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Friday, 28 September 2012

Caitlin Rose - Piledriver Waltz

Pick of the Week 16 - Caitlin Rose

Clowns, Country & Western and The Arctic Monkeys don't sound the most appealing of bedfellows, but somehow Caitlin manages to combine all three and somehow make it sound like a match made in heaven. Take a mediocre Alex Turner song, add some slide guitar, slap on some grease paint and Bob's your Uncle; instant classic. At the moment she has a Midas Touch that Lady Gaga can only dream about. This is instantly likeable in every way, but still manages to grow on you with each listen. If I was truck driver I'd have this blaring out of the windows at full blast while eating a bacon sandwich (and a Yorkie) and shouting 'Hey blondie!' at potential hitch-hilkers. She also manages to make clowns attractive, which takes some doing. She's up there with my new buddy Mark Dacoscas as hero of the year!


Sunday, 23 September 2012

my bloody valentine - loveless

To answer my question from the 'Isn't Anything' review, my bloody valentine fully went for the shoegazing side of things. Gutted.

Some people really love this album, so if you give it a listen you may be one of those people too. I'm not that keen. It does have its moments with 'only shallow' and 'when you sleep'. The tracks that include drumming tend to be the best although the ending of 'i only said' outstays its welcome by a good four hours. Sadly there is nowhere near enough of Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher harmonising on this album. They both get to sing but rarely together.

It shows the quality of the album when 'soon' is one of the tracks that I actually listen to in my skipping frenzy. The worst by far - but still funny when it's put on endless repeat to torture loved ones - is 'touched'. It sounds as if a tauntaun is being repeated kicked in its middles and the resulting mewling recorded. (Another track that is great for torturing purposes is 'glider (full length version)' from the ep's 1988-1991 album: 10 minutes and 14 seconds of pure pain.)

Maybe in an alternative reality there is an album that my bloody valentine created where they took the dark path into even more excessive guitar noise coupled with gorgeous harmonies. That's the album I desperately wanted to hear, so I feel I may be being a tad harsh on 'loveless'. Rumour has it they might make another album. I'll believe it when I hear it. Fingers crossed for the alternative dimension version.


Friday, 21 September 2012

Future Bible Heroes - I'm Lonely EP

Another of Stephin Merritt's incarnations that I'd never heard of, so a big thank you the Evlkeith for searching this out for me. This is Merritt in electronic disco-tastic mode, backed up by the luscious vocals of Claudia Gonson. It's not disco or dance music as we know it, but a more warped hybrid of electronica, chamber pop and inappropriate instrumentation, all wrapped up in a lyrically appealing bundle of joyfulness.

'I'm Lonely (And I Love It)' is a perverse little sing-a-long number reminiscent of the more up-tempo Magnetic Fields songs. It's worth the price of the disk for this track alone.

'My Blue Hawaii' is less immediately gratifying but the intense organ, the tribal drumming and the droning vocals all combine to form a weirdly wonderful experience in an Erasure meets Nick Cave kind of way.

'Cafe Hong Kong' is atmospheric, hypnotic and addictive. Claudia's vocals are seductively smooth and it sounds a little like Sade would have done if she'd had an ounce of originality.

'Good Thing I don't have any Feelings' is back to the Merritt we know and love. Melancholy lyrics delivered in the trademark drawl over the top of jaunty-ish beeps and blips. Are there actually discos that play this kind of stuff?

'Hopeless' is an upbeat stormer that sounds a little like St. Etienne on their better days, but with Claudia's vocals again taking centre stage.

As a five track EP it's a quality offering and a real bargain. Hopefully I can get my hands on one of their LP's now.


Monday, 17 September 2012

Daughter - Youth

Pick of the Week 15 - Daughter

I take no credit whatsoever for spotting this excellent track by Daughter. Indeed this has got to be Daughter of Doccortex's best ever recommendation and shows her musical literacy developing considerably. This is duo Elena Tonra and Igor Haefeli's standout track from the 2011 EP 'The Wild Youth'. Yet again there is little information available on-line about the band, but the song speaks for itself; strong, emotive and haunting, lyrically rich, dark and disturbing. A joyous moment of melancholy angst to savour as the nights draw in.


Saturday, 15 September 2012

my bloody valentine - Isn't Anything

'Isn't Anything' - or to give it its Yorkshire translation: 'Int Owt', pronounced 'Intote' - was the debut album from my bloody valentine. As previously mentioned in these hallowed pages, it never reaches the delirious heights of 'you made me realise', but it gets close.

This album sees my bloody valentine trying to decide quite what they are: slow and shoegazy like 'Lose My Breath' and the actually quite good 'No More Sorry', or faster and rockier like '(When You Wake) You're Still In A Dream' and 'You Never Should'. Funnily enough, I prefer the speedier offerings although I've never been that keen on the single 'Feed Me With Your Kiss'. It adheres too closely to the 'you made me realise' template and comes across as a pale imitation.

As a whole the album works well with only a few skippable tracks. It also has what must be my favourite album cover of all time. My top track from 'Isn't Anything' must be 'Nothing Much To Lose'. Harsh guitars and drums but gentle harmonic voices: a match made in heaven.

In this continuing story of the history of my bloody valentine, will they stick to what they do best or will they fully embrace their shoegazing side? (I fully embraced my shoegazing side in the early 90s. Polished my shoes up to a nice shine and did some right shoegazing. But that's a different story. Just ask the judge.)


Monday, 10 September 2012

Betty and the Werewolves - David Cassidy

Pick of the Week 14: Betty and the Werewolves

It's impossible not to love a band called Betty and the Werewolves. Their particular brand of semi-shouty, indie jangle pop sits somewhere between Heavenly and Huggy Bear, and that can only be a recipe for something spectacular. I've only ever heard this song, but needless to say I'll be checking out their other output in the near future, even if 2010's 'Tea Time Favourites' album looks a bit pricey. Disturbingly, they all look like my history teacher from 1980's middle school with slightly different hairstyles but equally bad posture, obviously not the one with the beard, however I'm willing to overlook this considering how great 'David Cassidy' is. Surely this has been touched by the hand of Amelia Fletcher in some way, shape or form?

I honestly thought I couldn't like the song more, but check out this super lo-lo-fi live performance in a tent! Greatness in the making.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Grimes - Visions

I'd been looking forward to giving this a listen since I bought it a couple of months ago, but to be honest I was slightly disappointed. It's definitely an acquired taste and if I'm being unkind it sounds like a particularly dirgy PJ Harvy album (is there another kind?) played at 45 rather than 33rpm. If I'm feeling more generous, it's intelligent background music that sounds much better in a large living room than in the confined space of the car, or worse still on your walkman.

However, just as every PJ Harvey review is peppered with the word 'dirge', so all Grimes reviews need a healthy smattering of the word 'ethereal'. The album is if nothing else 'ethereal'. Singer Claire Boucher sounds like a cross between an angel after taking a hefty drag of helium and an especially squeaky singing chihuahua with a lisp. This sounds pretty appealing I've got to say, but the whole production is backed with dirgy, Orbital style electronic beats and somehow distorts her voice to make it sound like a particularly high pitched instrument rather than a voice. It's a bit like that screeching James Brown sample Public Enemy used on Rebel without a Pause, but not in a good way.

Imagine anything quite ethereal like the Cocteau Twins, Lush or Enya, but played at 45rpm, add some warbling, and you get the idea. Don't be drawn in by the poppy charms of 'Oblivion' where Claire actually gets to sing properly, it stands alone as something you may want to listen to again. The rest of the album if much of a muchness and can be safely filed under a new category; 'Ethereal Dirge.'

Don't get me wrong, Grimes looks like a lovely person, she has a distinctive and unique voice and she makes decent videos. But none of her talents seem to have been exploited on this LP. Sack the backing group and team her up with the Infected Mushrooms and I promise you we'd be onto a winner. You heard the idea here first.


Saturday, 8 September 2012

Top 10 Facial Hair

Facial hair is funny at the best of times. Whether its a pointy little beard or a massive bushy moustache, it never fails to raise a chuckle at the Obscure World offices. But enter the seedy world of competition beard and 'tache growing and it's a whole different ball game, it's less funny and more disturbing. To be a professional facial hairist it looks like it's a distinct advantage to be either ginger or from a Germanic country, preferably Germany itself. If you are a ginger German you've got the whole thing sewn up.

So, in memory of Magnum P.I.'s world class lip warmer, we present the top ten in facial hair. Sit back, relax and let your eyes take in some beardy excelence. Enjoy!

(Admittedly, this one is not strictly facial hair, but it's clever, entertaining and funny in a gormless kind of way.)

10. This one effortlessy blurs the line between hair and moustache. Note the ginger tinge in that bushy monstrousity. Is is just me or is his hair on back to front?

9. Not a competion grower, but he definitely should be for bushy-ness alone. Note the ginger tinge to the tache again. Fashion fans should note that camouflage gear is never a good look unless you're a soldier.

8. Not to my personal tastes but a seriously good effort. Like a googly in cricket his 'tache moves both ways. Why would you do such a thing? 

7. Possibly the best ever execution of the 'multiple ring' moustache. Is that the hint of Bavarian national dress in the jacket? Ideal for amplifying your voice for people standing behind you.

6. The best of the amateurs, but I have my doubts this one is real. Lovely colour though as he goes for the ginger vote and top marks for the asymmetrical combing.

5.  This could actually be number 10 with a hat on, number 6 who's extended into sideburns or a completely different chap entirely. Great gingerness, bushy-ness and the goatee is a lovely touch to cap off the look. I'd ditch the hat though.

4. Good Grief! What a whopper! You can see the pride he has in that behemoth as he twiddles the point to perfection.

3. Amazing volume in those sideburns makes this a sure-fire winner. You can't hide the hint of ginger sparking in the hair and 'tache. Lovely smile too.

2. Beautifully symmetrical and coiffured to Crufts standards this three tiered affair is hardly original, but the joy is in the execution. I'm sure he's Austrian.

1. The master beard modeller comes up trumps with this windmill inspired creation. A cheeky smile, some lederhosen and a large hat complete this sexy and stylish look. But wait, there's more...

He's also versatile enough to make a model of the Brandenburg Gate out of his beard too! Check it out for accuracy world landmark fans.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Foxes! - Youth

Pick of the Week 13 - Foxes! - Youth

This is such a great song. It sounds deceptively ordinary for the first few listens, but once it grabs you there's no stopping it's uncompromising march into you sub-conscious. There's surprisingly little information about the band on-line, with only the Guardian's 'band of the day' feature revealing Louisa Rose Allen and Sam Dixon as the parents of 'Youth' in a somewhat lukewarm review. The track is anything but tepid and combines a little jangle folk-pop with a smidgen of a power vocal and a smattering of electronica to produce a rounded and satisfying bundle with possibly the best lyrics I've heard this year. Hopefully there's an LP in the pipelines soon. Don't tell me our youth is running out, it's only just begun!


Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Levellers - Levelling the Land

The Levellers somewhat passed me by in early nineties. I'd heard a few of their songs that I think Evlkeith played me, but I was always a little underwhelmed by there offerings. Roll on twenty years however, and they sound surprisingly fantastic.

How I come to have a copy of 'Levelling the Land' is anyone's guess, but if it's on the CD pile, it gets listened to in the end. In this case I'm seriously glad I gave it a go. The whole album sounds like a greatest hits compilation and I somehow felt all the songs were old friends from the moment I heard them. This is hi-octane, fiddle fuelled folk with a touch of eco-politics thrown in for good measure and I'm bemused that I let them slip through the net. The songs themselves have that timeless folky feel and themes, but the arrangement and instrumentation wouldn't sound out of place today. Like New Model Army before them, they seem to exist in a bubble outside of popular culture, which can only be a good thing.

I've been happily singing along to the entire album in the car, but the standout tracks are the fast paced charge of 'The Game', the campfire jig of 'Far from Home' and the anthemic 'Sell Out'. I can only imagine how great the Levellers were as a live band with such an array of classic and passionate songs. It just goes to show how wrong you can be. Maybe they were ahead of their time, or perhaps their political views seem so much more relevant in the 21st Century, but the Levellers are definitely worth revisiting and this album seems as good a place to start as any.