Saturday, October 31, 2009
GORILLA Manor, the forthcoming introduction to Californians Local Natives, is one worth going ape about.
Because the LP from the group, who amazingly remain unsigned in their native USA, sees the group assuredly occupying similar ground to recent success stories Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest and Fleet Foxes' Fleet Foxes.
The group's sweeping orchestral indie is crisp but remains inventive throughout, with unexpected vocal directions and beautiful little interludes hidden mid-song to reward repeated listens.
A mature release for a debut from a band that's at least partially-unsigned, Gorilla Manor is a stately effort.
Friday, October 30, 2009
THE Yes! EP sees psychedelic folk fivesome Colourmusic taking a positive step with their art.
Because up until now, the group - who sound like they take their inspiration from acts like The Flaming Lips and The Polyphonic Spree - have taken their main inspiration from colours, and released EPs about them called Yellow and Red.
However musically, after the eponymous anthemic opener sets out the group's stall, the whirring psychedelia here doesn't quite evolve to do anything to tickle the listener pink.
It's a shame - especially given the glut of ideas the band have reputedly brought to their live shows.
At one show, having not shaved or cut their hair for six months, the band invited the audience up to chop off their hair and clothes as the set progressed, while at another the audience were free to come onstage and paint the band with emulsion, and at another they faked the death and carried out the funeral of guitarist Nick Turner.
If Colourmusic can capture a little more of that on next year's studio album, they should have something to really whet the palette.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I ONLY get this excited about a debut album from a band once or twice a year - the last time I can recall would be Fighting With Wire's Man Vs Monster back in March.
It's the sheer joy of finding a band I've never heard of whose music just makes me smile - and the reason I listen to endless Threes, Fives And Sevens and Understanding Electricitys.
Because at the first time of asking, with Theories Of Dr Lovelock, The Chemists have found the right formula.
The Bristol band's LP is a sparky compound of indie, alt rock, punk and a little pop, which what it lacks in originality it makes up for in sheer exuberance, not least on opening This City and Radio Booth - although probably not on unexpected Britney Spears cover Toxic.
Destined to be pffff-ed at by a slew of critics for not being oh-so-clever, for fans of sweaty straightforward rock I prescribe The Chemists.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
ALTHOUGH a group in its infancy, judging by Elementary Of Youth, Sound Of Guns are targeting the very top.
Because despite there being a few tweaks needed, all the elements are here for a stadium-filling rock band in the vein of The Enemy and The Music.
You only need to listen to the various elements floating around in tracks like Galaxy to know this band are thinking big.
So when a full length rolls around from Sound Of Guns, it'll be worth a shot.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Because it's no gamble putting the legendary DJ in charge of a two-disc mix of less trancey, more progressive house music like this, inspired by his residency at the Palms Casino And Resort in Las Vegas.
The mixing is seamless and although never close to chill-out nothing here is rushed, with each track given its chance to grow - much like Oakenfold's hair, it seems.
There is a real flow to the album, which heads straight for the dancefloor before slowly building in more and more vocal turns, which do stray towards the cliched at times.
Oakenfold is set to release a new album of original material next, titled Pop Killer, and it almost seems a shame - as there are few better at picking and mixing other people's work.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
IF YOU'RE planning on checking out The Broken Places, the forthcoming EP from Last Tide, you'd better make sure you're wearing some interesting footwear.
Because five-track release from the Washington DC outfit is shoegaze all the way.
Taking its lead from late '80s acts like My Bloody Valentine, the EP is a droning collection which when it works, such as on Shapeshifter, is a perfect quick fix.
And don't worry, your welllingtons/espadrilles/winklepickers/clogs will get you through the less inspiring moments.
A HEADS up for you readers, it's nearly time, this is the end of an era - and my Albums Of The Decade are compiled and ready to go.
That's right, my top 10 of the past decade - assuming nothing mind-blowing is released in the next couple of months, that is - will hit the blog on Monday.
Of course you'll still have to sweat on the Albums Of The Year, but I think it's safe to say that the decade-defining albums should be set in stone by now.
Of course, I'd love to hear your picks - let me know on the forum, or leave your comments below.
IT'S nearly time for When This Was The Future, Lisa O Piu's new album.
As the name of the LP implies, the atmospheric folk here is not very 'now' - I suppose timeless would have been the aim.
And rich vocal tones of frontwoman Lisa Isaksson have a warm quality over tracks which add layer upon layer as they progress, creating a tapestry of voices and flutes and guitars, while an air of melancholy still pervades the record.
There's not a drum in sight here too, giving a campfire feel to proceedings.
But while the retro feel is nice, for me the Swedish act jars with the likes of Noah And The Whale, Jim Moray and Mumford And Sons - who of late have been making great strides to bring folk into the 21st century - by only looking to the past.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
BRISTOL'S Beak> and their self titled album are the latest project from Geoff Barrow, the force behind Portishead - whose album Third was 2008's Sound Advice Album Of The Year, no less.
But the trio's post rock-meets-instrumental hip hop is disappointingly one dimensional - sounding like Portishead, only on tranquilisers, in a bag.
At times, such as on I Know and Iron Acton, a Get The Blessing-referencing groove is added to the mix, adding much needed drive to proceedings - and at these points Beak> are a force to be reckoned with.
But ultimately, the meandering Beak> seems to have little point - perhaps they should have called it Bill).
Friday, October 23, 2009
A STRATOCASTER designed by Young Knives is to be auctioned off in aid of Oxfam.
The root vegetable-themed Fender electric guitar is one of several designed by acts including Glasvegas and Starsailor being sold online on Sunday for charity, as part of the Oxjam Kilburn music festival.
Organisers hope the guitar will raise £1,000 for the good cause.
THIS latest LP from 4hero extends the group's back catalogue to nine albums - and as you'd expect with so much under their belts this is pretty slick stuff.
Taking the group's ascent from pioneering early drum and bass through their chill out phase - which gained the group a Mercury Prize nomination for Two Pages - to their more jazzier efforts to the next natural extension, Extensions sees a subtle Herbie Hancock feel added to the group's lush jungle jazz.
However they're not alone here - this album sees some of their previous work delicately revisited with acts including Sonar Kollektiv Orchester, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Vince Vella's Cuban Collective and [Re:Jazz] stringing along.
Soulful and subdued, if you're looking for something to tear the roof off a rave, 4hero are not your men - but if you're looking for something altogether lovelier from your drum and bass, Extensions would augment any collection.
METALCORE outfit Atreyu take a huge step towards the recognition they deserve with new album Congregation Of The Damned.
The LP, the Californian band's sixth studio effort, sees a fine balance between accessibility and brutality being struck.
And if it wasn't for indulgences like the awful closing ballad Wait For You, this could be one of the best metal releases of the year - with simple, unstoppable riffing on tracks like Black Days Begin, string-backed flourishes on Bleeding Is A Luxury, and relatively melodic tracks like Insatiable sitting side by side.
It's a mish mash for sure, but ultimately that means there's something for everyone here - just be sure to skip the last track.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
STOCKHOLM'S Miike Snow, actually a three-piece band, fall on the UK this Monday with a self-titled LP.
And if there's any justice the flurry of electro-soul pop tracks here should see Miike Snow storm the charts - there's enough potential singles here.
Cod reggae opening number Animal, which is more Sting than a bumblebee's backside, the vocoder electropop of Silvia, the soulful synthfest Black And Blue - any of these Andrew Wyatt-penned, Bloodshy and Avant-produced tracks could settle into the top 10.
And standouts aside, Miike Snow overall is pretty cool, pretty consistant and well worth checking out, if you catch my drift.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
THEY say beware of false Prophets - but Spectrum 7 might be more than just pretenders.
The Surrey group play electro-infused nu-metal which is musically a mere stone's throw from Welsh band Lost Prophets - not a bad thing, considering the latter group have grown to Download-headlining proportions.
And Spectrum 7 colour this mini-album So Silent The Night with a wide variety of sounds - from the pummelling riffs of Blue Wray to the full-on electronica of Glass Houses, the release rarely relents.
On this form, I predict a bright future for the band.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
FOLLOWING last year's The Vodoun Effect - a collection of rare recordings made by Benin's Orchestre Poly-Rythmo De Cotonou - comes Echos Hypnotiques, a compilation of their major label efforts.
And the the collection continues to deliver more of the same from the prolific yet practically unheard-of group, who were one of the African nation's hottest acts back in the 1970s.
Each track is full-on funky and energetic - this is music as borne out of voodoo rituals as James Brown funk after all - and is as likely to make you shake and sweat as a malarial fever.
Thank god - or gods, voodoo worshippers - that Analog Africa continue to push this awesome act that fans of funk really should check out.
Monday, October 19, 2009
The female voice of Strictly Come Dancing, Hayley Sanderson, releases her album of cover versions next week.
However the razzmatazz is pared back here, with a less-is-more approach - most of the time it's just Hayley's voice, keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman on pianos and guitarist Mitch Dalton.
There's not a paso doble or American slow in sight - just songs like Coldplay's Yellow, Paul Simon's 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover and David Bowie's Life On Mars.
IF I told you about Hudson Mohawke's new album Butter, would you spread it?
Because the sought-after Glaswegian has crafted a strange and wonderful IDM soundscape with his first formal album.
For instance Mohawke, real name Ross Birchard, is strange on tracks like the Outkast-esque Joy Fantastic, and wonderful on bleeping hip hop beat-driven masterpieces like No One Could Ever and Fuse.
Wild with invention throughout, the 18-track collection is out of this world - like a rave on a spaceship.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
DESPITE having a stage name that sounds like a Native American Indian clown, Tickley Feather's Hors D’Oeuvres isn't the big barrel of laughs you would expect.
Although Feather, real name Annie Sachs, fits the mould of 2009 - being a quirky female singer-songwriter with an electronic leaning - her vibe is a morose one more in line with someone like PJ Harvey than Little Boots.
Recorded in a rundown Virgina farmhouse, the LP relays the ramshackle atmosphere of its conception, mixing one-finger keyboard melodies, drum machine rhythms and her brooding voice in a blend of distorting studio effects.
And while tracks like the shoegazing Trashy Boys and the delicate Roses Of Romance have appeal, too much of this album is buried beneath the haze of echo and reverb and delay for it to be noticed.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
THE voice that launched a thousand X-Factor contestants that is Whitney Houston returns with a whole new studio album next week - her first since 2002.
And as obvious as it is to say it, with I Look To You, Houston, we have a problem.
The album starts off in an awesome fashion with Million Dollar Bill, which exudes old school cool and is reason enough for a comeback.
But as you could predict, it soon all turns to slush with wet ballads like I Look To You, and then cringeworthy make-out tracks like Worth It.
And who thought it would be good to match the vocal talent of Whitney with chipmunk-voiced rapper Akon on Like I Never Left?
So on the evidence of I Look To You, nowadays it's better to look elsewhere for your diva fix.
Friday, October 16, 2009
BLACK Mold's approach to new album Snow Blindness Is Crystal Antz is to have lots of different approaches.
The schizophrenic electro LP jumps from the broken Nintendo Gameboy sounds of Rotten Walls to the minimalism of Dr Snouth to the calming Wet Ferns to the knocking beats of Pristine Boobles like a dying fish on a dancefloor.
There's some excellent moments crafted by Black Mold, real name Chad VanGaalen, but the scattergun approach means that these gems come across like moments of lucidity in the ravings of a madman.
Or, if analogies are your thing, like good reviews on a two-bit music blog thrown together by one person who doesn't have enough time and still has to fit in a listen of a Whitney Houston album.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
EXPERIMENTAL rap royalty Jel and Doseone are back, in the form of Themselves, with new album CrownsDown.
And the distinctive fast-paced rappers themselves are on top form, flowing out of the speakers on tracks like Oversleeping and Daxstrong.
But CrownsDown suffers from a lack of consistency in its backing tracks.
There's some bad, such as opening effort Back II Burn, which menaces without any real effect. There's some good, such as the Nine Inch Nails-style The Mark.
And there's the plain odd, such as tracks like You Ain't It, which hark back to earlier incarnations like Clouddead and Subtle.
This wavering effect between totally listenable and laughable means that CrownsDown won't be remembered as the pair's crowning glory.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
NEW acts have been named on Loughborough Students' Union's listings.
As part of their 26-venue A-Z Tour, which takes in places such as Aldershot, Dundee, Exmouth and Zennor, Ash will be appearing on November 3.
The band will be supported by Panama Kings for the L leg of the tour.
Then on November 5, dance act Chase And Status will be coming to town, alongside the Loughborough-based Dub Boro collective.
On December 5, Sheffield's Reverend And The Makers will perform at the Students' Union.
And next year, on February 27, Britpop legends Ocean Colour Scene have been confirmed.
All of the gigs are open to the general public as well as students. For more information visit here or here.
That's right, it turns out the saucy Dragons' Den star, whose real name is Keith Graham, has previously performed with the likes of James Brown and Maxi Priest in a music career stretching back to 1982.
So it's no surprise that when he gets into the studio, such as on new album Red Hot, he doesn't bottle it - this is pretty assured roots reggae, if a little stock.
So if you like your reggae commercial, with a faint hint of politics and a distinct 1980s flavour, then tuck in.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
LOUGHBOROUGH'S own Kelpe, real name Kel Mckeown, makes meticulous music that would be as at home in a chill-out room as it would be in an art gallery.
His third album Cambio Wechsel is a brilliant mosaic of beats and samples, a wondrous sound which he unerringly dubs "head-nod-tronica" - rather making any review I could write redundent.
I could wax lyrical about the pulsating The Blankout Agreement, harp on about the understated psychedelia of After Gold or try to pinpoint exactly why the messed-up electro funk of Clearance has to be heard to be believed.
But it would be pointless.
Because when you put on one of his tracks, made of skeletal beats coloured with shifting, warped electronica rising and falling with fuzzy basslines, skittering electronics and atmospheric samples, all you can do is simply nod in appreciation.
Monday, October 12, 2009
MR HUDSON has come a long way since his stunning 2007 debut, A Tale Of Two Cities.
Although he previously had a slight hip hop influence, for Straight No Chaser the singer songwriter has relegated his backing band, The Library, to the background, and started mixing in the company of the likes of Kanye West and Jay Z - and has also ditched his more acoustic roots for autotune and synth.
He's also developed a potty mouth too - I suppose that's what happens when you hang out with rappers...
Luckily under this new production gloss, which is reminiscent of West's 808s And Heartbreaks, Mr Hudson's talent for crafting unbelievably emotive songs soaked in bathos remains - tracks like the massive Supernova, Time and There Will Be Tears send shivers down the spine.
And there's future chart toppers here too, such as Kid Cudi collaboration Everything Is Broken.
Straight No Chaser should go straight onto your shopping list when it comes out next Monday.
WHITE Belt Yellow Tag, a two-piece risen from the ashes of Yourcodenameis:milo, release Remains next week.
The EP starts as the post rock drone that is the title track - but don't be put off, this is a glorious, shifting, rising drone, which lands halfway between the sweeping beauty of Mogwai and the raw power of Biffy Clyro.
Remains then melds into Control, Designs And Innovations, an instrumental afterthought for the title track, before Wedding Present cover Dalliance lifts the tempo once again in time for a brace of Marmaduke Duke-esque remixes.
A tantalising taster for the group - whether the full length effort delivers on all this promise remains to be seen.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
IRISH act The Blizzards are the latest in a flurry of pop rock acts which have snowballed in recent years.
And as a result, with no particular vendetta against any act in particular, all these Yeah Yous/The Hoosiers/Scouting For Girls/Hockey/The Feeling-type groups are increasingly likely to leave me cold.
The Blizzards, on paper, are a fair-to-middling band trying damn hard to make a decent record of Domino Effect, and I salute that.
But the extreme effort put into tracks like Trust Me I'm A Doctor and The Reason results in clinically-crafted but contrived radio rock, that ultimately leaves me drifting off.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
AMY Winehouse - it's impossible to write anything about singer Dionne Bromfield without mentioning her, so I thought I'd get it out of the way early doors.
Because troubled tabloid teaser Winehouse is godmother to 13-year-old Bromfield, she created her own record label Lioness just to sign her, and she even sings backing vocals for her from time to time.
And there's a definite Winehouse influence too on Bromfield's style, both vocally and musically, which is no bad thing.
As an introduction, Motown covers collection Introducing works well - although singing standards such as My Boy Lollipop and Ain't No Mountain High Enough is a little safe.
Nevertheless, at least now we're acquainted.
Friday, October 09, 2009
The ludicrious LP She Wolf sees the ridiculously entertaining South American star mixing her Latin-influenced pop R&B with dancehall and electro - courtesy of a host of top producers such as Pharrel Williams, John Hill and Wyclef Jean who don't miss a beat.
And Shakira herself is on top form too, with her warbling voice taking as many unexpected twists as her dance routines do.
She Wolf is contemporary pop at its best for me, a fully formed beast of an album, with teeth but also a tongue in its cheek.
BESPECTACULED chart-topping musician and fashion designer Taio Cruz, real name Taio Oluwaseyi Cruz da Silva, socks it to the public once more with a new album on Monday.
Rokstarr sees the London-based singer exploring a gamut of emotions - love, unrequited love, lust, errrr, more love, the unnamed emotion of receiving a dirty text message, more love...
In fact half is about being heartbroken, and half is about getting it on - music to commit adultery to, then?
Now the loveable dance R&B does shine on a handful of tracks like No Other One, Break Your Heart and Take Me Back.
But on the rest of the track listing, the efforts sound formulaic - Cruz is definitely a singles act - and the emotion of the backing tracks is killed dead by Cruz's stone cold auto-tuned delivery.
So unless you're a bit of a fan, this LP is only going to break, break, break-break, break your heart.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
BOUYED by the success of Nine Inch Nails' previous album The Downward Spiral and bankrolled by the musical steamroller Marilyn Manson, The Fragile is testament to giving an act the chance to grow.
Always a one man act, Trent Reznor crafted a two-part masterpiece that showcases an accomplished artist at the very peak of his powers.
From sheer aural assaults like We're In This Together to delicate masterpieces like The Day The Whole World Went Away, Reznor had five years to make this epic, and you can see not a minute of it was wasted - you can tell every note in every song has been scrutinised.
The resulting album, The Fragile, easily stands up as one of the strongest albums of all time.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
MAKING being in pop group look simple isn't easy - the mere fact that the cocksure John And Edward are one of the top three best groups on this year's X-Factor testifies to this.
But The Saturdays are far from weak.
In fact the sheer fact that at least two-thirds of The Saturdays's new album, Wordshaker, could easily be released as a single says it all - Forever Is Over, One Shot, Wordshaker, Here Standing, Lose Control, Ego, they would all look at home in the top 10.
Not all at number one, mind, but in the charts nonetheless.
Sure, they're unlikely to set the world alight with this unashamedly pop collection, but with a consistency rarely seen in the pop sphere, the five-piece girl group set about honed pop track after honed pop track, with few blips.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
IT BEGGARS belief that a band as effortlessly cool as Beggar Joe should be as unrecognised.
Because the Manchester band's bluesy acoustic lounge rock is like a chilled cucumber from the word go on their eponymous effort.
Singer Jon Kenzie's grizzled vocals, which sit halfway between Gomez and Ray LaMontagne, are the perfect foil for the group's steel string grooves on standouts like Ain't No Way and Evil Overcomes.
And while the diversions the group take - a touch of flamenco here, a little bebop there - are hit and miss, Beggar Joe deserves to see the group handed it on a plate, no questions asked.
Monday, October 05, 2009
DESPITE Underworld releasing an all-conquering hit single, Born Slippy, around the same time as this release, there's nothing faddy or throwaway about Second Toughest In The Infants.
No, as I'm sure more than a handful of people who bought this album on a whim found out, Underworld make grown-up music for people who take their dance seriously.
In fact Born Slippy didn't even make the track listing - none hit wonders anyone?
Eight minute opuses are the order of the day, with deep, intense, rolling basslines, skittering breakbeat beats and delicate electronic flecks - not least on the awesome Pearl's Girl.
So if you've yet to be educated, make Second Toughest In The Infants your number one priority.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
DECEMBER 31, 2009, marks the end of the noughties, and ushers in the start of the teenies, I suppose.
So with the decade's last hurrah fast approaching, I thought it only right, as I'm sad enough to compile an Albums of the Year list annually, that I should consider my Albums Of The Decade.
Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory has sold 24 million copies, the joint highest amount worldwide alongside Backstreet Boys with Black And Blue - should that get them a place?
Does the influence on the 2000s of the likes of Is This It? by The Strokes earn a mention?
And does experimental genre-blurring such as Radiohead's Kid A sum up the last 10 years for you?
Perhaps you just want to plug an overlooked favourite from the past 10 years.
Whatever you opinion, you can join in the debate across at the Sound Off forum.
"THIS ain't no quiet riot" spits LA MC Thavius Beck as he begins Burn, one of the tracks on his new album Dialogue.
And he's right, with the album packed with 15 short and seriously hardcore hip hop tracks, each of which reverberates like a slug at his many targets.
This production, which features helping hands from an arsenal of acts such as Saul Williams, Mars Volta man Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Subtitle, is the perfect vehicle for the zealous Beck's understated flow.
Head down, the no-nonsense MC takes apart the social ills of his country, and through his actions, rather than his words, his peers that are squandering their talents on beef and booty.
Dialogue is serious stuff, and seriously good to boot.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
BATH based band Kill It Kid's music is less a sound clash, more a full-on war.
The main protagonists here are blues and folk, but elements of ragtime, indie, country and soul also grapple for the upper hand throughout the group's eponymous debut album.
This eclectic hectic mix leads to a glut of victories - such as the rampant blues explosion Burst Its Banks - and inevitable defeats - such as the uninspiring country plod Private Idaho.
But bold, empassioned and slightly unhinged, Kill It Kid is an invigorating listen.
Friday, October 02, 2009
SHE'S been on a bit of a run of form of late, has Mariah Carey - Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel follows the ridiculously successful E=MC2 and The Emancipation Of Mimi, which between then spawned 10 hit singles.
So it's a cert to expect a few more pop R&B chart-troublers from this, her 12th studio effort.
However the surprise here is that these singles, such as ponderous lead release Obsessed, are among the weakest moments here.
Instead as the LP progresses Carey begins to let a welcome sense of humour creep into her polished pop product.
I must declare a disinterest and say it may not be my kettle of fish, but it's a pleasure to hear a star of Carey's maginitude, who must carry a huge weight of expectation, having so much fun with her art.
OPEN Hearts is an appropriate title for Manchester rockers Longcut's second album.
With an alt-rock base pulled around by the group's post rock leanings, yet always anchored by farting electronic basslines, Open Hearts sees the group opening up with a leaner, more honed sound than debut A Call And Response, which was at times prone to posturing over content.
From the opening yelp of Out At The Roots to the cacophonous climax of The Last Ones Here the album is a raw affair, recorded in rehearsal rooms and bathrooms at their Salford home rather than studios - meaning every ounce of blood, sweat and tears poured into the recording has been captured here.
In fact three guitar amps and two tape echo units were sacrificed during the making if Open Hearts - I hope their neighbours were the laid-back sort...
Thursday, October 01, 2009
LOOK no more - folk band Mumford And Sons gorgeous album Sigh No More is here.
The group have risen hand in hand with alt-folk acts Noah And The Whale and Laura Marling, and have been tipped to emulate their successes too - not least on this site back in January!
Luckily the album is worth the wait.
Singer Marcus Mumford's distinctive dishevelled vocals are raw with emotion throughout the LP, especially when bookended by the backing band's glorious harmonies.
These sit atop rising and falling folk tinged with bluegrass, a splash of rock and a host of soaring horns when required, such as on stand out track Little Lion Man.
A glorious, heartfelt collection which justifies the hype, Sigh No More should have them swooning.