Happy Record Store Day!

It was Record Store Day on Saturday and one of the most interesting things to be released has to be Feistodon (Feist and Mastodon covering each other’s songs)

ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror Curated By Portishead July 24th 2011

Portishead curated the ATP festival I’ll Be Your Mirror on weekend of July 23-24 at Alexandra Palace (festival happening just 2 train stops away from me…I’m there!)

Armed with my Sunday ticket, saw the day’s opening act Godspeed You! Black Emperor kick off in fine form with Hope Drone. Basically, its 8 musicians, seated in a circle playing an epic, atmospheric 2 hour set, in an almost pitch black venue, with black & white film footage behind them to add to the mood. They got back together in 2010 after a long hiatus, so I was looking forward to finally catching them live! It was a mesmerizing performance ( though I have to admit drifting off a little bit, halfway through, but they quickly reeled me back when they played music from Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven!)

After that explored the venue’s silver-streamers decorated panorama room and cinema, before heading out enjoy the rare sunny summer day in London.

Having soaked up the afternoon sun, and with food and beer in my belly to last me the night, I went to the Grand Hall to see the mighty Swans.

Seen these guys play at Koko last year. It was a different performance this time… less ‘consistent’ than at Koko but heavier. The songs have evolved since the last time and they were noticeably heavier (always a good thing for me), honing in on the frequencies that rattles your torso, when drummer pounds the heavy toms in unison with bassist picking off that low open note. M. Gira’s stage persona was like a preacher at Koko, while at this gig, he was like a man possessed, kneeling and spitting, slapping himself and dancing like a mad man.

Next up, Nick Cave’s Grinderman. It was like a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds show, just minus a few of the Bad Seeds. I like the 2 Grinderman albums and the set kicked-off really well with Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man, but the energy sort of fizzled out towards the end.

Last up, Portishead. And they were nothing short of sublime. Starts off with the beautiful Silence. The slightly stripped down version of Wandering Star was lovely. There was a minor hitch, where drummer Clive kept missing the cue to come in on Chase The Tear (they tried 4 times!) , so they had to skip to the next song (guess insanely good drummers also have bad days!). Bigger disappointment was they didn’t play All Mine. But that’s just a small let-down in an otherwise fantastic performance! It was a fine way to end my first ATP festival…definitely won’t be my last.

Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys – Album Review

The latest album from Elbow, Build A Rocket Boys! is a stripped back affair compared to The Seldom Seen Kid. It does not have big songs from previous albums like Grounds For Divorce (Neat Little Rows comes close),  but hang in there for a couple more listens and you will get pass that.  The Birds is a 8 minute gem that takes time to evolve and build up. Lippy Kids pulls on your heartstrings, reminiscing on childhood. Open Arms sounds like A Day Like This pt. 2 possibly to emulate the success of that song. The main thing that stands out in the quieter setting is the voice of Guy Garvey who’s sounding a lot like Peter Gabriel, which is effective in songs like Jesus Is A Rochdale Girl, Dear Friends, and of course Lippy Kids.

7

Radiohead – The King of Limbs – Album Review

Radiohead fans can generally be split into 2 groups:
Group A – Thinks OK computer is a masterpiece(There’s a subgroup in Group A that likes to argue that The Bends is more superior) But this group hates anything Kid A onwards.
Group B – worships OK computer, thinks Kid A is phenomenal in equal measure and continues to appreciate their output to this day.

The first few seconds of first track, Bloom, will upset Group A. Glitchy beats, bleeps, swirling string samples, jazzy basslines, echo-drenched vocals evoke a feeling of floating. As the lyrics go ‘jellyfish float by’. Group A heckles ‘where’s the chorus?’

Come, Morning Mister Magpie, one of the few times guitars pay a major role in this album. The guitar comes across as a jerky dance riff, again this is not a rock track. Sighs from Group A, Group B groupies do the Lotus Flower vid dance (that video makes me think of Tom Waits).

From that track on there is no question this is band is NOT going back to OK Computer territory. What I found impressive and at the same time disappointing is there is not a single track with a standard rock drum beat in it! 2+2=5 and Bodysnatchers from the previous albums prove they still can write kick-ass guitar rock songs and give Group A a glimmer of hope. No sign of that in The King of Limbs.

But still, its a good album. There are no anthemic,  standard structured songs. I don’t think its something they’d set out to do. The songs and sounds are gorgeous, just less surprising, as it seems to me since Hail To The Thief, they’ve been trying to find a ground between OK Computer and Kid A, while adding a little progression to their sound by incorporating what they’d been listening to at time of making (which again is no secret if you check out their ‘Office Chart’ on ‘Dead Air Space’) But I’m sure if this album was made by any other band, it would have definitely received rave reviews.

A testament to how influential this band is, most of Group A will still check out their post-Ok Computer efforts, probably to make sure they don’t miss any return to OK Computer-form, and lament about the lack of anthemic songs of old.
From the sound of The Kings of Limbs it seems they won’t return to that sound anytime soon. For those disappointed that there’s no great breakthrough here, unless they go on to make metal, I don’t think there will be a 3rd breakthrough anytime soon (Hey, C’mon! they made two great albums back to back!) But I do hope they prove me wrong though.

7

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake – Album Review

PJ Harvey is the girlfriend you’d like to have but were too afraid your Mom would find out about.
Elvis Costello once said that of lot of her songs seems to be about ‘blood and f***ing’
Which along with that great presence and voice is part of the appeal.

As an artist who tries not to repeat herself, (with the exception for songs about blood…) she had been largely successful.
Uh huh Her fell short, but seeming to recognize that, she made a giant leap with White Chalk : an introspective record that ditches guitars for piano, and her full chest voice for a fragile head voice.

With Let England Shake, guitars return to some tracks (but not much of the distorted chugging guitars of old) , trumpets and key changes (The Words That Maketh Murder), weird samples (Written On The Forehead) are incorporated into the mix,the songs are upbeat and gorgeous, giving the ‘blood’ songs a whole new sound not heard on Harvey’s past efforts. It’s a richly inventive album and her best to date.

10

Best Of 2010 (Part 2)

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

They stripped back the excesses of the disappointing Neon Bible to write, not just songs but an ALBUM…the art-form the mp3 generation has started ignored. This is an album that has to be listened from start to finish to be appreciated, an album that generation needs. The Arcade Fire were in danger of being ‘overhyped’, but with this album, they are now ‘essential’.

Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky


14 years after 1996’s Soundtracks for the Blind, M. Gira reformed Swans. Its a slightly different beast now as he bring in some of the style of his post-Swans project, Angels of Light into the mix. It still challenging listen like all of M. Gira work. The pieces are meditative and takes time to build up. When they reach a climax, its a hard rhythmic pounding sound. Like meditation, you’ll either love it or hate it, but if you stick with it, you might gain enlightenment! Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 14 years.

Kylesa – Spiral Shadows


Spiral Shadows is one helluva catchy album. Sludge-metal-psychedelic jams filled with riffs that stick in your mind. 5th album in, they’ve fined tuned the guitar sounds, the interplay of the vocals of Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants, the tricky two drummer set-up, everything layers together to produce to glorious head banging sludge fest! Their best album to date.

The National – High Violet

This band is like wine that gets better with age. The instrumentation is simple yet beautiful (strummed/shimmery guitars/piano and keyboard placed at the right moments). Vocalist’s Matt Berninger’s lyrics (You and your sister live in a Lemonworld, I want to sit in and die in Lemonworld, I was afraid I’d eat your brains, Cause I’m evil in Conversation 16, etc) sneaks out of the music at different points to grab your attention. But the true star is drummer Bryan Devendorf whose drum composition sets them apart from other bands.

Best of 2010 (part 1)

To start off our music reviews, here’s a list of our favourite albums from 2010!

Anathema – We’re Here Because We’re Here

 

This band started off as a pioneering death doom metal band in the early 90s, evolved into an atmospheric progressive rock band. With We’re Here Because We’re Here, an album that took 7 years to make, they have crafted that sound to perfection: 10 heart-rending songs, featuring  beautiful vocal harmonies and instrumentation, Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) at the desk. The long wait is worth it!

Deftones – Diamond Eyes

After the bassist Cheng’s accident, they shelved a finished album, Eros and made this album! I expected a changed in sound, but it turned out to be a continuation of the direction they had with Saturday Night Wrist, but sharper… much shaper! That’s not to say its any less impressive. Cmnd/Ctrl kicks serious-ass, Sextape is a breezy cousin to Minerva. Chino goes from sultry whispers to heady screams effortlessly, Abe Cunningham’s drumming is air-drum heaven, Steph Carpenter and Frank Delgado, Sergio Vega, makes heavy, layered, dreamy sounds that would be the envy of both metal and shoegaze bands alike. Its an amazing album born from tragedy.

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

There is no denying from his past output, Kanye West is a skilled producer with a knack for writing great catchy tunes and putting samples to good use. After listening to this effort, I think he may have topped himself on this one. The production is adventurous and breathtaking. In lesser hands it would have sounded wrong, but West has managed squashed contrasting elements into a masterpiece.