Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Plants and Animals – La La Land

Out Now

Secret City

Back in 2008 LA based trio Plants and Animals released one of the most widely acclaimed, if a little overlooked, debut albums of the year.

The hard to place folk ramblings of ‘Parc Avenue’ are widely left behind with ‘La La Land’ and Plants and Animals seem to be experimenting with their ever expanding sound.

With clear tongue in cheek nods to their hometown chic with the opening chug of ‘Tom Cruz’ and the crunching rhythmic riffage of ‘American Idol’  their sound opens into a new expansive realm that includes sing-along’s and sax, proving that they aren’t all about keeping things on the same track.

There’s a more distinct edge to their writing here and they sound more like a three piece then they ever did on their debut. When they do slow the speed with ‘Undone Melody’ they sulk with pianos, stabs and reverb while singer Warren C. Spicer mumbles through the darkness: “Not today, I need some time to work this out, you ask me in and then you kick me out, there’s no space in here for us, your righteous ways, your righteous ways.”

‘La La Land’ continues to brood and mutter under its breath after the somewhat chilled affair of ‘Kon Tiki’ and while Plants and Animals are making progressions, they take a little while to unlock. One could be mistaken for believing the sultry vocals from ‘Game Show’ have a well known monotony ringing through them but once the union between lead and backing is complete the smoke lifts and the song is transformed far beyond what was initially expected.

While ‘The Mama Papa’ embraces a modern indie spike synonymous in sound with the glut of London scenesters over recent years, ‘La La Land’ has tendencies to slip into unchartered misery with ‘Celebration’ providing little other than background noise and frustration that it hasn’t been transformed into something eye burningly epic.

The lack of consistency can be partially forgiven for the sheer array of ideas on display throughout their second long player is an indication that the evolution of this band could result in something fairly spectacular.

Something we would all want to see.


Sunday, 19 September 2010

Songs on the Stereo

1. Kings of Leon - Radioactive -

2. Jeannie's Diary - Eels -

3. The Olympics - The Duck

4. Eli Paperboy Reed - Come And  Get It

5. Everyone Knows - Sarah Mac -

Proper tunes. I saw Eels at Manchester Academy back on September 4 and I reviewed it but it was shit so I didn't post it. In the two hours and 27 songs Eels left behind the acoustic guitars and gentlemen's tours to rock through material spanning seven of their nine studio albums with thoroughly rocked up versions of 'Me E's Beautiful Blues'and 'I Like Birds' with the ever changing 'My Beloved Monster' taking yet another shape and smatterings from their recent trilogy of albums, 'Hombre Lobo', 'End Times' and 'Tomorrow Morning'.

That was not the review.

Sarah Mac is apparently recording the soundtrack to Prince Naseem Hamed's biopic, should be fairly interesting. The young singer songwriter from Sheffield produces drama queen melodies over spectacular piano to give you something you're not quite expecting and is definitely one to watch over the next year.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart

Released September 13

Jagjaguwar Records

With Black Mountain’s first two albums you could be forgiven for thinking that this Canadian band are from another time with their bohemian stylings and heavily fuzzed rock n roll.

The psychedelic stoners seem to have neatened themselves up though and while their self titled debut and 2008’s follow up ‘In The Future’ were prone to long, warped instrumentals and rather indulged guitar solos ‘Wilderness Heart’ doesn’t contain the same seven minute trips and mind bending druganauts that have become associated with the band.

That said, it’s still in an equal league and possesses the same credentials of ‘Black Mountain’ and ‘In The Future’ by keeping the same weighty retro fuzz and harmonic folk moments that epitomise what Black Mountain are all about, it’s just been cleaned up and now holds a noticeable mainstream glint.

Leading single ‘Old Fangs’ chugs with spaced synth and thunderous guitars with the dual vocals of Stephen McBean and Amber Webber coercing you into a darker world while opener ‘Hair Song’ displays the rock and pop sensibilities of decades gone by.

The noise relents for ‘Buried By The Blues’ and ‘Radiant Hearts’ as McBean and Webber together utter: “The hardest truth to believe that all is worth and all that is gained could never replace the most beautiful things that brought you so close to my heart,” as ‘Rollercoaster’ skips back to their more schizophrenic roots and scatty psychedelic moments while ‘Let Spirits Ride’ is a cocktail of red eyes, heavy rock and rats heads.

It’s always a tricky one with Black Mountain. While they’re likeable and unquestionably good at what they do, the influences that come with their territory are still ever apparent and dominate the shape of their sound making none of this feel entirely new.

In their defence, they’re not just borrowing from the characters that wrote rock folk lore and ‘Wilderness Heart’ exhibits smatterings of folk, metal and blues that gel a well rounded album of ballads and blistering assaults together.


Harper Simon – Berkeley Girl

Released September 13

PIAS Recordings

On the back of this year’s self titled debut album comes Harper Simon’s new single, ‘Berkeley Girl’.

While Simon maybe a name you’re already familiar with (son of Paul Simon) it has taken a while for the singer songwriter to construct and release his critically acclaimed unveiling.

‘Berkeley Girl’s’ folk balladry and feeling make easy listening as Harper’s croon describes the love of an old friend with adoring lyrics coming from a clever head: “She is juniper and roses, guess I'll sing it once again and though we are no longer lovers, I know she'll always be my friend.”

With autumn days and colder nights fast approaching, Harper Simon has something to warm the cockles of your heart.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Kings of Leon find some soul...and lose some

Check out Kings Of Leon's new single 'Radioactive' from their forthcoming fifth album 'Come Around Sundown'.

It's gospel rock and the Followill clan are clearly making a statement of who they are and where they're from, they're from the south and they're making no bones about it.

Aside from the loving sentiments and the good times that have been had by all this is clearly not Kings Of Leon at their best. They're taking their grand ideas  one step further and the soul that spills from the gospel isn't necessarily a bad thing for them, in fact it's rather good but the little something that made them so damn tasty once upon a time now seems to be be more and more diluted, there just isn't that something in this that makes you truly excited. Oh yeah and the video cringe factor is cranked up to maximum.Not ideal.

That's a grower....

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Megaphonic Thrift - A Thousand Years Of Deconstruction

Released September 6

Deadly People Records

On the west coast of Norway lies the idyllic city of Bergen, a place that has introduced the world to some of the finer shades of the Scandinavian pop scene.

With Kings of Convenience, R√łyksopp and Ida Maria all paying their dues in Norway’s second largest city, it’s now the turn of The Megaphonic Thrift to set tongues wagging and bring yet more musical credentials to north Europe.

Labelled as something of a ‘supergroup’, The Megaphonic Thrift have borrowed from Casiokids, the Low Frequency In Stereo and Stereo 21 to form a hard working touring machine that are setting souls alight with their angular riffage, hi-speed drums and garage rock credentials.

It’s with a bang that ‘A Thousand Years Of Deconstruction’ begins as ‘Acid Blues’ rings with heavily reverbed guitars that take no prisoners while the lazy understated vocals stop the party from getting too out of hand.

‘Exploding Eyes’ relents the pace slightly, though not enough to make you sit back and sip your tea (see ‘Every Time, (Oxygen’,) as the band begin to display what they do best with a mix of fast drumming and plucky, aired out guitars that start to lift them to the heights they’re searching for.

What’s difficult about this EP and this band in general is the previously mentioned undercooked vocals. Although the muffled out of tune angst keeps the chaos in control and gives them another stamp to many of the likeminded bands that sit before them,  there’s nothing inspiring, nothing to get a grip on and nothing that sets them apart.

The ideas are grand and the anthemic moments are regular but The Megaphonic Thrift don’t quite manage turn on the bright lights. 'A Thousand Years Of Deconstruction' has ambition and promise written all over it, it’s just not quite enough to put them in Bergen’s hall of fame just yet.