Friday, 7 September 2012

reviews: the fresh & onlys, deerhoof, jim noir

The Fresh & Onlys - Long Slow Dance (****)

San Francisco’s The Fresh & Onlys are old-fashioned songwriters – not only in the sense that their music evokes a panoply of traditions and styles, from fifties doo-wop to eighties indie, but in their prolificacy, releasing albums almost-annually and slotting multiple EPs between. Despite this formidable pace, their batting average on fourth full-length Long Slow Dance is astounding; from the Felt-like 20 Days and 20 Nights to end-of-night lullaby Wanna Do Right By You, all hit home.

The quartet’s second remarkable quality is that they can recall so many others (The Go-Betweens, The Beach Boys and REM all waltz into earshot) without rendering themselves redundantly over-familiar. This is, as promised upfront in the band name, a fresh sounding record, despite the obvious echoes of past practitioners. Small flourishes (like the horns of Executioner’s Song) produce significant ripples, while even at their most straightforward (such as on No Regards’ unadulterated pop), they prove utterly endearing.

Out now

                                                 Deerhoof – Breakup Song 

Deerhoof - Breakup Song (****)

Eleven albums in, Deerhoof inhabit something of a paradox: they manage to be both predictable and unpredictable simultaneously. They remain wildly imaginative, their messy musical palette evincing a giddy disregard for convention. But at the same time, they’ve executed sharp left turns for so long that swerves have become their hallmark, rendering Breakup Song idiosyncratically familiar, despite its unfamiliar components. Thankfully, it’s not as confusing as it sounds, thanks to the quartet’s evergreen qualities: exuberance, innovation and a keen sense of fun.

While the syncopated polyrhythms present a challenge, dancing is encouraged by the title track’s juddering melody and the samba horns of The Trouble With Candyhands, while Zero Seconds Pause sees Satomi Matsuzaki extend a more direct invitation (“Now I am going dancing / If you would care to join me?”). To paraphrase another track title, Deerhoof Do Parties, and they do it well. Unburdened by rules or expectations, they remain free to be themselves unreservedly, to everyone’s benefit.

Out 24th September

                                                 Jim Noir – Jimmy's Show 

Jim Noir - Jimmy's Show (***)

As he approaches 30, Mancunian psych-popper Jim Noir shows no sign of relinquishing his child’s eye view of the world. Lyrically, third album Jimmy’s Show is frequently too whimsical for its own good, with many of its tales (the life of a chewing gum collector; the torment of wanting a cup of tea when the caddy’s empty; writing to Her Majesty and imagining her contentedly vacuuming palatial carpets) the musical equivalent of a novelty tie: clearly light-hearted in intention, but frequently eye-rolling in their effect.

Luckily, Noir balances the clangers with expert musicianship: he plays almost every note himself, evidencing his quirk-pop expertise most proficiently on the likes of The Tired Hairy Man with Parts (which starts out a sugar-spun harmonic meander, before nimbly tipping into something more Kinks-y), and shimmying highlight The Cheese of Jim’s Command. Inspired moments outnumber slumps, meaning that even at its silliest, Jimmy’s Show remains enjoyable.

Out 17th September 

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