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Thursday, 19 July 2012

Warpaint - Burgandy

Pick of the Week 10 - Burgandy by Warpaint

This is a slow-burning offering from Los Angeles based Warpaint that has really grown on me over the last few months. It's all I've heard from them so far, but I'd be interested in giving their 2010 album, 'The Fool' a listen at some point next year. The song is a smouldering, atmospheric lullaby with a dark, hypnotic quality. Loving the minimal, no frills performance video too!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Led Er Est - Dust on Common

The makers of my favourite song of 2011 are unfortunately not German in the least and base themselves in the heart of New York city. To be honest, it's an easy mistake to make as they sound distinctly East German 'Cold Wave', but with a fresh modern twist that sets them apart from the standard synth revivalists. The fact that they're not a bunch of leather trousered, moustachioed Europeans with a couple of androgynous backing singers with copious amounts of armpit hair doesn't make me like them any less. It just makes the whole thing a slightly less attractive proposition.

The album is so much more than the standout track; 'Scissors', but the song is still their benchmark offering. It all sounds very eighties, with a Kraftwerk meets Joy Division meets John Foxx vibe that is not altogether wholesome, but would fit snuggly into some seedy New York underground club. In a world where drum machines, dead pan vocals and minimal techno are the height of fashion this would be a number one album, unfortunately we don't live in that world.

As stated earlier 'Scissors' says it all about the band; dark, atmospheric, hypnotic, but at the same time possessing a sing-a-long element, although I doubt it's high up the list for most Karaoke fans. 'Port Isabel' is akin to 'Enjoy the Silence' era Depeche Mode, 'I Wait' is like a techno version of the Danse Society and 'Orange' evokes memories of early New Order. All in all it's a coherent and thoroughly enjoyable package with the exception of a couple of instrumental dirge-fests.

If no frills 'cold wave', synth-based stormers are you particular favourite flavour of music then 'Dust on Common' will be right up your street. It could only be improved by the addition of more Germanic influences, for instance some lederhosen, bratwurst and Helga from Allo Allo on backing vocals.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Angus and Julia Stone – For You

Pick of the Week 9 – Angus and Julia Stone – For You

Sydney based brother and sister combo, Angus and Julia Stone are an awe inspiring combination of acoustic folkiness laced with a splash of something dark and enticing. They make music that is both harmonic and bitter sweet, with ‘For You’ a typically stirring example of their art. Julia’s voice has that sweet and sour quality that I really love. It’s not unlike the vocal equivalent of that northern delicacy, the cheese and jam sandwich, with Ms. Stone combining an unctuous, honey sweetness with just an inkling that she may actually be a witch, (in a good way as always.) I’m beginning to think that Australia is an untapped reservoir of quality music with so many great artists almost unknown in Britain. I’ll be checking out their latest album shortly, but for now enjoy the transient beauty of ‘For You’.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Pocketbooks - Carousel LP

I was so wrong about this album initially.

After three listens I almost gave up on it, but thankfully I persevered and now I've got to say it's easily one of my favourites of the year. I guess I was expecting something more akin to Evlkeith's Festive Fifty entry 'Fleeting Moments' which was my introduction to the band. It's such a fantastic song that I just wanted more of the same, and although 'Promises, Promises' comes close, the rest of the album follows a slightly different path.

The songs are gloriously twee in a way that Belle and Sebastian can only dream about and possibly only the Field Mice could even aspire to. Surprisingly, Andy and Emma share vocals equally and at first I was desperate to hear more of Emma and much less of Andy, but how wrong can you be? If anything, the songs where Andy takes the lead are possibly even more enjoyable than Emma's, and when they sing together it's almost Abbaesque in terms of both the beautiful harmonies and unashamed campness.

It's ultimately the songwriting however, that differentiates the album from enjoyable pop music and propels it into the realms of a classic piece of work. These songs are witty, quirky, melodic, profound, crafted and timeless. It's as if Gary Barlow got in touch with his feminine side and signed for Sarah Records, in a good way (if that's possible). Top marks for songwriter Andy Hudson; a job well done.

They're all standout tracks but 'Promises Promises' is the most instantly accessible in an Isabel Campbell era Belle and Sebastian kind of way. Dig deeper however, and 'The Sky at Night' is a keyboard fuelled gem for all of us telescope owners and 'Five Day Forecast' is a jaunty tale where the male/female vocals intertwine perfectly to produce a uniquely agreeable sound. 'End of the Pier' is a minimal melancholy masterpiece, but best of all is 'Harbour Lights', which is a moment of pure magic, combining images of lifeboats, vinyl records and Swing Out Sister, which can only be a good thing.

I can't really be anymore positive than saying this is easily on a par with 'Fold Your Hands Child' or 'Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi'. Pocketbooks will either move onto global domination or they'll be working as primary school teachers within five years, and I can't make up my mind which is more likely, although Andy would definitely not look out of place playing 'I have seen the Golden Sunshine' in assembly.

A great, original and surprising album. Pocketbooks we salute you!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Sleigh Bells - Infinity Guitars

Pick of the Week 8 - Sleigh Bells - Infinity Guitars

I can't take any credit for this one as I read about Sleigh Bells on Have You Met Heather. I haven't been able to get it out of my head since and without it I would never have started my Youtube playlist which is now massive. I know very little about them other than they come from Brooklyn and have released a couple of albums, however I've not been overly convinced by some of their other tracks. Is it worth buying an album? The jury's still out on them, but this is a cracking song with an intriguing video (although the record company blocks it and we'll sadly have to make do with a live version), so make your own minds up.