Monday, 27 August 2012

reviews: metronomy, sycamore, chilly gonzales

Various Artists - Late Night Tales: Metronomy (****)

For the latest LNT mix, Metronomy’s Joseph Mount blends Southern hip-hop (Outkast) with avant-garde jazz (Chick Corea), ending up at Gallic alt-folk (Herman Dune) via nods to most that lies between. It’s a confident interpretation of the series’ brief, with curious bedfellows fluidly interlaced and locked into a twilight tempo. Even its more daring segueways sound apposite: for example, the breezy pop of the Alessi Brothers yielding freely to Autechre’s undulating, fractured rhythms, or the retro synths of Tonto’s Expanding Head Band gently washed away by a pedal-steel waltz (Pete Drake’s Forever).

For the obligatory cover version, Metronomy tackle Jean Michel Jarre’s Hypnose: understated and faithful, it slips smoothly into the mix’s folds, without overshadowing its lovingly selected surroundings. For the now-standard spoken word coda, meanwhile, Paul Morley concludes his Lost for Words piece – previously heard on the Trentemøller, MGMT and Belle and Sebastian compilations – with an enjoyably freewheeling verbosity.

Out 3rd September

                                                 Sycamore – Sycamore and Friends 

Sycamore - Sycamore and Friends (****)

Like the tree after which they are named, Sycamore’s branches extend far. Between them, core members Jer Reid, Stevie Jones and Shane Connolly have roots in El Hombre Trajeado, Issho Taiko Drummers and Tattie Toes, amongst others; the record’s guesting “friends”, meanwhile, include Bill Wells and The One Ensemble’s Daniel Padden. The six pieces that constitute their debut are subtly intoxicating – a rich mix of tricky melodies and heady textures that eschew straightforward structures.

Opener New Cold is an immediate standout: one of the few tracks to feature prominent vocals, it buffets wordless wails (from Connolly’s fellow Tattie Nerea Bello) with exotic and propulsive twin guitars. The closing A Sun – with its droning, groaning interlude – also deserves mention, building to a noisy finish forged from percussive rattles and string whines. Sporadic lulls elsewhere do nothing to diminish the record as a whole, raising hopes this union is an on-going project and not a one-off.

Out Now

                                              Chilly Gonzales – Solo Piano II

Chilly Gonzales - Solo Piano II (***)

From prankster rapper to electro-funk maestro, the artist formerly known as Jason Beck has long demonstrated a playfully flexible attitude towards genre. In the last two years alone, his iconoclasm has produced a chess movie and an orchestral hip-hop album, but of all his varied guises, it’s as a classically-trained pianist that he’s arguably most distinguished. Not only is 2004’s Solo Piano apparently his highest selling album to date, but he once beat Andrew WK in a head-to-head piano battle, and that guy can play. 

Solo Piano II presents another 14 compositions in the titular style, and as before, Gonzales elegantly undercuts his natural inclination towards showing-off. There are no tricks or twists to this Ronseal-titled collection, just neo-classical ivory tinkling of the highest calibre, as tracks like the classy Othello channel their composer’s prodigious talents into gracefully simple melodies, modestly but expertly reaffirming his 21st century Renaissance-man credentials.
 Out today

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

august playlist

1. stars - theory of relativity
2. paul westerberg - dyslexic heart
3. the the - this is the day
4. deerhunter - never stops
5. the verlaines - death and the maiden
6. still corners - into the trees
7. spandau ballet - chant no. 1
8. tennis - marathon
9. magazine - model worker
10. dinosaur jr - start choppin
11. devo - girl u want
12. liliput - die matrosen
13. purity ring - fine shrines
14. deerhoof - the trouble with candyhands
15. bran van 3000 - drinking in LA
16. edwyn collins - losing sleep
17. wussy - maglite
18. hefner - i took her love for granted
19. blondie - the hardest part
20. joan armatrading - drop the pilot
21. felt - primitive painters
22. lloyd cole - perfect skin
23. the fresh and onlys - 20 days and 20 nights
24. the go-betweens - bye bye pride
25. the modern lovers - roadrunner
26. the strokes - soma
27. tenpole tudor - throwing my baby out with the bathwater
28. dum dum girls - bedroom eyes
29. the b-52s - roam
30. phatogram - when i'm small
31. plasticines - another kiss
32. phil collins - easy lover
33. the undertones - true confessions
34. david bowie - john, i'm only dancing
35. shirley ellis - the clapping song
36. stevie wonder - uptight
37. rod stewart - shake
38. elvis presley - big hunk o love
39. the organ - brother
40. deacon blue - real gone kid
41. los campesinos - you me dancing
42. was (not was) - do the dinosaur
43. the cult - she sells sanctuary
44. fleetwood mac - you make loving fun
45. teenage fanclub - sparky's dream
46. stephen malkmus - jenny and the ess dog
47. the style council - shot to the top
48. dexys midnight runners - seven days is too long
49. the magnetic fields - chicken with its head cut off
50. martha and the muffins - echo beach
51. abba - lay all your love on me
52. hall and oates - maneater
53. john parr - st elmo's fire
54. roxette - joyride
55. franz ferdinand - this fire
56. pulp - do you remember the first time?
57. bon jovi - wild in the streets
58. bruce springsteen - hungry heart
59. bb king - when my heart beats like a hammer

Monday, 20 August 2012

GFT programme note: The Forgiveness of Blood

When The Forgiveness of Blood was selected to represent Albania at the 84th Academy Awards, a vocal minority questioned the choice. In a letter to the Albanian National Centre of Cinematography (ANCC), filmmaker Bujar Alimani (whose own film Amnesty was one of three candidates to have been passed over) summarised the root complaint: though shot in Albania, in the Albanian language, with a predominantly Albanian cast and crew, The Forgiveness of Blood should not qualify as an authentic Albanian film due to key personnel – particularly Californian co-writer and director Joshua Marston – hailing from outside the Balkan state.[1]

Such controversy is fairly common in the Academy’s foreign language award nominee selection process: other high-profile films to have been disqualified or otherwise withdrawn in recent years include Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution (due to insufficient Taiwanese production input), Rachid Bouchareb’s London River (for excessive English dialogue) and Michael Haneke’s Hidden (Caché) (submitted by Austria, but with dialogue in French; films must be in a language native to the submitting country to qualify). Indeed, Marston himself had already experienced a comparative snub in 2004, when his debut feature, drug-mule drama Maria Full of Grace (2004), was reportedly rejected as Columbia’s entry for similar reasons.[2] But in the case of The Forgiveness of Blood, its disputed heritage is made doubly interesting by the way it relates to the themes of the film itself. Of the initial decision to support its submission, head of the ANCC Artan Minarolli argued: ‘[Albanian cinema] is a cosmopolitan cinema that tries to survive through cultural exchange. In the past, Albania was totally isolated; today we try to find reality in cinema and to make up for the time we lost over the past fifty years.’[3] Insular tradition versus intercommunity harmony: the conflict that beset the film’s Academy Award chances also afflicts (in a more pronounced and dangerous fashion) its principal characters, locked in an ancestral feud that disrupts their freedom and threatens their lives. Who we are and where we come from, the film demonstrates in both its plot and its production, can affect our lives at a fundamental level.

The film opens with a seemingly innocuous act: a horse-drawn cart trundles through a quiet rural landscape, the riders stopping at the fore of the frame to remove rocks blocking their path. But it is soon apparent that this simple action has a provocative edge, as rival families trade barbed insults from opposite sides of a bar room, demonstrating deep-rooted mutual ignominy; the next time access to the pathway is disputed, a man is killed. The murder, importantly, occurs off-screen: we witness the preceding argument, in which the perpetrator is humiliated in front of his daughter Rudina (Sindi Lacej) and leaves with vengeance in mind, but not his subsequent return to the field armed with a knife. We only learn of the attack when Rudina’s brother Nik (Tristan Halilaj) is bundled into the back of a car by relatives concerned that he will be targeted for reprisal. During Nik’s journey back to the family home that will shortly become his prison, the camera stays hunched down in the vehicle’s footwell, its angle mimicking Nik’s fractional perspective. This alignment with the family’s teenage members is maintained throughout the film, with events largely depicted from Nik and Rudina’s fringe positions. They are involved in mediation debates only marginally, their experiences instead limited to the monotony of house arrest (Nik), and the difficulty in single-handedly providing for a family that has lost its main breadwinner (Rudina, forced to quit school to take up her father’s work).

By foregrounding Nik and Rudina, Marston and co-writer Andamion Murataj frame the central feud within a larger, thematic conflict: between tradition and modernity. The threat to Nik’s life is not arbitrary, but written into the kanun – the traditional Albanian laws still used in parts of the country. The kanun’s diktats include the concept of gjakmarrja­; the blood feuds that result in reciprocal killings from warring families. In a 2007 Washington Post article, law professor and kanun expert Ismet Elezi outlines the modern blood feud as follows: ‘A killing takes place, the victim’s family demands blood retribution, then the members of the killer’s family take refuge in their homes – which are considered inviolate under kanun – for at least forty days and seek forgiveness. If forgiveness is granted or a life is taken in retaliation, the feud ends. Otherwise, the isolation period can continue indefinitely.’[4] It is this sense of indefinite limbo that generates the film’s claustrophobia, as the children – Nik especially – bristle under, then rebel against, their enforced confinement. But this centuries-old code exists uneasily in a present-day context. In one notable scene, Nik receives a video message from his classmates via a smart phone, imprisoned by an ancient honour system, but connected to the outside world via 21st century communication technology; this contrast is later reversed, when Rudina travels into the city by horse-drawn cart, a line of cars and trucks queuing behind her and sounding their horns in frustration. Both examples juxtapose old and new, portraying a family trapped not only by, but in the past. The tension between future-facing youth and the shibboleths of their forebears is ever-present, as the teens endure an inherited conflict that precedes them by generations.

To return to the aforementioned Academy Award controversy, Alimani’s protest achieved its desired aims: the ANCC’s Oscar Committee relinquished, transferring their submission to Amnesty. For The Forgiveness of Blood – a film focused on the identities we are born into; on the immutability of bloodlines and the archaic legacies that can accompany them – the reversal seems unfortunate, but also rather apt.

Dr Christopher Buckle
Researcher and journalist
August 2012

[1] Nick Holdsworth (2011), ‘Albanian Oscar entry disqualified’, Variety, 9 October 2011, accessed 12/08 at
[2] Guy Lodge (2011), ‘Joshua Marston DQ’d (again) as foreign-language Oscar list hits 60’, Hitflix, accessed 12/08 at
[3] Holdsworth (2011)
[4] Jonathan Finer (2007), ‘Albania takes aim at a deadly tradition’, The Washington Post, 23 August 2007, accessed 12/08 at

Saturday, 18 August 2012

bottle rocket tonight!

It's our last saturday (we move to fridays from september) so roll up, roll up!

nice n sleazy
11:30pm - 3am

Thursday, 16 August 2012

live review: toots and the maytals @ ABC, 10th august

Toots Hibbert has an infectious smile, and plenty of reasons to wear it tonight: his home nation celebrates 50 years of independence this month; a weighty haul of Olympian track medals has further boosted national pride; and to cap it off, Hibbert was awarded the Order of Jamaica earlier in the week, in recognition of a remarkable, near-five-decade career.

Not that these milestones are overtly referenced tonight (a nod to Bolt’s trademark victory pose from the backing singers aside). The evening has a sharper focus, on the here and now: indeed, from the opening Pressure Drop to a closing call-and-response-stacked 54-46 (That’s My Number), the ABC is animated and united in song and skanking.

Clad in leather and shades and skilfully backed by the whip-sharp Maytals, Toots is a magnetic stage presence, with energy levels that put performers half his age to shame. As he presides over highlights like the tempo-raising Monkey Man, he personifies ‘crowd-pleasing’ and transfers that aforementioned smile from his face to everyone else’s.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

the shy retirer: an interview with perfume genius

Pain, sadness, anxiety: it's a tough job being Perfume Genius. But things are looking up, Mike Hadreas explains. 

Perfume Genius’s second album starts with an intake of breath. It’s a preparation, a steeling gulp of air that readies both listener and performer for the brutalising sadness to come. The track to which it belongs, entitled AWOL Marine, is beautiful: solemn piano and distorted vocals locked in a slow dance and gradually absorbed by white noise. Yet beneath its gentle exterior lurks a grim inspiration: a piece of amateur pornography in which a participant is heard explaining his need to sell himself in order to fund his wife’s healthcare, degraded by circumstance to turning tricks for the camera.

The song, and the album as a whole, is devastating and addictive. Indeed, all across his burgeoning discography, Mike Hadreas delivers such intensely-felt emotion that it’s a wonder he can channel all that hurt without imploding. Yet while his voice carries the same slight, perpetually teary waver in conversation as it does in song, he’s friendly, chatty and a whole lot less socially awkward than his recording persona would suggest. But, he stresses, it wasn’t always thus. “If I think back to five years ago,” he shares, “I was terrified even to make a dentist appointment.” But five years is a long time: enough time to halt a self-destructive lifestyle of drug and alcohol abuse, record an album (2010’s Learning), temporarily fall back into old habits, get clean again, record another album (the aforementioned Put Your Back N 2 It), and tour the world. According to Hadreas, it’s been a therapeutic process. “This whole music thing has just given me a lot more purpose, and I feel a lot more… proud of myself,” he suggests. “I’m not so worried about what people think of me. Before, I was terrified of that.” Why? “I guess just because I felt like I didn’t have much to offer anybody. But now…” he pauses. “I’m still really shy and I’ll sometimes hide in dark little rooms, but now when I talk to other people I feel like, I don’t know, like an adult! I don’t know how else to explain it.”

While Learning was written without expectations and recorded at his mum’s house, its successor represents a shift in Hadreas’s attitude. “I’ve been writing and thinking more as a professional musician now I guess” he says. “Before I didn’t know what I was writing music for – I didn’t know that I would make albums and that I was going to be able to, you know, not have a day job – which is probably the coolest part.” We ask how his younger self would have felt about his career choice. Me as a kid? Oh, this is beyond what I thought I was ever capable of. I think I just thought I’d be an artist of some kind. I don’t think I even knew what that meant – I thought I could just do what the fuck I wanted.” He laughs. “You have to work a lot more than I was hoping for…”

Writing such bruised lyrics certainly sounds like hard work: consider, for instance, Learning’s Mr Petersen, an autobiographical tale with a gut-wrenching pay-off (“when I was sixteen he jumped off a building… I hope there’s room for you up above or down below”). Could he ever write music without having a close emotional connection with it – work as a songwriter-for-hire, for instance? “I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure that if someone wanted me to write a song for a commercial, I could find a way to slip in some crazy, semi-subversive thing into it” he ponders. “I like the idea of making pop music that people will sing along to, but they’re actually singing about surviving sexual abuse or something, without even knowing it.” 

People are already singing along: search his song titles online and you’ll soon stumble across a webcam-shot cover version. How does it feel to hear your words song back in another’s voice? There’s a long pause. “I’ve gotten a lot less shy about a lot of things,” he eventually offers, “but that still makes me feel pretty shy for some reason. I guess because my songs can be really earnest anyways, and then when there’s a YouTube cover, that’s when people are, like, super-earnest… I just usually cry and shut my computer…” He reconsiders. “But there’s something really sweet about it too, and not in a condescending way at all. Something…” he hunts for the appropriate word. “Something heart-warming.”

As well as musical tributes, fans will often write to Hadreas. He replies whenever possible, though admits correspondence has fallen by the wayside of late. Does he consider it a responsibility? “I think if I was in an actual band then it wouldn’t feel like a responsibility, but I guess people are writing directly to me,” he explains. “They think they know me a little bit, and usually the messages are kind of heavy – not always, but sometimes they have secrets in them and stuff, so I try and respond to all of those. It’s a strange situation sometimes. I have to decide whether I’m supposed to give advice, or if I’m even equipped to give advice, or if I’m just supposed to write that I read your message and I understand.” Growing up, did he ever write to any musicians himself? “No, but I wrote to a lot of graphic designers and web designers when I was little. I don’t know why! But never to a musician – I was too shy.”

This oft-referred to shyness is presumably why, when writing, Hadreas favours solitude. “I write by myself usually, as alone as I can possibly be. Then I usually show my work to Alan [Wyffels, Hadreas’s boyfriend and touring band member]. He’s very…” He stops to rephrase. “Sometimes I just want people to say that it’s good, even if they don’t think so, just so that I can carry on doing it. Even just when we’re leaving the house – I want him to tell me my hair looks good, even if it doesn’t, just because I’m sick of thinking about it, I just wanna go out! But he’s the kind of person who will actually look at my hair and tell me whether it looks goods or not…” He sighs. “Which pisses me off! I mean, it comes in handy too, because I know he’s always being honest, but sometimes I’ll spend three or four hours on something and I’ll play it to him and he’ll say ‘nah’. So I end up doing whatever I want anyway…” 

With success, this freedom to do whatever takes your fancy is inevitably encroached upon. “Before I could just make whatever I wanted and not really think about it” he says of life pre-Learning. “I guess I still make my weird gay videos, but I would like to start doing whatever I want again – just dressing up and making lip-syncing videos and all the weird shit I used to do. It’s all become very serious, and it’s always nice when it’s not so serious since you don’t put so much pressure on yourself.  I think sometimes you end up making things that are more important when you’re not trying so hard. I’m scared of the routine of things, and the expectations – of either taking myself too seriously or making something too heavy-handed because I’ve been trying so hard.” We wonder out loud whether humour is a useful way of alleviating this fear, citing the recent promo for Hood. It features the skinny, fragile-looking Hadreas in lipstick and wigs, striking a variety of poses with hyper-buff porn star Arpad Miklos; at one point, the latter dons a Freddy Kreuger glove and they recreate the Janet Jackson boob-hold pose. Are such humorous touches a deliberate way of releasing some of the tension that builds up in your music? “I guess” Hadreas considers, “but growing up that’s a defence too, you know? If something terrible happens, then I’ll find some way to find it funny just because it makes it easier. But I like having different levels to things. Something that was tragic yesterday could be really funny the day after – sometimes…”

Perfume Genius will return to Scotland next month, playing Glasgow’s SWG3 as part of No Mean City. Elsewhere, Hadreas has spoken openly about the discomfort that performing live has caused him in the past; does it come more naturally now? “Yeah, I think so – it’s definitely better than a few years ago” he answers. “Now I’m able to relax enough to get into it instead of being so scared and detached the whole time. I used to try to fix how nervous I was,” he concludes, “but now I just let myself be nervous and do everything anyway.” The sentiment is hesitant but resilient, and as such, fits in with his music like a razor-fingered glove.

[original article appears in this month's The Skinny]

Thursday, 9 August 2012

bottle rocket august is but a hop, skip and a jump away...

Michael, care to entice folks?

Bottle Rocket likes to think of itself as an upholder of the true Olympian ideal - completely amateurish and for sale to the highest bidder. Come on down and be a part of Team BR, for this month's tip-top poptathlon at Sleazy's.

Big news - this will be the last BR on a Saturday, so you'll want to tell your grandchildren you were there. As of September we'll be on Fridays instead. Mental. So come along and pay your respects on 18 August. Then be amazed as we resurrect next month as a NewClub. Hmm, sounds familiar. We're keeping our history however...

As always, stick your requests on the facebook wall.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

august skinny


Behind this rather pretty front cover lie words - many many words, arranged in interesting orders. here are the bits that i call my own...

- tune-yards/muscles of joy @ oran mor gig review (read here!)
- school of seven bells/churches @ stereo gig review (read here!)
- bis/we are the physics @ mono gig review (read here!)
- the dirty dozen, in which school of seven bells review the month's singles (read here!)
- why - 'sod in the seed' EP review (read here!)
- chilly gonzales - 'solo piano II' album review (up soon!)
- eugene mcguinness - 'the invitation to the voyage' album review (read here!)
- james yorkston - 'i was a cat from a book' album review (read here!)
- tamara schlesinger - 'the procession' album review (read here!)
- six organs of admittance - 'ascent' album review (read here!)
- the big eyes family players & friends - 'folk songs II' album review (read here!)
- 'the shy retirer' - interview with perfume genius (up soon!)
- 'the forgiveness of blood' film review (read here!)
- 'airborne' dvd review (read here!)
- 'delicacy' dvd review (read here!)

pick up a copy from all the usual places ye filthy animals

Monday, 6 August 2012

film review: the forgiveness of blood

From Colombian drug-mules in debut Maria Full of Grace to Balkan blood feuds in The Forgiveness of Blood, American director Joshua Marston again uses an outsider eye to mine drama from unfamiliar circumstances. Set in northern Albania, early scenes show rival families contesting land boundaries and bickering in bars, but when their deep-rooted dispute spills over into murder, the relatives of the man responsible are forced into hiding lest the male members be targeted in retaliatory violence.

Largely told from the perspective of two teens caught in the crossfire, Forgiveness… is an intelligent, emotionally-nuanced work. While the diktats of the Kanun (traditional Albanian laws predicated on honour and kinship) are integral to the plot and only gradually explained, Marston and Andamion Murataj’s script is always comprehensible, with emphasis placed on universal feelings of adolescent frustration rather than judicial minutiae. As the siblings weather a conflict that predates them by generations, their claustrophobic limbo builds into a satisfyingly open ending.

Out 10th August

Saturday, 4 August 2012

dirty dozen: school of seven bells

Veering from constructive criticism to outright disgust, Alejandra Deheza and Benjamin Curtis of School of Seven Bells have a good cop/bad cop gander at August's sixties-indebted promo pile. 

Noisettes – That Girl (Mono-ra-rama, 13 Aug)
Benjamin: This is one of those songs that’s really hard to critique – if you like sixties music you’ll like this, and if you don’t, you won’t. I don’t think it’s necessarily creative; it’s more like wallpaper, or putting up a picture of Diana Ross in your bedroom. It just seems like decoration.
Alejandra: But then I think that’s probably what they were going for – if you wanted to create a new sound, then you would.
B: This is why it’s so hard to be a music critic, I mean, what are we critiquing on – whether they did a good job or not, or whether or not it’s worth a shit? In the job of recreating – 10 out of 10. But otherwise, 6.

General Fiasco – Bad Habits (Dirty Hit, 6 Aug)
[An initial look of bemusement gives way to laughter. Alejandra looks a little lost for words]
B: People still make music like this? I really, really hope that in 50 years there isn’t a fucking band recreating this.
A: I… er… this is really not my thing. But I can understand why people might like it – it’s got melody, and the dude has a lot of emotion.
B: This kind of music should feel like it’s going to fall apart, whereas this sounds very comfortable… 4.

The Cult – The Wolf (Cooking Vinyl, 6 Aug)
B: Oh shit, I’m so excited to hear this!
[The track starts and their grins get wider]
A: Well, it’s doing what they do best…
[Suddenly, the smiles disappear]
A: Wow, this took a turn.
B: Yeah, that went very wrong at about 45 seconds… very, very wrong. I give the first 45 seconds 9 out of 10, but the rest is disqualified. I like that they’re bringing the cowbell back though, there’s some extra credit for that.

Garbage – Big Bright World (STUNVOLUME, 6 Aug)
B: Not that they were ever particularly intellectual, but I feel like this song is extra lobotomised. I’m not saying they were ever like Yes or something, but Jesus… What I don’t like about it comes from the extreme respect I have for them. Does that cushion it at all?
The Skinny: Depends on the score you give…
A: Oh brother… ouch. It’s hard because I really like her. 5?
B: I’ll say 6, just because it’s Shirley Manson and she’s cool.

Toddla T & Shola Ama – Alive (Ninja Tune, 13 Aug)
A: I love her vocals.
B: I’ve already forgotten what the chorus goes like though – that’s not a good sign for a pop song. Great singer though, Toddla.
The Skinny: Shola’s the singer…
B: Shit, Shola, Shola… So who’s Toddla? [laughing] What the fuck kind of name is Toddla?! Who would call themselves that?
A: I’d give this 4.
B: That’s generous, but Shola seems cool. She’s singing her ass off…

The Heavy – What Makes A Good Man? (Ninja Tune, 13 Aug)
B: Is this sixties soul thing big right now or something?
The Skinny: This is soundtracking a Miller ad campaign in the States, apparently...
B: Oh, this song is made for a beer commercial. It’s junk food.
A: It seems like they know they’re making junk food too, you know? It’s very marketable.
B: I give them props for that, because that’s smart – they’re going to make a lot of money if they’re halfway intelligent, but… er… the other 98% of me just thinks this is fucking vile [laughs]. Sorry. 10 out of 10 for marketability. The rest is disqualified for being completely horrible.

Tamara Schlesinger Again (Tantrum Records, 6 Aug)
B: There’s that sixties sound again – what’s going on around here?
A: This is good – the fact that she can keep a song this interesting with just what she’s using is pretty awesome. I’d be really curious to pick her brain – I think it would be fun in there.
B: It needed a bridge, though.
A: I didn’t feel it was lacking anything, I think it was really good.
B: But that’s the single – if you put out a single, I think you’ve got to respect the form…
A: I don’t agree, this is good the way it is – 8.
B: Yeah, I’d have probably fucked her song up. Don’t listen to me, Tamara, you’re good.

FaltyDL Hardcourage (Ninjatune, 20 Aug)
A: This bassline reminds me a lot of, like, 96-ish jungle, but it kinda just makes me want to listen to that instead. [Benjamin skips the track forward a minute]. Oh, this is throwing out all the tricks.
B: Yeah, but for a dance single it’s understated in a way that’s kind of unfortunate.
A: I wouldn’t really hear that in a club – it sounds like something you'd hear at a restaurant or hotel.
B: Yeah it’s kind of a hotel lobby jam. I’m sure FaltyDL is a great fellow, but I’m hoping Hardcourage is not his best – 5.

Caned and Able – I’ve Got You Now (PSB Music, 27 Aug)
B: Oh man, have you seen what they’re called? I’m so mad at that name. [Alejandra reads and visibly cringes]
B [in response to the chorus]: He does not have me yet…
Skinny: Well he’s running out of time…
B: Oh shit, this song’s almost over! You gotta be fu… See, what colours my judgement is, you’re not just playing us some random song: this is the fucking single, this is their best song right now. So you can’t just think, 'oh well, maybe I’ll like another' – this should be the best one. Then again, that’s not really fair 'cause most of my favourite songs weren’t singles, so maybe… I just think they should have worked a bit harder on that.
A: Yeah, it was premature to end it there. I’d give it an ‘incomplete’.

Eugene McGuinness – Harlequinade (Domino, 6 Aug)
A: This is very mild.
B: Medium spicy at most. It sounds like Robert Palmer.
A: I don’t want to give this a low score, because there’s a lot of work and some good ideas in there.
B: But it’s hard to give anyone a good score when you can hear Portishead playing on the PA next door… If Portishead is a 10, what’s this?
A: Oh man… No, that’s too hard! That’s not fair to anybody! Ok, 5. I was going to go higher, but you put Portishead in the mix.
B: He’s just a victim of circumstance…

Mina Tindle – Bells (Believe, 20 Aug)
A: She has a really soulful voice, you can tell that she’s feeling it.
B: It’s a bit too cute though.
A: I don’t know, there’s something in her voice that’s really sad. She sounds like she sings with her whole body. Can we rate her, rather than the song?
B: Yeah, we give Mina a 9, and if you were gauging cuteness, it’s extremely cute.
A: On the cute scale, definitely 10, but for the song, 5, because a good idea is worth a lot, and that was a good idea.

Single of the Month: Lower Dens – Candy (Ribbon, 13 Aug)
A: I like her voice a lot – it’s a like an exact mix of Siouxie and T-Rex.
B: Man, that guitar player is getting himself some…
A: It’s really moody – it sort of reminds me of that opening scene in Mulholland Drive, where all you see is the pavement, and it’s really dark and the car’s driving along... This is spooky.
B: Yeah, it has a really good vibe. A solid 8.

[From August's Skinny]

Friday, 3 August 2012

reviews: paul vickers & friends, six organs of admittance, eugene mcguinness

Paul Vickers and Friends - Nest of Knickers (***)

Like the shows at which it will be sold, Paul Vickers’ latest album offers a lot of variety. Previously-unreleased Dawn of the Replicants tracks sit alongside newly-written spoken word pieces and experimental musical slithers (‘songs’ seems an overly formal description for some of these oddities), making Nest of Knickers boldly incohesive but fun to dip in and out of.

The storytelling passages are particularly captivating; full of grotesquery and invention, they rub awkwardly against accessible songwriting like Yabba Yabba (a Replicants cut that’s probably the most conventional thing here). Indeed, awkwardness seems integral to Vickers’ mischievous comedic project, and though there’s an unshakeable sense that an in-character monologue’s natural home remains the stage – where the eccentricities have room to puff out their lungs – the results are always intriguing. Vickers will host accompanying 'wonky cabaret' Twonkey’s Kingdom throughout this year’s Alternative Fringe: on the strength of this exemplar, we’d recommend a swatch.

Out Now

Six Organs of Admittance - Ascent (***)

Adopting the maxim ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it,’ Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny opens his latest album with a big, bold guitar solo – a whole five and a half minutes of virtuoso fret fiddling, all told. Track two mixes things up, kind of: it’s still a five-minute guitar solo, but with a couple of extra minutes of moody psych preceding it.

For those who prefer such noodling as a means to an end (rather than the main attraction), both workouts are liable to outstay their welcome, but Chasny knows better than to let tedium take root, with Solar Ascent focusing his skills on a dirge-like slice of melancholia, and the acoustic melodies of Your Ghost delivering another well-timed pace-change. While Ascent is arguably less distinctive than recent discography highlights like the droning Luminous Night, its full-on rock elements serve to further subvert SOA’s alt-folk origins, to striking effect.

Out 20th August

Eugene McGuinness - The Invitation to the  Voyage (**)

From quirky, well-regarded debut to playing guitar in musical shrug Miles Kane’s backing band in just four short years: Eugene McGuinness hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders lately. But now he’s back, with slick quiff and slicker production, re-cast in a plastic soul mould and vying for a piece of the 80s-pop revival action. “I’m going for the jugular,” he explains on opener Harlequinade, and his methodology is not to be trifled with: stuffed with synths and trumpets and gloss, it’s a bold and brash vanguard for an album with definite promise.

But elsewhere it’s lazy: Japanese Cars is purposeless pastiche; Shotgun samples Peter Gunn to irritating effect; while the lyrics of Sugarplum are liable to set eyes-a-rolling, particularly when followed by the comparatively imaginative imagery of lead single Lion. Bright points like that make it difficult to write Invitation to the Voyage off completely, but celebrating it proves more difficult still.
Out 6th August

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

reviews: why?, the crooked fiddle band, urusen

Why? - Sod in the Seed EP (****)

While still keen on Eskimo Snow’s more sedate direction, it’s a thrill to hear Why?’s Yoni Wolf in full flow for Sod in the Seed’s title track. Their first new material in almost three years, it’s a vibrant showcase for his sharp wordplay, so verbosely enmeshed that it’s impossible to quote from without spoiling the effect.

Musically, the trio continue to eschew conventions, pioneering some peculiar but rewarding genre syntheses across the EP’s tight duration: For Someone is a woozy blend of xylophone, recorder and bongos; Probable Cause a minute of calypso presets; Shag Carpet a sort of liturgical hip-hop, and so on. A superb return that’s both familiar and exotic, the only real complaint is that a full album remains months away.

Out 13th August

The Crooked Fiddle Band - Overgrown Tales (****)

With titles inspired by sixteenth century serial killers, Coppélia and Tolkien, The Crooked Fiddle Band stay true to their third album’s title, tapping into a rich storytelling seam despite the largely instrumental nature of their music. Recorded last year with Steve Albini, Overgrown Tales sounds global and timeless, its roll call of instruments (including tapan, bouzouki and nyckelharpa) indicating the scope of their influences.

Albini’s characteristically hands-off anti-production initially seems an ill-fit for such nuanced music, but as exhaustingly-paced tracks like All These Pitchforks Make Me Nervous tumble from the speakers, the match makes sense: to apply a greater degree of studio sheen would muffle one of their most pronounced qualities, namely their frenetic dynamism. This is comfortably the Sydney quartet’s most ambitious release to date, with the relentless fiddle riffs of The Mountain Hag’s Advice sitting closer to heavy metal than folk, and What the Thunder Said delivering an appropriately epic finale.

Out 6th August

Urusen - This is Where We Meet (***)

Urusen have been gigging and recording for almost a decade now, never quite catching a wave of support big enough to bring them widespread recognition, but cultivating a reputation for likeable, robust folk-pop fayre regardless. Consistency isn’t a particularly sexy quality in bands, but the slow-road taken to …Where We Meet has its benefits, imbuing their songwriting with an appealing integrity.

There’s a refreshing lack of pretence to tracks like upbeat lead single In Search of the Delta, or the gently lilting Fifty & 9, which together represent the twin poles of Urusen’s sound – not particularly diverse, but nicely complimentary. Peter Bleatty’s lyrics are another tick in the right column, his storytelling offering just the right amount of mystery. But the same qualities that make their music easy to appreciate also ultimately hinders their route to something greater – settling on pleasant, and so falling shy of a record with a more lasting impact.

Out 13th August