Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Discovery - AVAST! & The Whitest Boy Alive

Two bands in one Discovery post is something I was trying to avoid, but I am bursting to describe these two new bands that are stunning their way into my lists of bands that I must see live, and where they are quite the same, they are also slightly different from each other. But, in a weird twist, are linked by one simple fact that makes them quite unique in my recent acquisitions - I have bought their records my self.

AVAST! are a Scottish indie band that are born of the same basket that Stapleton were, and have pilfered most of their members. Jingle jangle pop guitar with shouty vocals make them sound like Dartz!! but with a slight tweak to the formula in that the songs a dripping in rather luxurious melodies and stamped with the same Indie pulse-watching that Stapleton should be famous for. Avast! keep the rhythms, the guitar and the lo-fi production but have the charm to make it work. I seriously suggest you listen to them and love them. They have inflections of Post-hardcore that can't be ignored too.

The Whitest Boy Alive are another similar offshoot from a band that I love. Kings of Convenience are one of the bands that no matter what mood I am I can return to either of their two main albums and smile at the acoustic guitars duelling with each other and the improbable sound of two men sounding so intune with their harmonies that it seems like they were born of the same tree. The Whitest Boy Alive then, is slightly different, being only Erland Oyes this time around pulling the guitar from various levels of distortion and the drumming that is steeped in disco inflected groves but recorded on a track that makes it sound so organic. It is no surprise when listening to the album Dreams that they started as an electronic artist as the music pulls at the high-low troughs and peaks of dance music and almost every track here has a groove do danceable it should be illegal. The simplicity of some of the melodies and arrangements shouldn't be off putting as the songs are little wonders of 21st century indie.
You may be surprised to see my jumping from Post-Rock to poppery Indie, but be warned: My tastes are much more varied than that.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Review - Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

I am a fan of Elbow and have been since A Cast of Thousands, so listening to their fourth LP I might be slightly biased towards the "drinking man's Coldplay", a tag I detest more every time I hear it. Their last album, born of the tours that almost ripped the band apart, was slightly disjointed and flowed jarringly, but still had the epic and warm feeling mixed with a sense of Guy Garvey smoking, creased suit jacket, and a guitar, writing musings on the world.

This time the band have produced the album themselves, and this increases the warmth of the record as you know that every guitar string, echo, synth and organ are all there for a reason as it adds to the music, and the sound levels will be perfect for telling the story that the band had dreamed of when writing the music. And, while it is not a concept album with a story per se, there is a feeling that each track is a chapter in a tale wrapped within the soaring strings, grungy bass lines and melodies so pure and well crafted the album is closing in on perfection.

At least, after the first six tracks, we are there. Mirrorball is sublime in the purest way possible, with a piano sprinkling and a high to low vocal track that tugs at my heart with every word. The single, Grounds for Divorce, thunders in at a pace unmatched on the album but fits with the rest of the slower, quieter, smoother edges, and it tugs at you jacket. Running outside into the sun, to have you jacket caught by the door handle and that single moment where you smile and think how the world works, Grounds for Divorce is one the stand out tracks, but the opener, Starling, has to take the title of one of the best Elbow songs ever. An Audience with the Pope and The Fix (with Richard Hawley appearing) are also shining lights on this record.

In summation, The Seldom Seen Kid is a contender for Album of the Year, along with 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons. The "drinking man's Coldplay" they are not, unless the drink is White Wine, Whisky, and possibly tap water.


The Fix

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Discovery: Try These Three

Discovery: Try These Three

Every so often I will find a band or an artist that I think someone else should be listening to. Also, every so often I will randomly mention it to a friend to find that they have already found them previously or in some cases, seen them live by accident. In my head I have a running total of bands that various friends have recommended to me and the other way round, when I have impressed a band onto a friend. I have an altogether different music taste from most of my friends, but these three are in vogue at the moment.

The Safe Bet: Broken Records
Edinburgh band that seem to have the whole of the indie scene looing their way with a glance at both their potential and also with envious eyes. Their EP was released earlier in the year but these days it is better to Myspace them and you can get a good idea from the what kind of ban they are but these guys are probably going to be huge. There is Arcade Fire, there is Modest Mouse, there is Dylan, but alos there is a smattering of what gives young Scottish bands that little kick up the arse – there is the Travis, Idlewild and Franz Ferdinand effect where success is only a short leap away. Without a contract an album is probably a while off, but I suggest you try them and try to see them live. Very exciting times indeed.

The Outside Chance: The Knife
This brother sister duo from Sweden are not only compelling but mystical; they are rarely seen live, preferring to hide behind wondrous and magical visual screens, with lights shot complementing the music. It is all part of the feeling and the album Silent Shout is one of the most amazing records I have heard in a very long time. It is not what I expect to be everyone’s taste – it is nothing like Broken Records for a start, but the techno-electronic melodies are so artfully constructed and the vocals affected with nods to Bjork, you feel not only is the lyrics not that important, but they are used as an instrument. Listening to this album with headphones might be one of the most cathartic experiences on record. This album is essential. Try “We Share Our Mothers Health”, “Heartbeats (that one made famous by Jose Gonzalez and Sony)” and “Marble House”

The Old School: The Smiths
I cannot talk highly enough of this band who last year I found, wrapped in critical rapture, and they have became my favroutie band of all time, no question. I can listen to any album from any point in their career and not skip one track ever, they songs are that interesting and the guitar work is that intricate. I truly would love them to reform, but at the same time would love them to not reform, keeping what they did 1983 – 1987 as a testament to the late 80s Britain and the Thatcher years. This is what makes it great to be a indie fan – and whilst they might have become the band that most love to hate (because of the actions of Morissey, like my father) I would implore anyone who has indie credentials to get The Queen is Dead and Strangeways, Here We Come, the two seminal albums.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Monday Mix - 03/03/2008

Every Monday it is my intention to share 5 tracks that I have been listening to over the past week and I feel that you should definitely listen to at least once.

Ok, this is really a Tuesday mix but what the hell...

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - Find The Time
It's nice to see Get Cape return with a followup to their excellent first album, Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager and this song keeps up the standard I'm beginning to expect from Sam Duckworth and Co. The song is the first single off the new album Searching For The Hows and Whys, an album I have yet to listen to properly, only having downloaded it yesterday. The song is upbeat and reasonably catchy and the sound is exactly what I'm used to with Get Cape. I recommend you listen to the rest of the album which comes out on the 10th of March - sounds promising.

The Bluetones - Bluetonic
The Bluetone are a survivor of the 90's Britpop era and are still going today, although with only a fraction of the popularity they used to have. This song is probably their most famous, you're bound to recognise it as soon as it starts... If you like it, try their Best Of album Expecting To Fly, it's got other good tracks on it such as Slight Return and Cut Some Rug.

Weezer - Blast Off!
This song comes from Rivers Cuomo's first solo album Alone The Home Recordings Of Rivers Cuomo which is basically a collection of B-Sides from Weezer over the past 10 or so years. This song happens to be one of my favourite Weezer tracks even though it is unfinished, just cutting off at the end. It has what you'd expect of a Weezer track, a heavy, addictive riff with some excellent song writing thrown in from Cuomo. Definitely worth a listen if you're a Weezer fan.

Kerbdog - Sally
Kerbdog are an Irish grunge band from the mid 90's and this song comes from their 1997 critically acclaimed album, On The Turn. This song is easily the best song on a great album, an album I had to buy (remember buying CDs?) to hear in full. The best £4 I've spent in a while...thank you eBay.

The National - Green Gloves
Not much to say about this song expect it's a pleasant indie track from the excellent 2007 album Boxer. Try this is you like The Arcade Fire, Sons and Daughters or Interpol. Also try the first single off the album, Fake Empire.

Review - Stereophonics - Pull the Pin

The last two reviews have been of recent, or close to recent, releases from artists as I can imagine that reviewers are supposed to review, but this album is not recent, but already been out for a few months, but I have started to listen to it thinking I would give it a chance, but that might have been a mistake.

Stereophonics have been awful for ages. Since their first two albums that caught the same zeitgeist that Oasis had rode in on, they went all rubbish in the same way Oasis fell apart (if you believe the press, I can now listen to those albums with hindsight and be very impressed by them). The problem with Stereophonics is that they mellowed out beyond what you can call still actively making a record – they were not only slow and mellow, but also it seemed lazy, almost drifting along doing nothing but chords and mismatched lyrics talking pish about nothing but the “rock and roll” that Kelly Jones and experienced a few years previously.

All this make 2005’s Language Violence Sex Other a return to form in a sense with the heavier rock and gnarling riffs from their earlier stuff, and it still sounds like a really good album even today – but the worry is that their sixth album, Pull the Pin, would return to the chilled out arsey rock of their previous releases, and you might be relieve as they don’t as the distortion is turned up and kept on at a loud level, but missing is everything else.

Rifss slip out like mumbled words after a few drinks, the drumming, whilst trying hard, still feels laboured and as an after thought, and the lyrics are even more generic that you can imagine, describing such boring things such as a Bank Holiday Monday, and all this hidden in a loud package that seems to say “yeah, LOUD, but BORING”.

The problem is that there is the regular amount of acoustic, slow rock and fast riffing here, and the regular and required amout of swearing for the average chart listener to think they are listening to a Rock band, but in fact Kelly Jones have not ever been on, and have never been the master lyricist that they are perceived to have been – just back in the Performance and Cocktails they had energy, and Word Gets Around they had enthusiasm, but now they pretend to have both, where they really just have Major Label cheques and Yes-men who hang about saying “That is rock” when in fact it is “distortion based pop music”.

Stereophonics are still awful, and Pull the Pin should by all accounts be their last album, but it won’t be, as the Radio1 crew bought it and put it to number 1. I wonder when they will release their “greatest hits”.

Passing the Buck, probably the best track on the album.
Bank Holiday Monday, probably the worst track on the album.