Futureheads - News & Tributes
Futureheads - News & Tributes
Walkmen - A Hundred Miles Off
I managed to be entirely ignorant of this release which, considering
how much I loved Bows + Arrows, is daft. It's not quite the squalling,
searing blast that that one was, but it's still an excellent record.
The voice is very much
in line with that tuneless wailing perfected by The Arcade Fire
and the brilliant Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and which I am really
rather enjoying at the moment. It may lack a little of the frenetic
guitar rage of the last one, but is nonetheless an excellent album.
Nutini - These Streets
Sounds an awful lot
like James Blunt to me.
Lee Phillips - Nineteeneighties
album is most certainly not essential. I didn't do my research at
all, so I didn't realise this was just a covers record, with the
songs selected from Phillips' formative years. This doesn't make
for a thrilling LP, to my mind, I'm afraid, so although this is
decent, and I do like his style, it is certainly no substitute for
a new album proper.
Killing Moon is a decent
one, as are the likes of So, Central Rain, City Of Refuge and Boys
Don't Cry, but then that's probably just because I like the songs
themselves anyway. It'll do as a stopgap, but I am now left waiting
for a proper new album, thanks.
Divine Comedy - Victory For The Comic Muse
very good, again I'm afraid. This album is almost an exact replica
of his previous effort - mostly limp fop-pop with no real playfulness
left, and only the odd decent track here and there to save it from
a complete panning.
Whereas last time it
was gems such as The Happy Goth and Absent Friends that saved the
show, in this instance they are even fewer and further between.
A Lady Of A Certain Age is decent, and so is Mother Dear, but the
only two really good tracks are The Plough and a good cover of Party
I am not sure why I
even bothered with this, given the last album. I'd like to hope
I'll have learned my lesson by the time the next one comes along.
Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country
that this album starts with a song called Hey Lloyd, I'm Ready To
Be Heartbroken I think it's fair to say they nail their colours
to the mast pretty early on. This poppy, jaunty little number, however,
does not set the tone for the rest of the record however, which
is much more of a dreamy cross between Cinerama and Belle &
Led by accordians,
organs and a sort of cinematic dream pop ethos, this swoony album
gently lilts its way through ten songs that seem to belong in a
soundtrack from the late seventies. The first is about as poppy
as it gets, and the other highlights are much more atmospheric and
mellow - Dory Previn, Country Mile and Razzle Dazzle Rose are all
beautifully evocative, blissful tracks of wistful melancholia.
Glaswegians, eh. Can't
keep 'em down! Another triumph for Scottish indie-pop, which just
seems to turn out one winner after another.
Adamson - Stranger On The Sofa
Adamson has been making his sinister lounge jazz film music for
some years now, but his last album, King Of Nothing Hill, was a
bit of a letdown. I decided to give this one a spin however, and
it is definitely a huge improvement.
There's a bit of everything
here, from the cinematic atmosphere pieces such as Dissemble, to
the traditional jazz of Who Killed Big Bird, through Barry's trademark
dark, weird, storytelling pieces such as My Friend The Fly and the
grandiose Officer Bentley all the way to the stonking indie-pop
track You Sold Your Dreams.
Underpinning all of
this is the cinematic theme, and a sort of brooding, threatening
darkness that reminds me, albeit only a little, of the exaggerated
noir of Sin City. Its not that though, because as the title of his
earlier Best Of,, CD implies, this man inhabits only one place:
The Murky World Of Barry Adamson.
Futureheads - News & Tributes
has been described in some quarters as sounding 'more mature' than
their debut, which seems simply to mean 'more mainstream'. Certainly
they have lost a lot of their distinctive, hyperactive jerkiness,
and settled to a more traditional indie sound, but that is not to
the detriment of the tunes, which continue to be excellent.
If anything, this album
is more consistently excellent than their at times inspired, but
occasionally patchy debut, Burnt and Favours For Favours are brilliant,
the former for it's inspired central riff and the latter for the
purpose and energy with which it barrels confidently along. They
have grown up, it seems, and although they sound less idiosyncratic
they are getting better. Excellent!
- Just Like The Fambly Cat
didn't like Sumday from the beginning, and this one has rather failed
to grab me instantly as well. Given my previous Grandaddy experience
I will most certainly persevere, and given this is rather tragically
going to be their last album I am willing it to be brilliant.
The opener Jeez Louise
is classic Grandaddy bluster, with drive and rhythm, and the other
song they previewed on their website,
Rear View Mirror is also excellent, but large chunks of the album
aren't really grabbing me just yet. The sound is all very familiar,
but a lot of the tunes seem pretty bland, and there's a lot less
of that surging, guitar-driven stuff that made Sumday stand out
- this really does seem to only appear here in Jeez Louise.
Maybe this is a consequence
of where the band, and Jason Lytle in particular, are at the moment.
They are retiring because despite their four relatively successful
albums they just can't seem to make a living as a band. I find this
quite amazing, given that they're pretty successful as indie bands
go, but there you go. I am not sure what sort of an atmosphere this
creates around the birth of an album, but there does seem to be
something of an air of unreleased tension to some of the songs which
could plausibly be the result of the situation they find themselves
Either way, Jason Lytle
is not necessarily retiring from songwriting and music in general,
so there is hope for more of his stuff in the future, and who knows,
perhaps the solo life may produce some interesting results of its
Holland - Springtime Can Kill You
honeyed loveliness of Escondida was one of the hits of the year
for me when it was released, and this latest album doesn't disappoint.
It lacks the scratchy folksiness of the previous one and replaces
it with a smoother, more polished sound.
If she reminds me of
anyone, it's a slightly jazzier Hem, and this lush blend between
quiet folk and the jazz songstress style in which it is delivered
is a winner with me. It's deliberately very old-fashioned, in keeping
with a lot of the rootsy stuff coming out at the moment, although
Holland was one of the first to start mining the particular seam
a few years ago.
I can't think of a
better way to spend a cold evening in the house with a cup of coffee
and good book. I'm not sure she'd take that as a compliment, but
there's a cosy, intimate atmosphere to this album, just as there
was with the last one, which suffuses you with warmth - a lovely,
Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
geneticists struggled with the idea that offspring were never quite
like a direct splicing together of the traits of both parents. They'd
have liked this album, because the Jack White/Brendan Benson collaboration
has worked out exactly so. Both men can be heard clearly in all
tracks with some more White than Benson and vice versa.
Jack has in fact brought
welcome bite to Benson's occasionally too-sunny songwriting, while
Benson's textbook pop writing has brought White back where we want
him after a slightly errant diversion on the Stripes last album.
There's shades of Led
Zep at times here, and I'm sure Together pinches a hook or two from
Rocket Man, but all in all it's its own album. Excellent stuff.
I wonder a little if they'll make another or just pack it in and
go back to their day jobs after this!
Stills - Without Feathers
from an excellent, most un-Stills-like opener, this album is a bit
Their previous effort
had some great stuff on it, but suffered a little from bland indie
genericisms a little at times. This one is sort of like that, but
with much more of the poor stuff. It's the same ilk as Interpol
and the Dears, but without the hooks and the grandeur of scope.
Pretty Things - Waterloo To Anywhere
if nothing else, this album makes it very clear where the talent
was kept in The Libertines. This is just the sort of jaunty, spiky
punk that The Libs had ceased to make long before their split, and
although a little too obsessed with Pete Doherty, it bitch-slaps
his dismal Babyshambles lot firnly off-stage where they belong.
Doctors And The Dealers
is the first time I jumped up in delight, and although Bang Bang
You're Dead is too Pete-tastic again, it is a cracking track - punk
pop with spirit and zip. Excellent. Bloodthirsty Bastards is even
better. Gin & Milk is ace. It just goes on. I don't think I'll
ever love this quite as much as the first Libertines album, but
it kicks the living shite out of any of the new pretenders I've
Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
grief this is awful. After being so impressed with their live show
I was quite looking forward to this, but most of it is just plain
unlistenable. In earlier work their was enough standard indie tunesmithery
to make the idiosyncrasies enjoyably eccentric. Now it's just barmy
I'm In No Mood is a
brilliant exception, and I am sure there must be others buried in
here somewhere, but the bollocks they are surrounded by makes it
a supreme act of endurance to dig them out. Yikes.
- Love & Other Planets
bit like his other stuff, this is pleasant and nice and easy to
tolerate, but ultimately entirely forgettable. I wouldn't really
bother if I were you.
Springsteen - We Shall Overcome
all about the folk and roots at the moment, isn't it! Good grief,
you can't move for someone reinterpreting old classics these days,
and Bruce is just one in a long line to give it a spin. You couldn't
hope for two better collaborators though - a pair of absolute legends.
It's been a while since
Bruce did anything with any snarl to it, but this is put right instantly
on this album. The first half is superb - John Henry, Jesse James,
Old Dan Tucker - all of them resound with a joyous honky-tonk energy
that infuses the whole album. It's cracking stuff.
There is the odd crap
song - I can't abide too-ra loo-ras in anything and Mrs McGrath
has them coming out of its ears - and it could benefit a little
from a few more changes of pace, but this is a brilliant album.
Anyone who likes the gospelly stuff happening in America at the
moment should love it. Fantastic.
Latest Novel - Wolves
album takes a bit of getting into, but is worth persevering with.
In brief, it's a little like Belle & Sebastian plays The Arcade
Fire - combining the gentle Scottish wit and whimsy of the Belles
with the sort of lurching sonic inventiveness of Montreal's finest.
It's not quite so urgent as The Arcade Fire, but the sound is very
similar in a lot of ways.
One of the best tracks,
and indeed the most Bellish, is the gently undulating Job Mr Kurtz
Done, overlayed with the sort of skewed, playful Scottish intellectualism
I recognise so much from the pubs around here. Other stuff is also
quite like The Reindeer Section, with some gorgeous instrumentation
accompanying the plaintive vocals.
The final Scottish
name-check of this review is Sons & Daughters, who could easily
have written When We Were Wolves themselves. Not so jerky and uncomfotable
as the Sons though, this is a very good album in the best Scottish
Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
Indie shoegazer blashpemy approaching... The Flaming Lips ARE REALLY
Oh stop sulking, they
really are rubbish. They played a blinder a couple of years ago
with Yoshimi but did nothing before that of much note and here that
have done nothing of much note afterwards either.
some very poor songs (Yeah Yeah Yeah song - rubbish. Free Radicals
- awful. Lyrical content - high school level) are some reasonable
ones such as Sound Of Failure, Overtakes Me, WAND and Pompeii Am
Gotterdammerung. But all in all, it's really just not that good.
- Garden Ruin
those of you who loved the inventiveness and adventure of Feast
Of Wire, this may take a little getting used to. By comparison it
is very, very conventional. All songs are 'proper' three to four
minute pop songs in the traditional verse-bridge-chorus style. But
that doesn't mean it isn't any good, In fact, this is an excellent
The start of the album
pretty much sums up what I mean. Cruel is Calexico doing a perfectly
formatted indie-pop number, flooded with their usual horns and Tex-Mex
jauntiness. This track, and the following, rather slower, Yours
And Mine are brilliant songs.
Bisbee Blue, which
follows these two is an example of the sort of predictable stuff
that they occasionally produce (like Not Even Stevie Nicks on the
last album), but the highlight for me, by some distance, is the
dazzling Roka. This is one of the best things Calexico have ever
done, as Amparo Sanchez's Spanish accompaniment sends it into the
There's more musical
scope here that you notice at first. The mariachi meanderings have
been replaced by broader genre jumps. They span traditional Caleixco
territory, template-tastic Americana and finish up with the blistering
All Systems Red, a no-holds-barred, Iraq War raging rant. Once I
stopped sulking about the sensibleness of the song structures I
realised what a superb album this really is!
Case - Fox Confessor Yadda Yadda...
having possibly the worst cover art in recent history, this is a
really excellent album. I know more of Miss Case from her excellent
stuff with the New Pornographers, but proving it is indeed an excellent
time to be Canadian, she is pretty handy on her own as well.
In-keeping with much
recent material across the world of North American indie, there's
a hint of gospel at times, mixed in with more traditional alt-country
balladry, She writes excellently for her voice, which is rather
special, and never more so than in standout Star Witness. A Widow's
Curse evokes Jenny Lewis recent Watson Twins collaboration, with
which this album has more than a little in common.
It's lovely, from start
to finish, this. And for once, this is something I really take to
rather than shrug off as bland. It's a bit grown up for me, but
I would recommend it to anyone. My, er, parents are going to love
Gelb - Sno Angel Like You
so many appear to be doing at the moment, Howe has gone gospel,
with a full choral accompaniment making an appearance on most of
the tracks on this album. As one would expect, it is shot through
with his sparse blues, but is perhaps a little less meandering that
his usual fare.
Howe Gelb is never
really all that consistent, and there are weak patches on this album,
unfortunately for those looking to be pulled in quickly, Get To
Leave and But I Did Not are two of the first three songs on the
album and neither are much cop.
Leaving these aside
and you have exactly what you might expect from this sort of an
approach to an album. Howe plays his fumbling, shuffling blues,
and the music is given polish and expansiveness by the participation
of a full gospel choir. The result is an album which gets better
and better as it goes on, with the pinnacle being the awesome Nail
In The Sky, but you have to wait until the ninth track for this
gem. Worried Spirits (No. 12) and Neon Filler (13) are also superb.
The rest of the album is excellent, but these three are easily myfavourites,
tucked away at the back. He is slowly becoming one of my favourite
With Strings - Live At Town Hall
saw them live in Cambridge in 2000 and they were absolutely brilliant
- all circus mayhem and instrumental anarchy. E, to his eternal
credit always tries to do something with a tour - blues, rock, and
now a string-backed extravaganza to suit the more melancholy, wistful
tracks on Blinking Lights.
The results can be
brilliant. The new tracks like Pretty Ballerina are superb and the
version of Dylan's classic Girl From The North Country is also excellent.
The problem is more that the rough edges of a live recording, that
you don't notice at the time, are magnified when listened to on
CD. I wish I'd caught the gig, and this is as close as I am going
to get and will have to do, but it is not really the real thing.
Barzelay - Bitter Honey
doesn't make easy listening. Without the softening influence of
Clem Snide's gorgeous musicianship his stark and angry acoustic
songs can be rather bleak and jarring. They are good though, and
worth persevering with. The highlight is still the title track -
the scathing, vitriolic and yet oddly compassionate ballad of those
craving even the most minor celebrity with nothing but their desperately
sparse talents to get them there.
The album abounds with
this kind of mixture of excoriation and sympathy. He sets his sights
on the modern cult of celebrity and what it does to people, lies
and deception generally, and The State of the World.
The impression you
are left with is of someone desperately at odds with the increasing
importance of the ten percent of life on the surface, trying his
darnndest to get to the good bits underneath, but with increasing
frustration. Let Us Be Naked is almost the antidote to this album's
prevalent themes and seems to be the hidden manifesto behind the
anger. This is a terrific album, and definitely worth giving a spin,
if you're feeling up to it.
Springsteen & the E Street Band - Live at Hammersmith Odeon
and the band were just about at the pinnacle of their powers in
'75, or just coming into them, as the liner notes explain. Anyone
who's heard their previous 5 LP live box set will remember this
period with the most affection. Funk, soul, blues and rock - long
before that word became 'rawk' and turned to shit.
This is a marvellous
record, a moment where a legend is born. The first CD is sheer genius
from start to finish, although the second one begins to drift a
little towards the end. It's worth it though. If your Bruce fandom
is more Asbury Park and Born To Run than The Rising and Tom Joad,
then you will love this. This is what live music is really supposed
to be all about.
Grant Conspiracy - Let It Roll
year, another blinding effort from the Willards, who are now firmly
assigned Iconic Status in my personal hall of fame. There is nothing
that will surprise you here - no radical changes of direction or
anything - but what there is is a perceptible loosening of the reigns.
From A Distant Shore
is a deceptive opener - mournful violins and political statement
intertwined in an intensely personal story full of sadness. It is
typical WGC fare, with all the grand tristesse of their previous
album, and only an increase in artistic license for the fiddle to
hint at what is to come. From the instant the next track begins
it's clear that everything is different. Let It Roll kicks in with
nearly three minutes of menacing guitar and manic violin wig-out
before it even gets to the words, and then it just carries on into
epic Nick Cave territory for a full nine minutes of malevolent brilliance.
That pretty much sets
the tone for the rest of the album, not in sonic terms, but in terms
of approach. It's like the WGC, only more so. The fiddle more sad,
the sweep more epic, the guitars more snarling than before, There
is a brooding version of Bob's Ballad Of A Thin Man, and it closes
with the beautiful Lady Of The Snowline. Starting and opening with
more expected Willards style brackets not so much a new Willard
Grant Conspiracy, but one where everything is more intense. A brilliant,
Cave & Warren Ellis
The Proposition (OST)
There is some great
stuff here, but I suppose I forgot that it is a soundtrack album
and therefore specifically supposed to not upstage the film. If
this had been a genuine partnership album between these two even
a lesbian 69 between Jessica Alba and Lindsay Lohan wouldn't have
scored much attention, and that was pretty much what I wanted.
As it is, there are
some great moments and some of what I would call 'proper songs',
but it's pretty much an atmospheric exercise most of the time and
doesn't quite do it for me.
Lewis & The Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat
Kiley are a hugely over-rated band. There, I've said it, so clench
your teeth, get over it and move on. Jenny Lewis, however, is verging
on West Coast indie royalty. She appears on the Postal Service's
brilliant Give Up and collaborates, as here, with the likes of Death
Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard and the brilliant Conor Oberst of Bright
Eyes. Apparently the Watson Twins are quite famous too, but I've
never heard of them.
Despite all that, due
to the underwhelming blandness of Rilo Kiley I wouldn't have bought
this album but for the brilliant Handle Me With Care appearing on
an Uncut (I think) sampler quite recently. This one of the poppier
efforts on the album, along with the brilliant Charging Sky. The
album is shot through with the best indie pop Rilo Kiley seem incapable
of producing, flavoured with gospel, tinged with folk, and the odd
lament thrown in for good measure.
This album is so good,
in fact, I might just see if I didn't dismiss Rilo Kily a tad hastily!
Campbell & Mark Lanegan
Ballad of the Broken Seas
Ironic that Isobel
Campbell should be releasing at the same time as her ex-B&S
band-mates. Her previous work has gone from a sigh of relief (Gentle
Waves) to the exploration of her own musical genome (Amorino) to
this, where she is seeking out new influences and directions with
former-Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan.
Unfortunately, I think
I'd have preferred one to accompany the other, rather than the collaboration
- Langegan bringing some menace to Campbell's light and lovely tunes
or for her to add a flavour of innocence to his brooding songs of
morose dysfunction. Neither really ends up happening here, and at
one point on Honey Child What Can I Do? Lanegan tries to lighten
up a bit, which is just wrong, but there are some brilliant moments.
There are lonesome
violins, bluesy guitar, the odd Tom Waits moment, and all through
the dirty blues floats Isobel Campbell's breathy, innocent, airy
voice. I don't quite love this album, but I am definitely enjoying
getting into it. I'm being pulled deeper with each listen, and predict
I will love it by the time the fortnight's up.
& Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
The latest effort from
B&S - as immaculately designed as ever - strikes me as being
to Dear Catastrophe Waitress what Fold Your Hands Child You Walk
Like A Peasant was to their early single releases. Their early fey
whimsy had pretty much run out of puff by the time they got to Fold
Your Hands, and despite containing some great songs, there are few
You can't quite accuse
them of lacking new ideas on this release, but when they went pop
with the previous album, they did it with a renewed sense of verve
and inventiveness. I thought Dear Catastrophe Waitress was brilliant.
This one, on the other hand, is patchy. Another Sunny Day is sunny,
poppy bliss, Funny Little Frog is another from the Waitress production
line and Dress Up In You has some of the dreaminess of Belles past.
There are other excellent songs to accompany them - I love White
Collar Boy and Sukie In The Graveyard - but there are also some
They are still exploring
their new pop direction here, and there is a strong 70s influence
that I've never identified in their work at all until Waitress,
but I am not completely convinced about where they are going. Still,
there's lots of love here, I reckon I may well get to like the other
stuff, and I'd always pick a group that evolves over one who repeats
Eighteenth Day Of May
is a surprise gem, discovered largely thanks to the inclusion of
Sir Casey Jones on a now sadly deceased Comes
With A Smile sampler CD. They are another in a growing group
of new groups heavily influenced by old folk traditions. Others
that spring to mind in this area would include the ethereal Hem,
the gentle, warm James Yorkston, the rather more raucous Boggs and
the downright demented Decemberists. Even groups like Black Rebel
Motorcycle Club and Ryan Adams have absorbed much more vintage influences
on recent efforts, and I really, really like it.
Unlike the aforementioned,
however, the Eighteenth Day Of May are quintessentially English.
They actually sound for all the world like Fairport Convention during
their Liege and Lief prime, particularly when the guitar kicks in.
As with Liege and Lief this album is predominantly a blend of early
English folk traditions lightly tinged with 60s psychedelia, although
they dip into American-sounding alt-country singer-songwriter territory
at times as well.
I'd never heard of
this lot, and didn't even know the album was on its way, but what
a discovery! I'd put money on them figuring prominently in my Top
Ten when 2006 draws to a close.
Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am
Decent, but no better.
The famous tracks - Dancefloor, Fake Tales of San Francisco, Riot
Van and When The Sun Goes Down - are strong, and that's the reason
I bought the album, but the rest is pretty bland, unvarying Indie-Pop.
There's plenty of spiky
guitars and shouting, but nothing that is really getting me all
that excited just yet. Mind you, I didn't take to the Libs' first
album either, and ended up doing a complete about-face and deciding
I loved it, so I'll persevere. I'm not holding my breath though...
Update 21st June
2006: Okay, I was wrong, it's an excellent album. The excellent
lyrics started to draw me in slowly but surely and now I reckon
I'm looking at a fantastic 'snapshot of the times' album wonderfully
detailing everyday modern life with the sort of chatty, effortless
poetry that Mike Skinner used to write. Top stuff.
Strokes - First Impressions of Earth
Well fair play to 'em,
they haven't half come back well. I loved their first EP - Modern
Age, Last Night and Barely Legal - but the album lacked a little
bite, I thought. Even the new cuts of the three songs I already
knew seemed slightly lifeless by comparison, but all in all I liked
the record. The next one was disappointing, although there was the
odd excellent track, like Reptilia, but all in all I wasn't that
For these reasons I
nearly didn't buy this one, despite promising reviews, but I am
very glad I did. It's so much more vital and edgy than its rather
over-polished predecessors - there is real snap to this. Juicebox
is dirty and spiky, and the album as a whole bristles with this
kind of energy. They somehow sound more 'New York' to me than they
ever did before, and let's be honest Ask Me Anything could be the
Velvets. There are other standouts - Heart In A Cage and Vision
Of Division both have the urgency this lot have been rather lacking
in the past.
So all in all a top
album, rather than a 'difficult third'. Mojo definitely relocated.
Adams & The Cardinals - 29
Ryan Adams - officially
really good again. He released four CDs worth of music last year
- on three albums - and they were all brilliant. This is the third
of the three and he's ditched The Cardinals for this one.
The sound, as you'd
perhaps expect is a lot more still and pared down than Cold Roses
or Jacksonville, but the songs are still superb. He generally sings
with a simple acoustic guitar accompaniment, embellished occasionally
with a little piano here and there. Personal favourites would be
Strawberry Wine and Carolina Rain, but it's definitely an album
to listen to in its entirety. A fine way to round off an excellent