Album Review – Mount Eerie: Clear Moon (2012 Albums of the Year)

There’s no doubt about it that Phil Elverum can write an amazing song. Throughout his many projects and monikers he has racked up a considerably interesting and respected catalogue of music that requires a lot of thought and dedication to really absorb properly.

“Clear Moon” is the fifth official album under the ‘Mount Eerie’ name and serves as a companion piece to “Ocean Roar” an album that will be released later on in the year.

“Clear Moon” is a step away from the harsher sounds of 2009’s Wind’s Poem that had a heavy black metal influence which was an album full of isolation and introspection in which Elverum left the claustrophobic city life and began living in a cabin away from civilisation in rural Washington – on that album you can hear the despondent solitude and the complex thoughts that swirl around in your head when too much time has passed without interaction with others.“Wind’s Poem” seems to have really informed the direction and sound that this album has gone in.

While there are still some heavy, brooding moments here, it feels less obstructive and a lot more mindful – if “Wind’s Poem” was the drunken thoughts from the night before, full of confusion and anger “Clear Moon” is definitely the sobering morning after.

BEST SONGS: Through the Trees Pt. 2, The Place I Live, Lone Bell, House Shape, Clear Moon

If you like this you’ll like: Grouper, Scout Niblett, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Smog, Nick Drake

8/10

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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

“The Greatest” returns

With all this rain about London town, it’s kind of nice for something good to happen. For me, it was in the guise of my favourite musician Cat Power releasing her ninth album entitled “Sun” – the news has definitely brightened up my days that’s for sure.

In September “Sun” will be released through Matador (one of the best labels, but that’s just me). The 11-track album will be Chan Marshall’s first album of original material in 6 years. She took some time out to work on her personal life, which everyone has the right to do. A lot of the songs are actually quite old songs like “Cherokee” and “Silent Machine” have been played live quite a few times over the years, there are a few songs that she mentioned would be on ‘Sun’ a couple of years ago like “Oh Time”, “Leopard” and “Mountaintops” but these songs might have had their titles changed.

 

I’m really looking forward to hearing the new stuff, especially has Marshall has produced the album herself and has played all the instruments which I’m sure is an exhausting feat. Critics and journalists who have heard some of the record are deeming it as her best work yet. Marshall has released a song from the album called “Ruin” which it’s great (you can hear it below) and I’ve had it on repeat for the past two days, it’s fucking brilliant. Welcome back Chan.

Album Tracklisting

1. Cherokee

2. Sun

3. Ruin

4. 3,6,9

5. Always on my Own

6. Real Life

7. Human Being

8. Manhattan

9. Silent Machine

10. Nothin’ But Time

11. Peace and Love

Bonus Tracks

12. Fire

13. Back in the Days (iTunes pre-order track)

 

Album Review – Best Coast: The Only Place

 You would think that working with Jon Brion would bring out the best in a band. Considering, his impressive roster of people he has worked with and made seminal, respected albums – Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann being only the tip of the iceberg. So when Californian duo Best Coast announced that they were working with the famed producer it seemed like a natural progression and could be interesting to step away from the fuzzy, sun drenched sound of their critically acclaimed debut “Crazy for You” and could actually work.

With the release of their second effort the bulk of the material lacks the energy of their first, the reverb and distortion is gone instead a cleaner more sterile sound. While frontwoman Bethany Consentino doesn’t really change up her song writing here, which mostly consists on singing about her love for her home state of California and her boy crazy escapades, it doesn’t come across as genuine as it did on “Crazy for You”.

It’s as if these songs were made as demo’s for other artists to sing. The whole album isn’t a complete disappointment though. The first single and title track “The Only Place” an ode to California is as happy-go-lucky you can be, with it’s sun-drenched girl group sound it’s a near-perfect beach song. “Dreaming Your Life Away” is another highlight that has a dreamy sound that does actually sound like an Aimee Mann song, sonically – Magnolia era.

Maybe it was recording in a professional studio that stunted their music potential, or maybe it was working with a super producer that they felt they had to fit into his sound box, in any case it’s nice to hear the band back making music, hopefully these songs won’t be as flaccid live, peppered in between tracks from “Crazy For You” it might work better, but on record – no so much.

Listen if you like: The Beach Boys, The Ronettes (or any 60s girl group, really), Best Coast’ earlier stuff

4/10

The Return of Fiona Apple

Now Ms Apple was a massive part of my teenage years. I lived and breathed “When the Pawn”. I feel that most, if not all teenagers need to be given that album – as well as a few others like Pixies “Doolittle”, Sonic Youth “Goo” and Nas “Illmatic”. Anyway, Fiona Apple is one of those artists who believes in quality over quantity and that’s why in her 16 year career she has only released 3 albums – albeit three incredible records of wordy, personal songs that seems to transcend gender and reduces us to wallowing, weeping children.

It seemed that maybe Fiona was done with music, as she has said several times that if she has nothing to write about why is she going to interrupt her life to go and sit at the piano and wait for something. Plus, she hasn’t released anything since her 2005 comeback record, the controversial “Extraordinary Machine” which was a welcome return to form.

And just when we thought she may never release anything again, Apple was booked to play the prestigious music showcase SXSW in Austin, Texas, which marked Fiona’s first  performance outside of Los Angeles in almost half a decade.

Some have lauded her performance as perfection and a return to form wowing the audience with classic Apple material such as the fan favourites “Fast as You Can” and “Paper Bag” as well as showcasing new material from her upcoming album “The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do” another poem-titled album this time though, it’s a little shorter but catchier. A long wait but a welcomed return for Ms Apple. I for one am ridiculously excited, hopefully she’ll tour in the UK – it will make my life.

The Idler Wheel…

June 18th 

Beach House Return in Full ‘Bloom’

Since the release of the dream pop duo’s third and most critically acclaimed album “Teen Dream” in 2010 (they got somewhat pissed off with Katy Perry for releasing a similarly titled album the same year) they’ve been pretty quiet. Last week a tentative title “Bloom” and a 10-song track list was posted on Exclaim – A few hours later it was taken down. But at the beginning of the week saw these rumours actually hold some weight to them.

Beach House posted a new song on their website entitled “Myth”. Though the track list hasn’t been officially announced yet and “Bloom” may or may not be the title, Beach House fans get excited because the new song is brilliant. Admittedly, sonically it’s pretty standard Beach House fair with the woozy synth’s and Victoria Legrand’s dreamy vocals senerading your ears.

The good news is that the band are releasing new music. Will “Bloom” surpass the beauty of “Teen Dream”? we’ll just have to wait. “Bloom” is reportedly being released on 12th May through Sub Pop. Watch this space.

While you wait listen to the new song “Myth”

 

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

Album Review – Perfume Genius: Put Your Back N 2 It

Singer songwriter Mike Hadreas released his debut album “Learning” to critical acclaim. An album that wasn’t so easy to listen to – not because it was bad, but because of how overwhelmingly sad it was. With songs like ‘Mr. Peterson’  which chronicled a sexual relationship between Hadreas and a teacher who eventually commits suicide. Yeah, I know not exactly a barrel of laughs.

This sophomore release under the Perfume Genius name, Hadreas really lays on the torch balladry thick. Of course, comparisons to Antony and the Johnson’s singer Antony Hegarty are abundant and rightly so. It’s definitely the go-to response and for people who love Antony’s melodrama. The song “No Tear” will be the best starting point. Poised with emotional longing and self-deprecation that will sustain those of us who like to quench our melancholic thirsts. There are time’s when you feel a little bit cheated.

With a song like “No Tear” that only runs at a measly 1 minute and 49 seconds, Hadreas doesn’t give the listener enough time to really sink into the songs that leaves no room for them to be mulled over or bonded with. Every song on ‘Put Your Back N 2 It’ (worse album title by the way) is under 3 minutes and 30 seconds this is a little frustrating  which kind of leaves you wanting more.

It’s a good listen. Don’t be fooled by the album title it’s not going to be a party album so don’t get mad when Hadreas doesn’t get his Diamond Rings on. But for something a little more frail and contemplative definitely turn to this.

Listen if you like: Antony and the Johnsons, Sufjan Stevens, Daniel Johnston, Baby Dee, Arthur Russell, Grizzly Bear

7/10

Best 20 Albums of 2011

OK. So it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted anything. Many reasons I suppose. Lack of motivation and inspiration probably being the main offenders. But as another year draws to a close the mandatory “best of” lists are abundant. So, on that note. Here is my top 20 albums of the year.

20. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & the Harvest

19. Metronomy – The English Riviera

18. Zola Jesus – Conatus 

17. SBTRKT – SBTRKT

16. Real Estate – Days

15. Kurt Vile – Smoke Rings for My Halo

14. James Blake – James Blake

13. Dirty Beaches – Badlands

12. Kendrick Lamar – Section.80

11. Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam

10. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

9. Little Dragon – Ritual Union

8. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

7. Grouper – A I A: Dream Loss/Alien Observer

6. Drake – Take Care

5. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

4. Peggy Sue – Acrobats

3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

2. The Antlers – Burst Apart

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

1. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

Anticipation Station II

I haven’t blogged for a while tumblr has lured me in like a siren to a ship. I guess I’ve sort of missed writing even though I don’t particularly see myself as one much these days, though with uni round the corner I really should get my arse into gear.

So, the first half of the year had some solid music releases from the likes of Patrick Wolf, Bon Iver and my new favourites And So I Watch You From Afar. As we are creeping nearer and nearer to the end of 2011 its only right to talk about the new stuff I am looking forward to.

 

Fionn Regan – 100 Acre of Sycamore

His debut  “The End of History” was perfect and was definitely worthy of the Mercury Prize it was a little Neil Young in places with its old soul approach in a lot of ways like the stuff Laura Marling does. Regan is gearing up to release the follow-up to the heavily slept on “The Shadow of the Empire” which I don’t think anyone listened to which was a shame. “100 Acre of Sycamore” is sounding very promising the title track is gorgeous with its sweeping string arrangements and Regan gives a great vocal performance. One to watch, definitely. August 15th

 

Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix

The London quartet have churned out an album a year since their 2009 debut “I Had the Blues but I Shook them Loose” which garnered them critical acclaim and a strong following. “A Different Kind of Fix” is a return to a more fuller sound and less folk-y than 2010’s “Flaws” which had a more than pleasing cover of Joanna Newsom’s ‘Swansea’. The Boys strap back on their electric guitars and get the crowd moving again. August 29th

Beirut – The Rip Tide

Zach Condon is definitely one of my favourite musicians. I love Balkan folk music and his seminal revival made me appreciate (and want) an accordion. Under the guise of Beirut, Condon has churned out two brilliant albums and a handful of equally enjoyable EPs. “The Rip Tide” from the outset doesn’t really try anything different, but rather than just makes you feel happy. The song ‘East Harlem’ is the teaser track to get the hipsters buzzing and its worked, a much more slower, melodic song which will keep you hooked until the eventual release of the album. August 30th

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

She is my favourite girl, I just thought I’d put that out there. Anyway, Annie Clark is a monster, in the sense that to look at her you think shes lovely and sweet and makes twee music about flowers and hearts and blah blah blah… and then you hear her belting out Tom Waits ‘Big Black Mariah’ and it really stops you in your tracks. Strange Mercy is Clark’s 3rd album the follow-up to the massively acclaimed 2009 album ‘Actor’ steering away from the DIY-GarageBand style of  ‘Actor’ brings a more band-esque sound and even more passion than ever before the teaser ‘Surgeon’ is fantastic excepting big things from this. September 12th

Peggy Sue – Acrobats

This 3-piece London band are probably music’s best kept secret. It’s a massive shame that not more people know about their genius. I recently interviewed them post-production of this upcoming album and they explained that they were moving away from their folky roots and opting to produce a more fuller sound and they were right. Steering the ship is PJ Harvey producer John Parish who has helped them tap into an early, mid-90’s sound much like Sleater-Kinney. Two teaser songs are on their website “Song & Dance” and “Cut My Teeth” have a listen. September 12th