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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Feist - Let it Die

My second experience of Leslie Feist's work after 'The Reminder', and it's predecessor 'Let it Die' is none too shabby either. For the uninitiated the majority of Feist's output could be described as dour, singer-songwriter folk music. It's lovely but even the Canadian twang doesn't pull it out of the folky quagmire. That is until you hear 'Let it Die'.

What I certainly wasn't expecting was any genre blurring action from Broken Social Scene's most entertaining member, and definitely not any eighties style r'n'b crossover appeal. But somehow Feist manages to pull it off. The tracks fall into three categories; dour folk, jaunty French and weird eighties r'n'b hybrid. It's the latter that is most entertaining with 'Leisure Suite' sounding like Sade, 'L'Amour ne Dure pas Toujours' starting out like Snoop Doggy Dog before going off on a French tangent, and 'Inside Out' is like some odd three way mash up of Laura Marling, Michael Jackson and Erykah Badu! And it still manages to be the best track on the album, which is amazing considering it's a Bee Gees cover.

The pick of the standard folk songs is the minimal but spiritual 'Gatekeeper' and for you lovers of French language vocals; 'Tout Doucement' is less fun but at least accessible. All in all it's a strangely engaging mix of styles, languages and attitudes. If you ever wondered what Sade would have sounded like in a pair of dungarees, down the Dog and Duck after a couple of pints of home brew cider, then look no further; this is the album for you.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Ane Brun – Do you remember

Pick of the Week 27 – Ane Brun

Good grief! What on earth is going on in this video? The old general looks to be in a demented state somewhere between purgatory and ecstasy, but what’s the purpose of this drumming and dancing based torture? They’ve even got the cheek to shoot him in the backside with a blowpipe a couple of times! And it’s all capped off by leaving him to die on a beach with only James and the Giant peach style balloons to hold him up. Quality drumming, great dancing and Oscar nominated acting from the old guy.

While all this is unfolding before our eyes Swedish based, Norwegian songstress, Ane Brun warbles on in the background with the gusto and booty-shakability of a down-market Scandinavian Beyonce Knowles on akvavit. This is the most accessible end of Scando music and Ane follows the formula of rhythmic wailing, but somehow forgets to add copious amount of fiddling. Lovely turquoise jacket, dangly earrings and a natty little song that sounds refreshingly different even without the video. 

Monday, 18 February 2013

I Wrestled a Bear Once - Ruining it for Everyone

After the unprecedented success of I Wrestled a Bear Once's Pick of the Week track 'You know that ain't them dog's real voices', I felt it only right to give the LP a good listen. At first I was seriously underwhelmed, as the whole thing sounded not unlike bog standard generic screamo when genre blurring screamo had been promised. Fear not, with repeated listens the experience takes a turn for the better with genres not exactly blurring, but at least inter-mingling a little.

The now replaced Krysta Cameron's vocals are little short of incredible. She swings from hardcore screamo to harmonic crooning and everything in between with an ease that I'm sure even the likes of Lesley Garrett would struggle with. I particularly enjoyed the odd bit of whispering, warbling and dueting with her screamo self at points throughout the album. Apparently leaving to have a baby, she will be seriously missed and Courtney laPlante needs to be some singer just to paper over the cracks.

Every track is a winner given enough time, but 'Deodorant Can't Fix Ugly' is the best example of the juxtaposition of harmonies and shouting, 'You know them Dogs...' is the star turn and 'I'm Gonna Shoot' is my personal favourite most days for its intense sweet and sour flavour.

All things considered it's possibly the most consistent album I've listened to this year. It's extremely hard to get bored of these songs and it's ultimately turned into one of the rarest events on the car stero: it's a stalwart CD. That's basically means it outstays its welcome and whatever mood I'm in I can pop it on and it does the job. Maybe I need to check out the first album before considering any new releases with a new singer. Definitely recommended though.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Top 10 Guilty Secrets

Everyone has a few musical guilty secrets hidden away in their playlists and at Into the Valley we are no different. I have a playlist on my YouTube account called 'Retro' that serves as a stockpile of old songs I know I shouldn't like. I kid myself that these are there for posterity and for my chronically underdeveloped sense of nostalgia. Here we present my current top 10 cheesy, unfashionable and forgotten tracks. Enjoy as much as you can!

10.  Sixpence the Richer - Kiss Me

What the Hell is this? It combines virtually every element that I don't like, but somehow manages to beguile me with its sugary sweet little chorus. Was this ever in the hit parade because I can't remember it? Maybe it's the camera angle, but I'm sure the lead singer has a Max Batu style googly eye going on, and that can only be a good thing. It basically trebles her attractiveness.

9. The Firm - Arthur Daley...E's Alright

If you ever liked Minder you can't help yourself but like this song. I have a sneaky suspicion that Chas and Dave might be involved somewhere along the line, but in this case we'll forgive them for their other crimes against music. Possibly in my top ten favourite lyrics of all time.

8. Fuzzbox - Rules and Regulations

It started so well for Fuzzbox and ended so terribly in the commercial disaster that was (ironically) 'International Rescue'. But in the beginning there was 'Rules and Regulations,' sounding like a cross between the Shop Assistants and Dr. and the Medics and looking like every alternative female student on Teesside circa 1986. I can't see how anyone can possibly dislike it.

7. Gotye - Somebody that I used to Know

I honestly thought I stumbled onto a hidden gem when I first heard this. It wasn't until Daughter of Doccortex put me straight that I realised it was a multi-million selling, platinum mega smash hit that literally everyone in the whole world had heard other than me (and possiblt Evlkeith). Only Lady Gaga has more hits on Youtube, but without Top of the Pops how are us middle aged guys supposed to keep up with current trends?

How well has Kimbra done though? Since her mention in the League of Quirky Female Singers she's gone from strength to strength. Surely she owes us an interview? At least.

6. Altered Images - I Could be Happy

It may be a slight sweeping statement, but all middle aged men have got a bit of a thing for Claire Grogan. When I was sixteen she was the perfect embodiment of womanhood. She was attractive, skippy, confident, bouncy and always happy, and I honestly thought that's what all women were like. I had visions of a Claire Grogan look-a-like skipping downstairs in a morning to make my porridge and fold my newspaper correctly. Twenty-nine years of real life experience, including seventeen years of marriage, have basically pummelled this utopian fantasy into non-existence, especially the bit about always being happy, let alone the porridge.

5. Florence and the Machine - Drumming Song

This story basically illustrates how shallow and fickle I am. When Evlkeith introduced me to this song in his Festive Fifty last year, I thought it was rubbish. I thought Florence was rubbish and so was her machine and I decided to avoid her music like the plague. Then lo and behold I see her on the telly and she's ginger! She's one of us!

And now I think she's the greatest thing since sliced bread and I have a sneaky listen to this song almost everyday.  She's one hell of a mover too.

4. Melanie C - I Turn to You

Another one of Evlkeith's cohorts that I've never engaged with, but I love this song for some reason. Again it contains everything I don't like, even jeans! I should really detest it, but I feel strangely drawn to her ability to keep releasing records in the face of only two people actually listening to them; respect due. And she's not even ginger.

3. Bacarra - Yeas Sir I Can Boogie

I love everything about this song and video. From the opening big voiced introduction to the puzzling fact that one of Baccara has aged whilst the other has been sipping at the fountain of youth. Great song, great lyrics and great dancers. And they were in Eurovision once.

2. The Dooleys - Wanted

Like your favourite two aunties at a Christmas party, the Dooleys belt it out with an enthusiam that could only be born in the seventies. It's a classic and if only pop music had followed their example there'd be no Madonna, Lady Gaga or Christina Aguilera and instead nice sensible women in frocks singing  Abba-esque duets. If only...

1. Coast to Coast - Do the Hucklebuck

No surprises here really. It's the premium guilty pleasure. It's got it's own dance for starters, a bonkers singer, a sax solo, a fez and tight lycra pants. What really amazes me is how much I enjoy it every time I watch it, which is a lot. Needless to say they are my favourite backing dancer/singers ever. Even better than Pepsi and Shirlie and that guy in chains with Howard Jones.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Erasure - Tomorrow's World 2011

Every single Erasure album is at best patchy, and don't get me wrong, I love our premium electro pop outfit as much as the next man. But you know with some certainty that the quality (usually upbeat) tracks will be outnumbered by the schmaltzy (usually downbeat ballads) on any of their LP's. In the case their latest offering 'Tomorrows World', the ratio is comparatively favourable with 44% of the tracks finding themselves in the 'quality' group. So a slightly better than average percentage, but are the dynamic duo still a viable and relevant synth-pop machine in the 21st Century? 

Well it certainly sounds like it. The album sits somewhere between the old and the new Erasure. Imagine 'Nightbird' but with odd acknowledgements to 'Wonderland' and 'Circus' and you're not too far away. If you like the more dance based sound of the late eighties then this could be the LP that rekindles your interest in our heroes.

The up-tempo numbers are all worthy of a mention with 'Be with You' a standard issue opener from Vince, 'Fill us with Fire' a sure-fire Eurovision winner, 'I Lose Myself' a dark pulsing classic, and 'Then I go Twisting' a cheesy disco anthem. 'A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot' steals the show however, with a commercial dancefloor filler that puts the likes of Madonna, Kylie and Cher firmly in their place; it's camp, catchy and a bundle of fun.

If this is anything to go by Vince and Andy can continue for many years to come. A beautiful CD cover as well, which could well be a first for Erasure.   


Monday, 4 February 2013

Allo Darlin’ - Darren


 Pick of the Week 26 – Allo Darlin’ - Darren

Elizabeth Morris and Allo Darlin’ make the purest of the pure, jangly indie pop and ‘Darren’ is no exception. A perfect three minute pop song with super catchy vocal and a storming ending; what’s not to like? Following in the footsteps of the excellent ‘Dreamin’ this track also pounds away at your subconscious, although the album ‘Europe’ is taking a little longer to fully appreciate. Solid, well made indie pop; it does what it says on the tin.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Black Keys - El Camino

Every cloud has a silver lining. The Leeds Festival was possibly my most traumatic, disappointing and excruciating day in the last 6 months, but at least it brought to my attention the hidden gem that is the Black Keys. On the day when the Foo Fighters were completely embarrassing, Dan Auerbach's outfit performed with dignity and a down to earth simplicity that endeared them to me and ultimately convinced me to buy an album.

It's pretty impressive stuff too. The first five tracks are outstanding in their accessibility and singalongability. Admittedly, it all has a certain White Stripes flavour, but not in a detrimental way; it's just good, honest bluesy pop music with big riffs and little ego. On the downside, after track five I lost interest and everything started sounding a touch samey, but maybe that's because the opening tracks are such quality items.

It sounds like music from a long forgotten time when indie meant independent and being a rock star wasn't one of the most secure occupations on the employment market. Stick with 'Lonely Boy', 'Dead and Gone', 'Gold on the Ceiling' and 'Money Maker' and you can't go too far wrong. Easily the standout track however, is the Pixies style quiet/loud dynamic meets Nirvana Unplugged folk of the gargantuan 'Little Black Submarines.'

It's low key, it's way too catchy, but it basically does what it says on the tin. God knows how they actually made it to second on the bill at Bramham Park, but this is a lovely little nugget of an album. Listen with low expectations and The Black Keys will surprise even the most cynical listeners.