Tuesday, 30 August 2011

End


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.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Dog Man Star (10/8)


Who: Suede
What: Dog Man Star
When: October 1994

I’ve read/heard loads on the coked-up magisterial brilliance of Dog Man Star; however, have never heard it in its entirety. Let’s fix that, shall we?

As it happens, for the most part, despite majority opinion tending to disagree with me, I generally like albums that have been written and recorded whilst their makers were taking loads and loads of cocaine. What some people find overblown, overlong, and generally unlistenable, I generally find quite pleasant, I concede the facts, but reject the conclusion.

Thanks to that overly long intro, you’ve probably gathered, I liked this. A lot.

This album tells a story. Brett Anderson sings frankly about drug abuse and rough sex, but without pointlessly embellishing it. In his world, actions have consequences, wild nights have mornings after, and he’s careful never to tell you the moral of the story.

By ‘Heroine’, I was in love. It’s sexy, and that bassline is hot. This albums gives some of the most powerful visuals yet, and for this I’m seeing a big, romantic epic, where Brett’s the hero, coming for this waify thing dressed in a white nightie, in a huge castle, with billowing curtains. I can barely begin to describe how amazing this is.

This whole album feels so.. Earnest. I know it only comes about because Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson hated each other so much by the end of it that the sheer force of their hatred made them both write better than they’d ever written before. But I don’t care. It’s amazing. Brett Anderson’s vocal is gorgeous. Bernard guitar sounds incredible. This is a band at the top of their game.

Elsewhere, tracks like ‘The Asphalt World’ and ‘New Generation’ are the soundtrack to the gangster film I’ll never make, the latter something David Bowie himself would’ve been proud to have written. Actually, include ‘The Hollywood Life’ on that soundtrack too. It’s got the most delicious dirty guitars, which make a noise that goes straight to my ovaries. It is incredible; I could write reams on just this song, it perfectly encapsulates that self-indulgent and overwrought frustration within the entire industry. It’s so unreal, and the appeal is in that seedy glamour (or appearance of it).

They also have some of the best ballads ever written. ‘The Power’ is reflective and pensive as well as ‘Daddy’s Speeding’ and ‘Still Life’ which, spoilers: sounds nothing like the Horrors, is a lovely, picturesque tune, which everyone who loves this album seems to love, but…

The true gem of this record, the absolute without a doubt best song that I have heard in far too long, is ‘The 2 Of Us’, a gorgeous, heartfelt, piano-led ballad. Anyone who says it’s overblown has missed the point. It’s a necessary melodrama. He is behaving like a fool. He is being overdramatic. It should be embarrassing for all involved, but it’s not, because it’s just too sad. It’s like his heart is being literally wrested from his chest, and slowly torn to tiny shreds in front of his eyes, and it’s so painful, so unbearable that the only thing he can do, with his last moments of sanity is write this heart-shattering song.

What a record. Wow. I’ve wasted too long, not listening to this album. Please, please don’t make the same mistake.

The Bedroom Covers (9/8)


Who: The Morning Benders
What: The Bedroom Covers
When: July 2008

Developing a theme here... Going with more covers today, courtesy of The Morning Benders. Recorded in the band’s apartment, these are surprisingly good quality, if a little less clean than may be expected. If these boys ability with covers is anything to go by, it’s a shame I haven’t listened to very much of their original material, as I imagine it must be really quite good.

I love a girl group cover, and I’m in luck as there’s TWO here, three, if you count the extra Daytrotter session of ‘Why Don’t They Let Us Fall in Love’, and the first of these is wonderful. Almost painfully cute, it’s soo gorgeous. The cover of the Crystals’ ‘He’s a Rebel’ is also wonderful. I’m gonna love these guys forever now just because they love to cover girl groups.

‘Lovefool’ is one of my favourite songs of all time, so it takes a lot for me to not actively hate any cover I come across. This version is sped up, has a bit more shuffle, but the instruments are toned down to allow the vocal to come through. The delicate harmonies of all their voices working together makes this (if possible) even more tender and lovely than the original. These are also quite faithful covers for the most part. The cover of ‘Crying’ by Roy Orbison doesn’t do much with the original, but is still very cute, and keeps a lot of the emotion of the lyrics.

There are weakish points, their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ is nicer than the Corrs’ one, but isn’t really a patch on the original, it’s just nice, and ‘Caroline, No’ is just a bit..Well.. annoying. The introduction of the keyboard on ‘I Won’t Share You’ is an interesting stylistic choice, but in this version, it’s a little bit out of time, and as such a cute, sparkly line it feels far too heavy, and is at odds with the rest of the song.

Fools Rush In is a stompin’, right ol’ good time. They are so cute. His voice has this, fragility to it, that would, I feel, in any other setting feel a bit wrong, just a bit weak, but it’s just so cute!! Same goes for Talking Heads’ Pull Up The Roots, it’s good fun. It’s so different to the original, but at the same time, totally not, and it’s just really awesome.

So this was fun, I really really liked this, a collection of sound covers and some indication of creativity and flair. Well done.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Road Leads Where it's Led EP

Apologies. Today’s review is short, only an EP as opposed to a whole album, but, well, time constraints, etc… I promise I'll stop whinging about that soon.. Maybe...


Who: Secret Machines
What: The Road Leads Where it's Led EP
When: June 2005


Aaanyway.. Title track, and first track, incidentally, is a perfect intro, a welcome track, if you like, and with some cute use of words (“We communicate by semaphore, no language we’ve got flags”) we’re off to a good start. In for some nice, harmless fun. It’s followed by the only other original on the EP, Bring Your Friends, which is upbeat and drives along, although slightly overdoes the crash cymbal.

Then there’s the covers, which are.. Hit and miss.. Girl From the North Country (a Bob Dylan cover) and Deluxe (by German band Harmonia) are goodish, but forgettable. Astral Weeks, the Van Morrison cover (yeah, you did hear that right) turns into a J&M chain type thing with a nice growly guitar sound, and suitably passive aggressive lyrics. The rueful fadeout is nice too, just feels, suitable, somehow. Then there an.. interesting on classic Money (That’s What I Want), which slows it right down, and turns it into a sweeping soundscape that is not altogether unwelcome, and is actually rather enjoyable.

I generally like my psychedelia to have a bit more going on, a bit more drive, I guess. I don’t mind if it’s lazy, but it does need to move. This takes a while to get going, and apart from that really quite intriguing choice of covers, it’s essentially just a better than average covers EP.

Suicide (The Second Album) (7/8)

Who: Suicide
What: Suicide (The Second Album)
When: March 1980



The Second Album by Suicide is absolutely essential. It’s daring, stunning, and beautiful, Alan Vega and Martin Rev have worked hard on this, and we find the pair on excellent form.

From the start, Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne, Suicide are in a strange mood, one that is decidedly sweeter, and not too far removed from the tones one might expect from Gary Numan, New Order or Depeche Mode.

Some tracks seem to glisten with a sexy sweat, others immediately change in the light, making that sweat seem unhinged and hateful. Touch Me sexily invites you to do just that, but Dance is dark and menacing, which of course means it’s bloody brilliant, and showcases a lot of these guys’ skills as innovators and creators of an entire subculture, going some way to demonstrate just how important this band is.

My first introduction to Suicide was hearing about the series of covers commissioned for singer, Alan Vega’s 70th birthday, and track three, Sweetheart is one I’d already heard, thanks to the (frankly quite good in itself) cover by Klaxons. It’s a wonderfully sweet and tender ballad, which is a rare moment of prettiness on the record, Suicide are many things, but pretty rarely comes to mind.

Unsurprisingly, I suppose, I like this band. I really like this band. I can hear the elements which have been taken on by my favourite band (oh Miranda’s on her hobby horse again, she’s gonna start talking about the Horrors. Yes I am. Deal with it.) Shadazz (Recently covered by the Horrors, as part of the same covers series) takes on a delightful, glitchy optimism, making me feel like LITERALLY jumping for joy. Dream Baby Dream displays itself as an unlikely (or perhaps not so unlikely) reference point for the Horrors’ track You Could Never Tell, the hallmarks are remarkably similar, and it’s another pretty joy to listen to. These moments really show a band at a point of real development, creating a fully formed album that shows off their respective talents as songwriters to it’s full extent.

This album is one of the first to really grasp with both hands the potential of synthesizers to create gorgeous melodic pop songs, and it’s truly stunning. These two men take the very small number of instruments, just synths, a drum machine and vocals, and made them into something beautiful. Don’t believe me? Just ask any band from the past 30 years with a synthesizer.

Travelogue (6/8)

I know! I know! I wrote this one with one of the worst hangovers I've ever had, so sorry, it's a bit sketchy...


Who: The Human League
What: Travelogue
When: May 1980




Travelogue sounds like people who know how to play synths, doing just that. And I love me some synths. Which is good, since the album states proudly, right after the title and band name, that it "contains synthesizers + vocals only". They’re not kidding. This is only their second album. They would split up after this album, 2 members leaving to form Heaven 17, and 2 to try to continue with a more pop oriented, new Human League lineup. Already, the synth textures and vocal on this indicate a pop leaning, but the tone remains quite dark and solemn, recalling, at times, bits of Kraftwerk.

It starts (as I always do) at the very beginning, with The Black Hit Of Space, from what I can tell, a song about a record about Buck Rodgers. It’s dark and paranoid, and a bit full on. Dreams of Leaving, on the other hand, is a bit more minimalist, save for the intense synth noise that comes in right before the first verse. It builds up and then breaks down for about 6 minutes in total, turning into a bass groove, and introducing a synth wash into the second verse.

Gordon's Gin is good fun. I love a song about booze, me, and this song is an instrumental synth version of a jingle written by Jeff Wayne for the titular brand of gin. It takes the triumphant heralding of the original and turns it into a delightfully dark synthy warning against it. Tom Baker takes it to another level, and is a truly good instrumental synth exploration. Plus, anything that references Dr Who is ok with me.

Crow and a Baby is quite weird, but I liked it, and besides, weirder still was the covers medley of Rock’n’Roll/Nightclubbing, pairing, you guessed it Gary Glitter's Rock 'n' Roll and Iggy Pop's Nightclubbing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually do too much, so something that one thinks could only have been the best thing ever or the worst, turns out to be neither, it’s in fact just meh.

So an overall underwhelming, but a fitting, and perfectly enjoyable second album.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Chameleons Peel Sessions

Yay! I've caught up again!!


Who: The Chameleons
What: The John Peel Sessions
When: 1990 (Recorded 1983-1990)



Oh.. Oh!! Miranda’s a fan of post punk is she? I’d never have guessed..

Much like Echo and the Bunnymen et al.. These boys follow all the hallmarks of a perfectly competent post punk template, with some truly beautiful songs as a result, however, for some reason, unlike the Bunnymen, I’m told they never really had that “big hit” moment, so I was given this Peel Sessions as an intro to the band, and as expected, it is full of great, yet mostly unremarkable songs.

I guess the beginning’s a good place to start, it’s served me well up to now. And so far so post punk, track one, The Fan & The Bellows is fine, but the problem with all these post punk/new wave singers is they tend to sound the same, there has to be something distinctive in the music to set the bands aside, and as much as I like this (this track especially) it really does little to leap out at me from the (frankly several) similar bands that I already love.

The way the tracklist runs does work well as a live set, and thanks to some of the BBC’s superior recording equipment, these songs maintain the energy they would have live, without compromising on sound quality, giving a great glimpse of the band at different stages of their career.

Plenty of these songs would’ve made lovely chart singles, Perfumed Garden is case and point, standing up to repeated listens well, Things I Wish I'd Said has a great bassline that keeps things moving, and it’s staccato guitar fits in well and Don’t Fall is really hard to ignore, his voice is really emotive, and the stomping guitar sounds so great.

Unfortunately, they’re little more than lovely, Looking Inwardly is pretty, and does what it’s meant to do, Intrigue in Tangiers is Pictures of You 5 years before that was even written, and second skin is a bit Psychedelic Furs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if I wanted to listen to the Cure, or the Psychedelic Furs, I’d just listen to them, wouldn’t I?

I’m sorry, Chameleons, I wish you’d have come to my attention sooner, I’m sure I would’ve liked you more if that were the case. I did like this, honest, I just, can’t really rave about it, since about half the songs sound like things I’ve already heard, and a 50/50 strike rate is just not really high enough for my liking.

The Sunlandic Twins (4/8)

To be fair, today’s is cheating a little bit, I have heard a fair few songs from this album before (they’ve popped up on Genius playlists and the like) – BUT – I’ve never heard it in it’s entirety before, so it still fits the criteria (which set up anyway, so my interpretation is what counts :P) plus, it’s been a hell of a week with assessment and things, and I just really didn’t have the time to listen to anything longer.

Who: Of Montreal
What: The Sunlandic Twins
When: April 2005

The second listen through on this was pretty much just a formality, I could’ve written reams on any given individual song, it’s that packed full of ideas, from the childlike, twinkly opener Requiem for O.M.M.2 (which sounds like anything but) to the strange, cut up, choral qualities of Death of A Shade of Hue, there is almost too much to write (as if that could ever be true).

A bunch of these songs really skip between genres, it’s a bit disarming at first, as it’s really not something that can ever be expected, but I love a challenge. I Was Never Young, in particular starts off with a, frankly quite funky skip, which makes it sound daggy in a way it absolutely isn’t, and incorporates latin horns, before morphing into a sort of, 8-bit composition freakout towards the end. It’s like a lot of this album can’t decide where it wants to sit, but when every guise looks this good, it’s too much fun trying everything on.

And try it on they do.. Forecast Fascist Future takes directions from David Bowie before going off on a road trip all it’s own, and The Repudiated Immortals could’ve come directly from the Night at the Opera recording sessions. But with hindsight comes the glorious ability to trace the line forwards as well as backwards, The Party’s Crashing us is a great deal of fun, and Hot Chip have clearly been taking notes from this one, and Knight Rider is a lovely instrumental that smacks of Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach, although that may just be a chance occurrence, spurred on by the two bands’ shared interest in slightly unusual instruments.

When I stop using other bands as reference points, there are still some songs that stand out. Oslo in the Summertime, besides being a cool title, is really awesome with it’s growly bassline, So Begins Our Alabee is more electro-sounding than the rest, and the guitar sounds really cool. They also get away with having a song intro go on for two minutes, and in that time you barely even notice time is passing.

It’s the striking vocality of the singers that truly strings this album together. The harmonies are gorgeous, and ensure that while it moves about so much, the album still feels like a single entity, and an excellent-sounding one at that.

Ooh.. One final thing.. A plea: I’ve been thinking, and I’d like to give my own two cents on a couple of “the big ones” the really famous albums that everybody’s heard of, so I’m taking suggestions of any albums that you think I should listen to.. Go on, dare me :)

Boom (3/8)

Who: The Sonics
What: Boom
When: 1966 (1999 Norton Re-release)


They just don’t do it like this anymore. There should be more saxophone solos in modern music, they are too much fun, and we need look no further than the Sonics to show us how it’s done. It’s impossible to not be massively cheered when this raw, raucous goodness hits the stereo. The guitar shrieks with youthful exuberance on Cinderella (a particularly cute take on the tale, his love letter to the titular ‘ella is adorable), and a particularly rousing version of Louie Louie, which is always welcome.

Jennie Jennie is a proper joyous rock ‘n’ roll number which makes one want to don a dress with a puffy skirt and twist all night, and Let The Good Times Roll, as the title suggests, is encouragement to do just that. There’s two versions of The Witch on this album as well, which admittedly, I’ve heard before, as it’s on other albums by the band, but it’s much too fun to skip, the live version positively crackles with energy. There’s also a live version of Psycho, which is bloody good fun as well.

Since I Fell For You is the Sonics’ Earth Angel, a gorgeous doo-wop number, sees singer Gerry Roslie pining for his baby, and it’s positively heart wrenching, that then kicks into Hitch Hike, and he tells us how he’s gonna do anything to get her back, and when he says it, it really feels like he means it.

It’s not all fun and games, though, He’s Waitin’ snarls a warning of the Devil’s arrival, in a manner that Kinks fans will be pretty familiar with, along with The Hustler, which again tells of a slightly unsavoury character in typical, excellent, proto-punk style.


It’s so easy to write about the ones you like! And I loved this, I knew I would, I love the Sonics, to my ears, they are everything a garage rock band should be, and the power and conviction in a lot of these recordings is truly special, but really, without getting too misty eyed over that, Boom is just a great bunch of songs that make it bloody hard to sit still.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Mine is Yours

Who: Cold War Kids
What: Mine is Yours
When: January 2011



Mine is Yours is pleasantly surprising, every single song says “I’m perfect for mass singalongs, play me to a large festival audience” without being pointlessly overblown. The fact that they’ve retained some real subtlety and heart in this album is part of the reason I love it so. It’s absolutely not what I expected at all. It’s got; I guess the only word is, bigger production, jangly, bright guitar lines, and huge, singable choruses.

This is a hell of an album; my heart may just burst from all the goodness coming out of this. A lot of the songs have a real, bluesy, R&B type feel that is hitting every pleasure centre in my brain, Royal Blue, in particular is a great example of how they use this. They go further into that world with Sensitive Kid, which almost feels like a hip hop beat, and the understated piano line complements it well. Lyrically, as well, there seems to be a level of literacy and willingness to play with words that is up with, if not better than what has come before. Cold Toes on the Cold Floor, though, has a slightly more menacing energy that is much more like the Cold War Kids I remember, slinky bass, and powerful vocals, with guitar to match make it feel meatier, juicier than the rest.

The album wears it’s heart on its sleeve, and adorably so. Title track, Mine Is Yours is a gorgeous love song, Broken Open and Skip the Charade are endearingly saccharine, and Finally Open, with lines like “Finally I let you inside/Finally made it past the end/to finally begin” is so touching, you can bet Simon Cowell is lining up a cover by some terrible pop starlet who’ll ruin it with overwrought emotion as we speak.           

I really am so blown away by this, uplifting and uncomplicated; it’s a great way to spend some time. So Cold War Kids have made an album full of gorgeous, sunny pop songs. Wind down the windows and break out the sunscreen. You’ll be playing this all summer (and autumn, winter and spring) long.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Dance Mother

Apologies for late upload, couldn't get any internet to work yesterday :( but here's yesterday's review:


Who: Telepathe
What: Dance Mother
When: February 2009



After yesterday, I was really hoping for something to love today, unfortunately, no such luck. I tried to like it, I really tried, that first track was really quite promising, but I can’t. Honestly, I just had to hardest time engaging with this – swirling soundscapes are all well and good, but they have to DO something, not just sit there in your ear space, you have to feel it, and I just can’t feel this.

The only two tracks I liked were Michael, which is probably the most upbeat and really rather enjoyable, save for the fact that it goes on for about 1.30 too long – there really is something there, I do like it, and if it did just shave off that extra time it’d be proper awesome, and Trilogy - Breath of Life, Crimes and Killings, Threads and Knives, which is an annoying, clunky title I know, but the song is anything but. It goes on a proper journey, with relentless, pounding drums, to make you dance like a maniac.

Can’t Stand it is kind of cute – the vocal is wispy and pretty, I love a big, romantic song, and this is kinda lovely, In Your Line is kind of a beachy thing, bit slow to be a real floorfiller, but conjures up some strong visuals, which is nice. But they’re really not enough, most of these tracks are catchy to a point, and then increasingly grating, at one point, the singer intones the same line for 2 whole minutes of a 4-minute song. It doesn’t help either that the line is: “I can feel the real bang bang, I can do the real thang thang” I mean, c'mon, really?

Included in the download were some remixes, which, well, are standard issue remixes, don’t do much apart from adding some more bangs, which is dull.. the only one that I can even remotely get enthusiastic about is the Big Pink Reality mix of Devil’s Trident, which strips away a lot of the layers and adds some horns, which is weird, but welcome, but because of this the lyrics are really out in the front, and they’re just not strong enough to hold it up.

Yeah. Mostly that was just painful.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Saint Dymphna


Who: Gang Gang Dance
What: Saint Dymphna
When: September 2008

Today’s review is a cautionary tale. This is a perfect example of algorithms gone very, very wrong. Apparently, if I’m a fan of These New Puritans, I might like this. Oooo.. K..

Just to start.. What sort of a pretentious name is Saint Dymphna? Who names their album after the patron saint of the mentally ill??

Anyway, after a pointlessly long intro, opener ‘Babey’ goes into some cool tribal drum beats and has fun with a bunch of strange instruments, all overlapping, which admittedly is pretty fun, but it really rather goes downhill from there, save for an actually pretty good ‘Princes’ which features Tinchy Stryder. Tinchy knows his way around a verse, and they really just get out of the way and let him do his thing. In fact the whole first half of the album is danceable enough, but only if you ignore singer Liz Bougatsos’ vocals, since she sounds like the annoying lovechild of Karen O and Bj√∂rk – apparently this is the first album to bring her voice to the fore, which is a bit like saying “I got you a present, it’s a really annoying shrieking woman that never shuts up”. Aaw, you shouldn’t have.

The thing that lets the first half down is that it feels soo generic. There are plenty of perfectly nice swirling synth melodies, but they’re just, boring. The energy feels flat, and even ‘Vacuum’ a gorgeous, romantic, swooping number is just not engaging at all.

By the end of the first listen of ‘Inners Pace’ I’m really dreading even having to listen to this a second time, it’s annoying, and repetitive, which wouldn’t be a problem if what it was repeating was actually a nice noise, instead it’s just some weird loop of squeals and a girl screaming – dull, dull, endlessly dull. At the end of ‘Afoot’, there’s horrible metallic clangs and what sounds like a jackhammer added, and ‘Interlude (No Known Home)” sounds like failing dialup connection.

This is essentially just aural assault. I should get a medal for managing to sit through that twice.

Friday, 29 July 2011

She Wants Revenge

Who: She Wants Revenge
What: She Wants Revenge
When: January 2006



This is really interesting. I should start by saying I have absolutely no knowledge of this band prior to listening. I read a single paragraph review on a blog somewhere about 2 years ago, so downloaded it, and it’s taken that long to get around to it. It’s amazing how much pre-knowledge can influence an opinion – I really am approaching this completely neutral, I don’t even know what they look like – It’s refreshing! Makes writing this harder, but better somehow too.. I get to evaluate the music without it being coloured by personalities. Exciting.

It opens a bit like a spy theme, which really sets the tone. The whole album is really filmic, and conjures up really powerful, noir-y type visuals, old school back projection special effects, that sort of stuff – I love that stuff, it’s so cool.

There’s an energy that simmers throughout the whole thing, threatening to bubble over. The instrumentation is full of chilly, sleazy synths, and echo-y post punk guitar – think grimy club nights in warehouses. I Don’t Want to Fall in Love feels urgent, and a tiny bit creepy, benefitting from that undercurrent.

Track two, These Things is really interesting, quite the earworm. It’s actually a pretty cool song, but unfortunately it feels like the one that would get appropriated for some badly acted vampire-based TV drama (just in case anyone feels like lynching me, I’m not talking about True Blood, I mean the other one, or ten).

Vocalist Justin Warfield (yeah, I had to look that up) sounds almost exactly like Paul Banks from Interpol, who have GOT to be an influence, that sound is all over this record, Tear You Apart is almost a carbon copy, not to say it’s a bad song, because it’s not, it just REALLY sounds like Interpol. They even go all anthemic on ‘Us’, which is immensely enjoyable, a stadium singalong waiting to happen.

There’s more to his voice than that though, On Broken Promises for Broken Hearts he goes a bit Bowie, and on the standout final track the tone his voice takes on when he sings the “she loves me, she loves me not” bit is really powerful.

So.. Overall, it’s a creepy, sleazy, filmic, dark, gloomy, interesting, exciting, confusing, sexy record. Good times.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Fantastic Playroom

Who: New Young Pony Club
What: Fantastic Playroom
When: July 2007



Dismissed as posturing try hards, hanging on to the coattails of “New Rave” in 2007, New Young Pony Club’s debut, Fantastic Playroom is, well.. A good first effort but nowhere near as good as the spearheaders of that movement (We’re talking Klaxons here, just in case that wasn’t glaringly obvious) and with the price of decent stationery what it is, it’s hardly something to write home about.

The whole album is underpinned by a driving, danceable beat, however the infectiousness of that beat is undercut somewhat by the fact that the opening track, Get Lucky, is pretty repetitive. It takes a while, but by the album’s second half, they really hit their stride. Jerk Me has rhythm and a swagger than the opening tracks really lacked, I’m a sucker for having the bass high in the mix (this won’t be the last time I say this, in fact, it’s likely to become a catchphrase) and it really sets this track apart. On Get Go, guitars clang, over another (wonderfully audible) bassline, while singer Ty Bulmer pulls off snarky without being snotty, and Talking, Talking is a sultry little number, with Ty informing us gently but firmly that she “don’t wanna talk about it”.

Unfortunately, occasionally her voice is what lets a lot of this album down, in Hiding on the Staircase, it’s effective, the contrast between her flat intonation and the light, bouncy, latin-style beat prevents it from just plodding along. However on Grey, not even the really cool opening video game bleeps can prevent her from sounding tired and bored. It also ends up sounding a lot like the Ting Tings and now that I’ve made that association I can’t get it out of my head.

As a whole, the album is pretty fun, and there are a few really great moments. Bomb is probably the catchiest of the lot, it’s good fun. Tight Fit is reaching for something that it almost, almost hits.. The stabbing synths are really frakking awesome, there is something there, but it just misses the step from good to great.

There’s something endearing about them though, and while I can’t help but feel that the “New Rave” tag may have really actually hurt them somewhat, the inescapable fact is that there’s nothing terribly offensive about this album.. It’s just there.

Skying

Who: The Horrors
What: Skying
When: July 2011



My first ever blog! Hard to decide where to start, really. Well, no, not really. I decided on this record almost instantly. The Horrors released not one but two of my favourite albums in the past 5 years, so to say I’m a fan is a bit of an understatement, I like to think it’s a healthy bias, but suffice it to say I really want to like this one.

Firstly, can I just say.. The artwork. Wow. This thing is gorgeous. Physically, the weight of the vinyl in my hands, and the texture of that, it’s a proper experience! Neil Krug’s photography really is the perfect visual representation as well. Just. Wow.

The overall tone of the album is really bright, and open, and track one, Changing the Rain takes you lolloping through sun-drenched fields, it really is pretty as f**k. This feels like a record for the summer, it will be positively divine on a warm, sunny day.

There’s also a renewed crunch in the guitar sound. They’ve really let go on this album, letting it take centre stage on more than one occasion, coming through on Endless Blue and Monica Gems minus the My Bloody Valentine reverb that wrapped much of Primary Colours. Not to say they’ve done away with it altogether, the single, Still Life, and Moving Further Away are both demonstrations of a beautiful, shimmering dialogue between guitar and synths.

Keep an ear out also for I Can See Through You, which is both lyrically and musically direct, the line “no one remembers your name, no one tries” is particularly ouch worthy and for me, the absolute stand out track, Dive In, which is spooky, and sexy, a perfect example of what magic these boys can make.

Admittedly, there are some weak points (the extended jam session in the middle of Oceans Burning, surely better left as something saved for the live show comes to mind as an obvious example) but for the most part, the input of five very different individuals, and the seemingly disparate elements they bring has produced a delightfully cohesive work, and if I say nothing else of it, I like it. It’s melodic, it’s layered, and it’s interesting. It hasn’t grabbed me as instantly as either Strange House or Primary Colours, but I think it has a few more secrets yet to give up, there’s Still Life in the Horrors yet.

Hello!


So.. This challenge, 30 albums in 30 days, the number is not actually significant, it’s just that I’m lazy, and I don’t think I’ll be able to keep this up for more than a month. I’ve set myself this challenge, mainly to get through the insane backlog of albums that I’ve bought and never listened to, but secondarily because I really want to see if I can stick to this, writing about a different album every single day. So here I go.. I’m making a commitment to do so. I’m not going to be deliberately controversial, and mostly, I’m picking albums that I think I’ll like (otherwise I wouldn’tve bought them), but I will try to have an opinion and actually be interesting.

Wanna tell me I’m crazy? Or that I’m wrong? Suggest an album that I should do next? Or just hurl random abuse at me?

I’m tweetable: @webmistress
Or you can email me at: mirandasalbumaday@gmail.com