Tuesday, 30 August 2011


Well.. Here I am at the end of 30 (stressful, yet ultimately quite fun) days. Unfortunately, as you’ll notice if you count them, I didn’t make it to the full 30 albums in the 30 days. I knew this was ambitious from the start, so am only mildly disappointed with my failure. Hopefully you agree that 20/30 is still not a bad effort.

I’m taking a break for a bit now, until I work out what my next list will be – I’ll probably do a similar thing, but am aiming for perhaps movies, and even to do a couple in Spanish, just to keep challenging myself.

As always, if you have any ideas/questions/comments/abuse, please feel free to tweet me (I’m @webbmistress), or email me: mirandasalbumaday@gmail.com yada, yada, yada goodbye!

Roxy Music

Who: Roxy Music
What: Roxy Music
When: June 1972

I’ve been trying to get into Roxy Music for a while, and well, why not start at the beginning? I’m glad I did. This is a truly enjoyable album. Weird and wonderful and all things excellent, it shows their boldness and willingness to experiment, and the goofy grin I sport while listening to this album pretty much rules out listening to it in public (despite the sounds of it, that’s a good thing).

Opening with the stunning Re-Make/Re-Model, it doesn't disappoint. I always welcome the presence of a saxophone, and it appears to me that Roxy Music love it as much as I do. What fun. It starts with what sounds like cocktail party conversation, then it takes right off, exuberant and excited about, from what I can gather, his feelings for a female robot (“CPL 593H”). All the band work through their party pieces, there’s drum solos and everything, it’s such fun.

They follow that with the almost completely different, Ladytron, which is ice cold and stunning, synth and oboe combine to form a truly enveloping atmosphere, alternating between a quite sad verse melody with a rather more upbeat chorus that sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it absolutely does.

The whole thing feels so “druncle at a wedding” it’s great! See Virginia Plain, their first single, I’m told, and a properly slick pop tune, along with 2 H.B which has a cool moody verse, a great electric piano and some nice sax atmosphere. Then If There Is Something switches gears entirely — it starts out a wee bit like Hotel California, then Eno's synthesizer kicks in and the song changes completely. It goes from being all bright and sunny to dark and uncertain in a matter of seconds, spiraling down into huge, aching guitar (and more sax!) lines that are quite intriguing.

I realise I’ve not covered the second half of the album at all, but it’s just as great, some tracks are more likely to appeal than others, but all-in-all this is one hell of a fun time.

Monday, 29 August 2011

YOUTH Mixtape

This mixtape was put together by a young person of 15 years, the aim of it to shine a spotlight on young talent each artist aged below 18. An excellent idea, one I support totally, and give these guys time, and a few of them can be properly great, but a large percentage of these covers suffer from a bit of overthinking, I’m afraid.

This is certainly the case with track one, Teenage Reverb’s cover of the Backstreet Boys’ ‘Get Down’. Unfortunately, like their name suggests, this one’s just smothered in reverb until hardly a note remains recognizable of the original – I shudder to do it, as it makes me sound old and condescending, but I hope it is an age thing, and once they learn some restraint (reverb is only to be used sparingly of course) they can make some lovely music.

Faux Fur do a great cover of ‘Working For The Weekend’. But again children, what is it with just drowning everything in reverb and burying the vocals? Let ‘em come through, you sound great!
KYNAN’s cover of ‘Purple Rain’ is very good though. Great voice, great use of the beats, and keeping recogniseable elements from the original to bring the song very much into the techniques of this century. Well done. Very well done.

Wonder Bear do a very cute cover of ‘This Little Light of Mine’, it’s echoey and the layering of the vocals is quite a cool effect, although a little overused. It feels like they heard it and decided it sounded good, so put it in far too many times.

I don’t care what anyone says, I LOVE Alvin and the Chipmunks, I think they’re SO cute, and I love ‘Christmas Don’t Be Late’ – Catwalk’s version feels a little bit strange without Alvin, Simon and Theodor’s trademark squeaks, and, unlike the original, it lacks a lot of the excitement and impatience of waiting for Christmas day, but it is still very cute.

So all in all, this is a promising start for these youngsters, if these guys are anything to go by though, the future is swamped in reverb (and on the internet for free).

The Myspace Mixtape (Covers Edition)

This is the best idea ever. Thanks to CoverMe (which is an amazing website in itself) I discovered this lovely website, HI54LOFI Records who, if you sign up to their mailing list send you all kinds of really awesome (and totally free) music. They’re ace, and I really do urge you to go and check it out.

This, today is from one such email.. So without further ado..

The prevalence of pretty-voiced, female, singer-songwritery types on this does nothing to dissuade me, in fact, every single one is lovely. Glass Cake takes on Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’, doing a duet with herself, just piano chords in the background, she’s got a good voice, and while this isn’t exactly changing the world, it’s a lovely way to spend a few minutes. Then Tiny Ruins takes Peg Leg Howell’s classic ‘Rolling Mills Blues’ into her capable hands, and to be honest, I’m a little bit speechless about this one, her voice is soo charming, and perfectly suited to this song. I love.

Flying the flag for the boys, Me as a Pilot does a lovely job on Pedro the Lion’s ‘Almost There’ and Benjamin Shaw, while not really striking any chord with me, is clearly keeping with a theme of soft, gentle and pretty covers I see developing.

As with most compilations, I was bound to find some I didn’t like, Me And The Horse I Rode In On’s cover of the Avett Brothers’ ‘Weight of Lies’ is one of them. I don’t know the original, and I don’t really like this version. It’s slow, which isn’t in itself a bad thing, but it sort of plods along and is not really enjoyable at all. Also, I’ve never been a Johnny Cash fan, and I’m really, really fighting that prejudice to try to like A Singer of Song doing ‘Walk The Line’. The guy’s voice is fine, the guitar playing is suitable, and it carries the emotion of the lyrics well, but I’ve never liked this song, and this doesn’t really change my mind.

I have to give props to one of the best names that will stop being funny about 5 minutes after hearing it: Dress Up Like a Hooker, I’ll Play Charlie Sheen. Well done guys, also, well done for not slaughtering ‘Just Like Heaven’. That’s one of my favourite songs of all time, and while yours is not even close to a patch on the original, I can appreciate what you’ve done, it’s a cute, offbeat, acoustic take and that’s fine.

Zeroes EP

Who: Suuns
What: Zeroes
When: 2011

Since this is just an EP, thought I’d just do a track-by-track

Disappearance Of The Skyscraper: We’re off to a bad start. This takes ages to do anything, except a bunch of video gamey honks (and not even the good kind). Sounds like something someone I know could’ve written, but even his worst composition would be better.

PVC (EP Version): Bit repetitive. Seriously, they’ve just taken the note of the video game honk from track one and put it on a guitar instead. His voice is nice though; I’ll give him that.

Mudslinger: Is a bit different, has picked up the pace a bit, that’s always interesting. – Unfortunately, it just sort of sounds like something the Dandy Warhols might’ve written on a day off, so not awesome.

Arena (EP Version): took 2.30 to utter the first word. The word did little to hold my attention. Don’t bother.

Nnnnnnn: actually, this one’s quite good.

Optimist: Largely dull, some good ideas, but they rarely go anywhere and they’re not good enough to just stay where they are.

So pretty much. FA happens on this EP, thank god that wasn’t a full length, I may have shot myself.

Strange Geometry

Who: The Clientele
What: Strange Geometry
When: August 2005

Ah, the Clientele, it’s cute, and pretty, and full of jangly guitars and reverb. There’s a central theme of melancholy and loneliness that runs throughout the album and, songs like ‘My Own Face Inside the Trees’ reflect that mood, with a melody you can really get behind. It’s hard not to mention others when discussing the Clientele, so lets get it out of the way, their melancholy is infused with a healthy dose of the shimmering pop of the Zombies, Felt and Galaxie 500.

This album paints a striking picture, longingly detailing wonderful dreamy landscapes, bringing only one word to my mind. It’s funny how a word can get stuck in your head. Someone once described the Clientele to me as “pastoral” and you know what? It really is, it’s the perfect description, there is no other word.

For me, the standout track without a doubt is ‘E.M.P.T.Y’. Beginning with said delightful pastoral pop, it’s sunny and relaxing, then, after the second minute and thirty fourth second of such pleasing pop, something completely unexpected: a psych breakdown, complete with a ‘60s guitar solo. Then, they go back to that delightful melody like nothing happened, it really catches you off guard, and is a sublime musical moment.

Given the consistent quality of Strange Geometry, there is one song that I absolutely have to take issue with: ‘Losing Haringey’ which consists of a spoken narrative against the beautiful flow of music behind it. The narrative itself is really interesting, the narrator tells us the story of his realization that he is “in a photograph” taken by his mother in 1982 (he even says “1982-ness” at one point) – It’s detailed and complex, and utterly enveloping. But its placement makes it pointless – I would’ve understood if it was the closing track, but instead it jars, disrupting the flow of the album near its end. And the end is a nice one; I like it when he sings.

They kinda remind me of an indie film. They’re really pretty, and I like them a lot. Unfortunately, they’re a little limited in scope, which makes me think that they’re essentially stuck in a stylistic rut, an extremely pretty rut, but a rut nonetheless. They don’t seem to want to do anything other than what they're doing, but at least they take the time to be particularly observant as they mine their territory. The album is almost instantly effective because of this, and the Clientele’s commitment to their own sound has crystallized into something almost wonderful. Almost.

Let England Shake

Who: PJ Harvey
What: Let England Shake
When: February 2011

PJ Harvey has written, ultimately one of the most tragic, heartbreaking albums of the 21st century. A first glance at the album title, song titles and lyrics mark it as a very English record, one that feels, paradoxically, completely out of time, and also absolutely timely, without feeling the need to reach for melodrama.

Musically, she incorporates elements of English folk, early rock and reverbed dream-pop. She plays a whole lot of instruments, including the autoharp, zither, saxophone, and others, which she uses skillfully to create a series of hardy, engaging melodies that stand up well to repeated listens, and in fact, welcome them. But, it’s important to listen to the lyrics, as without them, the record sounds excellent, but thanks to the lazy shuffle and bounce of many of the tracks, you’ll feel it lacks bite.

She reveals the real world behind her plasant melodies, her lyrics paint a striking portrait of war, depicting the absolute devastation of World War I, the image of “soldiers falling like lumps of meat" is truly disturbing. The horrors of war are just that, and she doesn’t shy away from it, she forces us to look deep into our own pasts and see the centuries of wasted life, and fear and war, in one of the most apt albums of our time. It's universal, necessary and extremely powerful, demanding your attention and respect.

In the opening of the first, and incidentally the title track, she croons: “The West’s asleep, let England shake/weighted down with the silent dead” in an unsettling, almost ethereal manner, perfectly setting the tone for what’s to come. The album almost reads like a love letter, the music is misty eyed and gentle, but again it’s the lyrics that betray her true vision of England, as she tenderly sings about "The damp grey filthiness of ages, and battered books, fog rolling down behind the mountains and on the graveyards and dead sea captains." on ‘The Last Living Rose’.

I can’t be enamoured with her voice, it seems a silly thing to take issue with, when the album is clearly so exemplary, but when she makes the leaps inter her higher register, it grates, which is really disappointing.

However that’s really the only criticism I can make. ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ is amazing, showing just how perfectly she makes pretty and horrifying sit side by side, using the combination of the harshness of her voice, and the smooth, deep rumble of John Parish to really engage with the subject matter. She tells the tale of a soldier, who has seen and done things he wants to forget, and it breaks down into one of the most sunny, upbeat outros of the whole album, a sickening and and almost comical ending.

She is an amazingly talented songwriter, this is a truly brilliant album. End of.