Saturday, 26 September 2009

reviews: why, atlas sound, the social services

here are three more reviews of albums i've been enjoying lately:

The Social Services - It's Nothing Personal, It's National Security

Two-thirds Glaswegian/one-third Swedish indie-poppers The Social Services have a love-hate relationship with drummer Martin Frödén’s home nation. “Oh Sweden, I’m sorry to say that you’re tedious sometimes,” The Baltic Sea begins, followed by a list which begrudgingly admits its Scandinavian charm (“your recycling facilities are second to none”, “you design such great furniture and storage solutions”). Then comes the bittersweet pay-off - “but nobody smiles back at me” - and suddenly a sweetly comic pop song becomes unexpectedly poignant. When they then cry “we can be your friends!” it’s tempting to declare The Social Services the best thing since sliced Lucksmiths, but unfortunately the rest is less instantly lovable. Medium Pop Ballad is as bland as its title suggests, while a West Coast-accented cover of You Are My Sunshine would’ve sounded lazy even if Glasvegas hadn’t already done it a year ago. But there’s still plenty to cherish; you should at least consider their offer of friendship.

Out 28th September

Atlas Sound - Logos

Bradford Cox was understandably upset when an innocent filesharing error on his part resulted in an unfinished Logos being hawked around cyberspace, so much so that (now deleted) blog posts indicated he might never complete it. Luckily he's dropped the intransigence to polish the LP to its intended glory, though perhaps Pathos would be a more apt title, its persuasive charms appealing more to the heart than the head. In his Deerhunter guise, Cox's compositions are hardly 'ordinary', but with Atlas Sound he ventures further leftfield, playing with texture and form and using repetition to draw out the nuances of his graceful compositions. But despite his reputation as a singularly creative, renaissance-style maverick, Logos is occassionally hijacked by its guests, in particular Stereolab's Laetitia Sadler who causes Quick Canal to sound like, well, Stereolab. But since Stereolab are awesome, this only makes the pastime of getting lost in these looping lolls even more appealing.

Out 19th October

Why? - Eskimo Snow

Short-but-sweet opening track These Hands announces Eskimo Snow’s emotional register. Blessed as ever with a grandiose gift of the gab, these ten tracks see Why?’s Yoni Wolf “facing history with little-to-no irony”, his distinctive speak-croon articulating personal quandaries as opposed to simply dazzling with word-games. OK, so there’s still a fair amount of irony scattered amongst the introspection, but combining wit with intimacy continues to serve Mr Wolf well: for example, the straightforwardly-phrased yet complexly-poignant “these hands are my father’s hands but smaller” introduces a paternal theme hammered home nine tracks later, in album highlight the Blackest Purse’s appeals for parental vindication: (“what should these earnest hands be holding?...Mom am I failing?”). Musically, Why? drift further away from previous hip-hop experimentations, moving them closer to conventionality. But they retain enough idiosyncrasies to ensure that textbook strings can’t eclipse their sparkling intellect, mellifluous innovation and, most profoundly, the rhythmic heart propelling these revelatory lyricisms.

Out 5th October

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