Him Volume 1, Jay-Z The Black Album, David Bowie Reality, Grizzly Bear Veckatimest, Talking Heads Stop Making Sense.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Love Is All - Two Thousand And Ten Inuries (album review)

Polyvinyl
23/03/10

8/10

Love Is All's last album, 2008's 'A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night', managed to get released under very little fanfare. Shocking, seeing as their debut album was 'Nine Times That Same Song'; one of the best indiepop records of the past decade. With any luck album number three, entitled 'Two Thousand And Ten Injuries', should rectify the Swede's diminished profile and show them to be the best kept secret that they are.

Less cluttered and frantic than the material the band are currently best known for, 'Two Thousand And Ten Injuries' focuses on perfectly formed love songs wrapped in a fuzzy pretty wrapper. The production values are certainly low-fi and delightfully it suits the group. Listened to on a stereo it's warm and enveloping music that, with intersecting upbeat tracks keeps the listener involved and creates the urge to maybe get up and shuffle around the room a little. When put on headphones however the songs themselves shine. With Josephine Olausson's vocals being low in the mix, it takes the eardrum to speaker proximity for her lyrics to really speak.

Love songs may be old hat for those that would rather the band be attempting to reinvent the sonic or structural wheel of pop music but Love Is All put themselves forward as Exhibit A in preserving this artform. Don't worry, it's not the soppy side of love, but the side that comes out when you find that your partner isn't what you expected, the side that's present at that moment where you realise that everything's gone wrong. See 'False Pretense' for the best example of this.

There's many a great moment on this album however. Be it the opening pair of 'Bigger Bolder' and 'Repetition', where the former struts into view with a Strokesian shuffle and the latter melds Monochrome Set fuzzy clattering to a European jangle. That's not to say that Love Is All are derivative of these bands, you understand. They sound most like Love Is All, but even then, have moved their sound on. Aside from being less clattering, the saxophone is employed more judiciously than on previous albums. In no longer present being in every cacophony, the impact from its occasional blasts are heightened, creating a new dimension to their music.

If indiepop is your thing, then you'll probably be intending to pick up the new Love Is All record anyway. You really should do, as anyone with even a passing interest in the genre will get something from 'Two Thousand And Ten Injuries' best song. The timeless 'The Birds Were Singing With All Of Their Might' has a beautiful melody and with a danceable clatter of a drum beat puts itself forward as being one of the best songs of 2010 thus far.

With this triumphant album Love Is All are without a doubt the best kept secret in indiepop. It's a pity as they should be considered as strong a contender as any of the bigger hitters.