Saturday, 31 May 2014

Recommended music: 'Black Hours' by Hamilton Leithauser

'Black Hours' is the first solo album by Leithauser, who's also the lead singer of The 'currently on hiatus' Walkmen. At this point I should declare that I've never (not knowingly at least) listened to a track by The Walkmen, so there'll be no comparisons between their output and his solo stuff in this review.

This is a rare record (for many reasons), and a singularly brilliant one. What's rare about it? For a start, you can get a really good sense of the atmosphere of the album just by looking at the cover. If you saw it in isolation in the rack in the record store you might think that it was something from the late 50s or early 60s, and some of the songs here easily match that description. Take a listen to 'I Retired' which best fits that bill, and try to remember the last time you heard a brand new do-wop record.

Musically you sense that it's one of those albums that sounds exactly like its creator imagined it would. The production is crisp and clear, but not so sharp as to destroy the atmosphere. There are some great touches throughout, including some great congas in the background and some soaring string flourishes. '11 O'clock Friday Night' is one of my favourites on the record - again it doesn't sound much like anything else that's around at the moment and is all the better for that.

By the way, while we're talking about production and atmosphere, this a record that cries out to be listened to on vinyl. The pops and crackles add to the whole 'aged' feel of the thing, not to mention the inner sleeves with full lyrics and, if you get the deluxe version, a second disc with four bonus tracks that all live up to the standard of the main album. And what of the lyrics themselves? Songs about love and heartbreak, about giving up but not giving in, about making it on your own but having people to turn to when you need to, all delivered in Leithauser's beautifully strong voice, which croons and cajoles the melodies through your ears and into your heart. If you've heard a more brutally honest line than "Do you ever wonder why I song these love songs, when I have no love at all" this year I'll be surprised.

To summarise, buy the vinyl, dim the lights, pour yourself a glass of bourbon and lose yourself in these Black Hours. You'll thank me and Mr Leithauser later.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Live review - in pictures: 30 years of Fire Records with Scott & Charlene's Wedding, Keel Her, Fawns Spots and Scraps at The Lexington, London 16/5/2014

Set times for the Fire Records 30th Birthday bash 16/5/14
This was bit of a musical smorgasbord, both in terms of genre and quality, but overall it was a great opportunity to celebrate a great record label. Opener for the evening was Scraps, who walks the tightrope between endearingly mad and annoyingly mad, spending about equal amounts of time in both camps. She pretty much redeemed herself with a sing-along version of the theme to 'Home & Away' to close her set though.

Scraps live in London 16/5/14
You'll notice the cameraman in the corner of the shot above -  the whole thing was being broadcast live on the internet via a new site called Living Indie TV - they'll be putting it back online soon so you can watch it back (it will become apparent as this review progresses which bits are actually worth watching). Next up were Fawn Spots, who make a joyful if not particularly original noise. If punchy, shouty, bouncy post-punk-pop songs are your thing then they'll be your thing too.

Fawn Spots live at The Lexingtom 16/5/14
One off the top of the bill were Keel Her, one of those bands who I want to like when I read a description of them but who I'm not so keen on when I actually hear them. And whilst being 'ramshackle' is something you can occasionally get away with, they definitely fell more into the 'woefully under-rehearsed' pigeonhole I'm afraid.

Keel Her
And so to our headliners Scott & Charlene's Wedding (SACW). From Australia via New York to London, I can honestly say that Craig Dermody is the best new 'proper' frontman I've seen in a band for a long time. Engagingly warm and energetically electrifying, he holds your attention from the first chord of the first song. If you're not familiar with the SACW sound, try to imagine The Velvet Underground fronted by Evan Dando and you'll be somewhere in the right ball park.

Craig Dermody onstage with his band at The Lexington 16/5/14
From singing a love song to one of Fawn Spots, to dancing in the audience with the boss of Fire Records, to closing their set with a Go-Betweens cover,  Dermody and his band were a blast from start to finish. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for the next time they play in London, and if they pass by your town you should make sure you check them out too.

Scott & Charlene's Wedding in London 16/5/14

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Remix of the Day: 'Feel (UNKLE Reconstruction)' by Bombay Bicycle Club

Unbelievably this is the fourth UNKLE remix to have appeared in almost as many weeks - James Lavelle is certainly doing his bit to publicise his curation of the Meltdown Festival at the Southbank Centre, which kicks off with an appearance by UNKLE themselves on 13th June. I really like this mix, despite the fact that it almost completely does away with the bit of the song which first drew me to the original version of the track. There's a brief appearance of that Eastern motif a few minutes before the end, but apart from that it sound very much like an UNKLE track with a guest vocalist rather than the Bombay Bicycle Club single.

You can download the track for free at the moment but be quick because it's only around for a limited time.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Track of the Day: 'Tongue' by Wife

The second track to appear from the forthcoming Wife album 'What's Between' confirms the view that this looks set to be one of the records of the year. James Kelly's vocals are much further forward in the mix than on 'Heart Is A Far Light' (which you can hear here), and his deep, sonorous tones are a perfect foil to the dark, industrial beats which have been produced with The Haxan Cloak. The album's out in a couple of weeks on Tri Angle Records, and should be on the top of your 'to buy' list.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Track of the Day: 'Ready To Fuck' by The Soft Pink Truth

So this is gonna piss a lot of people off. The Soft Pink Truth, the nom de plume of Drew Daniel of Matmos, have made an album of electro-house and techno covers of black metal songs. The album, called 'Why Do The Heathen Rage?', is out soon on Thrill Jockey Records, and from it here's their version of Sarcofago's 'Ready To Fuck'. If there's a better way to deal with the ridiculous pomposity, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia that often pervades Black Metal tracks then I've yet to find it. Enjoy!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Remix of the Day: 'Do It Again (Moby Remix)' by Röyksopp & Robyn

As if the pairing of Royksopp and Robyn wasn't interesting enough, they've roped in Moby on remix duties. The result isn't the most ground-breaking remix you'll ever hear, but it is a guaranteed floor filler. Even better, you don't have to shell out your hard-earned cash as you can grab it for free below.

Friday, 23 May 2014

New music: 'Come Correct' by Tastelike Cake

A haunting and beautiful track that spreads out gently over six and a half minutes. At first it soothes and calms you, then it jolts and provokes you, before returning and relaxing you. These three phases apparently represent our memories, our personality and our body.

If the track sounds familiar than that might be because it includes a sample from the 'Solaris' soundtrack by Cliff Martinez. The whole track itself has the feel of a film soundtrack - it reminded me a bit of Clint Mansell's work as well as Martinez. Have a listen, get yourself a free download, and see what you think.

For more music by William Georges a.k.a. Tastelike Cake check out his Soundcloud page here.

Remix of the Day: 'Europa Geht Durch Mich (Erol Alkan's Mesmerise Zwei Rework)' by Manic Street Preachers

Ahead of their new album 'Futurology' Manic Street Preachers have teamed up with remix genius Erol Alkan for a 12" single featuring a couple of different versions of 'Europa Geht Durch Mich'. Here you can hear an edit (although it's still 6 minutes long) of the second remix, which is a dark and trancy version of the original. Of course, it sounds nothing like the Manics, but then their remixes have always pushed the boundaries, especially the ones from 'Journal For Plague Lovers'. You can pre-order the 12" from Phantasy here.

Although 'Rewind The Film' featured some great songwriting, it wasn't really what I want or need from a Manics album, but I'm really excited about the release of 'Futurology'. the return of loud guitars and an angry stance, a hint of krautrock and a record inspired by 'permanent revolution, modern art and Autobahns' is exactly what a Manic Street Preachers album should be like. Here's the video for lead single to 'Walk Me To The Bridge' which, like quite a few Manics songs, may or may not be about Richie.

Track of the Day: 'Do Me' by FaltyDL

The lead track from Drew Lustman's fourth album 'In The Wild', 'Do Me' mixes chiming keyboards and ticking rhythms (reminiscent of Gold Panda) with a repetitive, insistent vocal demanding that you 'Do me harm,  Do me Do me Do me Do me Do me Do me Do me harm'. It's absorbing and hypnotic and likely to be you earworm for the foreseeable future.

The new album will be out on 11th August on Ninja Tune, and features visual from British artist Chris Shen to accompany the tracks.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Remix of the Day: 'Feeling Good Tonight (UNKLE Reconstruction)' by Therr Maitz

James Lavelle's return to prominence continues with this remix of an act I'd never heard of before. Therr Maitz comes from Moscow in Russia and names UNKLE as one of his key influences, so he must be chuffed to have got Lavelle involved with this track. It's very much at the electronic end of UNKLE's output, and reminds me a but of the Surrender Sounds version of 'Heavy Drug'.

Building up to his curation of the Meltdown Festival Lavelle has put out more remixes in the past couple of months than he did in the previous couple of years. Here's one that appeared a couple of weeks ago that I didn't get round to blogging at the time; the UNKLE Reconstruction of 'Pressure' by UTRB. This one's a lot more like the early trip-hop he used to put out on the Mo' Wax label. It sounds a lot like Massive Attack (specifically 'Protection') and makes a good counterpoint to the Maitz remix above.

Track of the Day: 'One Time For' by Rome Fortune (produced by Four Tet)

Fresh from the Atlanta-born, New York-based rapper Rome Fortune, this is the first of two tracks produced by Four Tet, and it appears to be a marriage made in heaven. Rolling drums and a repetitive melody perfectly undercut Fortune's flow, and halfway through a disembodied vocal sample is added to the mix, giving the track more depth and a slightly disconcerting feel. Play it on repeat a few times and you'll really begin to sink into the groove. All we need to do now is hook Four Tet up with Kanye West and the rest of the rap world can go home.

Listen to the track and download it for free below.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Track of the Day: 'Mother' by Supersize Me

The Fat Cat Records Demo stream has by turning up some crockery lately, and this is no exception. Wafting in on a haze of childhood dreams, 'Mother' is like a tripped out version of 'Deserter's Songs'-era Mercury Rev fronted by Lana Del Rey. It's the aural equivalent of that sensation when you walk into a dark room after being outside in the bright sunlight - everything's there but it's hazy around the edges and you keep trying to shake your head to bring it into focus.

Supersize Me come from Tokyo in Japan, and the song is based on a dream / hallucination that one of the band members had.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Video of the Day: 'Faded' by Lizzo

The momentum behind Lizzo seems to be growing, and rightly so. She's an original and inspiring female voice in the male dominated world of hip-hop. With her debut album 'Lizzobangers' about to be re-released, her new single 'Faded' showcases her signature style to good effect - it's fast, furious and fun.

If you get a chance to catch a Lizzo show live then you really should - it's some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on (although I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you took some of them off). I'll be down the front for her show at Glasonbury this year so maybe I'll see you there!

Remix of the Day: 'Shelter Song (Leftside Wobble Rocks The Discoteque Mix)' by Temples

Very much in the vein of the Time & Space Dubs of Jagwar Ma's album last year, this mix pretty much manages to include sounds and vibes from every decade since the '60s. It's psychedelia via the disco via the warehouse rave via the club, and it's really rather ace. The icing on the cake is that you can grab it as a free download until the vinyl comes out on Heavenly Recording in a few weeks. You can listen to it and download it for free below, just make sure you play it loud!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Track of the Day: 'everything is a lie and everyone is completely full of shit' by default genders

OK, so I'll admit that it was the title that first drew me to this track, since it's a fairly unequivocal statement that seems designed to either provoke discussion or put an end to it, depending on where you stand on the statement. But dive into the record and you'll find a really interesting track that somehow manages to combine banging '80s dance drums with low down in the mix dreamy vocals and some angst-ridden lyrics (which I've posted below).

default genders is apparently 'an art project by James Brooks' (which probably explains why everything is written in lower case). Whether it's art or music it's pretty intriguing stuff. I think he'll be putting out some more stuff later in the year so watch out for it.

like i care if i can never own a home
what's the point if i have to live in it alone?
like i care about the mess I'd leave behind
I've been so fucking careful my whole life

just this one time i will leave
and not spend most of the night worrying
about how i am going to get home

just this one time i will be
someone you want to take out to things
and not who you take everything out on

like i care what other places i could go
i'm not even curious to know
like i'm scared about the likelihood of pain
pain has been like family to me

just this one time i will leave
and not spend all day at work wondering
if you will still be there when i get home

so just this one time can you please
act like you would run away with me
and not like i'm the thing you're running from?

Recommended music: 'Whelm' by Douglas Dare

The début album from London-based singer-songwriter has just been released on Erased Tapes, and it fits in well with the family of artists on this label. It's much more than just a man with a piano, and as its sweeping melodies drag you in you can see why Dare feels that the emotions in the songs are closely linked to the sea. There are gentle, calm moments like 'Caroline' and the instrumental title track , mixed in with harder edged, more electronic tracks like 'Unrest' and 'Swim'. Across these songs you can sense a host of influences, from label mates like Nils Frahm through to the likes of Radiohead and Four Tet. Despite the influences though, Dare's fantastic voice and vision combine to create something that's unlike anything else you've heard this year, and it's all the better for that

To release an album as well crafted and assured as this at the age of 23 is quite an achievement, one that signals the arrival of a talent that will surely be around for years to come

You can listen to the whole album below, and buy it direct from Erased Tapes here.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Recommended music: 'Nabuma Rubberband' by Little Dragon

Effortlessly stylish, the fourth album from Sweden's Little Dragon is a classy take on dance music made with electronics (rather than 'Electronic Dance Music'). The soulful vocals of Yukimi Nagano help the music to soar and to transcend boundaries. From the foot stomping 'Klapp Klapp' to the more fragile 'Only One' and the almost trip-hop rhythms of 'Pink Cloud', this is a record that will connect your head to your feet via your heart.

With the band's profile having enlarged in the past few years due to guest slots on records by Gorillaz and DJ Shadow, I reckon this is the album to break them much more into the mainstream. They'll be playing festivals throughout Europe this summer (I'm hoping to catch them at Glastonbury) so do yourself a favour and catch them in a field somewhere in the sunshine.

Track of the Day: 'Raw Exit' by POLIÇA

As Poliça develop as a band they get more and more interesting, at least to me. This probably has a lot to do with them playing and writing together, although I also think they're influenced by the time they've spent playing and touring with Marijuana Deathsquads, the band that's been described as Poliça's older, dirtier brother. This new track features on a new 'Deluxe' edition of their album 'Shulamith', and will also come out on a 4-track 10" vinyl EP with 3 more new tracks, including their cover of Lesley Gore's 'You Don't Know Me'. Featuring heavily treated vocals and a pretty funky bassline, the (possibly aggressive) lyrics want to know "Who's ready to die alone?"

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Video of the Day: 'Heaven, How Long' by East India Youth

Regular readers will know of my love for East India Youth's album 'Total Strife Forever', which is one of my favourites of the year so far. This track is taken from it and has now got a great video directed by Joe Spray. It's good to see that this video came about through some funding by the PRS Foundation Momentum Fund, which supports the development of talented artists that are making music their main source of income.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Track of the Day: 'Light' by Vökuró

A great find by Fat Cat Records, this track by Warsaw trio Vökuró is just under six minutes of dreamy post-psychedelia. Skilfully matching electronics with more organic sounds, they bring to mind a mix of Goldfrapp and Peaking Lights. The band are currently working on their debut album which is one that I definitely want to hear. You can listen to the track and download it for free here:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Recommended music: 'Everyday Robots' by Damon Albarn

Could this be the year of the 'mature' album? So far this year Beck's given us the most sophisticated, grown-up and classy album of his career, while Ben Watt has ditched years of dance music, paired up with Bernard Butler, and made a record that any quality singer-songwriter from the 70s would've been proud of. Meanwhile on 'Everyday Robots' Damon Albarn comes up with some of the best songwriting of his life, matching beautiful melodies with confessional lyrics ranging from childhood to frank confessions of his heroin use during Blur's heyday. Essentially a middle-aged meditation on life, this is Damon bearing his soul on who he is and how he's got here.

Written and almost entirely performed by him alone (with mostly just some beat contributions from producer Richard Russell), it owes more to his work with Gorillaz and other projects such as Africa Express and the Bobby Womack album than it does to Blur. There's a lineage to be traced through his history though - having always told stories of other people in his lyrics, he's now turned that lens on himself with amazing honesty. And musically you can draw a line from the brilliant Gorillaz track 'Hong Kong' and the end-of-Blur tracks like 'Fool's Day' and 'Under The Westway', and even things like 'Sunset Coming On' from the Mali Music album.

He's at his most confessional on 'You and Me': "Jab jab / digging out a hole in Westbourne Grove / tin foil and a lighter / the ship across / five days on and two days off" - basically a heroin user's version of the fasting diet. I'm sure that, like me, many people never realised the extent of his drug use, but here it is laid out for all to see.

In the main the music is downbeat, but never sombre or maudlin. There are a couple of lighter moments though. The upbeat 'Mr. Tembo' (about an orphaned elephant) might sound a bit too smiley in isolation, but in the context of the album it serves both as a counterpoint to the more serious tracks and as a way of including his trips to Africa in the story. Meanwhile album closer 'Heavy Seas of Love', featuring surprise guest vocals from Brian Eno, is one of those classic 'Let It Be' type songs, one of those 'things aren't as bad as they seem, I'll help you pick yourself up, you're stronger than you realise' tracks that manages to touch your soul almost without you realising it. And yes, I did just compare Albarn's songwriting to McCartney's.

Despite his constant output I'm not sure Albarn's ever been properly recognised fo rthe quality of his writing, and I wnder if whether subconsciously this is him showing us how he intends to grow old gracefully, putting away the childish things of his youth and taking a gentle stroll into maturity.

Maybe it's because we're a similar age, or because I've always followed his work and enjoyed the way it's developed. Or maybe it's just because this is a damm fine record, but this album moves me in a way that few albums have recently. It's a record that makes you want to sit quietly and take stock of your own life, to be happy with where you are, to spend some time in your own company but then to go out and hug your friends.

Despite the fact that it failed to get to number one (due to Warner's cock-up with failing to press the right amount of vinyl), as the months go by I predict that more and more people will fall under its spell. It's also a dead cert for the Mercury Music Prize this year, so put your money on it now and thank me later.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Recommended music: 'Bleep: 10' by Various Artists

This is released to mark 10 years of Warp Records' online music store Bleep, which pretty much coincided with the birth of downloads themselves. The 14 tracks on here are all new for this release and properly reflect the ethos of Bleep, whether they're artists actually on Warp or thise that have sold well through the store. The album mostly stays at the more accessible end of electronica, and even the Autechre track isn't one of his most impenetrable ones. If you forced me to pick a couple of standout tracks I'd have to go for Modeselektor's 'I'm Not Into Twerk, I'm Into KrafTwerk', and not just for its brilliant title (listen to that here) and album closer 'Vanish North' by Nathan Fake, but really you'd be hard pushed to find a duff track on here.

I bought my copy on vinyl a couple of weeks ago at the Barbican gig to celebrate Bleep's birthday (review here), although I guess if you want to keep in the spirit of it you could always get it on download.

You can listen to four of the tracks from the album below ad order it directly from Bleep (obviously!) here.

Remix of the Day: 'West Coast (Four Tet Remix)' by Lana Del Rey

Bit of a weird one this. On the one hand it doesn't sound very much like either Lana Del Rey or Four Tet (who seems increasingly to be taking on commercial remixes as his own stuff becomes more left field). On the other hand what we're left with is a hypnotic, stomping dancefloor filler that worms its way into your head so much that you can still hear it playing even when it's stopped. I think the thing it reminds me of most is Armand Van Helden's mix of 'Professional Widow' by Tori Amos, have a listen and see what you think.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Remix of the Day: 'Uncle ACE (a/jus/ted Remix)' by Blood Orange

This is a cracking remix of the new Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) tune by a/jus/ted, who also recently put together a great mix of the latest Holy Ghost! track (listen to that here). The quality original is stretched out into 9 minutes of dancefloor goodness that will undoubtedly be heard in all of the best spots in New York on this Friday evening.

Friday, 2 May 2014

New music: 'Speed Wobbles' by Cerebral Ballzy

There now follows an experiment in which I will attempt to see how much of a review I can write for this track in the 67 seconds it takes to it to play through.

Cerebral Ballzy are back with a new album 'Jaded & Faded', from which this jumped-up slice of punk has been hewn. The aptly titled Speed Wobbles does indeed speed along in an amphetamine-fuelled rush of energy and bile.

Well there you go. A forty word, sixty seven second review of the track. Download it for free and see what you can think of to do in that amount of time.

New podcast: Austerity Audio vol. 17

Welcome to the latest in my series of Austerity Audio podcasts. For various reasons these seem to have turned into a monthly series in 2014, but hopefully you'll agree that the 11 tracks on this instalment were worth the wait.

As per the Austerity Audio rules, each of these tracks is available on the internet as a free and legal download, so I've gathered them up for you into one handy pocket-sized podcast to save you trawling around the hidden corners of the web. To listen just click on the picture above, or right click & 'save as' to download it to your Betamax video or Laserdisc player. In return for this aural goodness all I ask is that if you find something you really like then you spend a few pennies or cents buying a track by that artist to help them make a living. Here's the tracklisting:

  1. Swans - A Little God In Our Hands
  2. Papercuts - Life Among The Savages
  3. Nap Eyes - No Man Needs To Care
  4. Miguel - Simple Things (Lee Bannon Rework)
  5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Swim & Sleep (Like A Shark) (Little Dragon Remix)
  6. Holy Ghost! - Bridge & Tunnel (a/just/ed Remix)
  7. Youth Club - She's A Dancer (Peter Anderson Remix)
  8. Astronauts, etc. - Odessa (Caribou cover)
  9. Blueprint Blue - The Cabin Is Cold
  10. Kins - Mockasin's
  11. Benjamin Shaw - Goodbye, Kagoul World

EP of the Day: 'Mockasin's' by Kins

Brighton-based trio Kins have lifted this track from their eponymously titled début album, backed it with a couple of new tracks, and set it free into the world. across the three tracks they display an inherent sense of melody and style which is nicely undercut with just the right amount of idiosyncratic flourishes. Gran the EP below and see what you make of it.

PS I know I'm a bit of a grammar pedant, but the title 'Mockasin's' is really bugging me. Do you think it's a mistake (actual or deliberate)? Or do you think they're talking about something that belongs to Connan Mockasin? I guess only the band can tell us - let's hope they read this and let me know!

Track of the Day: 'Ivory' by Movement

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, electronic three-piece Movement are next in line to win your hearts and move your feet. Their new EP is out in the next few days on Modular Recordings, although they sound to me like they could be equally at home on DFA Records. This track is brooding and dark with some rather unexpected but brilliant squalling guitar at the end. Frankly I can't get enough of it, and if you feel the same you can pre-order it here.

The band are about to start a worldwide tour in support of the EP, and after a couple of weeks in their native Australia they'll be here in London on June 16th at the non-more-hip Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. Ticket details are here - maybe I'll see you there!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Track of the Day: 'No Man Needs To Care' by Nap Eyes

Canadian four-piece have created this jangly, guitar driven indie track, featuring the killer line "No man needs to care about another man's hair". Rather like the sort of track that you would've found John Peel playing in the mid to late 80s, the winsome lyrics are matched by the vocals that have more than a hint of Edwyn Collins to them.

It's lifted from their recent album 'Whine of the Mystic', which is available from Bandcamp on one of those 'pay what you like' deals. So as a bonus you can listen to the whole album below and see if you think it's worth buying.

Remix of the Day: 'Hey Now (Sasha Remix)' by London Grammar

This might not be to everyone's taste, but for my money Sasha has done a great job of turning this sophisticated and mature track into a seductive dancefloor filler. The essential elements of the original track are all still in place - gentle guitar refrain and melancholic vocals - underneath which he's placed a driving bassline to propel the song forward.

Take a listen and see what you think of it.