Thursday, May 29, 2008

Album Review - Bon Iver

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
[Jagjaguwar; 19/02/2008]

Although released independently last year, singer-songwriter, Justin Vernon's music was picked up by Jagjaguwar and released world-wide earlier this year. Quite frankly, it would be of criminal nature if we were to push this to the wayside, with its cinematic grandeur and organic nature basically falling into a position where everything good about music rests.

Let's cut to the “music” and “it”; under the moniker of Bon Iver, Vernon delivers his debut collective of heart melting folk songs; For Emma, Forever Ago. Vernon hits the nail on the head in every aspect. Spanning over eight tracks barley reaching the 30 minute mark, FMFA is a smash and grab affair that leaves its mark on the listener within the first few bars of opener, 'Flume'.

'Skinny Love' presents the heavy hearted wisps of Vernon along with his shadow-thin rhythm guitar that combine to produce one of the folk numbers of the year. 'The Wolves Act I and II' showcases Vernon's croons that slowly traipse into a build-up of syncopated drums that vanish within the blink of an eye, while the closing title track finishing the album off with a rich sounding brass section washing over the release with a sense of eclecticism.

There's really no other way to put it. Vernon's seamless aesthetic of delivering emotional ditties attacks the heart strings of a listener. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved and Vernon seems to be getting things well and truly of his chest with For Emma, Forever Ago, which is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

By Simon K

Album Review - Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus – The Airing Of Grievances
[Troubleman Limited; 22/04/2008]

Glen Rock, New Jersye's Titus Andronicus' name kicks off the long line of references through their music (album title, anybody?). If choosing mind-bending monikers isn't one of their finest points, then some of their ideas in the musical ranks could be, with their debut album The Airing of Grievances showcasing potential quality that could put their lo-fi contemporaries to shame.

Okay, so I realise the term “lo-fi” has been mentioned in abundance during the course of 2008, but it's starting to seem that the days of recording with minimal budgets and scuzzy soundscapes are back. 'Andronicus, despite their placing in this current trend, have the bit between their teeth, rendering something that makes the listeners thoughts tick just that little bit faster.

The distorted noise the band holds within the palms of their hands is just one of the many underlining qualities of this release. Unlike some of their contemporaries in this genre who choose to hide under the security blanket of fuzz, Titus Andronicus use the latter to extrude their emotion that can only be described as Conor Oberst on cranky pills, while this is backed up by howling instrumentation that does its best to make your bedroom walls sweat.

When frontman/guitarist Liam Betson screams the words “fuck you” during the opening barrage that is 'Fear and Loathing in Mahwah', the album rarely takes a backward step from here on. The combo knockout comes from 'No Future' and No Future Part Two; The Days After No Future'. The former is as close to ballad as this band will get to producing despite its comfort in this collection of tunes, while the swirling soundscapes that almost seem suffocated during the latter mentioned track also possess a diverse quality that the band presents on numerous occasions throughout.

Titus Andronicus dip their tows in the water of various genres without fully grabbing or rehashing any of them, with loudness and fuzz the only two traits that stamp their feet and beg to be counted. The Airing of Grievances hasn't hit with its full force just yet, but like the best albums, progression is all about time and once this release fulfills this requirement then a whole new outlook could be heard.

By Simon K

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Album Review - The Black Angels

The Black Angels – Directions to See a Ghost
[Light in the Attic; 15/04/2008]

The Black Angels are one of the many bands kicking around these days influenced by the likes of The Velvet Underground and various other art-rock psychedelic collectives from the 1960s and early '70s. Unlike many modern day artists who don't directly sight this period of music as influential, The Black Angels are the contrary to this belief, with their moniker deriving from a Velvet's song, while the band's trademark logo is a manipulated image of none other than Nico.

The band's sophomore album, Directions to See a Ghost has its strong points and weak ones, too. The strengths of this album rank among the best material the band has written so far, comprising of bohemian undertones that run at a nice parallel with the waves of drone and
slight tweaks of manipulated sounds washing over the mix in refreshing fashion.

Although the riff that swirls between the rhythms of 'Doves' is near identical to The Brian Jonestown Massacre's 'Here to Go', the remainder of the song is a well constructed menacing force that showcases what The Black Angels are all about. 'Never/Ever' is a heat generating jam-fest that breaks the mould of their psychedelic swoon, while 'You In Colour' draws upon a more expansive sound the band rips into throughout the stronger parts of the album.

The areas mentioned above are The Black Angels expanding on what was achieved during their debut album, Passover. Stretching their songs out as to flex a muscle, the results - at times - are good, while others remain a little stagnant. The extraction of ideas from their contemporaries as apposed to their influences can be heard from time to time on Directions to See a Ghost, which ranks as disappointing, as this band is much better than that.

By Simon K

Book Review - Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac – The Subterraneans
Groove Press; 1958]

As one of the founders of the Beat Generation, author Jack Kerouac is now ironically reaping the rewards for his works back in the 1950s and early '60s, despite his unexpected death in 1969 at the ripe age of 47.

His 'innovative' use of spontaneous prose has been passed on as inspiration for many who dabble in the art of literature, while many modern musicians also stake claim in being influenced from the Lowell, Massachusetts born writer.

The Subterraneans - like many of Kerouac's novels - took little time to compile. Spanning over 93 pages, this form of writing - as a reader - is quite a hard concept to pierce, with pragmatic sentences and an abundance of block sequences making the novel extremely hard to engage with from the outset.

Leo Percipied (Jack Kerouac) tells a story - that in a nutshell - consists of jumping from bars around San Fransisco with his cliquey group, comprising of other aspiring writers of the time, Adam Moorad and Frank Carmody (Allan Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs), while meeting and falling in love with an African American women, Mardou Fox (Alene Lee) who by the end of a the novel “makes it” with one of the outsiders of The Subterraneans, Yuri Gligoric (Gregory Corso).

Given the time it was written and the social issues it entails within the relationships of certain characters, The Subterraneans can be seen upon as controversial, despite its intentions not to be. It still doesn't escape the fact that this is self-indulgence at its finest. Maybe that's the whole point of the exercise Kerouac was attempting to design, but there's a fine line in self-indulging and this book crosses it on a regular basis.

By Simon K

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Album Review - Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails – The Slip
[Self Released; 05/05/2008]

Due to the fact he no longer has to answer to record companies about the time frame of delivering music, Trent Reznor is finally starting to feel liberated. At the rate he's going, irony could play its part, with the Nine Inch Nails brainchild on a collision course to release more material these days than he ever did whilst tied to a major record label.

The Slip has been touted as a return to form for Reznor and the Nine Inch Nails. Already with a release under his belt in 2008 (the four disc instrumental album Ghosts), Reznor unleashes a collective of songs that lay somewhere between the patchy moments of Year Zero and the slightly-left-of-centre rock affair, With Teeth.

Seeing Nine Inch Nails live last year sparked a trigger for me, and really filled in the blanks that were seemingly awry on the With Teeth tour, with the words "jaded" and "uninspiring" springing to mind. This release stems upon the back of Reznor touring the World endlessly for the past four years, which has undoubtedly opened up a wider avenue to portray his art.

'1,000' is the perfect example of an artist digging himself out of a hole, with the track itself establishing a common ground by sitting somewhere in between the recent material Nine Inch Nails have released. 'Lights In The Sky' is a slow affair with Reznor's voice accompanied by a slow ringing piano line that casts our minds back to the days of 'Hurt'. 'Corona Radiata' and 'The Four of Us are Dying' are slow dark ambient affairs that give the album an extra angel and portray an important significance within the track list. The closing 'Demon Seed' ends the album off in tempo upping fashion, with distinctive drum clasps and industrious stabs at the forefront of the ditty.

Make no mistake about it; an artist that many had given up on could well be on his way back to creating something worthy of groundbreaking music. Opinions may become swayed and u-turns could be the call of the day and although The Slip may not leave those in complete awe, it'll definitely turn some heads, which is about exciting as its become for Nine Inch Nails for quite some time.

By Simon K

Album Review - Islands

Islands – Arm's Way
[ANTI-Records; 20/05/08]

Island's are an enigmatic bunch. Brainchild, Nick Thornburn (recently of the now disbanded Unicorns), does his best to segregate himself from that trademark “indie” sound, by creating music that does its best to disengage with listeners. Arm's Way is the second album from the sextet from Montreal, which continues the quivering sounds.

I've always found myself jaded with The Unicorns and more recently, Islands, and Arm's Way fails to really alter the judgment. Quality control exorcises the the main demons towards what the band deliver upon their listeners. With a sound just a little too abnormal to render anything above 10 tracks, time and time again we see the band exceed this and once again, things are no different.

Despite trying to sound as a unique entity, Islands' sensibility is extremely reminiscent to the current wave coming out of Canada. It's just they tinker with the structure of the system and make things are little more quirky and disjointed than they really should be. Over-indulgence is not the easiest thing to engage with, but for those who have the time, the results could prove a little more fruitful. For those who are always in pursuit of something different, well, let's just say that you best stay on that train.

By Simon K

Friday, May 23, 2008

Album Review - Belong

Belong – Colorloss Record
[19/02/2008; St Ives]

Belong are in the long line of ambient artists that have recently spawned out of the woodwork and remain to reap critical praise. Some brief insight; Belong are Turk Dietrich and Michael Jones and they hail from New Orleans, Louisiana. The pair come to our attention in 2006 with their debut album, October Language, which comprised of layered textures of melody and a moodiness that captured a cinematic feel so much so that you could found yourself drifting of into a peaceful slumber.

Colorloss Record is an EP that is a taste test for the duo's full length sophomore, which is set to drop later this year. The objective doesn't stray too far away from Belong's previous work, with more sleepy textures and arty undertones winding themselves around the listener for the 19 minute duration.

This release evokes a numb yet relaxing feeling, which is a trait that Belong achieved with their earlier work, as stated above. A nice taste of what's to come, despite really expanding on any boundaries they've already set in the past.

By Simon K

Album Review - The Breeders

The Breeders – Mountain Battles
[4AD; 04/08/2008]

Pixies queen, Kim Deal, once again calls the shots as to when her side project, The Breeders, knock heads together and release some new material. Along with sister, Kelley, bassist Mando Lopez and drummer Jose Medeles, The Breeders enlist producer (or in his preferred role, “recorder”) Stephen Albini as nurse for their latest batch of ditties, Mountain Battles.

Albini's influences is apparent through this rigid affair of alternative pop music. His top heavy lo-fi recording techniques are embellished throughout the album's duration, that on the whole, seems to lack any sense of longevity. Opening track 'Overgrlazed' is by far the album's highlight, with a dreamy pop waltz that hints of shoegazing undertones starting the album off with promise. The only other track that shapes up to any form resemblance is 'It's The Love' that's a beat faster in tempo and a little fuzzier in context.

It's good to see Kim Deal recording something new, with any new Pixies material seemingly placed on the back burner. Mountain Battles is an album that many may fall in love with for nostalgic purposes, but in terms of quality, this falls quite short of the mark.

By Simon K

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Album Review - Mudhoney

Mudhoney – The Lucky Ones
[Sub Pop; 19/05/2008]

Seattle's favourite 'active' acid wash sporting rock 'n' roll band, Mudhoney, have gone full circle throughout their career of making music. Without really expanding a boundary as such, Mudhoney have always been a joy to hold an ear to. Mark Arm and his mates have dropped the brass section dabble that found itself embellished throughout their last affair Under A Billion Suns (arguably their most ambitious one) and have gone back to their stripped down dirty rock antics with The Lucky Ones.

The title track could well just be the album's highest point, with Stooges-esque chord progressions that are bound to make any '80s alt rocker on the verge of going grey and bald, jump up and down in nostalgic fashion.'Tales of Terror' ranks amongst the most aggressive thing Mark Arm has penned since Superfuzz Bigmuff with those dusty congealed vocal pipes unleashed into a cacophony that almost blows holes through the speaker monitors.

The Lucky Ones, in some instances, is Mudhoney taking their best bits of music created over their career and unifying them into one big gauging rendition of fuzzy rock 'n' roll. It could well possibly be the album that Iggy & The Stooges dreamt of making at the age they're at now, but instead we got The Weirdness. Thank God we still have Mudhoney showing their ability to reach the top of their game.

By Simon K

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Live Review - All Tomorrow's Parties Curated by Explosions In The Sky

Imagine living in a room at the top of your local pub, which is the bearer of live music every night; it's the closest equivalent to what an All Tomorrow's Parties weekend provides; music literally on your doorstep. Logistically a musical haven for the connoisseur of fine sounds.

Texan post-rock quartet Explosions In The Sky have the honour in curating the event that takes the sleepy English town of Minehead by storm twice a year. If not for their live performance over the weekend, then Explosions are to be commended on the choice of contemporaries they've hand picked to join them over the three day event, with quality control at its finest, spanning over three stages.

Guleph, Ontario's Constantines kick of the weekend with their abrasive bone grinding form of working class art-punk, with front man Bryan Webb ripping the lyrics of 'Draw Us Lines' and 'Young Lions' out of his stomach as though his life hinges on it. The set may just go down as one of the main highlights over the weekend. If ever there was a side note then Webb's continuous hacking of hair from his head with a pair of scissors may just go down as one of the more bizarre shticks from a rock 'n' roll front man.

Mono were also at the top of their game, with a beautiful cinematic light show that encapsulates their menacing build-ups of classic post-rock, just in time for Dinosaur Jr. to grab the mantle and keeping running, despite the trio of Marshall amplifiers bearing over J Mascis that almost make him look like the forgotten man. Still, the soaring sounds of 'Out There' and 'Tarpit' keep up the breakneck speed this festival has started at.

With Explosions headlining the event, they themselves would've gladly passed up on the option to play the Skyline Pavilion stage, with its attraction to the masses and potential other main stage demons a recipe for disaster for any post-rock band, and although the latter wasn't quite met, it wasn't too far off, either. The biggest event of their lives probably wasn't the most memorable in terms of stage performance, that seemed insipid and lackluster despite the back end of the set featuring post-rock's new king that is 'Your Hand In Mine' and an epic rendition of 'Memorial'.

Friday night was closed in the company of solo artist Matthew Houk otherwise known as Phosphorescent, who provides a solo disjointed southern deriving folk tune with adequate improvisation. Although a little too haphazard at times, the heartfelt rendition of 'Wolves' manages to cap off a blistering first day.

The sounds of Saul Williams are that of intrigue. Despite Trent Reznor's apparent dismissal amongst some, the Nine Inch Nails' main man has hit jackpot in knocking heads together with Williams' for his latest album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Stardust, with industrious beats proving an evocative force under Williams' dexterity of unleashing various statements in poetic fashion. Highlights include the melodic free for all of 'Tr(n)igger' and the brooding sounds of 'Break'.

Ghostface Killah or Okkervil River. Yes, I know what many would've said, but as it happens the latter prevailed in front of my eyes and so did hindsight according to mutterings of Ghostface's performance, which by all reports was deemed “lazy”. Okkervil' have what it takes live. Will Sheff fails to disappoint, with his prominent vocal leading the front of his band's rich Gothic sound that weaves in and out of a rocking alt-country sensibility. The rendition of 'Westfall' the band provide ranks amongst one of the festival's highlights, while favourites 'For Real' and 'Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe' seem to have more pace and intensity live as apposed to on disc.

If there were points for highlights than ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead win hands down. Their arrival at ATP is definitely made known with old favourites 'Relative Ways' and the lyrical head fucking twists of 'Totally Natural' (on top of several new tracks), but it's 'Caterwaul' that steals the headlines for not only the set, but the weekend. With Jason Reece sprawling from the stage to the front row of the crowd like the psychopath he truly is, Conrad Keely pounds at his guitar, extruding fist pumping chords, while his vocal - in tandem with Reece's - becomes the deliverance of rock 'n' roll genius. This, my friends, is cathartic indie rock n' roll at the top of its game.

Despite the heart rate boarding on abnormal and jaw inches from scraping the ground, things seem well enough to carry on and watch The National ooze their uber-cool aura. Front man Matt Berninger ambles around on stage like a half opened pocket knife in between his charismatic rasps during 'Apartment Story', 'All The Wine' and epic closer 'Mr. November', while his respective band mates follow, carrying out their respective tasks in water tight fashion.

While down time was had by many, Reds was once again the destination for fresh talent and Texas quintet The Western Keys took to the stage with their watered down alt-country ditties, which seems a nice substitute for Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. San Francisco's Lazarus spiked a similar vein in terms of wearing influences on sleeves, with brainchild Trevor Montgomery delivering his slurred poetic bravado in near sleepy fashion Ala Nick Cave circa 1990. Accompanied by haunting keyboards and eerie guitar, the pleasant surprise of the weekend may just have been found.

Unlike the hectic start of the first two days, Jens Lekman provides stability, with his lax Scandinavian mentality doubtlessly rearing its head through his music. 'Black Cab' is pop music brimming at its elegant best, while 'Post Card To Nina' is accompanied by the humorous story about how the track itself was conceived.

Polvo are seemingly back and so are their brain numbing sounds that fall somewhere in between, Slint, Sonic Youth on drugs and and the Indian Ocean. With a hefty back catalogue at their disposal, they make good use of it with their first show in almost ten years. Unlike Bradford Cox's Atlas Sound, who can't stop working, with more music than you could poke a stick at. His set consists of rolling experimental waves of crescendo and although delivered to a thin crowd, they had the pleasure of enduring the bass infused 'Quarantined' and moody cut of 'Cold As Ice' off his Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel LP.

The obscurity of glib noise doesn't end there, with Animal Collective greeting the crowd with mind bending renditions of 'Peachbone' and 'Fireworks' while the new material Panda Bear, Avey Tare and Geologist share upon ATP continues the propulsive attitude the band have always applied to their art.

What the Broken Social Scene know how to do is please a crowd and it's hardly surprising that they continue to succeed, despite taking to the stage after De La Soul have the crowd in a frenzy with their vintage fashion of hip-hop.

If The National's Matt Berninger is the coolest front man on the bill than BBS's Kevin Drew is a close second, with in-between song banter one of the many highlights along with the tempo building 'KC Accidental' and “love song” extravaganza 'Superconnected'. The pinnacle of the set was the introduction of members from the Constantines, Explosions In The Sky and one J Mascis knocking out riffs during 'Back Out of the...' with the feel good factor shattering the mercury.

The Drift put their hat into the ring in the discovery for new music, with their jazz infused post-rock delivered with some of the finest virtuoso on display over the weekend. Each member conducts a pivotal role in delivering a sound that will be a far cry from a discovery in the not too distant future. 'If Wishes Were Like Horses' the main standout from the band's Memory Drawings album.

When iTunes lists an album's genre as “unclassifiable” then the band that would fit the bill is Battles. Arguably the band of the weekend (hence why they played two sets) their striving form of innovative music meets the expectations of many, with their seamless brand of sounds so incongruously fucked up that you just have to dance to it.

Rock stalwart, Jonathan Stanier, holds all the cards to this trick with his perpetuating pounding of the snare drum, while his band cohorts follow in this obscure stricken awe-inspiring experience that one must witness. The incredible beats of 'TIJ' are surpassed by 'Atlas' which is the perfect tune to walk away from to end the weekend.

Explosions state in the official ATP program that this is greatest music festival on earth. “Nothing comes close.” Well, having now been there, done that and bought the proverbial t-shirt (or in my case, four), there's nothing I'd agree with more. They also make a point of wishing these times rank amongst the finest memories one should encounter. That, too, is an objective well and truly met.

By Simon K

Photos from the event can be viewed on our facebook group page at

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Album Review - Cog

Cog – Sharing Space
[Difrnt Music; 12/04/2008]

Since releasing their Just Visiting EP series earlier in this era, Bondi mood rockers Cog have always gained a certain respect from me. With their ability to expand upon a few ideas, they've always made good use of their methods. They return with the follow-up to their impressive debut, The New Normal, with Sharing Space; the latest instalment of politically inspired ideas.

'No Other Way' kick starts proceedings with its nine minutes 58 seconds build-ups and break downs while Flynn Gower's riled conspiracy rants don't hold back, which paves the way for the remainder of the album. Two singles, 'What If' and 'Bird Of A Feather' comprise of thick melody and a large guitar crunch that they've always been successful in constructing, while 'How Long' sees the band slowing the pace down for listeners to catch their breath momentarily.

Sharing Space really comes into its own during the back end, with 'The Town of Lincoln' and 'Four Walls' among the higher points of the album, as Cog stretch their limits of song craft all the way until the final note. Gower embarks upon a tirade of words towards various issues concerning the modern day and it's this that's the telling factor of the album, as his ability to extrude a shallow metaphor (most notably during 'Are You Interested?') is undoubted. With the band at their peak, it's time to cherish this release for listeners of Cog's music, because it could be debatable as to whether things will remain at the same level. Only time will tell.

By Simon K

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Album Review - Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Sunday at the Devil Dirt
[V2 Records; 06/05/2008]

Due to the fact Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan had fished in contrasting waters through their respective musical careers, there were many raised eyebrows when the pair collaborated two years ago. Like love, opposites attract, and in this case the same rules apply.

Sunday at the Devil Dirt is a sombre affair that walks down a path that rarely veers into an alternative direction. Like the duo's debut opus, Ballad of the Broken Seas, Lanegan takes the lead while the undertones of Campbells's luscious whisper is an unguarded formula of the folk genre that fails to grow dull when the pair take to the stage. 'Seafaring Song' sets the trend, with minimal instrumentation and the voices Lanagan and Campbell the main focal point of standings.

'Salvation' is a one horse town pub swoon with Lanagan bathed in bourbon, while the haunting shoot out during 'Backburner' holds minimal haunting sounds with Lanegan's Tom Waits esque vocal pipes once again the feature while Campbell wallows 'backburner, backburner'. However, no other rises to fame like the sombre undertones of stand out track, 'Trouble', which could be aptly played in your car stereo while you take the exit route out of your home town for good.

Despite SATDD failing to weigh up to the pair's debut outing, there's still enough quality for multiple listens. The blissfully gentle voice of Campbell and the whiskey and cigarette addled drawls of Lanegan have always been – if not surprising to some - a match made in heaven. It's the perfect comedown album after a hard day's slog, while a cigarette and short beverage shouldn't be too far out of arm's reach.

By Simon K

Album Review - The Charlatans

The Charlatans – You Cross My Path
[XL Recordings; 12/05/2008]

The Charlatans have always possessed an edge. Love them or hate them, front man Tim Burgess has always wooed his followers with sophistication through his lyrical craft.
Despite The Charlatans’ cult following around the UK, the band is little known around other parts of the world; so much so that they fail to seize their own moniker in America (known as The Charlatans UK).

Although direct praise rarely goes their way, they hold a greater significance as apposed to a lot of their contemporaries who dabble in a similar vein, while their crowds vastly consist of people that have a bit more between the ears, as apposed to those who pamper fanatically to the beats of The Stone Roses or The Happy Mondays.

You Cross My Path is The Charlatans getting back to basics, but with the addition of a soundscape familiar to the modern day. ‘Oh Vanity’ possess the near exact rhythm section to that of Interpol’s ‘Not Even Jail’, while other parts of the album also hold questionable resemblance to bands The Charlatans have been listening to of late. 'The Misbegotten' the perfect evidence of this, despite its pulling power as a single.

After the 2006 reggae tinged Simpactio, it was always evident that The Charlatans would revert back to their old sounds with You Cross My Path. Still with the ability to pen a catchy single, and although many will be pleased that Tim Burgess and his mates are back rehashing old templates with the slight niggle of that 'modern' sound, it seems they've boarded along a near midlife crisis, which is binding evidence that their best work is a distance behind them.

By Simon K

Album Review - Russian Circles

Russian Circles – Station
[Suicide Squeeze Records; 06/05/2008]

Not too far away from their crosstown rivals, Pelican, Chicago based Russian Circles sprawled to the attention of many avid post-rock lovers in 2006 with their debut outing, Enter. The album itself was a solid start from a band that had all the essentials to move down the path of a heavier sound, and with the anticipation of their sophomore, Station, some may be a little surprised with the results.

'Campaign' kicks things off with a build-up very reminiscent of fellow contemporaries Red Sparowes, but unlike the latter, this track fails to build up to a jaw breaking climax. Much of the album teases the listener in this fashion with a huff 'n'puff, piss 'n' wind mentality that really fails to capture the potential this band has. If anything, 'Versus' is a good rendition of how post-rock should be played out, but it slithers away from the point many thought Russian Circles could make through their music.

Station is an album that witnesses Russian Circles breaking down their sound into a more bona fide manner of post-rock, as apposed to the hammer and tong sounds they've previously threatened to embark upon.With a slew of bands portraying the genuine post-rock ethos, Russian Circles fail to board upon anything groundbreaking, which is disappointing as their potential hard nosed sounds would've been more welcoming at this point of time.

By Simon K

Friday, May 9, 2008

Album Review - Tall Firs

Tall Firs – Too Old To Die Young
[Ecstatic Peace; 18/03/2008]

Hailing from Annapolis, Maryland, three piece, Tall Firs, have fallen into a nice pair of hands in Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Piece label for their sophomore album Too Old To Die Young. To say they wear their influences' heart on their sleeves could well just be one of the great understatements of the year, and maybe if every second band weren't trying to be The Jesus And Mary Chain then maybe they would take the cake rather than share a small quantity of it.

'So Messed' up has Sonic Youth circa 2004 written all over it with the guitar tunings all but the same not to mention those Thurston Moore drawls that ooze with coolness. 'Blue in the Dark' and album highlight 'Loveless' follow the same pattern as does majority of the remaining tracks. 'Good Intentions' slows the pace down, but still has a very SY quality about it.

A nice guitar twang carries on all the way through Too Old To Die Young, making the affair a nice mellow one. It's evident the sounds the Tall Firs deliver clearly derive from their label owner, and his recent adventures with Sonic Youth on Rather Ripped and Sonic Nurse. It just so happens that some people, like myself, fell totally in love with these two respective release and furthermore, don't mind others pilfering these sounds as long as the piss isn't taken too much. It may seem like the pot calling the kettle black, but let's get one thing straight; as rehashed as it sounds, TOTDY isn't a bad record to come back to every now and then even if it does pale in comparison with it's direct influences.

By Simon K

Album Review - The Brian Jonestown Massacre

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – My Bloody Underground
[A Records; 01/04/2008]

Anton Newcombe has come in for some criticism after the controversial documentary that was Dig! Some say it's a man at his self-absorbed finest (and after some of his My Space rants and You Tube appearances this could be credible), while others claim it was shown in poor context and totally misrepresented the accused. Either way, Newcombe has established a love/hate relationship with critics, music listeners and anyone else that chooses to stand in his path.

My Bloody Underground is the aptly titled full-length that ranks as the first for The Brian Jonestown Massacre since the Dig! fiasco and also witnesses the band in an experimental shift of sound.

The album's strength are in the tracks that hold a repetitious formula. 'Monkey Power' portrays this, but the rhythm stands up as catchy outing, so although it seems like there's a vibe reminiscent to flogging a dead horse, its infectious nature of sound is enough to pull things through. 'Golden Frost also has a sampled loop with guitars strummed very much to the same effect of how Lou Reed undertook his duties when fronting The Velvet Underground. Opener 'Dropping Bombs on the White House' and 'Yeah-Yeah' are about as close as vintage BJM we've come to hear in previous affairs from the band, but this time around the strength fails to lay within these songs.

The two former pieces - although late in the album – encompass what the band have created as a whole and although at times things could be regarded as hit and miss, the band have made an attempt to refresh their sounds and expand on their own boundary.

The title of this album speaks volumes, but deep down, that's the whole point in a twisted sense of irony. With many bands these days paying tribute to My Bloody Valentine, The Velvet Underground and The Jesus And Mary Chain yet ignorantly failing to know it, at least The Brian Jones Town Massacre have unleashed it in a paradoxical sense. Okay, so at times it's a little meaningless (particularly the song titles) and at others something of a rehash of the past, but you can still do a good job when debating the latter antics, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre – dare I say it – may well have just done this.

By Simon K

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Album Review - No Age

No Age – Nouns
[Sub Pop; 05/05/2008]

No Age popped up on the radar last year with their debut album, Weirdo Rippers, which held recordings of singles and EPs the band slogged out during the embryonic stages of their existence. Like many other lo-fi American bands spawning out of the woodwork these days, I thought it was a self-indulgent piece of music from a couple of LA bums from an underground skater scene. However, their sophomore album Nouns is a totally different proposition and if ever there was statement in indie pop music to turn a head, then there's no need to look any further than here.

'Teen Creeps' is the first of many highlights that Nouns comprises of, with its severing guitars sounding like a piece of metal been put through a welder in a workshop, while the uneven melody makes the track and clearly shows the intent the band aim to make during this affair.

'Caven' follows in the same vein with lo-fi noise that would've been welcomed if Kevin Shields had taken a bit more acid and had a little less money at his disposal in the studio during the late '80s. 'Sleeperhold' has more guitar sounds seeping out of the amplifiers with an unrestricted viciousness that pisses all over what No Age have created in the past.

Nouns is what music is about today. Their use of melody on Nouns was the absent ingredient during their last at bat, which as stated above, proved a sketchy outcome indeed. People will say No Age brim upon innovative, but in actual fact, they would be getting caught up in a thing that is better known as hype. It's easily constructed music that gains plaudits due to the freshness and ferocity that it's delivered with, however the main achievement of Nouns is the timing of its attack and not so much the overall ability. Still, a plus is a plus.

By Simon K

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Album Review - Retribution Gospel Choir

Retribution Gosepl Choir – Restribution Gospel Choir
Caldo Verde Records; 18/03/2008]

With the help of long term friend and Sun Kil Moon brainchild, Mark Kozelek, Low frontman Alan Sparhawk has finally let his side-project, the Retribution Gospel Choir, see the light of day. With the album produced by the former, this project enables Sparkhawk to up the tempo just that little bit more than he usually would, and the self-titled debut is certainly a shift in gear from the slow sounds of Low.

'Take Your Time' and 'Breaker' are both re-recorded Low numbers with a little more edge and an in-your-face tempo, while album highlight 'Sombody's Someone' could have been a highlight on The Great Destroyer, with heavy bass lines and Sparhawk's trademark melodies the two highlights. Sadly, the latter is the only piece that could transcend above Low's work and although it's not a competition or comparison game between the two respective projects, as a listener, you find yourself in this telling predicament.

Although a little more vicious in sound, Retribution Gospel Choir is an adequate release that will please some, with Sparhawk finally getting to front a 'rock band', of sorts. Despite Sparhawk's voice been accompanied by a standard drumkit this time around, things still seem to fall short of those darker qualities of Sparkhawk's work on The Great Destroyer, that - in comparison - seem harsher in terms of sound and certainly more aloof underneath the surface.

By Simon K

Album Review - Animal Collective

Animal Collective – Water Curses
[Domino Records; 05/05/2008]

With the slew of elements that the Animal Collective's music comprises of, it's difficult to gauge the ability of their albums in conjunction with the release dates of them. Previously, I've found myself still picking up different things 12 months after they've released an album and their new EP, Water Curses, isn't any different.

'Street Flash' is the pick of the bunch with everything on this release jammed into the song's entirety. Busy samples and manipulated vocals are just some of translucent waves that build up to Lennox delivering a murderous shriek above a sampled melody that reaches the climax of the track.

'Cobwebs' and 'Seal Eyeing' are numbers the Animal Collective have always felt comfortable in unleashing. Respectively, the two could quite easily fit into the calculations of what the band was doing during Feels, with slow velcro drawls that certainly don't weigh up short when comparing to material such as 'Daffy Duck'.

With various tracks recorded during the Strawberry Jam sessions, there's definitely a form of nexus between the two respective releases that would not surprise listeners had different tracks been shifted from one another. In Water Curses' case, the glib noise we've come to hear from Baltimore's finest continues, coming in luscious forms of melodic noise and chaotic crescendos, while the notions of a band that seemingly hold the future of music in their hands continues to fight fit.

By Simon K

Friday, May 2, 2008

Album Review - Dodos

Dodos – The Visiter
[French Kiss; 10/03/2008]

With a moniker that could see many people snubbing this band, I would advise you not to do so. Okay, so the name “Dodos” is suspect at the very best, but surely the music is the main concern here? The San Fransico duo have the ability to write a nice ditty and their debut album, The Visiter, holds this evidence. As for the moniker; perhaps irony best sums it up?

'Joe's Walzt' is a drawn out affair of bluesy guitar noodlings and drumbeats that shift adeqautely in tempo throughout the duration. 'Paint the Rust' follows with a sequence of disjointed drumming and a folk tinge that manages to sound along the rhealms of unique. This is where the band is at its best, as apposed to the shorter songs, that really stem the flow the album's albility. 'Jodie' is another highlight and something that the Dodos - if only momontarily - may just have got the jump over The White Stripes on.

Although The Visiter comprises of interesting sounds, you feel that things become a little too calculated throughout the album, with the band a little apprehensive to broaden its horizons, despite their potential to do so. A band with undoubted promise, though in the case of this album, the quantity of the tracklist could have definitely been cut to maybe 10 songs as apposed to 14, with the shorter ditties the prime candidates for the axe.

By Simon K

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Album Review - Malcolm Middleton

Malcolm Middleton - Sleight of Heart
[Full Time Hobby; 03/03/2008]

Scottish accents. Don't you just love them? former Arab Strap member, Malcolm Middlton, has continued in his rich vein of songwriting that evokes a thick Scottish tinged folk sensibility along with acoustic guitars and subtle piano, drums and violin giving his music an emotion packed edge.

Middleton's latest affair, Sleight of Heart, is more of same from the boy from Fallkirk, who continues to choose metaphores that move in a shallower waters as apposed to his contemporaries. 'Blue Plastic Bags' leads this notion with a nice climatic end, with Middleton drawling “sing along to a sad song” while drums and piano work deep in the mix. Highlight of the album, 'Love Comes in Waves', encaptulates Middleton's songwriting prowess to a tee, with it's seven minute and five seconds of pure Scottish folk bliss in the darkest sense of the term.

Middleton not only releases material in a quick succession, but the quality control in the manner he releases it in is always commendable. Rarely does his albums exceed 10 tracks, which is very important for a solo artist in this day an age. Sleight Of Heart doesn't rank as his most difinitive work, but perhaps it's more of a welcoming addition to the fine catalouge he already boasts.

By Simon K

Album Review - Phantom Planet

Phantom Planet – Raising the Dead
[Fueled By Ramen; 15/04/2008]

When bands release material that makes you realise that they actually haven't disappeared off the face of the earth, sometimes it can be a humbling experience for the listener. Other times, however, it can be dull and uninspiring, and in the case of Southern California outfit, Phantom Planet, the latter applies.

The momentum the band gained through their breezy self-titled third opus is all but lost with Raising the Dead, which comprises of a host of songs that lack edge, catchiness and anything else that associates with the term “pop”. The only bright spark during the 12 tracks comes when the band slow the pace down with 'I Don't Mind', which is about as close to a ballad as Phantom Planet would come to write, ironically moving away from their usual template of sounds.

Music in this day and age needs to be churned out at a rapid rate in order to gain success. Four years without a peep results in becoming the forgotten man, and despite the strengths Phantom Planet showed four years ago, it seems that they've retreated for too long, losing that spark and churning out insipid tunes on Raising the Dead, which is no doubt the lowest point for the band yet.

By Simon K