St. Vincent – Birth In Reverse

St_ Vincent - Album ArtAnnie Clark over the last few years has become an admired, prolific singer-songwriter, who just seems to get it right each time.
Whether it’s her exceptional guitar style (I like to call her The Shredder) or her dark, twisted tales from suburbia. St. Vincent is a gravitational force– I’m always eager to hear what she is working on, and what avenue she is going in.
After a collaborative project with art rock savant David Byrne, Annie returns with her own self-titled fourth album. A teaser track has been released called ‘Birth in Reverse’ which seems like a natural progression from the material on her previous record “Strange Mercy” which mixed fuzzy guitar riffs with danceable electronics.

If you want to hear it you can click here, or go to her official website to download the song for free

“St. Vincent” is out on February 24th on her new label Loma Vista/Republic

Advertisements

Outkast on Frank Ocean’s ‘Pink Matter’

I, like a lot of people have been waiting for a proper Outkast reunion. It’s been a while since we’ve heard both of them on anything substantial since the 2006 soundtrack to their film ‘Idlewild’. But now the Atlanta duo have ‘teamed’ up and joined Frank Ocean on his crooning slow jam ‘Pink Matter’. Ok, so Andre 3000 was already featured but Big Boi has now lent his talents to adding a few bars. Have a listen.

Things I’m Liking – C-check It Out

1283430228_dungenDungen – Skit I Allt (2010)

I’ve been aware of the Swedish band for years but it was one of those bands that I’d just overlook – sometimes listening to new things is daunting, right?. Anyway, ‘Skit I Allt’ (which translates to Fuck It All) is one of those all-consuming psychedelic rock albums full of fuzzy and flourishing guitars and hazy sound scapes with a little 60’s folk rock thrown in there for good measure. It’s a solid album throughout and just basically needs to be listened to.

Best songs: Marken Låg Stilla (this song is fucking gorgeous), Min Enda Vän

Perfect+Prescription+spacemenSpacemen 3 – The Perfect Prescription (1987)

I’ve always been a huge Justin Pierce fan, Spiritualized were such an eye opening band in my formative years. So, recently I’ve been listening to a lot of  psychedelic albums and this was one of them that really made me pay attention. There are quite a few genius moments with the Lou Reed-influenced “Ode to Street Hassle” and the Bob Dylan-borrowed  gospel-tinged “Walkin’ With Jesus”. This album does solidify just how talented Justin Pierce is.

Best songs: Ode to Street Hassle, Walkin’ With Jesus Take Me to the Other Side

187419_1_fVashti Bunyan – Lookaftering (2005)

This was the second full-length album of new material since Bunyan’s 1970 debut “Just Another Diamond Day” 35 years ago. With the influence of her contemporaries such as Devendra Banhart, Piano Magic and Joanna Newsom, Vashti relieved an album full of beautiful, pensive songs that are heartfelt and genuine. I mean, would you expect anything less from the dubbed “godmother of freak folk”?

Best Songs: If I Were, Hidden, Lately, Feet of Clay

New Devendra Banhart

It’s been a while since the freak folk king has released new music. In fact, he’s been relatively quiet since his 2009 album “What Will We Be“. But now the wait is over! Banhart will release his new album”Mala” in March through Nonesuch. A teaser song has been released entitled “Für Hildegard von Bingen“. Once again, he steps away from his skeletal folk beginnings and ushers in a much more rounded, fuller sound. Have a listen.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2012 – Honourable Mentions

Firstly, I have to say that this year has been a great one for music. This year was full of comebacks, follow-ups, outstanding debuts and brilliant collaborations. To begin the countdown to what I felt was the best albums of the year, I’ve made a list of some albums I felt were still strong releases and are worth checking out. In no particular order;

actress_RIP_1329831774_crop_500x500Actress – R.I.P

British electronic artist Darren Cunningham packed a punch with ‘RIP’ churning out pulsating beats and twisted grooves, it has stood out as one of the years most solid electronic records. Showing shades of Flying Lotus’ most abstract work (Marble Plexus) to glimmers of the same kind of eccentricity Björk brings to her work (Jardin) and even a nod to straightforward house music (The Lord’s Graffiti) . It’s definitely worth a listen.

1323820115nownow_threads_hiresNow, Now – Threads

On the surface, this album would probably seem like an unoriginal project full of over-thought songs but the Minnesota band present their debut album as one of the most earnest releases of the year. Full of swelling pop songs with clean, coherent production. Now, Now blend dream pop  and rock elements to form a promising debut. Their song Prehistoric sounds like a nod to Death Cab for Cutie (specifically their song Title Track) which is ironic as ‘Death Cabber’ Chris Walla signed the band to his label Trans Records.

3916167Simone White –  Silver Silver

After a lengthy tour folk singer Simone White finally pieced together the follow-up to her 2009 album ‘Yakiimo’. ‘Silver Silver’ although, not a departure from the previous album is more like a continuation of a sonic scape that works, with some experimental elements thrown in for good measure. The fragile-voiced singer teams up with fellow troubadour and tour companion Andrew Bird on the beautiful title track that runs a lengthy but rewarding 7 minutes. As well as the ethereal ‘In the Water Where the City Ends‘ and the honest ‘Never Be That Tough‘  White’s song writing shines brighter and stronger.

R-3771086-1343743875-4229Oddisee – People Hear What They See

Somewhat of a quiet release that didn’t get the kudos it deserves. Five albums deep rapper/producer Oddisee churns out another consistent, soulful hip-hop record which sees a departure from the straight  instrumental albums, this time he flexes his emcee chops with relative ease and sincerity. Back with an array of interesting and laid back beats, Oddisee definitely deserves some spins, especially the laid back ‘Maybes‘.

alt-jAlt-J – An Awesome Wave

The mercury music prize-winning band’s debut album is interesting, which sonically has more in common with freak folk artists like Devendra Banhart and Akron/Family than their contemporaries like The Maccabees and Bombay Bicycle Club. In fact, ‘An Awesome Wave’ has the confidence and the bravado that you’d expect from a new band, without being cocky and forced.

BRANDY-TWO-ELEVEN-ALBUM-COVER

Brandy – Two Eleven

It’s been a surprisingly big year for me in terms of R&B. I’ve always had a soft spot for Brandy, she has a great voice, husky and melodic which sets her apart from her unoriginal contemporaries. She isn’t afraid to take a risk production-wise and that’s very inspiring. The production on ‘Two Eleven’ is slick and eclectic from the woozy and slightly sexy “So Sick” and the club-ready Chris Brown collaboration “Put it Down” to the Frank Ocean-penned ballad “Scared of Beautiful” she even samples Lykke Li on “Let Me Go“, Brandy has definitely not lost her edge.

packshotThe xx – Coexist

‘Coexist’ shows a confidence that was laying dormant on their debut album, which was full of hushed intimate declarations. While that hasn’t changed much in terms of song writing, The xx bring a much more dance sensibility to their new songs. Songs like “Reunion” and “Chained” gives producer Jamie xx more room to show what he’d learned working with Gil-Scott Heron and remixing but still clinging to the intimacy on moments like “Angels” and “Fiction“. A strong release.

What I Recommend

Grizzly Bear – Shields

The follow-up to their surprisingly successful second album “Veckatimest”. The Brooklyn quartet return with an even more rounded and lush sounding album that still retains some of the beautiful orchestration from their magnum opus ‘Yellow House’ (and my personal favourite). Songs like ‘A Simple Answer’ and the contender for song of the year ‘Yet Again’ just solidifies why Grizzly Bear are one of the most interesting and innovative bands of the last 10 years. Listen: Yet Again

David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant

It was only a matter of time before the godfather of art rock and the indie queen would end up working together. After mutual appreciation and being inspired by the Dirty Projectors and Bjork collaboration, David Byrne and  Annie Clark began to work on this project and churned out 12-tracks of quirky indie pop backed by a brass band – what’s not to love. The blend of Clark’s angelic vocals and Byrne’s genius just makes this record a match made in heaven. Listen: Who

Ty Segall Band – Slaughter House

It’s loud, it’s unforgiving and it’s one of the best garage rock albums in recent years. This album is the debut from the Ty Segall Band, although Segall himself has a plethora of solo albums and other collaborative releases, which makes him one of the most consistent musicians at the moment. This album though concise, manages to quench those angst-y feelings from teenage years whilst still maintaining a genuine stance in music. Listen: Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart

Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

“I Know What Love Isn’t” is the long-awaited follow-up to 2007’s near-perfect “Night Falls Over Kortedala” which was full of hope and swelling pop songs, and while there are still shades of what made Lekman such an enjoyable artists, this album is a lot less hopeful – I mean, look at the pessimistic album title. But, that doesn’t mean Lekman has lost his edge, he is still quirky and playful as ever, and still has a whole host of sincere love songs – and he is still working on his best Morrissey impression. Listen:  The End of the World is Bigger Than Love

Cat Power – Sun

It’s hard to be unbiased when it comes to your favourite artists – especially when they never disappoint you. Chan Marshall takes a step back from the guitar and the piano and instead gravitates towards a more electronic base for her new music (first album of original material since 2006, though there was another covers record in 2008). “Sun” while seemingly upbeat, still retains Marshall’s bleak honesty – she’s also never sounded better by the way. Even with the hip-hop tinged lead single “Cherokee” still evokes all the sincerity of her previous records. Listen: Cherokee 

Album Review – Sharon Van Etten: Tramp (2012 Albums of the Year)

I remember when I first heard her debut album “Because I Was In Love” a heartbreaking lament of lost love and unresolved feelings. It had such a resonating quality to it, I guess, there are albums that are released or discovered at the right times that seem to chronicle what is going on in the listeners head – I definitely felt a kinship with Van Etten.

“Because I was in Love” had a much more skeletal approach which basically consisted of Van Etten on vocals and guitar and not much else. I was captivated – especially for someone who tends to lean towards more singer songwriter stuff, and if it’s slightly melancholic I’m all ears. Comparisons to other female singers are inevitable – a reference point is always good though. Van Etten poses the same pretty, dreamy vocals that makes Hope Sandoval so adored, but with ‘Tramp’ it’s amped up more almost harking back to the PJ Harvey of the ‘Is This Desire?’ days.

A song like the opener ‘Warsaw’ is a prime example of that. “Magic Chords” is a stand out song, the marching band-esque nature of the drums throughout the song mixed with the dub-like synths wrap around her ethereal voice effortlessly – it’s beautiful.

While “Tramp” still retains those days of old feeling, Van Etten still remains vulnerable and candid, even with a more fleshed out sound it doesn’t detract from the emotional and beautiful song writing – which I might add as only got stronger with each album – it really has no weak spot at all, which its very rare especially these days. With help from well known musicians like the Dessner twins from The National, Zach Condon from Beiut and Wye Oak’s Jen Wasner “Tramp” becomes an utter triumph and more focussed and stronger Van Etten only makes for multiple listens.

BEST SONGS: Warsaw, Serpents, Leonard, In Line, All I Can, We Are Fine, Magic Chords, Ask

If you like this you’ll like: Mazzy Star, Hope Sandoval, PJ Harvey, The National, Wye Oak

9/10

Things I’m Liking – 2012 Single Edition 1

Three recommendations. Listen. Live it. Love it. 

Regina Spektor – All the Rowboats

The kooky Russian is back with the first single from her forthcoming sixth album “What We Saw from the Cheap Seats”. Teaming up with super producer Mike Elizondo who has worked with the likes of Dr. Dre, 50 Cent and Fiona Apple.”All the Rowboats” is a beefed-up version of the song that Spektor has been playing live for the last few years. The song has a slightly more electronic feel to it blended with Spektor’s usual eccentric piano playing. For those who enjoyed her breakout album “Begin to Hope” there is no reason why this won’t appeal to you. Recommended

Listen here

Mark Lanegan Band – The Gravedigger’s Song

It’s been 8 years since Lanegan has released solo material. After successful collaborations with Isobel Campbell, The Gutter Twins and Soulsavers. Lanegan is back doing what he does best. The Gravedigger’s Song is an atmospheric, drum-heavy song that shows off Lanegan’s keen sense of self-assurance and his uncanny way of telling an incredible story. People who are unfamiliar with Mark Lanegan should listen to his amazing 2004 album Bubblegum and his collaborations with Isobel Campbell and those who like Tom Waits and Nice Cave – this is right up your alley. Recommended

Listen here

oOoOO – NoWayBack (Featuring Butterclock)

oOoOO have released a few sonically hypnotic EPs that have that “listen to after a night out” kind of quality to them. No quite hip-hop and not quite house but with a dash of goth rock. Fan’s have dubbed their sound has “witch house” which is pretty accurate. NoWayBack is the first song lifted from their upcoming EP “Our Loving is Killing Us”. Admittedly this song is no different from their other songs what with it’s lazy synths, programmed drums and woozy, unintelligible lyrics, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The song is perfect for travelling on the train at night, lots of atmosphere and reverb – lovely. ps. the artwork is stunning. Recommended

Listen here

Things I’m Liking – Slept On Edition

Now and then when an album comes out from an artist I really like it usually takes me a while to come round and listen to it. Why this happens, I’ll never know. Anyway, this is what I’ve been playing recently.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Its Blitz!

I absolutely loved their debut ‘Fever to Tell’ it was angst ridden, aggressive and Karen O’s energy can’t really be matched especially on the live stage. With their third release they seemed to take a more electronic route and express a softer side but the singles that were released ‘Head Will Roll‘ and ‘Zero‘ never really caught me like say, ‘Maps‘ or ‘Y Control‘ did. Now while this album was released in 2009 and I have had it since around about that time it mainly just has sat on the shelf It wasn’t until I heard ‘Dull Life‘ and ‘Skeletons‘ on a TV show I was like ‘wow, those are good songs’ so that in turn got me interested in the record again. It’s a good album very consistent, though not as edgy as their previous stuff is has a more of a pop sensibility and that’s not really a bad thing..

Marissa Nadler – Little Hells

Another album from 2009. Folk singer Marissa Nadler has been a favourite of mine for a few years ever since her 2007 album Songs III: Bird on the Water with her cover of the classic Leonard Cohen song ‘Famous Blue Raincoat‘ and the exceptional single ‘Diamond Heart‘. Again, sifting through my album collection I came across this and to be honest I totally forgot that I had it, in fact it was still in the shrink-wrap, that’s the perils of being a compulsive record buyer you forget you have things. Anyway, I don’t know what it was about 2009 but everyone seemed to be making poppier music, not that Nadler would ever be that way but this album is a lot more polished than her previous releases especially with the song ‘Mary Comes Alive’ with Kate Bush style drums and even has a catchy chorus. So yes, if you like folk-y  singer songwriter music then Nadler is your girl.

Leonard Cohen – Songs in Love and Hate

Through my Marrisa Nadler resurgence and her cover of Famous Blue Raincoat, I went back to the man who can reduce me to tears, Leonard Cohen. I’ve always liked his music and love his albums ‘Recent Songs‘ and ‘Death of a Ladies Man‘ but for some reason ‘Songs in Love and Hate’ just seemed to pass me by recently it has occured to me that this must be his best album. Songs like ‘Avalanche‘ and ‘Joan of Arc’ are absolutely stunning. The only thing that was a bit of a question mark was the need to put a live version of  ‘Sing Another Song, Boys‘ or even state that its a live recording you can’t really tell apart from Cohen talking but anyway. If you are a newbie to Leonard Cohen maybe start hear first its the best way to summerize his overall mood and feel.