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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Icon for Hire – Make a Move

Pick of the Week 40 – Icon for Hire

If you’re going to have some cheese, I always find it more enjoyable to have a really enormous piece of the stinkiest variety in the delicatessen (or more realistically Morrisons). Icon for Hire are undeniably cheesy but just like emmental and Cornish Yarg (look it up cheese fans) they are gloriously addictive, sounding like a cross between Paramore, Pink and Panic at the Disco. This is a deceptively well written and catchy pop punk tune that you can’t help singing along to, and will go down in history as the song that was playing when daughter of Doccortex opened her GCSE results. I’m not sure it beats my equivalent; Tina Turner’s ‘Beyond Thunderdome’ but what can? Remember you heard about them here first when they turn out to be the next Nirvana (or more realistically Gabrielle Aplin). The album's not bad either!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Horror Pops – Hell Yeah

I heard a song by Horrorpops on Youtube and it prompted me to purchase this album. I liked the unusual sound of the double base, the snarling vocals and the general sense of abandonment. It reminded me a touch of the Fastbacks and that can only be a good thing. In reality, it’s a slightly odd Scandinavian psychobilly pastiche with the odd catchy number and a fair old chunk of irritation thrown in for good measure.

Patricia Day is a stunning front woman for the band with equally striking looks, voice and base strumming ability. She is somewhat let down however by the odd stereotypical nod to the psychobilly genre and some average songwriting skills. When they get it right they produce agreeable punk-pop with distinct singalongabilty.

‘Julia’ fits this description perfectly, with ‘Miss Take’ an equally chugging rockabilly anthem, and ‘Where they Wander’ ratchets up the ante with high energy meets growling vocals. Best of all is the pure double base twang of ‘Emotional Abuse’ where Day’s voice is used to its whining and sneering potential. Best avoided are the stock psychobilly numbers like ‘Kool Flattop’ and ‘Psychobitches Oatta Hell’ which taint the whole album with affectedness.

A change is as good as a rest and Horrorpops are definitely something different to the usual Scandinavian fodder that we plug at Into the Valley. A Danish rockabilly band with a singer who doesn’t look like a witch and a couple of go-go dancers thrown in for good measure. What’s not to like?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Beck – Midnite Vultures

Beck is just a little too clever for his own good. If he stuck to writing great American folk tunes with a touch of country, hip hop or electronic then the world would be a much better place. On the evidence of this album however, Beck seriously over-does the side orders and the album as a whole ends up sounding a bit of a mess. There’s too much clever sampling, genre blurring and general old fashioned showing off for this to be anything other than average fair.

It all starts in promising fashion with the jaunty, but at the same time dark, soulfest of ‘Sexx Laws’. The song reminds you why you liked Beck in the first place, whereas the remainder of the album confirms why he also irritates you in equal measure.

‘Mixed Biznes’ is funky but ultimately sounds like the Scissor Sisters, ‘Hollywood Freaks’ is an embarrassing mix of funk and hip hop, and ‘Milk & Honey’ sounds like a progressive rock version of Justin Timberlake. I could continue, but I won’t.

As all great chefs know, too many ingredients makes for cluttered taste sensation. Beck seems to think that less is definitely not more as he proceeds to throw influences and smug trickery into the mix. It’s frustrating because Beck is undoubtedly a talent who can produce odd flashes of genius. Sadly, this is nowhere near his best and save for the opening track would have been a disaster. Listen to the excellent ‘Sexx Laws’ and avoid the rest is the best advice I can offer.


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sarah Jaffe – Better than Nothing

Pick of the Week 39 – Sarah Jaffe

Straight out of Denton, Texas comes whimsical folk songstress Sarah Jaffe. She looks lovely and sounds lovely and I bet she is lovely too. Her fashion sense looks great too and she could definitely come on a shopping trip to Primark with me and Evlkeith if she wants some really cheap but snazzy gear. Her voice ranges from husky murmuring, progressing up to full scale yodelling and this song is a well crafted gem that eats into your subconscious and bursts out when you least expect it, a bit like the scene in Alien but less messy. Heartily recommended!


Denton, Texas facts for anyone interested:

  • Denton is the capital of Denton County, Texas.
  • Both were named after pioneer and handsome Texas militia captain John B. Denton – the Godfather of Denton.
  • Denton is known for its active music life; the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo attracts cowboys from all over the US and the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival attracts over 300,000 people with pointy little beards to the city each year.
  • Denton was the seventh-fastest growing city last year with a population over 100,000, as people flocked to this cultural and educational hub.
  • The City experiences hot, humid summers with lots of wasps, but relatively few extreme weather events.

The picturesque Denton Courthouse at night.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Eels - Tomorrow Morning

Mark Oliver Everett unleashes another album from his creative cellar and as usual it’s the trademark Eels sound tweaked ever so slightly to provide a unique atmosphere to proceedings. If anything it’s marginally less accessible than standard. The songs still have that DIY feel, the voice is increasingly gravelly, but the instrumentation flirts with electronica and the occasional burst of a drum machine. It reminds me a great deal of REM’s underrated ‘Up’ album with the production and themes applied to Eels Man rather than Stipe.

This is Everett in introspective mood, but with none of the full scale depression. It’s jaunty, upbeat and catchy at times, but the electronic elements are sometimes at odds with his organic snaggle toothed tonsils. Unusually for an Eels album some of the tracks descend into irritating territory with ‘I’m a hummingbird’ and ‘Baby Loves Me’ the guiltiest offenders. Fear not however, this is nothing like MC Honky. It’s more like a cross between the out-takes album Useless Trinkets, Beautiful Freak and Blinking Lights which sounds great in theory, but is ultimately a little underwhelming.

Everyone knows that bonus discs are always rubbish, but in this case it pulls the whole show around. The pick of the tracks are featured on the Bonus EP with ‘Let’s Ruin Julie's Birthday’, ‘Swimming Lesson’ and especially ‘For You’, all absolute crackers. From the main disc, only ‘Spectacular Girl’ will pass the test of time, and if I’m being generous ‘This is where it gets good’.

It’s a step up from Hombre Lobo, but don’t expect a classic Eels album. It’s chirpy, semi-electronic fun and if you’re an Eels fan it does what it says on the tin. If you don’t already love him, (and let’s face it who does?) don’t expect a Road to Damascus moment from ‘Tomorrow Morning’.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Aioaska - Power Of Ayahuasca

Pick of the Week 37 - Aioaska
I’m doubtful that the woman with the blue hair has anything to do with Aioaska, and from the little I can discover about the band, the whole thing has a certain whiff of balding, well muscled Germans about it. In a good way of course. This track is a pulsing, undulating ride into the recesses of your consciousness with the subtle use of vocal samples adding to the atmosphere and interest. It reminds me of Chilled C’quence and although it falls a little short in the elf head massage stakes it’s definitely a relaxing and pleasant workout for any tired brain. Nine minutes of magic.