Friday, 7 June 2013

reviews: camera obscura, melt yourself down, icky blossoms

                                                 Camera Obscura – Desire Lines

Camera Obscura - Desire Lines (****)

For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘desire line’ is the poetic name given to those winding dirt trails that appear when people walk a certain route enough times, eroding the land with a memory of their journey. But Camera Obscura’s fifth album is no shortcut or re-tread; rather, it’s the sound of a band following their hearts, comfortable and confident in their own skin.

On first impressions, Desire Lines conveys a warm familiarity, from lead single Do It Again’s indie-disco sashay to Fifth In Line To the Throne’s heart on sleeve sentiments. But tucked around the expected components is plenty of freshness, from the smooth, muzak-but-good intro of This Is Love (Feels Alright) to the calypso vibe of Every Weekday, via Troublemaker’s synth foundations. Lyrically, too, the songs excel, with New Year’s Resolution’s desire to “write something of value” answered multiple times over, destining Desire Lines for many revisits.

Out now

                                                 Melt Yourself Down – Melt Yourself Down

Melt Yourself Down - Melt Yourself Down (****)

The second track on pyretic jazz-punk collective Melt Yourself Down’s eponymous debut is titled Release!, but in truth the whole shebang is one great big release; an exotic whirlwind spinning out shrieking sax riffs, shamanic shouts and dizzying percussion, presenting only the rarest of opportunities to escape the dervish and gather bearings.

Such intense, hectic music likely works best in a live setting, where the sweaty, visceral qualities of tracks like Fix My Life –  a fevered four minutes that pulls the listener in by their gut lining –  will have a more pronounced effect. On record, by comparison, early exhilaration threatens to peter into exhaustion, though smart sequencing largely helps sidestep this fate; indeed, the chilled gait of Free Walk proves an album highlight less for its individual merits and more for the contrast it introduces. Nonetheless, this is as striking an introduction as you’re likely to make this year. Best join the party.

Out 17th June

                                                  Icky Blossoms – Icky Blossoms

Icky Blossoms - Icky Blossoms (***)

It’s sometimes tough to distinguish between maverick eclecticism and plain old muddlement, with Icky Blossoms' exhibit A. The pedigree of its originators certainly makes extending the benefit of the doubt a temptation – with David Pressnall of Tilly and the Wall providing the band’s multi-instrumentalist hub, Dave Sitek producing, and sundry contributions from notable Nebraskans (including members of The Faint and Bright Eyes), there’s no dearth of talent beneath its shiny surfaces.

But past form and good intentions can’t disguise the record’s inconsistency, with its triumphs (chic electro-pop opener Heat Lightning; I Am’s propulsive indie-dance fuzz; the atmospheric sweep of closer Perfect Vision, reminiscent of Sleigh Bells at their calmest) frequently cancelled out by its misjudgements (electroclash relic Sex to the Devil’s babbling mantras and tacky beats; Babes’ painfully awkward attempt at Ladytron chic). Its one-step-forward/two-steps-back nature is maddening, though there’s enough expertise in the peaks to make further investigation worthwhile.

Out 22nd June

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