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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Dan - Thology 2005

What is it?
It’s a compilation of all Dan’s albums, all for less than a tenner, which is great for me because I don’t have to bother converting the original records now.
Why should you listen?
I don’t think that music like this gets made any more. Guitar, bass, stupidly fast drumming and two lovely ladies screaming. The perfect set-up. 
What’s it like?
When I bought the CD recently, I was thinking that 64 songs of pure shouting sounded fantastic (and maybe a little wearing on the ear drums), but listening to Dan now, I’m surprised by the amount of variety on offer. You get ‘Army Of Fools’, which actually contains harmonies and the drumming is a lot slower than the usual 380 bpm. There’s also the poppy(ish) ‘The Cull’, a lounge lizard intro to ‘Meltdown’ and the Ska rhythms of ‘More than life’. Dan’s bread and butter is shouting though and there’s plenty of that to go around too. It’s the perfect music to make pensioners say, “Thank goodness for that!” when it finishes. I tend to say exactly the same thing when the comedy numbers finish. A cover version of ‘If You’re Happy & You Know It’ is not funny and musically useless. Exactly like all comedy songs, in fact. 
What’s the best track?
So many to choose from... but I think I would have to plump for ‘A Dream Come True?’ It's not their fastest, but it is quite tuneful in parts. Luckily, the chorus reverts back to form with some tuneless shouting. Great stuff. The live version (also included) is faster and possibly a tad shoutier. Even greater stuff.
Who does it sound like?
Sofa Head, Inside Out, The Joyce McKinney Experience

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Songlines - Top of the World 77 Compilation 2011

The July issue of Songlines provided us with installment number 77 of the Top of the World compilation, and as usual it doesn't disappoint.

The whole thing gets off to a rip-roaring start with the infectious 'Guragigna' by Dub Colosuss, and a jaunty little number it is too. This is followed by the laid back country folk of Sarah Jarosz and soon after the beautiful atmospheric pipes of 'Chiraki Par' by Blind Note.

The Forty Thieves Orchestar chip in with a bit of a modern day interpretation of oompa music, which can never be a bad thing, before Jesse Lege, Joel Savoy and the Cajun Country Revival go fiddle and slide guitar crazy with 'Corina'.

The guest 'picker' this week is Last King of Scotland director Kevin Mcdonald and his selections fall a little flat until Lee 'Scratch' Perry pulls things round with the strangely engaging 'Having a Party'.

That's the edited highlights, but all in all it's another quality compilation from Songlines Magazine and as I mentioned last review, if you're into world music, it's well worth the subscription.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

PJ Harvey - Rid of Me LP 1993

I attempt to listen to a PJ Harvey album each year and to be honest I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the allure of music that's just so inaccessible, perhaps it's her refusal to compromise or it might be that it's just possible she may make another 'Dry'.

Don't get your hopes up though, this is the standard PJ Harvey formula of 90% pure dirge and 10% semi-engaging dirge rock. The two songs that I like, 'Rid of Me' and '50ft Queenie', I'd heard before and are perfectly pleasant memory joggers of what she is capable of. The rest of the album meanwhile, is PJ giving us the standard-issue dirge with not a hint of positivity, apart from the warm feeling you get when the whole thing ends.

I could only give it three listens and then I gave up. Why does she bother? Why do the masses seem to enjoy her work? She's won the Mercury Music Prize twice now! If you like PJ Harvey you'll love this, but I can't see me bothering anymore. I've done a decent sample of her early, middle and late work and I've got to use the word that has become synonymous with PJ Harvey one last time to sum her up; DIRGE!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Rough Trade Shops - Counter Culture 10 Compilation 2010

I love the Counter Culture series and this one is no exception. There's just such a variety of styles, genres and moods present on this two CD pack and although some of the offerings leave me cold, there's a fair smattering of artists I'd never heard before that I'd definitely be prepared to fork out for their albums.

In electronic mode there's Casanova's dark, brooding monster 'Actress' to open CD 1, the previously reviewed Pantha du Prince chip in with 'Lay in a Shimmer' and Evelyn funk things up in Daft Punk style with 'Fantastic Mr. Fox.'

If you want the standard Rough Trade post-punk indie then look no further than Dreaming's 'Allo Darlin', TY Segall adds some scuzzy, old sub-pop style action and The Love Triangle may even impress Evlkeith with the short, punchy 'Splendid Living'.

On the quirky front the compilation is equally impressive, showcasing a bit of chip-tune/world crossover from Khulumani, the funny but profound John Grant and best of all, the sweet, country sing-a-long classic that is Caitlin Rose's 'Own Side'.

Basically, if you like any of the above genres, it's an essential purchase and tremendous value for money with over forty fun and interesting contributions. The sound of my Summer, maybe it's the soundtrack for your Winter. 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Tinariwen - Imidiwan LP 2009

What is it?
Top exponents of 'desert blues', Tinariwen are a Tuareg band hailing from the Shahara desert in northern Mali. Formed in the refugee camps of Libya in the early eighties, the band are noted as the epitome of guitar toting, Saharan cool.

Why should you listen?
Imagine the Sahara desert. Imagine the bleak, dust ridden environment, the baking sun and the relentless sandstorms. Out of the haze emerge men in full Tuareg clothing, but they are not holding the reigns of a camel. They are holding electric guitars that are linked up to amplifiers. And the soundtrack of the desert begins...

Tinariwen's fourth album is everything you expect. Atmospheric, languid blues straight out of another continent. The vocals are strangely soothing and rhythmic, with enticing female harmonies that intertwine with the bluesy guitars in an eerie soulful combination. It's a bizarre and strangely beautiful music, with the only criticism, that the songs on this album are a little formulaic in structure.

What's it like?
It's like the perfect soundtrack for the ultimate rock n roll road trip, on a camel.

What's the best song?

'Imazeghen N Adagh' has got to be a contender, with its trademark blues riffs and gorgeous harmonies.

Who does it sound like?
It doesn't sound anything like them, but it always reminds me of Spacemen 3.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Broken Social Scene - You Forgot it People LP 2002

I listened to this a few years ago and didn't particularly like it, but felt that maybe I'd missed the point. With Metric's Emily Haines part of the Broken Social Scene collaboration there must be some substance to the group's particular brand of Canadian indie introspection.

After repeated listens, it appears to be better than I thought but nothing to write home about. It's heart is in the right place, but it's just too dirge ridden to be a positive experience, with nothing to drag it out of the dark waters of the cess-pit of averageness.

There are no standout tracks or even standout moments. I was hopeful for a bit of Emily Haines or a similar Canadian female vocalist to add a little warmth to proceedings, however the production seems to amalgamate everything into the same indie dirge wall of sound. Imagine Pavement stripped of the melodies, the lyrics and the touch of alt-country and you're left with 'You Forgot it People'.

They may be a super group of sorts but on this showing they need to lighten up a bit and remember they're in the entertainment industry. I'd personally replace the mumbling guy on lead vocals with Karl Denver, stick the two women out the B52's on backing vocals, get Bez to be the dancer and sprinkle the whole group with magic charisma dust. And that still may not be enough to make them interesting.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Neelix - You're Under Control LP 2009

What is it?
Mysterious Hamburg techno-meister Neelix churns out exquisite little morsels of premium quality trance.

Why should you listen?
You should listen to a bit of Neelix at any time of the day but if you really need any convincing, pop it on the car stereo as you drive round late at night. It's the perfect urban soundtrack for a nocturnal cruise around Doncaster or perhaps Bury, Halifax or Wakefield. The production is crisp, pure and produces a lush soundscape rarely experienced outside of ambient music let alone in trance. You can imagine this was forged in some German bedsit by a geeky guy with glasses, crouching professorially over his techno gear, and it's all the more enjoyable for that image. The icing on the cake is the attention to detail with clicks, echoes, whispers and half heard samples drifting in and out of your consciousness. A work of genius.

What's it like?
It's like the soundtrack of the best dream you've ever had.

What's the best song?
"Contact" is a storming opener for the LP.

Who does it sound like?
X-Cabs, Vegas Soul, Chris Cowie. Being in the same breath as Hook says it all really.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Shudder To Think - Funeral At The Movies & Ten Spot (1996)

What is it?
A compilation of two Shudder To Think albums from 1991 and 1990 respectively.
Why should you listen?
Craig Wedren has got a cracking voice on lead vocals even though he sometimes goes into high pitched falsetto mode. But that sounds great too. The songs are quite catchy, harmonious and poppy but they sometimes throw in an unexpected chord or rhythm to make sure it doesn’t get too commercial.
What’s it like?
Classed as post-hardcore but in truth they sound more like a rocked up Sarah band at times (‘Day Ditty’). At other times like a top pop combo (‘Crosstown Traffic’) and there are also hints of a Fugazi type sound (‘Rag’). Nothing too complicated though, just two guitars, bass, drums, vocal and vocal harmonies. No fanciness. These albums have certainly stood the test of time as I first listened to them in 1992. There’s a rather humourous story associated with my first listenings. I can remember playing the records (not on a gramophone though) in a freezing cold attic room in Hull. In winter, to sleep, I had to wear all my clothes, hat, gloves and have a sleeping bag under my duvet. Even then I got frostbite on my nose. (Yeah, great story. Can we move on now?)
What’s the best track?
‘Jade-Dust Eyes’ - just for the bizarre phrasing on the first line. Two minutes and six seconds long, but it is perfectly formed pop. Doesn’t outstay its welcome in the slightest.
Who does it sound like?
Dag Nasty, Velocity Girl, Bivouac.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Bright Eyes - Lifted or the Story is in the Soil, Keep your Ear to the Ground LP 2002

The King of the 'Camp Acoustic' genre comes up trumps again with one of his pre 'I'm Wide Awake...' offerings. If you like all things lo-fi-indie-folk-acoustic-rock-with affected vocals-camp-fire-sessions then Conor Oberst is the man for you. He is the dark lord of acoustic campness, it's as simple as that. Sufjan Stevens has a poster of him on his bedroom wall.

Conor doesn't deviate that much from the 'Bright Eyes' approach on 'Lifted'. It's all acoustic folkiness with heart felt lyrics delivered in a vocal reminiscent of a toned down Jeff Magnum who can sing. There are some nice touches and slight deviations from the standard that can be summarised as follows:

1) On the other Bright Eyes albums I own, Conor always throws in couple of tracks where he's merrily warbling away, but in the background you can just about hear some woman, presumably the studio cleaner or dinner lady, who is singing along with him in an echoey kind of way. The difference on Lifted is that the cleaner/dinner lady has a sweet and vulnerable quality to her voice, which leads me to believe she may actually be a proper singer. Definitely not a dinner lady.

2) At one point Conor loses it entirely and starts braying like a donkey. It doesn't last long, but it's a harsh and earsplitting moment and you're glad when it abruptly gets the chop.

3) As always there's one or two 'proper' songs with some commercial appeal on the album. It's as if the record company say, "Give us a couple of decent songs, and we'll let you fill up the rest of the LP with your self indulgent folkiness and donkey bray voice." In this case. Check out 'Lover I don't have to Love' as a prime candidate.

4) There's always at least one song on a Bright Eyes album with something approaching absolute lyrical brilliance. In this case it's 'Don't know when but a day is gonna come' which is stark, profound and has some horns playing in the background for good measure.

In summary, if you like Bright Eyes, you'll like 'Lifted.' If you're not sure, I'd definitely start with 'I'm wide awake, it's morning' as the entry level Bright Eyes offering.