Sunday, August 31, 2008

From the vaults : TV on the Radio - Young Liars e.p.

Going down memory lane again.

T.V. on the Radio- Young Liars ep

A Looooooooong time ago (well 2003) a little unknown band called TV on the Radio released a five track ep called Young Liars on an unsuspecting public. To those who got it early found that this band used harmonies, pan pipes, jerky guitars and sampled dialogue. In other words it was something different and unique.

Two years on the Young Liars ep is still an excellent listen and although the groups debut ‘Desperate Youth and Bloodthirsty Babes’ is better, the group’s sound is already fully realized here. Satellite starts off with the group’s trademark pummeling beats and probably has the most significant quote in its lyrics ‘Waiting for a signal or sound’ and literally I feel that the world has been waiting for signals and sounds like this for a while.

Staring at the Sun is next up. Although the debut version lacks the samples this still has a lot of punch is definitely the template for the debut.

The other two tracks ‘Blind’ and ‘Young Liars’ are just as good but what really stands out here is their version of The Pixies Mr. Grieves. It’s done a cappella and is first class again it’s another trademark that would show up in the debut and in their latest single New Health Rock as well.

All in all I would say that The ‘Young Liars’ ep is a perfect introduction to the band and what was to follow. Since the group are releasing their sophomore album soon and knowing their vast experimentalism this ep may seem like something out of date but still it is a very good snapshot of a very talented band already at the peak of their capabilities.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rough Trade Album Club - August Pack

Every month I receive three albums from the Rough Trade Album Club. So far, with the exception of one cd ( A Mountain of One) I have not been disappointed. If you are constantly hankering for new and interesting music then I suggest you join.

Here's this month's quota :

Beyond the Wizard's Sleeve - Ark 1 (8.5/10) (this was the 'core' album, the cd that every single member receives, regardless of tastes and musical preferences, usually it's the best one of the batch)

Black Affair - Pleasure, Pressure Point ( 8/10)

Rex the Dog - The Rex the Dog Show ( 8/10)


Santogold – Self-Titled (2008)
Lizard King

It is inevitable but Santogold will be compared to M.I.A., After all both are outspoken women of Indian heritage who cut their chops in the music industry at an early age. Also both artists have employed the same producers (Switch and Diplo) for their albums. But in reality that’s were it all stops.
See Santogold (aka Santi White) writes pop music for other musicians such as Lilly Allen and Ashlee and this pop sensibility bleeds into her music. During the first half of the album there are hooks and choruses that are aimed strictly for the dancefloor. M.I.A.,on the other hand gives the middle finger to pop and masticates it with a barrage of beats, while dousing it thickly with irony. Like I said before Santogold is not interested in these renegade tactics, she just wants to make an intelligent pop song.
The album starts out with one of the strongest songs L.E.S. Artistes, a ditty that is primarily about what is real and fake in the world today (this is further exemplified by the track’s promo video). It displays all of Santogold’s strengths, her powerful voice, an instantly recognizable song and strong lyrics. As a mission statement to the world, she picked a great song.
Santogold, also has a knack of genre hopping, thus during the first half of ‘Santogold’ we get ‘indie’(You’ll find a way, Say aha) , Reggae and Dancehall ( Shove it and Creator, respectively), and dub ( My Superman). All with a pop sheen. These are songs that are designed to be liked by everyone and they will.
The album’s last hurrah comes with the second single and second strongest track, ‘Lights Out’, a bouncy song which is simply irresistible and will soundtrack the summer months once the media get hold of it.
Unfortunately the rest of the record does not follow up to the strengths of the first half and what we get is a clutch of half baked dub exercises, all moving at tortoise pace and the sheer exhilaration at the beginning turns into disappointment and boredom. The bonus remix of ‘You’ll Find a way’ that is tacked on to the end doesn’t help lift up your spirits in any other way either. Clearly a case of side two syndrome here.
However I am definitely not going to dismiss Santogold, after all this is a debut and as experience tells me, a not very strong debut usually leads to a much stronger second album. Santogold has now proved what she is capable of doing and I’m sure that the second time round she’ll come back with a vengeance. At the moment pretend that ‘Santogold’ is a mini album and enjoy the thrills and spills of the first seven tracks.

Friday, August 29, 2008

From the Vaults :Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

Here's another review that never was published. I'm quite proud of it. Before the reissue I already had a Belgian import so it was a breeze writing down the review.

Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth ( REISSUE)


Sometimes patience is a virtue. Unfortunately in my case I lack it completely. If a band possesses me I will do all that I can in order to seek out the album. Take the case of Young Marble Giants. I heard one track on a compilation then I spent 3 long years looking for the album. Finally after shelling out quite a bit on a Belgian import, which was only available on an American website, I finally received the cd.

Now in 2007 Domino have decided to reissue this album, with a whopping 16 extra tracks more than the Belgian import.

Whereas the import version squished everything together, Domino have done the wise thing and divided the whole project into 2 cds ; The Band’s debut album, a second disc with their one off ep tracks and rounds up demos and outtakes. Needless to say this is fascinating stuff from beginning to end.

Wales’ Young Marble Giants were one of the products of the extremely fertile post punk scene of 1978 -1984 (roughly) however out of all the top bands out there YMG stood out as they took the concept of minimalism to new height. Armed with a bass guitar , guitar and a keyboard, the band made barely three minute long songs ( in fact not even one goes past the three and a half minute mark here) Sure Wire were doing the same thing but a Wire song would be a noisy spurt and a YMG song would creep along at a leisurely pace without any urgency at all with a bass anchoring everything down. The group also had one major trick up their sleeve though. The fact that their lead vocalist Alison Statton had a voice that would make butter melt. Honey sweet and mellifluous it would wrap itself around the chikka chikka sounds of the keyboard and give the songs direction. The band soldered on for a couple of years but split up in 1980 due to pressure. Each of the band members pursued musical careers, Stuart Moxham probably being the most successful as he produced Beat Happening’s fifth album, You Turn Me on and Marine Girls Lazy Ways – both landmarks of the indiepop genre. Although Statton’s post YMG bands were great in their own way as well.

Like I mentioned earlier the cd is divided into two parts. The first being the album ‘Colossal Youth’ Needless to say that it’s a bona fide masterpiece. Track after track of minimalist goodness just flows. Whether it’s the quirky Eating Noddemix , the slightly bouncy ‘Brand –New - Life’ or the creepy Wurlitzer Jukebox, each song is a mini classic on its own. Memorable in every aspect. Also more importantly, it gives one a sense of the type of mentality that was prominent during the late 70’s it’s a deconstruction of music but with an arty sensibility.

The e.p tracks which dominate disc two are high in quality ‘Cakewalking’, ‘The Clock’ and their best song ‘Final Day’ are all present. Maybe a little bit more frivolous than the ‘Colossal Youth’ tracks , it shows that the band were moving into a more funky and cheery direction.

The material on Disc 2 is really for collectors and aficionados of the group. There aren’t too many differences between the record tracks and the demos except that the sound is murkier and Statton’s voice doesn’t shine through but the three extra tracks on this c.d. are really for completeness sake.

A cynic might say that this post punk nostalgia is greedy record companies want to exploit a movement but when you have a collection as lovingly compiled and collected. You cannot help but admire way things worked back then. Music in itself tells a story and the one we have here is a band using DIY skills and creating a musical highpoint. Definitely THE quintessential reissue.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

(Columbia) 2008

Did you notice how hateable MGMT are? The garish colours of their album sleeves, the fact that the core members resemble rejects from Duran Duran’s ‘Wild Boys’ video and they sing about ecology in their songs. Hippies to boot! Not that in interviews the band come off as tossers. I have to admit that I was secretly hoping that the group’s debut ‘Oracular Spectacular’ would be a first class mess and then I would have the last laugh.

Sadly this was not to be.

Two months have passed and I am absolutely LOVING this album. It just keeps on getting better with each spin and the secret to this is that the band pull out no stops and have a kitchen sink approach their songs. No matter how bizarre or off beat a certain sound is, it will be thrown into the mix and this leads to some interesting combinations. Take the track ‘Weekend Wars’ a loping hip hop beat that’s slowed down and with xylophone dressing, then a minute in the instruments start to creep in , everything goes faster and the instruments dominate and the decoration comes from cheesy sounding keyboards. By the 3 and a half minute mark the song goes through a complete mutation and morphs into some celestial synth symphony. Elsewhere the album is filled with symphonic folk (Pieces of what) techno stompers (the majestic, must hear ‘Kids’) and warped 80’s-ish synth pop ( Electric Feel) but it never ever becomes tiresome or boring. The record company did choose Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Mogwai), one of the best producers in alternative music today, and he did a wonderful job in reigning in and controlling every sound into a listenable whole.

The other thing MGMT have on their side is a clearly perceived sense of irony, first track and single ‘Time to Pretend’ is a firm tongue in cheek diatribe about rock star clichés such has drug taking and other trappings of fame and the most blatant example of the band’s playful sense of humor.

Although this far from a perfect debut, Lead singer Andrew Van Wyngarden’s voice can grate a bit and sometimes one feels that MGMT have to mature a little bit more and shed the corny image. Other than these minor irritations, this a very consistent debut which bears many plays. Already I have a feeling that we will hearing about this band quite a bit as Wyngarden and other member, Ben Goldwasser are collaborating on different musical projects. Give them more experience and musical maturity and a classic album will definitely be on the way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sigur Ros

Sigur Ros – Med Sud I Eryum Vid Spilum Endalaust (With a Buzz in our Ears we play Endlessly) 2008


When I first heard Sigur Ros’ 2005 album Takk I felt that the band had fallen into a rut. True their ambient passages and high pitched cooed vocals sung in a made up language is quite haunting, but over the course of four albums it does sound tiring. Something had to change or the group would be forever flogging the proverbial dead horse.

Then in June Sigur RAos released a taster mp3 of their upcoming fifth album. The track was called ‘Gobbledigook’ and it sounded totally unlike anything the band has ever done. A thumping drum, a jagged acoustic guitars and general sense of joyous abandon. Yes it did sound similar to something Animal Collective would have cooked up but, who cares this is Sigur Ros we are talking about. A group who’s songs move at a tortoise pace and blanket you with textures. It was a fresher than a newly caught fish and it was a clear sign that album number five will shock.

Upon receiving the album, I ripped off the plastic covering and flung the disc so savagely that I was sure I damaged my discman in the process. I already heard ‘Gobbledigook’ (and trust me it sounded glorious when listened to on headphones) and then second track ‘Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur’, a orchestral convoluted folky tune – and there’s no other way of describing it - confirmed that Sigur Ros have changed tack (not takk) and introduced new elements to their traditional sound.

Unfortunately the rest of the album does not follow up on the shock of the first two tracks. However it’s not business as usual with the group either as a sunny vibe permeates the record as a whole. Whereas in the past Sigur Ros used orchestras to create a melancholy feel. Listen to the epicentre track ‘Festival’ and you’ll see what I mean. It also one of the few examples of the band embracing a celestial aura which they lacked. In other places there is a playful, loose approach to songs and it suits them perfectly. Med Sed is also the group’s most ambitious album to date. Recorded in their native Rekjavik , London , New York and Havana. Enlisting Flood (Smashing Pumpkins, Goldfrapp and Pj Harvey – to name a few) to produce and utilizing a 90 strong orchestra/choir (both the London Sinfonietta and the London Oratory Boy’s choir) and one track is sung in English, this is a grand statement of a record, but it’s not bloated overstuffed one and more importantly the listener doesn’t tire of the album, in fact it’s the opposite, it’s many delights actually entice more spins.

It seems that Sigur Ros chose the right time to create a career turnaround and an excellent one too, plus add that to the dazzling live shows that have gotten people foaming at the mouth and one can see why they are considered one of the best bands in the world today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

From the Vaults : The Boy Least Likely to

(This was one of my first reviews. Now looking back I feel that it's amateurish and I am a bit embarrassed re-reading it. The album hasn't lost it's sparkle though.)

The Boy Least Likely to - The Best Party Ever

OOOHHHH! (reviewer’s squeal of delight) I ADORE whimsical music, and newcomers ‘The Boy Least Likely To’ have bucketloads of it. Images of picnics, monsters and warm panda cola (whatever that is) are abundant and give you an idea what you’re prepared for. When I heard the first xylophone twinkles on opener ‘Be Gentle with Me’ I was seduced proper. This music sounds so pure. If no drugs or groupies were involved in the recording of this album (or singles collection) I wouldn’t be surprised. ‘The Best Part Ever’ embraces you with a soft fuzzy hug and will make you smile.
I have been addicted to this album for days, weeks and months, listening to it wherever I go. Why? It just feels so good. It’s like a medicine. The more you take the stronger you feel. In a world full of depressing events we need a ray of hope and ‘The Boy Least Likely...’ provides it. I think the most poignant quote in this ‘I have nothing to worry about so I worry about nothing’. This is the philosophy TBLLT is trying to put forward. Don’t worry be happy. It may be twee but it makes sense. If you are a fan of Belle and Sebastian, Salako, Teenage Fanclub and The Beach Boys then I’m sure you would be enthralled by ‘The Best Party’. Here’s another newcomer to the great family of indiepop, and he’s welcome!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dengue Fever

Holiday in Cambodia
Dengue Fever – Venus on Earth (2008)
Real World

If I were to actually write about the band Dengue Fever, this review would be about ten pages long. Disease , Jail, prolonged visas you name it, it has happened to this sextet. But in that long journey a lot has shaped up Dengue Fever and it is all culminated in this third offering. Without going into the finer details of the band’s history I still have to give some background on the band as their unique take on rock affects the sound on this album.
Essentially the band hail from L.A. however one band member, Ethan Holtzman went to Cambodia and fell in love with the style of music, which is roughly a mixture of lounge rock, pyschedelia and surf rock. Lyrics are sung in Khmer, which give the music an overall eerie feel.
On returning to America Holtzman managed to form a band with like minded intentions and, the biggest coup of all, roped in Cambodia’s biggest pop star, Chhom Nimol as the frontwoman.
Now there is a LOT more to this tale but I’m going to cut to the proverbial chase and get straight to Album number three.
‘Venus on Earth’ marks a change for the band, it is the first time that Dengue Fever have steered away from covering Cambodian rock standards and filled an album with original material.

Furthermore it is marvelous.

It is not an easy album to get into at first, most of the tracks are sung in Khmer and Nimol’s voice borders on the squeaky in places but give it a chance, maybe a few spins and you’ll understand what it’s all about. In fact what is off putting may be endearing by the next spin.
I find that the album starts to find it’s feet by the third song, ‘Tiger Phone Card’. A call and response ditty, with a swagger, in fact there is a lot of swagger in these songs. It’s not an arrogant swagger but one of confidence and know-how. That is not to say that it’s all twangy surf guitars and big drums and psychotic saxophones . ‘Tooth and Nail’ is a flute driven ballad of wide eyed beauty and closer ‘Mr. Orange’ will make you sway and to those lucky enough to get the U.K. version will be treated to a bonus track that will make you gawp, you’ve got to love a group who’s extra material is just as good as the main songs on the album.

Within the pages I have been extolling constantly on how traditional indie rock has been able to incorporate different cultures within it’s musical schema, whether it’s the African beats of Vampire Weekend, MGMT and TV on the Radio or the Romanian folk cribbed by Gogol Bordello and Devotchka, rock dalliance with foreign cultures is becoming more prominent (to be fair during the late seventies and early eighties there were groups who combined music from different countries together but now cultural hegemony has made critics more aware). Dengue Fever are not bandwagon jumpers but rather part of this 21st century new wave of bands and to be honest they are one of the more interesting ones at the moment. I thought of ending this review in a clichéd manner by saying that Dengue Fever (the band) are similar to Dengue Fever (the disease) but it’s better to end on this point.

The Mummers

Ok I apologise for the long gap, mostly due to my computer being repairewd. Anyways I'm back and updating will resume on a near daily basis.

There's something about The Mummers that make you stop in your tracks, Maybe it's orchestral pomp that lurches straight at you, perhaps it's Rice clear as a bell voice or the gorgeous melodies that assault you. Whatever it is you can feel that there is greatness afoot.

On the band's Myspace page there are four tracks (albeit snippets) and trust me they will change your life. This is music that is unashamedly pop and is heavily decorated without losing any of it's charm.

If you are interested and want to check out the rest of this prodigous band's material(and I don't blame you!) , there is an e.p. out on general release.

A truly special band.

The Mummers Myspace