I’m as cynical about Battle Of The Bands competitions as one should be. Despite that last year I was a judge for the Red Bull Bedroom Jam. Having seen what the winning band Walking On Cars gets out of the process and the assistance and attention they received after the win, I was happy to be a judge again for this year’s edition.
Being in a band these days is hard and making a living out of it is HARD. There are less opportunities and more bands looking for the same thing.
Woman’s Hour got the new music nod a while back for this superb track ‘To The End’, from three London boys and a girl from London that crosses that zeitgeisty suave R&B sound. The video for the song is beautiful with gymnasts in Johannesburg performing in synchronicity with the track. It was directed by Oliver Chanarin and Laurence Hamburger.
I actually wrote the press blurb for All Hail Bright Futures, And So I Watch You From Afar’s third album, late last year and I basically said all I wanted to say about it in that form. So weird as it feels, here I am ripping off my own work in a weird way. Suffice to say, the album is mega…
All Hail Bright Futures could be taken as both an ethos for the album and the band at this point in time. There is a new color scheme in place: new textures, emotions, sounds and voices. The 12-track, 43 minute album is dominated by a sunnier disposition, a positive uplift that more closely matches the euphoria the Northern Ireland trio has been instilling in audiences through their music in a live setting for the last five years. More…→
You can hear a lot of influential touchstones on Remember Saturday, the debut album from Conor Deasy’s pop band Biggles Flys Again. Beach Boys, Super Furry Animals and Neil Hannon, that sort of thing. Classic pop kind of music. Deasy himself has said he wanted to make “multi-layered pop albums” in the vein of Badly Drawn Boy, Aimee Mann and Sean Lennon amongst others and that’s the pleasing result.
Remember Saturday is pop in that traditional sense, Pop as played by a live band, with big wholehearted melodies, a fresh air feel with bright instrumentation. No fanny-shaking compressed earjams required. In fact, the album was recorded on vintage equipment: guitars, amps, a Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes all put through an old BBC Neve console. Vintage by design, vintage by outcome.
You may have heard the uplifting paean to friendship ‘Friends’ and expected an album full of overwhelming whimsical postivity but Deasy (who also plays The Gandhis) expands on that across the whole album whether it’s on The Walkmen-esque opener, the indie-guitar chug of ‘Singalong’, the twee-leaning piano pop of ‘Library’ (yes a song about the virtues of such an institution) and the lo-fi highlight of ‘Old Pop Song’. Deasy’s vocals are a suitable match for the atmosphere: gentle, expressive, melodious and adaptable. Remember Saturday is a multi-faceted old-fashioned nostalgic pop album.
I’ve been banging on about Goodtime and his fruitful remix project for quite a while and it looks like this LaserTom remix will be the last in The Whisper of the Departed series. And an 8-minute disco synth workout with 909 beats and a propulsive rhythm is probably the way to go out, all hands in the air last tune of the night goodness.
Lasertom is Simon Cullen, the man from Ships, in his solo guise who will have an album forthcoming on Bearfunk later in the year, according to NFOP.
Last year’s Jes, the debut album from Memphis live electronic band Fast Planet set them up as ones to keep an eye on. While they were working on the followup, the band came up with a lot of material and ideas that don’t fit their album theme so they’re releasing them in advance instead.
‘Mr. Conversation’ is one such track, a cross between Postal Service electronic-pop When Saints Go Machine-style atmospherics. It bodes well for whatever else is coming from them in 2013. A free download too.
Let’s talk about concept albums for a minute. Taking an overarching concept or theme more suited to a cinematic medium and applying it to an audio experience is one thing, but to do it so, a) it doesn’t come across as a pompous pretentious mess; b) endures on repeat listens without getting tiresome; and c) adds to the actual music, is a difficult thing.
When it works, it helps an album’s legendary status and feeds the mythology, see Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon or Sgt. Pepper. Or on more recent examples, Daft Punk’s Discovery, Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots or the loose thematics of El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure, it adds a unifying thread to a record that lifts them up beyond a collection of songs to an album. When it doesn’t work? You get an entire ’70s prog album about King Arthur.
While Belfast producer Jack Hamill’s debut full-length LP, Welcome to Mikrosektor-50 echoes Discovery in its retro sci-fi glow and concept, musically the Space Dimension Controller album explores the exotic world of ’80s sci-fi techno/funk rather than kitsch sounds. Welcome to Mikrosektor-50 is on the surface, in thrall to the sounds of the ’80s rap breakbeat explored by Afrika Bambaataa and Egyptian Lover.
Majical Cloudz were one of my main highlights from SXSW (see my top 20). Their brilliant live show was intense with Devon Welsh’s piercing gaze and dark-edged lyrics set to Matthew Otto’s gossamer productions.
First single and free download ‘Childhood’s End’ showcases that heavy weight subject matter with the opening line “someone died / gunshot / right outside / your father / he is dead / I see him / in my head,” while a brooding minimal electronic arrangement works its way around the listener. It’s taken from their album Impersonator out on Matador Records on May 17. Welsh explains their minimalist approach:
In the last few years there’s been a massive explosion of amazing music made with computers, samplers and other electronic equipment. The possibilities became nearly endless and musicians indulged those possibilities. I love that kind of music but it also started to overwhelm me. I wasn’t cut out for the maximalist expressions of that style. So I took a break from music, and when I started again it was to make music that barely existed and felt like stillness more than movement. Where the songs could be more about humanness. I love all forms of electronic music, techno, house, rave, hip-hop, but I never want to feel like the music I’m making is just about stylistic play. The easiest way for me to do that is try to make something without obvious movement; where the music isn’t overstuffed sonically or referentially, it’s emptied out as much as possible. So the vision for Impersonator was to communicate a lot with as little as possible. It’s not meant to energize and turn you out to the world, it’s meant to do the opposite; it’s more like a cocoon.