Posts Tagged ‘Album’

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AU62: Snow Patrol album review

April 4, 2010

Yeah, I don’t like them much these days…

SNOW PATROL
UP TO NOW
FICTION

Speaking to Gary Lightbody for this issue’s cover feature, it’s striking just how sure he is that Snow Patrol are getting better and better all the time. It just isn’t true. If anything, it’s been downhill ever since Final Straw, and this compilation is aural proof. Take the new single ‘Just Say Yes’, one of three brand new songs among the 27 other singles, album tracks and rarities jumbled up for your delectation. Put simply, the band sound like a lobotomised The Bravery. It’s limp, phoned-in rubbish and the attempt to whack a load of synths onto it in the apparent belief that it makes them sound relevant and edgy is outright laughable.

Then consider the band’s recent singles – ‘Crack The Shutters’, ‘The Planets Bend Between Us’, ‘Take Back The City’ (okay, kudos for managing to fit in two different choruses on that one). Can anyone honestly, with a straight face, claim that these songs, slick as they are, hold a candle to the classic ‘Starfighter Pilot’ (a sister song to Ash’s ‘Angel Interceptor’ and a close cousin of ‘Teenage Kicks’), ‘Ask Me How I Am’, or ‘On/Off’? And that’s just the early tracks that made it onto this compilation – whither ‘One Night Is Not Enough’, ‘Wow’ and the sumptuous ‘If I’d Found The Right Words To Say’?

And before you start moaning, this isn’t about snobbery or jealousy. The career-making Final Straw deserved its success, and it’s represented by three very good songs in ‘Spitting Games’, ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Run’ (two versions). But, as much as Lightbody denies it (and he does), you can’t shake the notion that the runaway success of ‘Run’ has mapped out the rest of the band’s career for them. Suddenly, Lightbody finds himself capable of writing glossy, radio-friendly anthems, and the crunchy rockers and scratchy indie-pop of old – full as they are of wit, charm, subtlety, heart and soul, can get stuffed. Hence, the execrable ‘Chasing Cars’.

Hearing all of this gloop mixed in among the best of their work makes for an entirely dispiriting experience, and that’s before you even consider all the great songs that have had to make way for the likes of ‘Hands Open’ (in which it sounds like they literally can’t wait to wheel out the chorus) and ‘Signal Fire’. Up To Now can only be recommended as an entry point for people that think the band formed in 2004. But it’s best avoided, really. Chris Jones

4/10

DOWNLOAD: ‘SET THE FIRE TO THE THIRD BAR’ (AS PROOF OF A GOOD LATTER-DAY SONG), WHEN IT’S ALL OVER WE STILL HAVE TO CLEAR UP.
FOR FANS OF: COLDPLAY, KEANE, MAROON FUCKING 5.

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The Cast Of Cheers (free musics!)

February 17, 2010

Web 2.0, I wub you I rilly rilly do. Through the nattering on Twitter of various in-the-know type people down in Dublin, I heard of the existence of a band called The Cast Of Cheers (good name? bad name? dunno) and that they had made their debut album available for free on their Bandcamp page. Then more nattering on Twitter and Fastfude indicated that it was in fact The Shit, and I’m now getting round to giving it a listen (I’ve become a wee bit obsessed with the new Field Music album of late, y’see).

You know what? Those people are all right. Turns out the band have signed a management deal with Richter Collective, which is a tie-up that makes sense, as their mathy post-punk shares several characteristics with the likes of Adebisi Shank, BATS and Enemies. Think of them as a harder-hitting, more raw Foals and you’re close. Personally, I can’t wait to see them live. April 7 at the Skinny Love club, Auntie Annie’s, Belfast. They have several Dublin dates coming up too. Awesome.

Download or stream below, but be quick about it, because the free offer is apparently for a limited time only.

And by the way, how great is Bandcamp?!

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AU60: Why? album review

November 17, 2009

Biggest disappointment of the year, hands down. 😦 It does, however, contain one of my favourite songs of 2009 in ‘This Blackest Purse’. Give it a listen down at the bottom of the post.

WHY?
ESKIMO SNOW
TOMLAB

Forgive me for diving headlong into the first person here, but I wanted to love this record so much. Maybe too much. Why?’s last album Alopecia was my favourite of 2008 – it was pure perfection, full of charm, wit, intelligence, raw honesty, unforgettable lyrics and the best marriage of hip-hop grooves to slacker-pop songwriting since Odelay. So when I discovered that another record was to be plucked from the same sessions, my expectations for Eskimo Snow became unattainably high Or so it has proved, because unfortunately there are only a few songs here good enough to have made it onto Alopecia and that, while acknowledging that the two albums are strikingly different in style, mood and tone (Eskimo Snow is dark and introspective, almost an alt. country record), constitutes a real disappointment.

Yoni Wolf is incapable of writing poor lyrics and his unique style, heavy on arresting imagery and dextrous wordplay, is fully intact here, but for large parts the songs are not. In deciding which ones went where, Wolf appears to have overplayed his hand, overloading Alopecia with his best stuff. It’s not all bad news, mind you, because penultimate song ‘This Blackest Purse’ is gorgeous, affecting and one of Wolf’s best, while bookends ‘These Hands’ and the title track are almost painfully tender and ‘One Rose’ and ‘Against Me’ have much to recommend them. But although the two albums share the same genes, it’s clear which one is the black sheep of the family.

6/10

DOWNLOAD: ‘THIS BLACKEST PURSE’, ‘THESE HANDS’, ‘ONE ROSE’
FOR FANS: SILVER JEWS, BONNIE ‘PRINCE’ BILLY, GRANDADDY.

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AU60: Girls album review

November 17, 2009

This was the lead album review in this issue, superbly illustrated by the excellent Mark Reihill. Seriously talented dude – he’s doing all the lead reviews now and the section is all the better for it.

GIRLS
ALBUM
FANTASYTRASHCAN/TURNSTILE

By now, you may well be familiar with the backstory of this San Fran duo (and if not, get thee to our Incoming piece on p. 19), but while it’s a ripping – and harrowing – yarn indeed, it doesn’t deserve to cast too large a shadow over the music on this splendid debut, already dubbed “a lo-fi Pet Sounds” by The Guardian. The pair are led by one Christopher Owens, a quintessential Californian longhair that bears ample resemblance to one of Wayne and Garth’s mates in Wayne’s World. He also has the faraway look of a man who inhabits a different world to the rest of us, which makes sense when you discover where he came from – a childhood stolen from him by the Children of God cult, before escaping to spend his late teens cultivating a fearsome drug habit in Texas, then being taken under the wing of a rich philanthropist who put him on the straight and narrow before he decamped to the bright lights of San Francisco, formed a band called Curls with his then-girlfriend, and then, when she left him, Girls with best bud and recording whiz Chet ‘JR’ White.

All of which would suggest that Owens and White are now fine, upstanding young men, perfect role models and pictures of sobriety. Not a bit of it. Their MySpace page lists the band’s official website as Drugs.com’s handy pills identifier, where you can input the code of whatever disco biscuit is in your clammy hand and instantly find out what’s in it. And in interviews, they’re not shy about their genuine love of prescription drugs, even going so far as to complain that they were stuck with ketamine during their first trip to the UK. Stoned slackers they are, and stoned slackers they sound, but to good effect.

Album wears its influences on its sleeve, jumping about from sun-kissed Californian pop to fuzz-drenched shoegaze and from Beach Boys-style surf to nervy nerd-rock, a comparison that’s helped no end by Owens’ Elvis Costello-style vocal tics – though he couldn’t look more different if he tried. Opening track ‘Lust For Life’ is a classic, happy-sad pop song in which Owens’ deals with the lack of a father figure in his childhood, declaring that “Now I’m just crazy and totally mad / Yeah, I’m just crazy and fucked in the head.” There are also references to the end of a relationship – probably the one that ended before Girls began – but it’s not a maudlin song. The melody is exquisite and the arrangement weightless, skipping along on a bed of tambourine and handclaps. The nostalgic, hedonistic video is a treat, too.

‘Laura’ and ‘Lauren-Marie’ are gorgeous, yearning love songs, but the very first single, the awkwardly titled ‘Hellhole Ratrace’ is the real jewel in the crown, a seven-minute epic that starts off at a gentle strum before exploding into life as a glorious, life-affirming hymn to sucking up your problems and getting on with enjoying life. Spiritualized, with their Royal Albert Hall-sized, narcotised take on gospel, loom large. Elsewhere, ‘Morning Light’ would sit well on The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s album with its frantic, soaring shoegaze, while ‘Big Bad Mean Motherfucker’ and ‘Headache’ are straight out of the early Sixties, the former a fuzzed-up ‘Surfin’ USA’ and the latter a rich croon, complete with wall of sound backing vocals.

Although defiantly lo-fi and a touch scattershot, the whole thing sounds gorgeous. White, whose brief it is to commit Owens’ songs to tape and silicon, has worked wonders – though Album is never quite sure what type of, er, album it wants to be, there is a measure of cohesion here. It sounds rich and aged, like it could scarcely have been made anywhere but San Francisco – all sunshine, warm breezes and the sweet smell of weed smoke. But if it does fall down, it’s in a few overlong songs and the constant flitting between genres. This is a debut and it sounds like it – the aesthetic and songwriting chops are there, but the vision and focus haven’t turned up yet. If they do, then we really could have a successor to Brian Wilson on our hands. Until then, enjoy a promising debut.

8/10

DOWNLOAD: ‘LUST FOR LIFE’, ‘HELLHOLE RATRACE’. ‘LAURA’.
FOR FANS OF: ELVIS COSTELLO, THE BEACH BOYS, THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART.

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iheartau.com: Fuck Buttons album review

October 14, 2009

Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport

This should really have gone in the last issue of the mag but it took me ages to get round to it, mainly because I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle it, but also because I had a bit of Fuck Buttons writing fatigue from doing the feature. Anyway, it’s done now and in much longer form that the mag would have taken. Hopefully it does the job. Click here to read the review.

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AU59: Mariachi El Bronx album review

October 13, 2009

mariachi el bronx

MARIACHI EL BRONX
EL BRONX
WICHITA

Nope, this is not a wind-up, and nor is it a joke on the part of its creators. In the last couple of years, LA hardcore fiends The Bronx have taken to donning traditional Mexican regalia and performing as a mariachi band, and this album is the result of that love affair. Growing up in largely Hispanic neighbourhoods, the band members have been immersed in the style their whole lives, and the album even features Vincent Hidalgo, childhood friend of frontman Matt Caughthran and the son of Los Lobos star David Hidalgo. So, you know they are for real.

As for the music, you’ll forgive us if we’re short on reference points, mariachi being something of an AU blind spot, but the album has much to recommend it. Speaking to AU last year, guitarist Joby Ford proclaimed it “the most beautiful music we’ve ever created” and he’s not wrong. It’s lovingly produced and played with real joy and verve, while the songwriting is strong – full of romance and intrigue – and Caughthran’s throaty croon is a revelation. You have to wonder who it is for, but record sales clearly aren’t the point – El Bronx’s audience may be mainly made up of slightly bemused hardcore punk fans, but the fun that the band obviously had in creating it is probably its own reward.

7/10

DOWNLOAD: ‘SLEEPWALKING’, ‘SILVER OR LEAD’, ‘CLOWN POWDER’.
FOR FANS OF: THE BRONX, ER… MARIACHI MUSIC.

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AU57: Future Of The Left album review

June 1, 2009

FOTL album

FUTURE OF THE LEFT
TRAVELS WITH MYSELF AND ANOTHER
4AD

Andrew Falkous is an angry man. We know this for two reasons. The first is his fondness for lengthy, witty and volcanically pissed-off blog posts on the band’s Myspace page. A few weeks ago, for the second album running, the new record leaked onto the Internet and Falkous was not amused. “Approximately eight and a half weeks before release and only three since the fucking thing was mastered and whilst members of the band don’t have shiny little embossed copies, there is a promotional CD of the record on sale at eBay for twenty five quid,” he ranted. As a result, you can pre-order the record before its June 22 release date and receive the mp3s straight away.

Secondly though, and of course more importantly, there’s his track record of making extremely angry music, both with his first band mclusky, and now with Future Of The Left. This second album only enhances his reputation for rage and, to be honest, if you’re already a fan of either mclusky or Future Of The Left or (ideally) both, you won’t need me to sell it to you. Quite simply, it rules. It’s just over half an hour long, it’s fearsomely loud, and it’s chock-full of the neat little one-liners you’ll be screaming back at Falkous at the band’s gigs, not to mention the sly pop hooks and nagging riffs that prove that Future Of The Left – and Falkous himself – are about more than just volume.

The switch between mclusky and Future Of The Left was, in basic terms, just a change of bassist and a change of name. However, ex-Jarcrew bassist Kelson Mathias brought with him more than just his instrument, as the debut album Curses (2007) proved. Future Of The Left are still hacked off, but there’s a sense of fun there, a playfulness; musically at least. Mathias’s basslines can be elastic and danceable as well as levelling a venue with sheer force, as mclusky bassist (and apparently Falkous’s nemesis) Jon Chapple was wont to do. The other major change was the addition of a synth. I say addition, but it’s more of a supersub – a tactical switch for the guitar that depends on the song. It’s synth or guitar, never both. Travels With Myself And Another develops on both these ideas.

‘You Need Satan More Than He Needs You’ is key. It’s about a half-hearted, well-adjusted Satanist – the kind of minion that makes sure he’s sorted out a babysitter and wet weather gear before he ventures out to the Satanic swinging session. “What kind of orgy leaves a sense of deeper love?” indeed. Comedy lyrics, then, but delivered with the raw-throated conviction that is Falkous’s trademark, and boasting a thoroughly evil synth riff and wickedly funky groove.

‘Throwing Bricks At Trains’ is another synth-led triumph, an enigmatic tale of teenage delinquency, the bricks being “sad reminders of former glories”. Then there’s ‘Chin Music’, apparently an ode to the West Indian fast bowlers of the Eighties. A worthy topic for a song to be sure, though in truth it’s hard to discern from the lyrics alone. The song is a perfect example of one of the band’s biggest strengths – its understanding of minimalism and restraint. Thus, the verses only need a meaty bassline, drums and Falkous’s roar to make their point, the guitar not being employed until the chorus. But when it is, it makes its presence felt – that little riff attacks with gusto and stays in your head for days.

And there’s where we’ll leave it, because just about every one of these 12 songs bears singling out. Yes, they are loud and angry and have witty lyrics and as such they aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel, but is there anyone else doing balls-out post-punk with as much flair and conviction, and quality control as this? If so, send it our way.

9/10

DOWNLOAD: ‘ARMING ERITREA’, ‘YOU NEED SATAN MORE THAN HE NEEDS YOU’, ‘CHIN MUSIC’.
FOR FANS OF: MCLUSKY, LES SAVY FAV, SHELLAC.

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