situpandlisten#9

I had my tonsils out this week. Big ouchy. This has only slightly affected my musical choices – the morphine mainly.

“Breezeblocks” by Alt-J: “She’s morphine/queen of my vaccine/ my love my love love love”. I love that line.  I love the band (see yesterday’s review) and I am addicted to the song and apparently morphine as well.  Quirky lyrics, filthy bass, and ridiculously good harmonies.  I heard the remixes before I heard the original, can you believe that?  The video, I warn you, is slightly messed up, but don’t let that put you off, chums.  This is one to savour for this year, or may we all be held down with soggy clothes and breezeblocks. (La-la-la)

“Twenty four Hours” by Joy Division:  Dark and murky stuff from one of the most influential bands in British music.  From the second and final Joy Division album, “Closer” on “Twenty Four Hours” we hear Ian Curtis fall apart, a realisation perhaps that he couldn’t go on living, personnel regret and a sense of hopelessness strains through: “Now that I’ve realised/ how it’s all gone wrong/ got to find severity/ cause treatment takes too long” It’s actually quite a terrifying and certainly sad song, given he had hung himself by the time people had heard the record, but a beauty in his voice ever present, with a dark guitar line and relentless drumming. Sorry to bring the mood down. (Heavy)

“Yellow Mama” by Therapies Son:  Not much is known about young lad Alex Jacob.  From what I can gather, he makes music in his bedroom (rad) and sounds strikingly like the Flaming Lips. And It is indeed all a bit bedroom sample beats, with wavy synth and piano which is incredibly relaxing listening. See what you think though, as not everyone will be doped to the eyes on morphine when listening to this.  (Cool as Coyne).

“Worry, fill my heart” by Spring Offensive:  The Oxford quintet offer exciting and most rhythmic guitar songs.  Fun stuff, nice soft lyrics, and toes most certainly have been tapped to this VERY ENGLISH group.  You’ll know what I mean in a second. (Inoffensively springy).

“Sister Morphine” by The Rolling Stones:  Well obviously.  One of Sticky Fingers and indeed the Stones’ most underrated songs, even though Marianne Faithful kind of wrote it.  The Stone’s always do it better however, especially when Ry Cooder does a bit of slidey guitar. “Here I lie in my hospital bed/ Tell me sister morphine when you coming round again?”  (Morphine).

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An Awesome Wave: Album Review

Cascading an endless creativity, step forth the new sound of 2012, “An Awesome Wave” from the triangle loving Alt J (∆ on all good computers) as lead singer Joe Newton swirls his soft falsetto tones on the extraordinary “Tessellate”: “triangles are my favourite shape/three points where two lines meet/toe to toe, back to back, lets go my love, it’s very late/’til morning comes, let’s tessellate”.  This intelligent songwriting is matched by an equally brilliant and indeed awesome wave of inventive sounds, samples, instruments and harmonies, which will have genre-ists scratching their heads as to which genre list to place this hotly tipped to be amazing Leeds/Cambridgeshire outfit, who have detonated on to the scene this year.

The music is an exciting concoction, which often builds from a quiet intensity to an explosion of electricity and passion as the blandly titled, though certainly absorbing “Intro” performs. That might ease you into the choppy jacuzzi of an “Awesome Wave”, as the rest of the album is  rather hyperactive; pulling in a variety of influences and sounds from distorted base, hard folk, brooding synth, strange samples and hard arse guitar, from the furious “Fitzpleasure” to the sweet sounding ‘ode to a bull-fight’ summer ballad “Estocada”.  These stark contrasts of styles and indulgences in what has become increasingly known as “folk step” (hear “Dissolve Me”, especially) and will compel you to listen carefully to Alt-J this summer and beyond.  With lyrics referencing everything from Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” (“Breezeblocks”), to Luc Besson’s “Leon” (“Matilda”), the band are certainly not short of intellectual, highly entertaining (Please don’t go/I’ll eat you whole) if not slightly pretentious references, but then again they all graduated with English Literature degrees – bloody students.

Yet despite the musical additives akin to a delicious ready meal, there is also a delightful elegance in “An Awesome Wave”‘s progression. Charmingly broken up with short interludes, the album has a formulaic approach (harking back to their love for maths and angles and stuff).  A very tightly woven album, where songs never extend the four minute mark, the music gives that impression of a giant Hawaiian wave crashing slowly in front of you (we’ve all been there, right?) the hidden closer “Handmade” providing the moment the surf gets sucked out to an endless ocean, as the sun slowly sets. The more you listen, the more you will profit from the extended meaning, the beauty and the sheer originality of this masterful debut offering.

“An Awesome Wave” is out now on Infectious Records

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situpandlisten#8

No. The Jubilee has not affected what I listened to this week.  I also didn’t really feel like toeing the anti-establishment line.  I did think about The Queen is Dead and obviously Anarchy in the UK, but I didn’t want to get worked up about it.  There’s too much bunting, mini flags and blanket news coverage to do that for me.  Maybe this week it should be hideunderaduvetandlisten.

“Zig Zag Wanderer” by Captain Beefheart:  Don Van Vilet.  Musician. Artist.  Poet.  His 1967 album, Safe as Milk is so incredibly easy and enjoyable to listen to that almost as soon as it finishes, you just have to listen to it again, and feel the stomping electricity that runs through the record.  Zig Zag Wanderer is just one of these songs that draws you in.  Full of soul, personality, drive and hard arse rhythm, this week I have been well and truly bitten by the Beefheart. Got beef?

“The Bad in Eachother” by Feist:  Big powerful stompy emotional folk blues number from Canadian mystery Leslie Feist.  The song feels incredibly filmic, and sensing this, the video is rather cinematic too.  Very tense and absorbing stuff, both music and video.  I never really got Feist until now.  Feisty.

“Into the Rain” by Munich:  this one has been on the cards for a while, and I suppose given the fact that amazing sunshine has been swallowed by a shit load of rain, it feels apt in early June.  I’m not sure this is what the band from Brighton were going for but some beautiful singing, euphoric choruses and epic wavy guitar make it one to cherish.  I look forward to hearing more.  A band for all seasons.

“Birmingham” by Odjibox:  This electro swing producer knows how to jive.  On the Caravan Palace, Correspondents variety.  This tasty little number will have you swinging electronically throughout the week, featuring a rather snazzy and ever so slightly jazzy clarinet.  Swing my pretties

“Marvellous Dream” by Damon Albarn.  I could write a whole blog about the talents of Mr Alban, (maybe I will one day), but for now I will share with you his latest ‘side project’, Dr Dee: an English Opera.  A tribute to a truly brilliant figure of 16th century England, John Dee. This is a very calming and soothing song to enjoy. Carry on Damon. Carry on. Deelightful.  

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Quick Fire Review Part 2

Jack White and Beach House have also been lapped up in recent weeks.  Whatsthatabout? Let’s find out.

Jack White, “Blunderbuss:” Jack White is slightly mad.  And that’s how I like him.  Not when he’s semi-serious for The Dead Weather, or 007 soundtracks.  Thankfully he regresses in his zany debut “Blunderbuss”. A blunderbuss is a gun.  Did you know that? I did not.  I thought it was a bus driver who had taken a wrong turn.  Filled with hard riffs, loopy lyrics, corrupted organs, no Meg, and interestingly a release of tremendous energy and “real emotions”. His recent divorce has slightly crept into his music and many have labeled this as Jack’s “Blood on the Tracks”.  All the famous eccentricities come out in songs like “Freedom at 21”, the “Trash Tongue Talker” while “Sixteen Saltines” and the Little Willie John cover “I’m Shakin’” are wonderfully gritty: “I’m noivouss” says Jack, just like that.  The plunk of the pianee (there’s a difference from piano) makes a welcome intrusion with the brilliantly titled “Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” and “Weep themselves to Sleep”, which drowns out Jack’s usually prominent guitar. More than anything Blunderbuss demonstrates a more grounded album, closer to reality than all of  my favourite White Stripes albums put together (which is all of them).  There are flashes of Elephant and the sheer craziness of Icky Thump, but White turns a lot of his attention to some woman, who seems to be causing him a lot of anguish (his ex, Karen Elson sings on a couple of the songs – ouchy), like “Love Interruption” featuring the lyrics “I want love to grab my fingers gently/ slam them in a doorway/ put my face into the ground”.  This new-found source of material certainly cements Jack the innovator, confirms Jack the genius, and offers us Jack the human being. Maybe he should get divorced more often?

Beach House, “Bloom”. Being a long time admirer of Beach House and their incredibly relaxing and beautiful ambient dream pop, means I don’t give two hoots if they stay in their comfort snug zone, with extra padding, bubble wrap and pillows. In fact, I would definitely join them.  Sounds amazing. Victoria Legrand has such a reassuring voice that just hearing it makes it hard for me to critically examine the Baltimore duos’ latest offering.    And yes, it isn’t that much of a leap from the exceptional “Teen Dream”, filled with soft keyboard, dreamy synth, and neat little guitar lines from Alex Scally.  But it doesn’t make the album any less brilliant.  Opener “Myth” eases you into comfort, with those delightful loops swirling around Legrand’s tender lullaby-like voice.  This is the mere scratching of the surface.  A closer inspection reveals a vast plain of emotions: “You can’t keep hanging on, to all that’s dead and gone”.  “Troublemaker” discloses a fading relationship: “In the night we stick together/the walls are shaking in their skin/ Does it become you troublemaker/Watch them unravel you/Pulling everything apart” while one of the certain highlights “Wild” takes your breath aware, with surprisingly brazen guitar from Scally and heartfelt lyrics from Legrand: “Our father won’t come home/because he’s seeing double”.  Other highlights like the Enya epic “Lazuli” (Note, I don’t like Enya much) and the beautiful “New Year” cement the album as cozy for all occasions, floating out to sea, burying a pet, watching the rain, waking up, going to sleep, having a nip of bourbon at 4 in the afternoon.  You could spend an eternity listening to it, and it might feel like time has suspended itself on your behalf.  As closer “Irene” suggests, Beach House selflessly create a “strange paradise” for us all.

Redemption?  I’ll step up, I promise.  Based on these five, i think there will be a few more delights this year.

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Quick fire album snippet review apology sorry, sorry, sorry.

Oh Hi.

Yes, I know, May is a long way from January.  Having started the new year with a flourish with a top 20 album digest of 2011, a silly picture of David Bowie musing at the oldest computer in the world AND the first sitandupandlisten of 2012, I went a little bit quiet on the Western Front.  Fewer trenches, but more other writing gigs, internships and the latest craze, Twitter.  It’s no excuse, and I would tie myself to a gun carriage, but I can’t type at the same time.

Despite vowing to spend less money on CDs in 2012, I have already bought five.  And as an olive branch, dove flying rainbow suspender, long haired, free love, white flag gesture, I thought I might share my thoughts on them. If this goes well, I don’t see why situpandlisten can’t occur by the end of the week.  I mean, I’m always sitting up and listening to music.  Let’s have a look shall we? Starting with We Are Augustines and Alabama Shakes and the Mystery Jets.

We Are Augustines,  “Rise Ye Sunken Ships”:  Oozing a dreadful, yet beautiful sadness, the Brooklyn outfit has grabbed hold of my heart during spring.  Lead singer Billy McCarthy recounts his arduous family life, and his tender, strained voice sounds hoarse as if about to, or having just cried his eyes out.  The debut album covers everything shiny from depression, love loss to suicide.  “Book of James” and many songs on the album harks a distant and fresh-faced Bruce Springsteen.  Massive tick.  Possibly a smidgen of EARLY U2.  Slight tick. Baby tick. Maybe just a bit of a tick (v) or (/). But like The Boss, We Are Augustines strain a flicker of euphoria through the candid tales of heartache beautifully played and sung.  Opener “Chapel Song” entices you with that guitar hook, while “Juarez” will really take your breath away (he hasn’t got cathedrals in his arse, by the way), while “Headlong into the Abyss” epitomises this light at the end of the murky tunnel mentality the band have captured so well.

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Alabama Shakes, “Boys and Girls”.  I don’t want to sound like a really annoying person,  but I HEARD THIS BAND IN AUGUST LAST YEAR AND LIKED THEM BEFORE YOU.  Sorry.  When I discovered the beautiful “You Ain’t Alone” they were still called The Shakes, but due to some legal voodoo mumbo-jumbo small print, they had to change it, because the other Shakes were upset and in a suey kind of mood.  Cleverly they stuck their homeland in front of the title.  And they really tap into that country bluesy soulful hootenanny deep-south vibe.  And I love it.  The charisma of lead singer Brittany Howard is a joy to listen to and everything from “Hold On” to my favouritest “Hang Loose” all makes you want to go to your nearest barn dance, or at least dance around your room or workspace.  They can also do sensual “You Aint Alone” as one example but the brilliant title track demonstrates a marvelous songwriting ability and cements this album as one of the finest of 2012.  Even though it’s May (sorry, sorry, sorry).

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Mystery Jets,  “Radlands”.  People often ask me if I have a guilty pleasure.  I usually say bacon fat, before I realise they’re talking about music.  Mystery Jets just might be my musical bacon fat.  But I don’t know why.  I have always liked them.  I shouldn’t feel guilty.  Or should I?  I don’t know. I think the Mystery Jets were a readily stable part of my youth.  I made dens with them, I looked a day over 21 and felt like half my life was gone, I came up really hard and now Im often gripped with a bitter fear.  They were always there in those years, when I needed some music to accompany me.   And end scene.  Their new album Radlands, see them depart from Eel Pie Island and take a trip to Austin, Texas.  And there is a notable progress from the jangle plastic pop of the first two albums and Serotonin’s crooning ballads.  It’s not all country rock and slidy steel guitar though.  Dark Opener “Radlands” is far removed and more Arcade Fire than the rest of the album’s more country-ish feel.  There’s a bit of double denim disco in The Hale Bop, while “The Greatest Hits”, while painfully stuck between “Stuck in the Middle of You” and “Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da” will swiftly become “Two Doors Down” in no time, as Blaine Harrison brilliantly describes a break up and subsequent dividing of records. “You can keep ‘No Need to Argue’ and I’ll keep ‘The Aeroplane Over the Sea’/But hold on to ‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’ cos I’m holding on to ‘Village Green’ ”.  The quality alternates betweens high and low with the ridiculous “The Ballad of Emerson Lonestar” and the exceptional “Take Me Where the Roses Grow” (OK, I’ve found my bacon fat, I just love the harmonies on the chorus).  Ultimately the Mystery Jets haven’t forgotten who they are, by trying to reinvent their sound completely, and the album marks a real progression in the music. Many bands have left the sunny shores of Blightly for a crack at the US, and many have failed.  “Exile On Main Street” it ain’t , and “Aladdin Sane” no flippin’ way, but Blaine, Will, Kapil and vacant bass player position apply within (Kai left the day before the record came out on panto/soap opera proportions) have done a decent job.  YEEEHAllo there.

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Part two pending. I promise. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

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situpandlisten#7

And a merry new year to you all.  Hope 2012 hasn’t been too disappointing thus far, and while the music is picking up slowly once more, not a great deal has jumped up in my face as yet, but no doubt in a week or so, my ears will be ringin’ once more with the sweet sweet sounds I hope this year will bring.

Medicine by We Were Promised Jetpacks:  What an incredible name.  The Edinburgh rock band quietly released their 2nd album in October last year, and their lead single is an awesome powerhouse of guitars and furious drumming, with a notable and appealing Scottish twang in leader singer Adam Thompson.  This has been sitting on the shelf for a while now, and happy to finally share it.  Take your medicine

Wicked by Jhameel:  First I found him on Hypem, then Wearehunted, and now The Guardian have caught wind of the San Fran star.  As they correctly point out, he’s a mixture of George Michael and Prince, with funky soul pop ringing true on his new ‘music series’ entitled Waves in which he generously offered a free download of all 5 songs on this EP.  Wicked has it all:  Dancey synth, pulsating drums, stacatto aggressive singing fused with a soulful flare which would make the artist formerly known as blush.  Really quite Jhameeling to one’s ears

United States of Whatever by Liam Lynch:  I can’t remember what I was watching but someone was in some kind of American mall, and shouted for her friend ‘Kiki’.  Where have I heard that name before?  ‘She was like “Uhhhhhhh” And I’m like “WHATEVER!”.  What a ridiculous song from way back in 2002. Uhhhhhhh

Filmstar by Suede:  Classic Britpop from Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler.  Reassuring us that fame is all that it’s cracked up to be: ‘Propping up the bar, driving in a car, it looks so easy’.  Some clever individual points out on Youtube that the chorus is their most Bowiest.  Great point.   Try and catch them while their reformed and that.  Sueding in the deep end

300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues by The White Stripes:  I recently heard a tribute to Jack White on 6music.  The man is not only talented, a little mad, but quite simply the coolest man around.  Have you seen him make a guitar in about 2 minutes???  The White Stripes have had an enormous effect on my musical life since 2001’s White Blood Cells.  The pre-famed eponymous debut and De Stijl to Elephant, Get Behind Me Satan and the much maligned Icky Thump.  For me, the latter was the perfect conclusion to the band’s existence.  I can safely say I will never tire of the music, and the recent tribute has been swiftly followed by backcataslog enorme.  300 is one of my favourite bow-out songs from Jack and Meg.  Stripe out (live)

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