Wednesday, 10 August 2011

LP of the Month (July 2011): Cats And Cats And Cats - Mother Whale

Cats And Cats And Cats - Mother Whale (2011)
Cats And Cats And Cats - Mother Whale (2011, Function Records) 
"My heart is all smashed up, how is yours not?"

Cats and Cats and Cats are a peculiar band. Their often pained and out of tune vocal lines tread dangerously close to the line between endearing and uncomfortably bad. To a fan, these 'dodgy' moments somehow add to the magic of the music, often creating beautifully meaningful harmonies between the male and female counterparts. I love Cats and Cats and Cats, and have done since they were introduced to me by a mate when they released a split with another favourite, This Town Needs Guns. 

Mother Whale was a pleasant and unexpected release for me, just a year after 2010's brilliant 'If I'd Had An Atlas'. Having barely made it off my stereo, I was blessed with another full release. This is an album that I was so intent on listening to that I actually ordered myself a physical copy (which is, if you know me, quite a rare thing). 'Mother Whale' is beautiful. It delivers more twee, angular pop tunes encompassing trumpets, violins, vocal 'harmonies' (see last paragraph) and unexpected tempo and time signature changes. As a whole piece of work, the album is possibly more accomplished than their previous debut full length. Each and every track has something about it whether it be 'O' Science's dual guitar lines or 'Christmas Lions' call and response style vocals. French accordians feature heavily, with 'For The Love Of The Mechanical Bears' bordering into Yann Tiersen Amelie territory. A welcome addition.

Some may not be able to handle the tweeness. Some may not be able to endure the vocal discrepancies. If you can, you will no doubt enjoy this band. I can't liken them to any other. Delicious.

Walter-High: 'O' Science', 'Christmas Lions'

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Banger of the Week (25/07/11): Dream Dream Dreaming - Glasvegas

Dream Dream Dreaming: 5:17
Taken From: Euphoric Heartbreak (2011, Columbia)

"I know you're out there somewhere"

Scottish Marmite-esque 4 piece Glasvegas are an acquired taste. Their pretentious yet painfully obvious lyrics and Jesus & Mary Chain inspired rock music gets on a number of people's tits. Shamefully, I was briefly obsessed with their debut release, but it took me a while to have a listen to their sophomore release, 'Euphoric Heartbreak'. Receiving hugely varied reviews, I doubt Glasvegas gained any new fans. Addressing acceptance issues from the homosexual perspective of a couple of friends was an odd yet interesting concept on two of the tracks from the album. 'Dream Dream Dreaming' is my personal favourite from the initially solid yet tiring release, bringing in all of the classic Glasvegas traits; echoy organs, prominent basslines and pained, off-kilter vocals. Lovely.

Listen HERE

Banger of the Week (18/07/11): Still Life - The Horrors

Still Life: 5:21
Taken From: Skying (2011, XL Recordings)

"The moment that you want is coming, if you give it time"

After Clash magazine's raving review of the 3rd album from art-goth-noise/punk outfit, The Horrors, I thought I had better check out what all the fuss was about. Finding myself listening to an 80's drenched feel-good Summer album was unexpected. In a good way. Nodding heads to bands such as Simple Minds, Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen, the album's first immediate highlight 'Still Life' has it all; a catchy chorus, cheesy synth lines, a horn section and a driving bass. I love a bit of 80's synth pop so this track is awesome. Shame it wasn't released in the 80's eh?

Listen HERE

LP of the Month (June 2011): Pictureplane - Thee Physical

Pictureplane - Thee Physical (2011, Lovepump United)
Following on from 2009's 'Dark Rift', 'Thee Physical' has crept out with little media coverage. Dark Rift was a hugely accomplished album, combining electronica with straight up 90's dance/rave music. Offering bangers such as 'Goth Star', and giving mind blowing live sets opening with a remix of Enigma's 'Return to Innocence', Travis Egedy, the man behind Pictureplane, has been a favourite of mine for the last few years and so I was eagerly awaiting this release. Initially I was disappointed. Tracks were more straight forward pop songs and embraced the 90's influence even more; some of the female vocal samples could be (and might be) straight from rave compilations I had when I was a kid; lots of 'ah ah yeah's and 'oo's. The 90's style magic eye cover should have been a clue. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; this is an album that provides nostalgia with new and better songs than those kicking about in the 90's. Travis' vocals are again noticeably weak, showered in reverb and hidden by stock synth sounds, but this takes nothing away from that fact that every track is a massive tune. Classic rave pianos, female vocal samples, synth licks; all that is missing is a rave horn. Not as enthralling as 'Dark Rift', but it is still time to chew on your cheeks and dance wide-eyed like a fool. I love thee Pictureplane.

Walter-High: 'Post Physical', 'Techno Fetish'

Listen HERE

Monday, 11 July 2011

Banger of the Week (04/07/11): Hyetal - Phoenix

Phoenix: 5:25
Taken From: Broadcast (2011, Black Acre)

Now I realise this album was released back in May, but I have only just been able to get hold of a copy to pass judgement. The album is a well crafted and solid piece of Bristolian techno-electronica (think dirty dubstep crossed with Massive Attack's eeriness and Vangelis' Blade Runner era synthesisers). It features a number of absolute bangers and some less interesting atmospheric low points but 'Phoenix' is not one of these. 'Phat' beats, crisp production and light synth work make a definite dancefloor filler. Get involved.

Listen HERE

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Live: Junior Boys @ XOYO (30/06/11)

I was so not up for this gig. There were a number of reasons for this;
a) It was a Thursday night and since becoming a teacher I am beyond tired.
b) Getting home past midnight having had no time to eat and after a couple of drinks means I would buy fried chicken from one of the two hundred grimey fast food joints in East London on the way back. This can never be a good thing.
c) Newest release 'It's All True' was a bit of a disappointment for me; a flat and depressing album with no real stand-out tracks.

But... Junior Boys won me over. This is a band that has to be heard live over the record. Whether this is simply down to the sheer volume in the venue or whether they add a certain energy that is lost in the recording studio is debatable. What I do know is that each track played from the new album was transformed into a 80s inspired banger, with subtle guitars and whispered vocals resting behind pacey synth lines. The new found immediacy of the tracks may be down to my numerous forced listens of the album prior to the gig, but Junior Boys really did have something about them. Their blatent 80s sound almost reminds me of New Order but with tracks occasionally breaking into long minimal techno passages. These are welcomed with whoops and finger pointing from the crowd, adding to XOYO's club-like atmosphere.

Now for the real reason the Canadian duo earned a place in my heart. Not only did they play the exceptional 2006 single 'In The Morning' but also my personal favourite 'Teach Me How To Fight' from debut album 'Last Exit'. I'm not sure of the details but this was possibly originally written with previous member Johnny Dark. Either way, this song is mint. The live rendition added another level, combining a dubstep inspired wobble to the backing. Glorious.

It was definitely worth popping into the city on a Thursday night.


Banger of the Week (27/06/11): tUnE-yArDs - My Country

My Country: 3:42
Taken From: W H O K I L L (2011, 4AD)

"The thing about living a lie, is just wondering when they'll find out"

Opening track on new(ish) long player from tUnE-yArDs is a lot of fun. Initially reminding me of Vampire Weekend, before realising the vocalist is a woman, the track offers a driving bass line, energetic vocals, big synths and strangely not out of place saxophone solos. Undeniably catchy, yet quite odd. Great stuff.

Listen HERE

Monday, 27 June 2011

Honorary Mention: King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine (2011, Double Six Records)

"It's your young voice, that's keeping me holding on to my dull life"

If an album has made a big impact on me before the existence of this blog, I will occasionally just have to talk about it. Folk legend King Creosote's collaboration with electronic producer Jon Hopkins is one of those albums.

I have been a long follower of anything released by Jon Hopkins. His 2009 release 'Insides' was fantastic, mixing lush Ulrich Schnuass style soundscapes with Aphex Twin-esque IDM. As a live experience it was incredible, turning a bunch of indie loving scenesters into bouncing club goers as Hopkins dropped banger after banger. Hopkins is known for the variety of his releases; scoring underground movies (Monsters, 2010) and even making an appearance on a Coldplay album with a haunting section from 'Light Through The Veins'. That last one actually made me die inside a little. However, this latest release is none of the above.

Described by KC as a "romanticised version of a life lived in a Scottish coastal village", one would forgive you for assuming that this is going to be some kind of pretentious concept album. In some ways, you would be right. Consisting of the same emotive, lyrical and celtic vocals we have come to expect from KC but now supplemented with Hopkins' soundscapes and atmospheric samples, it is an odd sounding combination but it works seemlessly. We have haunting vocal harmonies, simplistic yet effective acoustic guitar lines, and subtle, soothing piano lines. This is all soaked in Hopkins' luscious production; this really hits home on the last phrase of second track 'John Taylor's Month Away', as chilling female vocals surge back and forth effortlessly.

At a mere 7 tracks, this album is over before you know it. But the journey is exceptional. Every track is heartbreaking and essential, each encapsulating an emotion of a certain period of time in one's life. I cannot wait to see these guys live in September.


Walter-High: 'Bats In The Attic'

Listen HERE

Live: Shangaan Electro @ Rich Mix (25/06/11)

Shangaan Electro: Tshetsha Boys, DJ Spoko & Nozinja

No combination of words would ever prepare you for the experience that is Shangaan Electro. This isn't music made for listening to on your ipod; this is music for dancing. Or in this particular case, music for pretentious, white, middle class London wankers to make arses of themselves to South African electro.

So the gig begins with a number of DJs testing the water with some unknown (South?) African pop/hip-hop/electro records (reminding me exactly how much Vampire Weekend have ripped off African music). Enter a bloke who sounds remarkably like the guy from Real 2 Real of 'I Like To Move It' fame, who 'adds' to the music with inspired remarks such as 'yeah', 'uh huh' or 'la la ley la la ley la la ley'. A cringey rave horn is also sounded far too many times. But we are just getting started. It's getting busy and it's getting hot. England's mini-heatwave laughs at us all.

Now then. Around 9:30pm cues Shangaan Electro; a combination of South African DJs/artists/dancers. A number of which are dressed in boiler suits and clown masks. I'm not sure I remember this being traditional South African attire. The fat dude in the middle delcares that the whole event is to push their tempo to "one... eight..... FOUR!!!" beats per minute. This, as I would later discover, is very, very fast.

So what is the music like? The only way I can describe it is this. Take some African style drumming/grooves. Take away the traditional drums and acoustic instruments and replace them with fairly cheesy digital sounds. Add a number of African whistles and tribal style vocals. Speed up the tempo by a thousand. Now press play. Dance about jiggling your ass and hips ridiculously for 3-4 mins. Press stop. Turn up the tempo. Repeat.

Now, this may sound a bit bizarre. It is. There are no intros or outros. There are just ever-increasingly fast grooves. It is better than it sounds and highly enjoyable after a number of Stella Artois Cidres. This is not so much a gig, but an experience. The African dancers are going mental on stage (all the while dressed as clowns) and the audience is doing the same.

After you realise that each 'track' is essentially the same thing sped up ever so slightly by a few beats per minute (the bpm is announced prior to each track..), it does become a little tiresome. I swear the fat guy is literally setting the tempo and pressing play. But like anything that is repeated enough, the enjoyment comes back around and you are dancing like a twat (or attempting to move your body quick enough) well into the night. At the climax of the show, there is no fat lady singing; just a fat guy gyrating centre stage.

Conclusion: absolutely random, silly, wearying yet awesome. Youtube it to see them move.


Listen HERE

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Banger of the Week (20/06/11): Wild Beasts - Lion's Share

Lion's Share: 4:15
Taken From: Smother (2011, Domino)

"Boy, whatcha running from?"

Having lost the way with Wild Beasts over the last few years, I have recently discovered their new album 'Smother', delivering less falsetto vocals than expected based on past experiences. This has to be a good thing. The album's opener 'Lion's Share' sets the scene nicely, acting as a beautiful crescendo leading into the rest of the LP. Emotional.

Listen HERE

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

LP of the Month (May 2011): Son Lux - We Are Rising

New Release: Son Lux: <i>We Are Rising</i>
Son Lux - We Are Rising (2011, Anticon)
With a long running fondness of Why? and cLOUDDEAD and since my brother bought me 'Baths - Cerulean' for Christmas last year, I have had to check out anything that has been released on Anticon. Although generally not a fan of traditional hip-hop as such, these artists manage to combine hip-hop style beats with haunting melodies, electronic elements and in the case of Son Lux, prominent trumpet/orchestral lines. This provides epic vocals and is vaguely reminiscent of favourites Animal Collective and The Tough Alliance, all submerged in an Anticon goodness.

Walter-High: 'Rebuild'

Listen HERE

Monday, 20 June 2011

Banger of the Week (13/06/11): Maybeshewill - An End To Camaraderie

Maybeshewill - I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone

An End To Camaraderie: 4:17
Taken From: I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone (2011)

More instrumental, electronic-infused post-rock from Leicester film reference enthusiasts, Maybeshewill. This track is a personal favourite on a new album that has a distinct lack of the band's trademark pretentious spoken word taken from little-known cult movies. Nevertheless, it is still epic.

Listen HERE

Tellison - The Wages of Fear

Track List:
01. Get On 4:10
02. Say Silence (Heaven Earth) 3:22
03. Know Thy Foe 3:27
04. Collarbone 2:41
05. Freud Links The Teeth And The Heart 2:46
06. Horses 3:14
07. Rapture 3:47
08. Tell It To Thebes 4:02
09. Letters From Pre-Med 2:41
10. Vermont 3:36
11. Edith 3:15
12. My Wifes Grave Is In Paris 4:39

"So tell me I'm the work of your life, and I'll say you'll be the work of mine"

"I think that if you'd not met me, you would not be so sad"

On first listening to 'Hanover Start Clapping' from 2007 album 'Contact! Contact!', Tellison became another one of my short lived obsessions. It was one of those albums that reminded me of a certain period of my life studying in London, if not only for the amount of repeats it managed to rack up on my Itunes. The album was consistently pleasing if not ground-breaking or particularly moving. As a live band, they supplemented this with a lot of energy and deranged looking singer Stephen Davidson giving every member of the crowd the 'eye' throughout the set at the Lexington. Entertaining.

So 2011 has arrived and Tellison have released their second long player. On first listen, it doesn't seem like Tellison have come a long way. We are greeted with more emo-infused indie rock and melancholy lyrics contrasted with major chords and vocal harmonies. The album opens with a short-lived, sombre piano phrase in 'Get On', only to break into distorted major guitar strumming; any fans of Tellison will be immediately at home.

The album is consistently upbeat with an obvious placement of a token slow song mid way through the album to break the pace; 'Freud Links The Teeth and The Heart'. Unfortunately this isn't delivered particularly well; appalling lyrics rhyming 'France' with 'pants' (didn't Busted use this?) put a damper on the whole affair. Disaster disaster. This brings me to another concern. Having had the album on repeat on the way to work and blaring out of my speakers at home for the past week (it is an album that should be played at high volumes), I am struggling to pinpoint a stand out track. Don't get me wrong though, I am grinning from cheek to cheek and jigging around like a child that's been given way too many Wham! bars the whole way through. You will be singing lyrics for days but somehow you will combine most of the track's choruses into one mega-song, wondering which band you have rattling around your brain. It's not special. It's not innovative. It's damn good fun.

Penultimate track 'Edith' exclaims "Someone's gonna get hurt tonight". I think Davidson is mistaken. The only way you will get hurt listening to this album is if you fall over pulling air guitar lunges in your bedroom.


Walter-High: 'Rapture', 'Edith',
Walter-Low: 'Freud Links The Teeth and The Heart'

Listen HERE

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Bloggers = Tools

So, in the boredom of a Sunday afternoon, I have created myself a blog. Why? I am still unsure.

I have judged every single person that has created a blog, whether they have used it to post insights into their giant egos or to just update the world with tiresome information about their mundane lives.

So why have I become one of these tools? Possibly to share some good music that I have come across. Possibly to write something desultory that I feel needs to be shared with the minimal amount of people that may end up reading it. However, it is more likely that I end up not writing anything on here ever again; we shall see.

To those that do waste their precious time reading this, be warned that my ramblings will be at best 'mildly entertaining'.