With another year under our belts (and not feeling much wiser about the whole thing either), and pretty much uninspired by this week's crop of new cds, we've decided to break with tradition and recap on a few of our favourite releases of late that for various reasons (in other words we didn't get hold of them in time) we've missed out on telling you about. It is after all, our party and we'll review what we want to.
Actually what we really want to do is tell you all about the new Dandy Warhols album Odditorium Or Warlords Of Mars, but you're going to have to wait until September when it comes out. Needless to say it sounds like their four previous albums got a high high round Courtney Taylor Taylor's place. Be EXCITED!
Black Mountain - Black Mountain
...we have five Sabbath loving dope fiends from Canada and an album that's already doomed to be spending a serious amount of time in our cd player. If you can imagine - go on try, please - Tony Iommi, Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynrd locked in a cabin in the Rockies with enough weed to slay Goldie Lookin Chain then you have a pretty good idea of what's in store for you.
Eight lazy hazy tracks that run from country through prog and classic rock to doom laden heavy metal, occasionally as is the case with Don't Run Our Hearts Around, all at the same time. Elsewhere Druganaut is a classic slice of stoner babble:
mr holy hands
blood in the sky
said are you freedom, man?
are you freedom man that just might also be a prescient comment on wars carried out by holy men. Or it might just be a classic slice of stoner babble sat on a smouldering funk with a bluesy Sabbath riff. You decide...
In case you're thinking this is just another sludge of heavy lidded fog YOU'RE WRONG. Opener Modern Music kicks along at a Kings Of Leon pace, whilst No Satisfaction is a foot stomping blend of the Stones and the Velvet Underground. Set Us Free is the first real slow number, a Southern country bluesy drawl that hangs it's boots on the back of Lynyrd Skynyrd's horse and watches it ride off into the sunset; Stephen McBean and Amber Well's layered vocals haunting each other. This kind of song should rightfully go on for hours whilst cactii grow to maturity during the guitar solo. Of course it doesn't and that's a shame.
For a band still young, this really is an album out of its time and all the more welcome for it. It's an album that's taken a look at the vaccuous greed driven war machine of a world we live in and decided that the last 30 years haven't really achieved much. That's why you get the eerie chanting of No Hits over a mix of jazz trumpet, mid period Floyd and a disco beat sitting next to the gentle acoustic strums and rock heavy guitar on Heart Of Snow. Closer Faulty Times is Black Mountain's The End, a building swirling trippy psychadelic haze that's swapped Iraq for Vietnam.
let's smoke some kill
and get outta this place
Hazy, heavy, hairy, funky and fiery, this is going to scare the hell out of the Coldplay fans when Black Mountain support them on tour this summmer. Roll yourselvs a fat one and go tell it with the Mountains.
Bikini Atoll - Liar's Exit
Liar's Exit is the second outing from post rock London outfit, Bikin Atoll. By post rock we of course mean that quiet loud quiet LOUD dynamic and a little bit moody, although with US hardcore supremo Steve Albini at the controls you should read very moody.
With Dave Pajo's album up for review later it's somewhat ironic that at times it's Liar's Exit that plays on Slint's weirdly dischordant whispers and scratches played through the scary machine. The sound is crisp but spartan throughout, there's plenty of space between the instruments that leaves an eerie sense of isolation such as with opener I turned a blind eye or current single Eve's rib. Standout moment has to be the instrumental Shark requiem, a brooding building grunged out guitar riff with plentiful electronic twirlings and swirlings echoing through the mist. Cement names is another builder, starting off with an ominous muffled thumping, and barely picked guitar under Joe Gideon's almost spoken vocals that adds a healthy dash of Thom Yorke style melancholy piano. A bit like a Hideo Nataka movie as music. Not one for a sunny day though.
Micah P. Hinson Presents The Baby And The Satellite
The Micah Patrick Hinson story encompasses falling in love with a Vogue cover model, drug addiction, jail and bankruptcy; all by the tender age of 19. Luckily for Micah he's an incredibly talented fucker and knowing The Earlies and having them produce your debut (last year's excellent The Gospel Of Progress) can't have hurt either.
The Baby And The Satellite was originally recorded in 2001 and then re-recorded this year. So it's kind of a new old album. Anyway, we digress. For those who think REM are depressing we recommend you stay well away from this guy. It's a beautifully slow, haunted, stripped back slice of Americana, and Hinson's end of the world as we know it voice is the embodiment of dark regret.
Acoustic guitars strum away under single picked echoing electric lines and minor chord piano parts and in it's own way there's a real sense of epic space throughout. Imagine a young Bob Dylan was asked to reinterpret the essence of Radiohead as the sun set over the Arizona desert. And whilst the last charge of lt.paul could break the happiest of hearts, it's also hard not to tap your foot along to a track like the leading guy (what is it with all these lower case song titles today) that breaks out in to its own sense of happy chaos. If you love your bleak then you should be heading this way, you'll find solace in the weary flute and pouring rain of the dreams you left behind (reprise), or the rough original recordings that sit one after another as a single extra track. As about as gorgeous as misery gets.
Arcade Fire - EP
More loveable loons from Canada return, with another collection of earlier recordings. If you haven't yet discovered the Arcade Fire we recommend you head straight out and pick up their stunning Funeral before heading back to catch up with this collection of 2002 and 2003 recordings. Still the best live band of the year, the Arcade Fire could be described as a smaller French Canadian folk Polyphonic Spree drunk on red wine and let loose in a room full of instruments. The credits lists: Guitar, Bass, Synth, Banjo, Tambourine, Piano, Rhodes (we don't even know what a Rhodes is), Percussion, Birds, Electric Percussion, Drums, Stomping, Tap Dancing, Upright Bass, Clarinet, French Horn, Saxophone and Harp. Get the idea?
Oddly enough it's the four earlier songs that run closest to Funeral's anarchic pop wonderfullness. They bounce around in a joyous manner, especially No Cars Go with it's Prefab Sprout pop sensibility and euro pop Chicane-ery. Regine Chassagne adds a touch of Bjork like vocals to I'm sleeping in a submarine and the up tempo acoustic strum of The Woodlands National Anthem with it's chorus of bells, stomps and handclaps. Oddly it's the later three tracks that grate, suffering from a cleaner, sterile production job. The songs are more straightforward, there's less of the rough edge of chaos that makes Arcade Fire so erratically appealing, although that's not to say that they're still not slightly bonkers in their own way or that Headlines look like diamonds doesn't make you want to jump up and down and kiss perfect starngers on the cheek as they pass by.
Pajo - Pajo
A glut of solo albums fom guys with more famous bands follow hot on the heels of Billy Corgan's grim synth sludge and ahead of whatever treats are offered from Justin Hawkins's latest spandex outing (yes, that's sarcasm).
Our favourite by a whisker is Dave Pajo's Pajo. If you're expecting a Slint like coffin of fucked up gloomy space rock or the indie pop of Zwan then you're going to be in for a bit of a surprise. Pajo is a whispered folk strum given an eerie, occasionally dischordant, backdrop of electro beeps and squeaks.
Tracks like the utterly beautiful Manson Twins or Mary Of The Wild Moor sees Pajo's softly spoken vocals layered over themselves, calling to mind the dual harmonies of Simon And Garfunkle. Throughout Pajo's playing is generally simple and melodic acoustic work, although there's also the glam rock boogie stomp of War Is Dead and the zippy Teenage Fanclub like riff riding over a drum machine in Baby Please Come Home. The closest track to Pajo's alma mater is the epic finale France with its stomping drums, muffled barely spoken voice and waves of synth noises.
Bob Mould - Body Of Song
Ex Husker Du and Sugar main man Bob Mould still has some ways to go to reclaim his former glories. At best Body Of Song recalls the guitar driven pop nouse of Sugar, at worst it's outdated and rather bland rock with Music era Madonna dance pop stylings and a criminal use of the vocoder.
Mould's voice may have lost some of the spit from his days of fusing classic 70s rock with the post punk landscape but it's great to hear his distinctive tones wrapped around his crunchy melodic guitar hooks on Best Thing or the straight off Copper Blue Missing You. Unfortunately he does tend to drift off the mark and soften himself, such as with the slightly too 90's sounding Always Tomorrow (yes, that can be a bad thing). Worse still is that irritating Cher distorted warble that grates over (shine Your) Light Love Hope. Not all the softer material is that bad, Gauze Of Friendship has a pleasing epic build to it, but overall probably one for the fans only.
Frank Black - Honeycombe
Frank Black, Black Francis or Charles Thompson to his family is probably best known for his side project, the somewhat adored Pixies. With a new Pixies record on the way and a pretty constant string of live dates it's easy enough to get your fill of off the wall cult rock. If you're in the mood for a mellow slice of soulful, occasionally bluesy, country recorded with some of Nashville's finest then Honeycomb should head straight to the top of your shopping list. It's so laid back it's hard to believe it was recorded in four days, but none of the guys playing here are exactly slouches.
There are stillsome oddball tracks in here. Go Find Your Saint is Dire Straits. Song Of The Shrimp is just weird, being about, well, shrimps really. Strange Goodbye is a bright chirpy folky number about Black's divorce (Funny how the evenings turn into years sung as a duet with his... ex wife. We guess it was reasonably amicable then. There's a treasure trove of riches within Honeycombe from the gentle swing of Selkie Bride to the country shuffle of Violet It might be odd to think that the same man who sang Debaser could also pull off a touching cover of Dark End Of The Street but there you have it. Still full of surprises and our record collection's all the better for it.
Actually released this week:
Dogs - Turn against The Land (listen here)
Madness - The Dangermen Sessions Vol 12
The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Strung out In Heaven TVT