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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Infected Mushroom Feat. Perry Farrell - Killing Time the Remixes 2010

Remix CD's are always hard work for me as it's like listening to the same track over and over again, and to be honest, this one is no different. But if you like all things Infected Mushroom then this is a tasty little stocking filler.

There's a range of mixes at a variety of bpm's with Paul Oakenfold's lush Perfecto style mix, John '00' Fleming's percussion based workout and a bonkers but brilliant Infected Trance mix; all decent enough offerings. I've got to say, I still prefer the original album mix though, even if  it's slower, chunkier and less trance based, I just like the singalongability of the vocal.

If you're new to the Mushroom's work, I'd buy the 'Legend of the Black Shawarma' LP instead of this if I were you.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Do - A Mouthful LP 2008

This is a French/Finnish combo indie act producing something approaching a slightly quirkier and better version of the Cardigans. The vocals are the key, with Olivia Merilahti warbling, squawking and crooning in a Bjork-lite style, but with purpose and a sense of indie conventions. She's the star of the show and it's strange to think that so many other average female singers with little originality to offer are above her in the pecking order.

The songs are a varied bunch with the hypnotic 'On my Shoulders' the pick of the bunch, but honourable mentions need also go out to the chugging 'At Last', the haunting 'Song for Lovers' and the bonkers raptastic classic that is 'Queen Dot Kong'.

Apparently they're big in France, which is excellent news if you are French. Perhaps they should think of entering the X-Factor if they want to make it big in Britain. I'm sure with Louie Walsh as their mentor The Do would soon be playing to packed stadiums and selling CD's by the cartload, rather than taking centre stage at Into the Valley...

Incidentally, have you ever wondered what happens to X-Factor finalists when they go out of the show? Well, I witnessed last week's evictee Sophie Habibis at the Don Valley Stadium 'After Dark' firework display singing cover versions to a disinterested crowd of firework fans. One minute you're at those film premieres and the next you're in a seedy car park in Sheffield being outshone by a Catherine wheel and a couple of Roman candles. Be careful what you wish for.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Songlines - Top of the World 78 Compilation 2011

The weakest of the Top of the World CD's I've received with my annual subscription to Songlines magazine, but still a wholesome treat for World music fans.

The highlights are as follows;
Various Artists - Meadows of Dan; A jaunty little jig with sweet vocals and neat fiddling.
Sondorgo - Opa Cupa; evoking images of Taraf de Haidouks with female vocals.
Khyam Allami - Tawazon 1; chilled plucking of some Eastern stringed instrument in bewitching fashion.
The Wilders - This Old Town; strangely catchy and gets lodged in your brain. Alt-Country with decent lyrics and lovely atmosphere. (See quality live video below!)
JuJu - Nightwalk; A bouncing African rock-out with fiddles. Who could ask for more?

I'm not so keen on the guest picker's (Shlomo the beatboxer) selections, but the rest of the compilation is great. If you're into world music you seriously need a Songlines subscription - write to Santa now.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Guided by Voices - Do the Collapse LP 1999

This is my second dose of Guided by Voices' brand of ameican indie rock medicine and a most welcome and invigorating tonic it is too. Robert Pollard's prolific bunch of lo-fi superstars have made 20+ albums so there's plenty to go at if you appreciate the GBV template. Bizarrly, I started with 2004's Half Life of the Decomposed, then just picked Do the Collapse at random; that's just the kind of guy I am.

This is a more commercial group of songs, but is nonetheless still quirky, original and at times beautiful. Every track is a winner really, but special mentions go to the anthemic 'Hold on Hope', the folk tinged weirdness of 'Dragon's Awake' and the sing-a-long wholesomeness of 'Strumpet Eye'.

If you're looking for influences; there's a touch of the Flaming Lips, a smattering of Sebadoh, a resemblance to Death Cab and maybe a little Sunset Rubdown, with the whole thing coated in a sugary shell of quirk-folk. The lyrics are unique and interesting and well worth the effort of some careful digestion.

Overall, a great album with a host of catchy, anthemic and unusual songs, but all in the unique style of GBV. Role on the other 18+ albums if they're all as good as this. I'll let you know. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots LP 2002

What is it?
Oklahoma's finest present their unique and critically acclaimed brand of psychedelic independent rock, with 2002's spaced up 'Yoshimi battles the Pink Robots.'

Why should you listen?
You may have wondered what all the fuss is about with the Flaming Lips, just as I did when I selected 'Yoshimi' as my entry level introduction to the group. It's a lush, complex, dreamy sound with intergalactic imagery interwoven throughout the lyrics to give the whole experience the feel of a concept album. It's fun at times and all of the tracks are reasonably enjoyable in a curate's egg kind of way. The best bit is the plinky plonky bit in 'Are you a Hypnotist?' and this makes and makes odd little appearances throughout the album.

What's it like?
I couldn't help thinking that despite all the critical slobbering, I would much rather be listening to Grandaddy. Although not directly comparable, I just think Jason Lytle's band do the whole 'space rock' thing so much better. Check out 'The Sophtware Lump' if you need convincing.

What's the best song?
The title track 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots' makes you smile and is suitably mellow, quirky and sci-fi themed.

Who does it sound like?
Grandaddy on a bad day. Hints of Eels and Shins but sorry, The Flaming Lips are not fit to lace their boots.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A Perfect Circle - The Thirteenth Step LP 2003

What is it?
A Perfect Circle basically comprise guitarist Billy Howerdell and the singer from Tool, Maynard James Keenan, with a varied make up of supporting musicians. Billed as a 'rock super group' they manage to produce something far more interesting and subtle than your average Velvet Revolver wannabes. 

Why should you listen?
If you, like me, find Tool a bit beefy in a stereotypical rock behemoth kind of way, then A Perfect Circle may be the ideal compromise. Not that this is just 'Tool-lite' as it's much more complex, subtle and intriguing than a stripped down version of Keenan's day job. Take all the best bits from Tool; the voice, the power and the lyrics but add some interesting arrangements and some quality control in the song writing department and you've pretty much got A Perfect Circle. Don't expect to get into this immediately, but perseverance will be rewarded. 

What's it like?
It's like Arnold Shwarzennegger in Kindergarden Cop.

What's the best song?
"The Outsider" has all of Tool's beef, but also provides mash and two veg.

Who does it sound like?
Undeniably sounds like Tool, at times there's a touch of Eels and At the Drive in.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Rough Trade - Synth Wave 10 Compilation 2010

I bought two Rough Trade compilations at the same time, one was absolutely rubbish (Psych Folk 10) and one was a work of genius (Synth Wave 10).

The tracks on Synth Wave are not your standard brand of 80's synth pop, but the dirtier, homemade variety peddled by the likes of Crystal Castles. A fair few of the tracks have a distinctly amateur feel and sound like they've been patched together on a decrepit i-mac in some seedy bedsit. What more could you want?

I've literally just realised that the title 'Synth-Wave' refers to a combination of synth pop and new wave genres, which is clever in a geeky kind of way. So if you want your synth pop to be altogether less wholesome than Erasure then check out virtually all the acts on here. Most of them sound like they could do with a nutricious meal, some vitamin pills, a good wash and a thorough checking over at the local STD clinic, but perhaps I'm being a little unfair.

The overall standard is high, but there are several standout tracks on this 20 strong compilation. The Cosmetics 'Black Leather Gloves' is a sleazy homage to black leather gloves (what else?) in synth-wave form,  Terror Bird sound fantasticly homemade on 'Shadows in the Hall' with some of the best off-kilter harmonies you can imagine, and my absolute favourite is the stark old-school synths of Led er Est's 'Scissors' which brings to mind a minimal, darker version of Vince Clark with Ian Curtis on vocals. Needless to say I've bought the Led er Est album and am looking forward to sticking it into the car's cd player with no little glee.

Well done again Rough Trade! Counter Culture is always a treat,but let's hope the Synth Wave series takes off too and we can look forward to s similar scuzzy take on the synth sound on Synth Wave 11.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

BT - These Hopeful Machines LP 2010

Nothing has moved on greatly in the world of Brian Transeau since 1999's Movement in Still Life. It's still the lush production of semi-commercial dance music with some beautiful vocals thrown in for good measure.

With only six songs however, the whole experience feels a bit 'samey'. None of the tracks stand out as particularly memorable and you are left with the feeling that time and effort went into the perfect production values and not a lot of thought went into the quality of the songs.

It's essentially a candy floss experience of lovely, dreamy music that holds your attention for about five minutes and then you need something more substantial. As far as the songs go, 'Le Nocturne de Lumiere' is possibly the pick of the bunch, but BT is consistent if nothing else and there's really not much to choose between all six.

It's one of those reviews where I have to say; if you like BT you'll like 'These Hopeful Machines' but don't expect anything different or interesting.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Belle and Sebastian - Write about Love LP 2010

It used to be that a new Belle and Sebastian album was a real event, but 'The Life Pursuit' put the dampeners on things with it's lacklustre mix of styles and sense of mediocrity. On the plus side 'Write About Love' is at least partially a return to form, but don't get too giddy.

Perhaps it's because familiarity breads contempt, but unless they produce a song that's up there with the classics I'm just not interested. Let's face it, they've done the twee, wistful pop thing to death now, and all the lesser tracks just sound like 'more of the same'.

There are a couple of stonkers on the album though, and if this was any other band I'd be raving about them. 'I want the World to Stop' reminds you why we all love Belle and Sebastian; the lyrics, the harmonies, the campness, the pure sing-a-long-ability. 'Write about Love' is an equally soulful, kitchen sink drama of a song which instantly transports you into the world of Belle and Sebastian. It's basically worth buying the album for these two songs.

Where do Belle and Sebastian go from here though? I can't really see them swapping genres and re-inventing themselves. Death Metal? Trip Hop? It's difficult to see them even 'rocking things up' a bit in a similar way that REM did at one point. I'd favour a 'Style Council' offshoot with Stuart Murdoch wearing cycling gear and going all soulful on us. If they could get the actual Mick Talbot in the band with them it would be ideal. If it works, you heard it here first.