Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare

We venture into Sophomore territory with Arctic Monkeys fast paced follow up to 2006's chart topping album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. The band prove that it's not that difficult to tour an album, then release a second album within one year of the debut release. At the time the band were highly rated to become one of Britain's best bands for a very long time, so this album has to stick right? I don't think it did.. I also don't think they took enough time planning and recording this album.

Brainstorm couldn't be a better opener, in your face, fast paced.. everything rushing, until it breaks down and starts the opening track jam. It's over before you realise it. It was my alarm clock for about two years. I don't even want to attempt to count the amount of times this has scared the living shit out of me, it's incredibly loud. Everything sounds so perfect together, but for an opener it's not very appetising. it doesn't give anything other than a faster pace and shorter song.

The following two tracks are very good single tracks, both lyrically suitable and the melodies work very well. Teddy Picker being remembered for it's riff, which isn't that amazing or pleasing on the ear. It's not very gritty, it just works well with the bass. It does pick up with a 'chorus', but it's just not that strong.

D Is For Dangerous is another 2 minute track which has bland bass work and no form of raw energy, which we heard on the debut. The vocals have been heavily effected, it's not just this track though. Every so often on this album you'll hear a faint, slightly distorted vocal by both Alex and his backup lads at certain points. Again, it suffers from being too short. But I wouldn't want to hear this for 5 minutes, it's sad.. Not the fact that they haven't created something more rewarding, but because they could create better songs than this, with much, much better structure and dynamics. It's extremely weak.

Fluorescent Adolescent ends the opening quartet with a great Indie anthem. Alex's vocals are particular noticeable, the effects used on his voice are very very good, yet repetitive. he has amazing flow, with better lyrics than the previous three tracks. It does sound messy in places, I think they could have worked on making the song more melodic, but it's the best song on the album.. Clearly.

Only One Who Knows, is my personal favourite track, it's also the toned down, slow track that every album should have. Lyrics again, are the focal point of this song. The guitar work is extremely melancholy, with great use of the slide. It's a breaking point on the album. Unfortunately the back half of the album doesn't reach any new heights, it tumbles into filler.

The debut album was raw and energetic. Here, we have energetic songs, sure.. But they're very dense and messy. Lyrics are at times sloppy, but for the majority of the songs, the lyrics are strong and feature imagery which Alex Turner gives across well. Production has certainly effected the bands sound, I think this is a step back from the well produced and gritty debut.


Saturday, 26 November 2011

Live Show - The Twilight Sad

Where: Leicester
Venue: Firebug

I arrived 30 minutes after the doors had opened. I'm usually one of the first to arrive as I like to have a drink and check out the venue. I wasn't surprised to find an empty venue, the majority of people were downstairs in the bar. I bought myself a pint of Scrump Jack, which is an English cider. Then I spoke to a man about tickets for the show, he directed me upstairs.. So I made my way upstairs, passed two very friendly chaps in plaid shirts, then saw the doorman. I was holding my drink, which meant I had to give him my drink in order to get my £10 entrance fee out of my wallet, so that was embarrassing.

I enjoyed the first two support acts, the first being a Folk artist singing some very melancholy numbers of his own. The second was an upcoming band I've seen before, Dark Dark Horse, who are very good mixing synths with guitar to create an eerie atmosphere. The Twilight Sad began shortly, to an outstanding introduction, which is taken from a new song on the upcoming third album dated for next year.

I'm not an experienced Twilight Sad fan, but I've heard all the material in the past and enjoy both studio albums. I was surprised to see the lead guitarist looking like a roadie, with the Fred Perry shirt and a bold head, very Scottish. The drummer was very big, he wandered through the audience with his seat. I didn't know what the band members looked like, so I was surprised to see them moving their own equipment and tuning their own instruments. The stage is very small and the sound system was also small,. But the band created a wall of sound which basically was Shoegaze, with modern Pop aspects of their music. The opener was very strong and will be a highlight on the upcoming album. They played a small set, but it was very energetic and ended with two of there best tracks, the first two on their debut album.

The show didn't drag on, it was a short set. In a way, I was glad to exit rather early because the venues sound system was shockingly bad. To summarise, I would call this an intimate show aimed at the dedicated and interested music fans who have the willpower to go out on a Wednesday night and watch a very talented Scottish band. We have bigger venues in Leicester which are more suited for this act, for instance the newly built O2 Academy (which is failing).

Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner

In 2009 Gold Panda created a joyous, oriental track with 'Quitter's Raga'. It was under two minutes long and hit you like a ton of bricks, the track finished before you could understand what was going on. The obvious eastern influence was heard through the use of Indian instrumentation, not to mention the name 'Gold Panda'. Upon hearing Lucky Shiner, I was curious to see how he would keep things fresh. I expected the album to be very clear and simplistic, much alike Four Tet's release There Is Love In You from January 2010.

This is what we call EDM... Electronic Dance Music. Gold Panda's main instrument is his Akai sampler, which he used to edit, pitch shift and reinvent pieces of music which are both nostalgic and unusual for this setting. Where other artists sample commercial music, Gold Panda thrives to take the unknown and bring it to a wider audience. His raw, glitch sounds create a fortified atmosphere which other artists in the same genre crave. 

You is a very energetic start to the album, with a fast, heavy beat and samples percussion instruments aching to be heard by the listener. But it's drowned out by the vocal sample, which reads.. You you you you you you you you you you, me me me me me me me me me, me me me me. He samples a delightful synthesized brass instrument which I'm not 100% certain on, but it sounds great. This track introduces Gold Panda's sound and it's one of the stronger tracks on the album.

Everything sounds perfect when listening to Vanilla Minus. It's pieced together like a puzzle, samples flying left right and centre. The dynamics are really something to look for on this track, it doesn't just build up, it actually goes places and takes different directions. The initial beat is astounding, very tribal and extremely repetitious, yet fresh. This track is a definite highlight on the album, I heard him play it live earlier this year (July 2011) at Latitude and it lasted twice as long as the four minute studio version. People were enjoying themselves, that was the main aspect of his show. It was early in the morning, it was rainy, it was cold and people still managed to find the energy to dance. This music just gets your body moving.

Parents is a short acoustic guitar track, which features rain forest ambiance. It doesn't exactly take off as such, the guitar work is very plain and it isn't repetitive or displeasing to hear. The focus is on the atmosphere created with the predominately left sounding guitar work and the right soundscapes. Same Dream China is different to say the least. The opening percussion sample is looped and placed to the left, making room for a lighter beat on the right. The samples come in quickly and leave just as a different sample comes into action. It's very stop start here, glitchy to say the least.

After the opening four tracks, I expected things to go sour and turn against his so far, so good debut album. I was surprised to hear variations within his music, sure he has the same song structures. On top of that, the beats all follow the same time frame, with very little change other than some different effects. Before We Talked is simply catchy. The beat is much more impressive and we hear some bass at different points. All the samples come and go, but the track doesnt drag on, like others. Snow & Taxis is one of the tracks which does drag, which is unfortunate because I rather like the string samples and messy vocal which is heavily effected. 

Marriage is possibly the strongest individual track. I rate it among the best because it sounds so raw, yet everything is refined. The samples are very melodic and the beat is all over the place. This isn't a bad thing, because everything flows so well together. Beats are drowned out by the initial sample, whilst other samples like the oriental plucking noise which comes in after the one minute mark. The track doesn't take off, it's just very melodic.

Some tracks are very predictable, once you've heard the first 20 seconds, you know how it's going to end. Once you've heard it, you've heard it, nothing grabs your attention. Tracks like After We Talked are very passive, nothing remarkable or interesting happens. It's the same with I'm With You But I'm Lonely. The repetitious beat sticks out, not very exciting to hear when the whole album is basically one long piece of sampled material with some simplistic beats.

Lucky Shiner is an outstanding album, the samples are all comprehensive. Tracks like You and Vanilla Minus really stand out, but the overall quality of material is shattered by a small number of tracks which don't shine. Gold Panda can improve as an artist and release a clearer, improved album with better structure. Song structure is really lacking here, samples come and go and you don't know where you are on a song because everything is looped and withdrawn, then introduced and looped again. It's a good technique, but it can get very repetitive.


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow

Kate Bush returns after a six year absence, pushing aside the re-work album Director's Cut, which was released earlier this year. 50 Words For Snow being her tenth studio album which bolsters an impressive back catalogue. 

The first thing you're hit with is the delicate piano, with it being the protagonist for this album. Her artistic lyrics shine through instantly "I was born in a cloud, now I am falling. I want you to catch me".  It creates the mood and imagery for the album, something which she does very well. Lush vocals and song structure stands out immensely. My initial reaction to Snowflake was.. C.S Lewis, after double figures of listening, it's.. C.S Lewis. 

Lake Tahoe is a long eerie piano piece with beautiful string work. It's extremely difficult to interpret what's actually happening. Kate has created her own winter wonderland, I like it, but the sheer lengh and lack of dynamics create this vision of boredom which she cant escape from. Her vocals are very strong and don't sound aged, it's hard to believe she's past the 50 mark.

Misty begins much brighter than the previous tracks. The piano is joined with light percussion which gives the listener a little something extra to focus on. You could call this easy listening, it has all the ingredients. The beautiful piano, clear slightly reverbed vocals and efficient strings. It has hints of adult contemporary music on Misty. I wouldn't want to begin calling Kate Bush one of those.. artists. But this isn't art rock anymore, don't kid yourself into believing she's back to her Hounds of Love routes, because this is nothing like Hounds of Love. Sure, the second half on that album has many characteristics as this does, but it's not as mature and slow. 50 Words For Snow is a modern day sadcore album.

The most accessible song on the album is also one of the shortest. Saying that.. It's still over seven minutes long. The synthesized Wild Man has structure and great melody, with a highly effected chorus which stands out above everything else. This track has everything, great bass work, dynamic percussion and outstanding vocals. It's the single on the album, much like Radiohead's Lotus Flower for The King of Limbs. I never thought I'd be comparing Kate Bush with Radiohead, but it happens.. 

Snowed In At Wheeler Street is a duet with (Sir) Elton John, think of that image. I imagine something cheesy and terrible, but this song is actually my favourite. It has lyrics with severe meaning, mentioning past events where they have crossed each others path. It's incredibly romantic, with passionate vocals given by both parties. Elton John giving a surprisingly strong, masculine vocal. He sounds like a rough David Bowie on this track. The lengh of the song really combines the two characters together. At over eight minutes, it's remarkably long for a duet. The synthesized melody is the backbone, with very sparse cymbal percussion and light piano playing once again.

The following track isn't as powerful or synthetic as the previous beauty. It's the title track and it features Comedian/Actor/Legend Stephen Fry, giving a spoken word reading. the instrumentation is almost like an intro, but it never really takes off. The bass is waiting for something to happen, but nothing really captures me. Kate sings throughout about how many word's are left, which is strange. It's like a primary school numeracy lesson gone wrong. It's really confusing why it's on the album, among these other beautiful eerie pieces.

Among Angels is the shortest song on the album at over six minutes. It's by far the most melancholy, with sparse instrumentation and beautiful vocals. I love Kate's voice on this song, her voice hasn't aged one bit. It's still as profound and dynamical as it was in the late 70's, with a hint of maturity and grit. Her vocals give off the sense of emotion, something which I look for in music personally. It's a fantastic end to the piano/string album.

So this album isn't perfect, no album is. We hear some absolutely amazing pieces with Lake Tahoe and Misty, spectacular, accessible tracks with Wild Man and Snowed In At Wheeler Street, then we have the eerie Snowflake and beautiful Among Angels. It took me about four listens to fully grasp the concept. The atmosphere created is spot on, it's very dark and cold, made for winter. I think she's capable of creating something more fulfilling than this, never the less, this is among the best albums of year.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

David Ackles - American Gothic

The label singer-songwriter can be applied to any artists hovering about among the folk scene of the 70's, but David Ackles is in fact, a singer-songwriter. His songs have personal meaning and represent stories, which in turn helps apply the mood of the music, which is well performed with piano accompanying orchestral arrangements designed by Ackles himself. The strings were conducted by veteran Robert Kirby, the man behind Nick Drake's string work.

Instantly the listener imagines the story which Ackles portrays. He has a huge emphasis on the way stories are told, with the vocals flowing well and the string arrangements feeling both melancholy and dark at the same time. The title track begins the album, it has a powerful piano riff which increases and decreases during the chorus and verses, which structure wise are in place, but the lyrics tell a different story. It's very baroque and dark with hints of sadness through the story.

The second track is extremely mellow, bringing comparisons to Canadian songwriter Jimmy Webb and also fellow Los Angeles artist Tim Buckley. The sweet, softening lyrics about love, girls and feelings create such a beautiful atmosphere. It's sad just to read what Ackles has written. The piano work is fantastic and works well with the Buckley-esque light percussion. it's one of the standout tracks for me due to it's overall mood. It leaves the listener in a state of awe, due to the lyrical content.

American Gothic is widely considered to be Ackles masterpiece. It's not hard to see why critics label this album as his masterpiece because of the strong emphasis on story telling, alike Woody Guthrie in that aspect. With strong conceptual stories representing American lifestyle on par with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, Ackles creates an atmosphere with his lyrics and desperate sounding vocals which separates himself from anything else released in this time period. One Night Stand is a great example, showing Ackles tearful lyrics with romance and great vocal flow, which to me sounds like Scott Walker. 

Oh, California! is a cheerful song about.. California, which features an energetic string sections and joyful vocals. The piano playing, is by far the best here. Moods are created with the heavier percussion and increased orchestra. Towards the end of the track, the string's really do take control, with a closer focus on piano closing the song off. It's extremely soulful and this is the most cheerful song on the album.

Mournful lyrics surround Another Friday Night, with strong imagery for the listener. This song features a bigger selection of instrumentation, with bass making an appearance, along with bigger, louder drums and an organ, which is used during the chorus. Ackles sings.. "I’ve had men tell me, be content. To spend your life for food and rent, and give up trying. They say life’s a dying jailor, I just tell them, I do alright. Still it’s rough on Friday night. When there’s time for thinking, I spend it drinking up my failure." This extract is my favourite lyrical segment on the album, it's hard to understand how Ackles music has been unnoticed by the masses because the sheer lyricism is outstanding. Gospel vocals and brass related orchestration close the song.

Midnight Carousel has a beautiful, but scary opening piano, which does raise in tone over time. It's by far one of the stronger tracks musically, with great structure and truthful, heartfelt lyrics. It sounds like it could be the instrumental for a dramatic scene in a Stephen King novel/turned film. The recurring lyrics have great effect which become noticeable as the music picks up in texture, whilst Ackles begins raising his voice for a bigger sound. 

Ackles sings about home relocation on Waiting For The Moving Van. He looks back at improving his home and imagining what the new owners will change with the place.. "I wonder what they'll do about the oak tree with the swing. I never built the tree house, but I had plans". It has a depressive, angst feel in Ackles lyrics. Noting a deformed relationship, which has left him to sell the house. It's a short story, but with great meaning.

The album comes to a close with the 11 minute heart thumping Montana Song. it's pure poetry, with spectacular orchestral segments. The track does vary, but it keeps to a general structure. Percussion improves and so does the piano work, giving the 'American West' song structure a theatrical feel. it's increasingly hard to call this Folk, not just Montana Song, but the whole album. Sure it has some Folk incentives, with the percussion and vocal delivery. But the heavy use of piano and dark string arrangements lead the genre in disarray, questioning whether it's folk, adult contemporary, baroque pop or the broad singer-songwriter 'genre'.

What we have is a poetic, story telling album, which is truthfully Ackles magnum opus. The vocals are laking skill and character, although emotion is portrayed. Strong lyrics make up the weak spots. It's all well and fine comparing him to Leonard Cohen, but where Cohen's poetry tells great stories and carrys significant meanings which can be interpreted in many different ways, Ackles lyrics are deeply personal and related to himself.


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Fall - Ersatz GB

With the majority of Post-Punk bands, consistency is seen to be invalid. In both music and members, bands progress for better or worse. The Fall have gone through an unidentified amount of member changes over the decades, experimenting with two drummers and twin bass on separate occasions. Arguably on top during the 80's with Marc Riley and Craig Scanlon as guitarists, both being noted as key members. 32 years after the bands debut, we have the 29th studio album. 

The band pride themselves on repetitiveness and unusual lyrics, which Mark E Smith has delivered through a spoken word style since the early days. For a first listen on Cosmos, you're plagued with typical song structure of post 2000 The Fall. Not to say this is a bad thing, it's just predictable. It's Something which The Fall, falls short with, on every modern release. Mark gives his vocal with great necessity and anger. The aged vocals are a little off putting, however it's a fast paced Fall song which is  something I expected.

We hear an improved sound on Taking Off. Which sounds very sparse and delicate, with the common synthesizer being played in parallel to the lead guitar, which is also delicate and modern sounding. This is a better direction for The Fall to take in my opinion, it has a focus on structure and melody, rather than Smiths lyrics overpowering the music. Don't get me wrong, I think Mark E Smith is one of the best lyricists around, which some may class as poetry when read. The repetitiveness, really does show in his lyrics and vocals on Note Will Not Return. It's not him being lazy, he's a rather productive 'musician', as proven by his track record. It just sounds rushed and unoriginal. You could go to a local mental hospital and write down the conversations between patients, which could create a Fall song. It's the ramblings of a mad man the same age as my Dad.

Mask Search is far more gritty, with Mark's vocals being hilarious.. "I'm so sick of Snow Patrol!" It doesn't reach new ground, it isn't catchy, it isn't experimental. It's just a straight up, simple track. Greenway touches on heavy rock, the vocals are horrible. They sound like Mark's lying on the floor trying to lift weights. The music is far more delinquent, in comparison to the other tracks. It has a respectable sound, it's loud.. It's just not very good.

Happi Song is actually sung! by Mark's wife and synth player Elena Poulou, I mean.. She's no Brix Smith, but her vocals are atypical and soft on the ear, a nice break from the hard hitting abrasive vocals. Lyrics are straight forward and repeated, with little meaning to myself, but to her and/or Mark, must mean something, i hope.. otherwise what is this? "Got no English folk music", if you can explain this, please get in touch.

The 8 minute Monocard is extremely repetitive, even for The Fall standards. It's very slow and drone like. The vocals are heavy, when they finally enter around the 2 minute mark. It doesn't have an ecliptic ending, it has some synthesized sounds which do very little. Laptop Dog is far more happier in style, but again it doesn't do anything, it goes nowhere. At this point you begin to fear what the future holds for The Fall. We know Mark will continue writing and performing under the name The Fall, it would be sad to see the unfortunate end, but for this record. It sounds like they have lost originality all together, it has very little variations and anything remotely interesting is hidden somewhere. 

For better or for worse, this is one of the average Fall albums which we can place in our collections along with those egotistic albums from the 90's. It has a few great moments, with the guitar work on Taking Off and the bass on Happi Song. It's just watered down, bog standard rock for 2011. It's not bad, it's just not good.. It's average.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Youth On Fire - The Exploits of Youth

When I first listened to Neutral Milk Hotel, like many others, I was shocked how popular they were within the 'Indie community'. Jeff Mangum gives his all with concise lyrics and emotional vocals, with lo-fi Indie-Folk being his backing track. It's not that I'm comparing Neutral Milk Hotel to this band, that would be incredibly sinister of me. Youth On Fire take an influence from Neutral Milk Hotel, in both song structure and production. 

These four sixteen year old's recorded this in a home studio. To record something of this sound quality at that age requires skill and time, both of which the band has. Member wise, I have no idea who produced this album, I'm guessing it was a collaboration between each member, where they recorded each part separately and all had a say in how they should place it together and what effects they should add afterwards.

It's masked in a wall of vocal distortion and clear acoustic guitars, with synthesizers also distorted and just about everything else they could find being used. Paperskin is a great track, at just over 2 minutes, the opening lyrics sum up the rest of the album, "At my age, this town is a prison". They're rebelling, using music as a suitable form of expression. It feautures some clear drumming and distorted, but clear vocals, which is heard throughout the album. The vocals are not my cup of tea, they're very emo but then again, this album is build around a broken relationship.

The band released the album for free on their bandcamp, which is a great way to get your music heard. The cover is a picture of a burned out building from the riots earlier this year. It gives a perfect image of 'youth in revolt'. This isn't the case for the pre mentioned riots, as initially it was a peaceful demonstration, which eventually turned into looting and vandalism with no relation to the initial protest. Never the less, it's a suitable album cover, with both the band name and the style of music.

Sun Glowz is by far the best track on the album. With opening lyrics 'my days are better than my dreams'. Distorted synthesizers rip through the track with a clear acoustic guitar and easy going bass. An electric guitar does eventually fade in, which leads the way for the second half of the track. Which we hear after the King of Carrot Flowers Part 3 session they have going on, with great distortion and fantastic drumming. This is the point where the bass takes control with a drum machine and delayed electric guitar. I don't like the mix between this loop and the acoustic guitar, but when this segment comes to a close, an ambient, slow progression prepares you for for the final segment of great guitar playing and a poppy electronic beat, which ends with more synthesizers, this time mellow and violin like.

Mammoth is a 9 minute thunderous track with a bass riff which amazes me. The riff lasts for about 6 minutes in total. With the bass being the lead instrument, everything surrounding the riff needs to draw the listener away, which is what happens. Electric guitar solo's and a synthesizer riff take control, the synth following the bass riff. Lyrics focusing on the eventual break up of the relationship with vocals which are not heard clearly, due to the sheer volume of the bass. The steady drum beat keeps the track in movement, it doesn't become repetitive as ambiance takes place which leads to the typical acoustic guitar and synthesized fade out.

The later tracks don't have the same musical effect as the previous few, but they're slower, lyrical based tracks about the aftermath. The concept is in place here, so the music can follow suit and the guitar work does exactly that. Lyrics of pure sadness such as, "We were just glad to be with each other"

For a first release, (I'm guessing it is) this is very good. The lyrics are in place with great references to to situations and real life events which have taken place. The vocals have a dirty, distorted sound which sounds very 90's. Guitar work is fantastic in places with very little mistakes, the production makes up for the weaker sections of the album. The vocals do lack skill, it's something i would work on personally. They do have character, but most listeners will be reluctant to listen on if they dislike the vocals. Which is very bad in this case because the music is extremely good for the budget of recording equipment. Certain areas are messy, these areas can be improved over time, such as with recording the acoustic guitar. The lo-fi, noise which is produced works well with the lyrics, one which caught my attention, "and when you tell me that you love me, i almost want to die" brings out plenty of emotion. It was a nice listen, if i had any say or action within a record label, I'd be talking to these guys. I'm predicting a bright future, they can only grow in maturity and skill over time, as soon as they start recording in a proper studio, they'll hear some drastic improvements.


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Live Show - British Sea Power

Where: Leicester
Venue: The Y Theatre

This was extremely exciting to me. I purchased the tickets online months in advance as I believed a band the size of British Sea Power would sell out, what i gathered was a small venue. I was right, the venue was very small, even so, it was not a sell out. I parked very near to the venue and visited some old friends in Sainsbury's before i entered the venue. Once i arrived i was shocked to see people walking into the auditorium with glass. We were trusted to take care of ourselves and others, which is a risky move as I personally believe health and safety regulations should be in place for music events. Plastic cups tend to be used in every, venue I've visited. 

The audience were interested in the band, they were clear British Sea Power fans because 80% of the audience were wearing British Sea Power t-shirts. 80% of which, broke rule 1 of concert clothing, never wear a t-shirt of the band you are seeing. Amateurs.. Anyway, the beer was great, being at a fair price along side the bars and clubs which neighbour the venue. The attendance was only a few hundred which gave it an intimate atmosphere. Ages ranging from myself being the clear youngest at 19, to people wearing glasses who have grey hair. The average age was approximately 38, i would guess.. The very few females were about 30ish, all of them being 4/10's.. by all i mean 3, seriously.. 3.

Musically, British Sea Power were on form, playing songs from the current release Valhalla Dancehall and Do You Like Rock Music?.. With the rest of the set being filled with rarities and The Decline of British Sea Power. it was a 17 song set, excluding the 3 song encore. I've seen the band before, earlier this year in July, where the set was 30 minutes long, nothing of which, I can remember as I was intoxicated at the time. 

I found myself to the left of the stage along side some other lonely drinkers wearing argyle. I didn't communicate with anybody other than the bar staff, but that's just my shy, awkward way. I go to these events for the musical experience and memory, not to interact with others. The chances are 1 million to 1 that i can find somebody as knowledgeable in music as me, so i don't bother interacting.

During the back end of BSP's set, a mosh pit broke out. About seven 40 year old men starting smashing into each other. Which took up half the fucking venue, i wasn't mad.. I let them get on with it, I'm not going to spoil the fun, i enjoy watching a mosh pit. But when one of the 3 girls drops a handbag on the floor and all her money spreads out everywhere.. You start to think, now it's time to stop. At this point, somebody shouted 'EVERYONE GET DOWN HERE, IT'S LIKE A FUCKING WISHING WELL'. The band were just as amused as the audience... Beautiful.

Wavin' Flags sounded great, they really know how to perform live. They all have great stage presence and brilliant visuals. An obvious hardcore fan base showed up to this gig, I didn't fit in. I was an outsider here. I am a fan of BSP to an extent, but in general I think they have awful lyrics and a predictable sound in places. This was a good experience, the sound was great for such a small venue. 

No Lucifer, Who's In Control and All In It were among my favorite's. I didn't dislike any songs in general, i know they can smash them out live and they certainly did here. The size of the audience didn't phase the band at all, it just encouraged them to have more of a relationship with the audience, throwing the microphone down the front at one point. It was exciting, i enjoyed my time and walked back to my car passing a Leicestershire prostitute with the typical 'No thanks' look.

Yeasayer - Odd Blood

This is the second studio album by Brooklyn Psychedelic Pop band Yeasayer, a name which i just love saying out loud. I don't know if it's 'Yea sayer' or 'Yeas ayer' or any other combination or what.. I just like the name. They play synthetic music with keys alike fellow New York based band Animal Collective. Close similarities are heard, where Animal Collective are perfect in production and sound, Yeasayer stay refined and soft around the edges, giving them a commercial feel at times. Sure it's Experimental as such, but the sound and vocals all point to a traditional electronic influenced album with synths, like the latest Editors album. I'm not calling this band bland, far from it.. They're just soft.

Numerous songs go straight over my head, for instance, Love Me Girl. I keep thinking Lady Gaga is about to come in and give a vocal. Sure it has a nice build up, but it doesn't lead anywhere, it has some sort of wub sound during the actual vocal piece, but to me, this is pretty shoddy.

Ambling Arp is the clear outstanding track, not just on the album, but in the year in general. It's a spectacular pop based song with a great chorus and just simple structure. It's not experimental as some would call it, but it does have many sound scape's which lead people to associate it with the experimental side of music, I've got to be honest.. Nothing on this album is experimental.

The band do have some good vocals, like with Madder Red, which has some lovely harmonics before turning into a completely different song. I can understand why some wouldn't like this. it's not in the same league as Animal Collective. Whoever thought of these two falling from the same tree was far from sane. I would place Yeasayer in the same region as The Big Pink, who have a greater incline towards noise, Yeasayer on the other hand focus on the basics and electronic aspects.

I wouldn't call this album great, but I wouldn't call it a bad album either. it's not an improvement on the previous album, All Hour Cymbals, released 3 years prior to this. Some tracks are very good, but not a majortiy. One is an outstanding track with leading synth lines and noticeable bass. The vocals sound fresh and extremely poppy, this could be considered mainstream, i can hear this being played on Radio One in the day time. We cant kid ourselves, this is a pop album.

Rome has a nice sounding beat, with a gritty synth and atmosphere, reminded me of Late of The Pier at one point, but i hear something different each time. The pop aspects take over with predictable lyrics. This aside, it does sound respectable, it's something you can put on for background music. I wouldn't listen to this on say.. A bus journey, but i would when I'm cleaning my car.


Flying Saucer Attack - Flying Saucer Attack

Let's be honest, it's not hard to stick the tag of Space Rock on a band who call themselves Flying Saucer Attack, just take a look at the album cover and tell me I'm wrong. Anyway, this Noise Rock band formed in Bristol in the 90's, forming due to the over hyped and over appreciated britpop of the time. On an initial listen, it sounds very noisy and you hear some great drones of distortion at the level of Sister Ray, only recorded lo-fi in a home. if you're a fan of Spacemen 3, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Slint and My Bloody Valentine.. The chances are high that you'll enjoy and appreciate this band.

Great sounding guitars and clarinet move the band toward the Post-Rock genre, something i have interest in. The percussion is also very good. It's not heavy or in your face, it's very faint and obscure. Label it Avant-Garde if you must, i just like how the levels of distortion and quiet, well recorded drums and vocals all amount up to a loud and energetic album. Something which, if present when recording, wouldn't be the case. The use of feedback is common here, especially on the opening track My Dreaming Hill, which has a very powerful sound, with the clarinet only adding to the drone atmosphere.

The second track, A Silent Tide, reminds me of early The Jesus & Mary Chain. Clear similarities are hears, with a great emphasis on pop like songs over a wall of noise. It's something more bands should take note of, the whole Noise Pop genre is faced in this wall of sound with great dynamics and textures. This album is far from Pop, the third track, Moonset is very droney and the clarinet solo leads the track into an avant-garde atmospshere, with recurring percussion sounding tribal.

Make My Dream puts me in a dream like state, I can imagine them playing this live to an intimate low attendance audience. It makes me think how big My Bloody Valentine became after Loveless, due to the fantastic production, where as, Flying Saucer Attack have the tracks, but not the production. But this is the way they wanted it, so you cant fault them for it. Because of this, I can respect them.

The facade of distortion may start to hurt, or even annoy you after a while, but this is an album that needs to be heard loud, without the volume, the whole album is worthless. You need to be able to hear the vocals, which you can at the right volume. It may begin to become repetitive, like with Spacemen 3, the loud levels of distortion and feedback create an energetic atmopshere. The Drowners is another example of this, the interior sounds remarkable due to the low cost and lo-fi style of recording. The drums are fresh, clarinet, beautiful.. And the vocals, in tune.

Track 9 is astonishing, named Popul Vuh 1, it's a 10 minute Post-Rock piece which sounds like Mogwai mixed with Spacemen 3. I can get used to this noise, it's very samey and repetitive, yet fresh and energetic. it's laid back, but it's in your face in certain areas. It's the key track for me, i would link you, the listener, this track, if i had to choose the strongest. Popul Vuh 2 is an earlier track on the album, which has the same textures, which lasts for 5 minutes, with greater emphasis on high pitched guitar notes and sound scape's.

Loud, was my first reaction after hearing this album. The back end tracks were mellow and laid back which makes me think differently, the first half is all about noise, creating fantastic textures with feedback to make the listener either cringe in fear, or cry in emotion. Now that i've listened several times, I begin to understand what the motives were for this album. Take your time when listening, heavy doses may send you in to a deep sleep.


Deerhunter - Halycon Digest

Two years ago, I was a little menacing with my musical opinions. I hardly listened to Deerhunter, but with just 10 - 15 minutes of listening, i decided they were a bad band, wit bad music. I was wrong.. So now I'm annoyed with myself for not giving them a chance two years ago. In recent times i have became a major Deerhunter fan, attending concerts and purchasing records. You could say that they're one of my favorite bands in this age. 

So this is the 4th/5th Deerhunter album, depending on what you class Weird Era Cont as. It features the usual Deerhunter soaring guitar riffs and atmospheric, Shoegaze like sounds created with the mass looping and exquisite textures of sound. The opening track sets the standard due to the final 2 minutes of beautiful noise.

This is a very strong album, each track has it's own separate style, both musically and lyrically. Something that you can really notice is the drumming. In places, it's very basic and empty, however, it's used to keep the songs moving. Some of the longer tracks like Desire Lines & He Would Have Laughed make your body move due to the basic but consistent drum beat. It's something that Deerhunter do perfectly, both in the studio and live. 

Revival is a fast paced, short Indie Pop song, with strong lyrics and a steady beat. The distorted guitar works like a charm on this song, enhancing Deerhunter's atmospherical sound. It leads in to the quiet, melancholy Sailing, which gives the listener a chance to let the imagination run wild, i personally picture a warm, sunny day, sun bathing on a boat. 

Deerhunter have a usual tendency to bring Ambient influences in their releases, those influences don't seem to show up on Halycon Digest. They have a bigger influence from Rock music in general here. It's a bigger, better sound than 2008's Microcastle. Desire Lines is painfully beautiful. The heavy opening guitar is very simple, yet effective. The ever increasing loop pedal usage and essential bass play a key role in Bradford Cox's lyrics, which don't seem to be noticed as much due to the sheer brilliance of the music. It does end in a fade out, i can forgive them on this occasion as it's very difficult to end a song like this, so a fade out does work here.

It's not like this album has bad tracks, the lyrics are very good in places, like with Basement Scene, which has better lyrics than just about every other track. This track doesn't raise the volume levels, but then again, you do get sick of overly produced loud noisy tracks. So every so often, it's nice to hear a quieter, textured guitar track like Basement Scene and Helicopter, which is just as lyrical. Helicopter was one of the first songs released by the band, also being one of the few played live years in advance prior. It has a very fresh sound, with a very noisy finish.

For me, the key track and ultimate finale is He Would Have Laughed, one of Deerhunter's best songs in my opinion, written in memory of Jay Reatard, who died during the recording of Halycon Digest. It has that achingly energetic drum beat which keeps the song in motion. The soaring guitar twinges sound like chimes swaying in the warm wind. It really is a phenomenal track which does eclipse around the 4 minute mark, where the the drums, vocals and bass fade out, to begin the second part of the song, with improved lyrics, more delay and a bigger emphasis on sound textures. It's the right way to end the album, just cutting off at the end.

Personally, this is one of my favourite albums of 2010. The sheer energy and emotion put into creating this textured noisy album just amazes me.Every note is placed in the correct position. Bradford Cox's vocals are solid, they're understandable in every song, very clearly recorded, making myself and 4AD proud.


Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi

I like to think that my listening habits include female artists regularly. It's no secret that female artists don't feature as much within the current music scene. I'm talking female musicians, not just singers, we have plenty of those provided by TV shows and executives from the music industry. Anna Calvi is a skilled violinist, she has been taught music theory and understands orchestral pieces as a musical ideology.

Comparisons with PJ Harvey and Siouxie Sioux are moderately accurate. Her vocal style definitely would suit Post-Punk, her voice being both powerful and full of emotion. This style of music is very dark, it's very empty and sad, yet beautiful, even if the songs sound similar and repetitive. One name i can throw at you is Jeff Buckley. This is like a female take on Grace, the guitar playing and structure is very similar to Buckley's. I wouldn't compare the two artists individually, both having very separate inspirations for their work. It's hard to stick a label on this music, various websites and magazines have dubbed her as an Indie Rock artist, this is what Arctic Monkeys are labelled as.. I don't even want to call this Rock.

The opening track is just a basic guitar track with no little other instruments featuring. You can hear some shimmering atmosphere gradually increasing as the track has a little kick of sound. It's very faint, it gives the track an eerie atmosphere, as a cymbal is heard. Eventually using her voice as an instrument to great effect, which draws the track to a close. It's nothing special musically, it just sets the atmopshere. It's not very memorable, being dark and gloomy being the main features.

Parts of this album excite me, like with Desire. A lovely song with strong vocals and personal stylistic lyrics which does give the song a boost over the other songs. It's strong, with a clear incentive on being the lead single, which it is. Suzanne and I is just as strong.. It features a loud drum bear being the base for the song, with shimmering guitars played along side each other. The lack of bass is hardly noticeable. The percussion picks up and so does the vocals which sounds extremely raw in comparison to other female artists of today.

Some songs don't relate to me at all. I'll Be Your Man is empty and quiet, it has some good guitar work, but the song is incredibly predictable, nothing grabs my attention here. Morning Light has the same effect on me, being incredibly vague sounding. The vocals are a mess, but her voice works as the instrument. The guitar work is very plain, nothing exciting and it has a dull sound.

The second track, No More Words, leads straight from the opening guitar piece. This track is atmospheric to an extent, having a bigger emphasis on structure than the other songs on the album. It was an early favourite for me, but Desire really makes this album. The Devil & Blackout are two of the stronger tracks. Blackout is especially different in style, having a faster pace and a clearer child like vocal, rather than the dark low pitched vocals. The Devil reminded me of several Jeff Buckley songs, the quiet, yet powerful vocals suit well with the simple sounding reverbed electric guitar.

Other than Desire, The Devil and Blackout, listeners may be reluctant to explore the album further. I'm afraid that she wont improve in style, since she received a Mercury Prize nomination. I think she needs to focus on giving her music a bigger, fuller sound. I understand that this is her music, her influences are obviously showing through.. But without improvements in sound, her fame and bank balance wont improve drastically, which I believe is her true goal here. I have seen her play live, it wasn't the most exciting or gripping performance I've seen, but it has something.. Something that she can grow on as an artist.


Monday, 7 November 2011

Low - C'mon

When I first listened to Low, I was sat in a dark room on a cold winter night. I had The Curtain Hits The Cast playing at a fair volume, This occasion is remembered because the songs were powerful, like Anon and Over The Ocean, they eclipsed me from everything happening around me at the time, took hold of my emotions and implanted the Low scrobble which has been ever increasing since that dark, snowy day in December.

I regard The Curtain Hits The Cast as Low's best effort to date due to it's melancholy feel and incredible harmonic vocals, with touching lyrics. Now in 2011 we have Low's 9th studio album and the third on Seattle label Sub Pop. It opens with the aesthetic Dream Pop guitar work, which is common in Low's discography. Try To Sleep being a typical Low song with a simple refrain of 'Try To Sleep' occurring throughout the song in typical Low fashion. The song as a whole is a great opener, it has nice dynamics and the twinkling keys heard in the verse sounds marvelous.

This is clearly an accessible album, the songs don't challenge me as a listener, nothing needs clearing up and the song structures are rather basic and dated. That aside, I think a new listener should start at this album rather than the early stages of Low. Why? you may ask.. Because the songs here are what Low have been releasing since they originated in the 90's. You can hear aspects from each album in the bands discography, with this release being fresh and ready for your ears to divulge.

I'm disappointed with the mediocre You See Everything, which has a lovely vocal and a tight ending. aside from than these positives, nothing really happens in the song. I feel that it has no flavour, compassion and it's lacking in style, which is something a Slowcore band needs to have. Withes is a welcomed improvement, with Alan taking back control of lead vocals. It has a scorching distorted guitar smashing through the song. One line really catches me in this song, "All you guys out there tryin' to act like Al Green", I'm not sure what to make of this and how to relate it to anything. Just referencing the reverend is good enough for me..

The following songs don't give much, sure, they have beautiful harmonics like on the track Done, a three minute melodic song with extraordinary slide guitar. Especially Me has an improved structure with a bigger, darker sound. The lyrics are far from exciting, with the opening being "Cry me a river". Which is a predictable Low lyric which to be honest, could be used in every song on this album without anyone realizing. The vocals are magnificent, the harmonics have always been a key aspect in Low's sound, without these harmonics, the songs sound very bland and dull.

C'mon does drag on. Several of the songs are very good, the for mentioned few being highlights. As a whole, I cant seem to find any low points on this album, it's an improvement on the recent Low releases. Songs such as Nothing But Heart are great to hear on a back end of an album. It's an eight minute track of pure bliss, which increases in instrumentation and grows in volume as it heads towards the eventful ending, with a simplistic Organ being used to cap it all off.

As you can tell from this review, it's positive. This is no mediocre album, I place it high within Low's dated discography. It's clear to me that this is one of those albums which sparks a new direction, although this is hard for bands like Low due to the fact that they're stuck with the Slowcore tag. Whether or not they can improve on this album all depends on how much time they take to focus on a direction. 


Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Enemy - Music For The People

The Enemy are a three piece Indie Rock band formed in the dark boring city industrial British city of Coventry, smack bang in the middle of England..  They take influence from Punk, which is quite clear. You may also hear a real influence from bands like The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys here. That aside The Enemy are a late 2000's Indie Rock band, one of the many hundred. It's the second album by the band, released in the period of flops (along with Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand) in 2009 which saw the end of UK Indie Rock as we know it, great success!

The Elephant Song starts off with some Oasis like noises from What's The Story Morning Glory, it's already started. if you have heard this album then you'll know the problems the band had with originality. it's very early 90's in sound, something which i admire from the band. The song is very clean and produced well, with strings supporting the three piece rather well. This is a very good start to the album, it does however sound like a Stone Roses, more specifically Elephant Stone.

No Time For Tears is the lead single from the album, it's clear why, nice bass work, protest like lyrics and a good beat. Back in 2009 i was so excited for this song, that i actually downloaded a virus when searching for links, that kind of sucks.. But i like this song. The lyrics specifically are bad, i don't think the band have lived in the real world yet to be honest. Sure, they may have left school at 16 and worked endless 9 to 5's etc.. I have a message for you Tom, go live in Somalia. This song is also a gigantic Clash rip off, i cant even...
Take a listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMN7Xrr_hzY&feature=related

The songs follow in the same nature, bad lyrics and the music just gets worse as the album progresses. 51st State is short, but not at all snappy. It does sound kind of punky, but it's not the good sort of Punk. it also has a nice little guitar solo, but it's forgettable. Sing When You're In Love is more melodic than 51st State. Thankfully it ha better lyrics, but again, the refrain is awful.

Yeah, Last Goodbye is a failed attempt at trying to sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd, sorry lads.. You're from Coventry, stick to the living and dying in these towns. Nation of Checkout Girls is laughable, i actually laugh at this song. It just has Pulp all over it, Common People being the 'influence' this time. Except the music is bad, the lyrics are bad and the whole concept is bad. This is just bad, i cant even...
Take a listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqgXzPfAxjo

Be Somebody starts terrible, i don't like this intro at all.. the song then begins which is also terrible, the lyrics are again both cheesy and bad. referencing to sleeping with the BBC which i just don't even want to research. At least the chorus sounds better, it actually does. If I'm honest, i can see myself liking this song if it was slowed down. They just want to sound loud and punky, but it's not really needed, it's 2009.

Don't Break The Red Tape is The Enemy's take on London Calling.. I'm not joking here, why on earth has Warner Bros allowed these songs to be released?? If anybody would like to answer, please.. go ahead. The song, i cant do this, i cant even...
Take a listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbD5v2xijqw

In general, i cant hear any improvements what so ever from the bands debut album, it;s sad.. But it's true. They have included some piano work, i guess that's an improvement? No, but seriously, this is a bad album which shouldn't have been released. They did advertise it and i believe the album sold to the bands expectations. Deep down they know they've created one of the worst albums to come from the 2000's, let alone 2009. The guitar work is reasonably decent in places, the final track Silver Spoon has a much better band feel to it than the others. No Time For Tears does sound good, it does.. The album is broken to pieces through the lack of originality and songwriting, it's that simple.


Jersey Budd - Wonderlands

Anyone who's main influence is Oasis, can just stop trying to make good music now. This whole album is just one long piece of 'trying to get famous' material. Everything is polished.. the production isn't bad, but it's not exactly cool, hip or edgy. It's bland, it sounds full, but it's as average as any local band. 

Jersey Budd calls himself a singer songwriter and is compared to both Springsteen and Dylan, something which is an insult to both if I'm honest. his lyrics are no way near as meaning or imaginative as Dylan's and the music just sounds random. You cant really put a genre on this, it's not Folk, Indie Folk, Indie Rock, Rock.. However it fits under this bracket. I don't want to call the man a singer songwriter, because that term should not be used as a genre. His genre is just Jersey Budd.

Musically, this album is very similar to most Folk based rock albums from the 70's. I can hear a bit of Cat Stevens in here, maybe a little bit of Neil Young even. It's just covered by the same old drumming and the same old guitar work and the same old piano and the.. you get the picture. It's very bland and repetitive. The strings on The Blind Man are the best thing about this album, this is also my favourite song from the album.

Shotgun Times is a highlight, it sounds very Americanized, but that's the style he's going for. I can see him becoming well known in the states, but here, he really doesn't stand a chance. I think he knows that his support wont pick up to a substantial amount. Outside of Leicester, i don't think he has many fans.

She Came Back is also a highlight, these two tracks are clearly his best. They have much better lyrics and better instrumentation. The drumming is far better here than anywhere else on the album. I cant say much more about the album as a whole, because it's filled with bad material.