Wednesday, October 31, 2007

X-rated: Kylie and Studio

Here’s the second post of the day containing the kind of stuff not usually usually featured on The Daily Growl. This time, pure pop.

It’s getting easier for me to get excited about pop music these days, as the world of indie rock/pop has become such a dreary place of late. Every time I check my inbox, there’s a message about another group of blokes (it’s usually blokes, but not always) with the requisite clothing and the right type of guitar riffs. I’m even getting tired of my former radio programme of choice – John Kennedy’s Xposure on Xfm – because it seems to be besieged by this kind of stuff at present. So many bands picked up on and heading towards the limelight before they’re anywhere near half decent. Even more should never have formed in the first place.

So it was with some relief that I come to Kylie. The Aussie superstar’s new album X is due to drop later in November and it’s being preceded by the single 2 Hearts. In the middle of the guitar-band message wasteland, I was pretty pleased to get a couple of Kylie-related emails the other day with interesting tracks attached. None of these are proper tracks from the album, but one is a sort of ‘megamix’ of tunes from X, crammed into six minutes or so. It all sounds pretty ace. The other is a reworking of 2 Hearts by Swedish exponents of Balearic disco, Studio, which drags the track out to over seven minutes, but in a good way.

Download: Kylie – X album sampler mix
Download: Kylie – 2 Hearts (version by Studio)

While I’m here, I may as well talk about Studio, since I’m listening to them right now. Rough Trade gave their album West Coast big props earlier in the year, which got me interested initially. It’s right in that zone occupied by all the proponents of nu / cosmic / Balearic disco of whom the likes of Lindstrom and Prins Thomas seem to be the leading lights. This album employs classic 80s synths and beats, taking in both dancefloor sensibilities and laidback beach vibes as well as elements of yacht rock (oh yes!) and makes the most of stretching the tracks out to lengthy grooves that never quite get tiresome, even at up to 16 minutes long. It’s basically disco music for bearded thirthysomethings, which obviously means it’s right up my street. Maybe it’s the wrong time of year to be listening to this kind of thing, but for now it’s taking my mind of the grey skies over the London Eye outside.

Download: Studio - Origin

Buy West Coast from Rough Trade, or download from emusic. If you’re not big on record collection, the latter is particularly recommended because with tracks that average nine minutes, it makes for particularly good value!

Pre - Epic Fits

Here’s something you don’t normally get on The Daily Growl – a good dose of fast, shouty noise rock. I don’t normally listen to this kind of thing, but it would be remiss of me to let this one pass without some kind of comment.

The band in question are Pre, a London-based five-piece centred round guitarist John Webb (aka the guy who works in Rough Trade) and singer Akiko "Keex" Matsuura (who’s also in the band Comanechi). Also in the band is former Seafood (remember them?) bassist Kevin Hendrick.

All you need to know is that Pre make a hell of a racket. In the best possible way. There’s no let-up all the way though their debut full-length record Epic Fits. They don’t slow the pace. They certainly don’t do ballads. It may be short on tunes, but it’s high on noisy energy and thrills and a dash of fun. So much energy it seems, that they can’t last more than a minute or so with each raucous, yet carefully constructed, sonic blast. Keex screams her way through each track, accompanied by crashing guitars and her bandmates’ own shouts.

Good though it may be on record, it’s live that the band really come into their own. I haven’t actually been able to see them yet, but they do have a pretty wild live rep. I have heard very good things. Gigs seem to be gloriously chaotic affairs, which may or may not result in the band injuring themselves (see this for evidence of Keex’s willingness to suffer for her art). They’re just finished a US tour, so hopefully there’ll be some London dates again in the not-too-distant future.

Download: Pre – So Jazzed
Download: Pre – Popping Showers
Download: Pre – Know Yr Teachers

Buy Epic Fits from Rough Trade or download from emusic.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Akron/Family – Love is Simple

Simply put, this is one of the best albums of the year, from a band that I knew next to nothing about until a couple of weeks ago. I had always associated Akron/Family with the outer reaches of American ‘freak folk’ (whatever that means) and thought they might be one of these bands that may be easier to admire than love. Until Love is Simple cam my way recently.

There’s nothing particularly weird or abstract here. Unless you count wild eclecticism as weird, that is. It’s almost exhausting just taking in all the styles and influences that the New York-based band have compressed into the 57 minutes of this album. There’s acoustic folk-pop, 70s rock riffs, four-part harmonising, chanting, tribal grooves, electronic effects and a big down-home singalong. And that’s just the first three tracks! There’s just so much crammed in here, along with a healthy dose of the expected experimentation, and it seems to me that it must be impossible for anyone not to enjoy the aural feast that Akron/Family have presented us with. The fact that it’s released on Michael Gira’s Young God Records may mean that it won’t be a big chart hit, but this is a record that deserves, nay demands, as wide an audience as possible.

Akron / Family are coming to the UK in December with the equally excellent Phosphorescent. That’s a hard double bill for me to refuse. The London date is at Cargo on 2 December. I’d be a fool not to go.

Download: Akron/Family – Ed is a Portal
Download: Akron/Family – Phenomena

Buy Love is Simple or download from emusic.

The Boredoms / Michael Gira @ Shoreditch Town Hall, 26 October 2007

We were late to this gig due to a nail in my car’s tyre and an quick spare wheel change, which meant that most of Michael Gira’s set was missed. This was no bad thing though. I’ve never like the Swans much, and the four or five songs we caught of Gira’s acoustic set seemed to be pretty much an acoustic approximation of his former outfit’s sludgey dirges. Sure, going to an evening that’s part of the 25th anniversary celebrations for Wire magazine, you’re not expecting tunes, but Gira’s minimum chord pummelling is not for me. Still, I liked his braces and hat get-up.

However, the Young God label boss wasn’t the attraction for my friend and me on Friday. It was The Boredoms, Japan’s premier ever-mutating oddball exponents of free rhythm and musical chaos. I wasn’t at all familiar with The Boredoms, and really was there because of my friend’s wild enthusing about this band. But as I expected, it turned out to be enthusiasm well-founded because it was a storming set, and maybe the best gig I’ve been to this year. That’s because it’s not like anything I’ve been to this year. Or maybe ever.

When describing new music, we usually make comparisons – “it sounds like such-and-such a band” etc. But with the Boredoms you’re in new territory. I can’t think of any similarities with anything else I’m familiar with. Words like ‘improv’ and ‘free jazz’ don’t even begin to get close.

Basically the set up for this, a performance of a something they call V∞redoms, was a low stage in the middle of the venue (the wonderful faded Victorian grandeur of Shoreditch Town Hall) with three drum kits, a keyboard, some vintage synths and a what looked like a carefully-constructed ‘wall’ of guitar necks (see this pic for an idea). The band took to the stage led by main man Yamantaka Eye, with him wielding two huge light bulbs, which he proceeded to toss in time to rapid-fire percussive blasts from the three drummers. From there on in it was one hell of a trip. Eye orchestrated the proceedings, sometimes operating the synth, other times dancing around, screaming like a madman, and the rest beating the crap out of the guitar necks with drumsticks and broom handles. It was an amazing noise, which rose and fell, sometimes stopped, but not quite. And most importantly, underneath all if it was the amazing mass drumming, the sense of rhythm made it impossible to stand still. Thankfully there were a good few people here who contradicted what could potentially have been an evening of cooler-than-thou posing by the crowd, into a display of crazed dancing. I’m not as young as I was, but even at my distance, I couldn’t keep still. It was just amazing.

The closest they came to a conventional song is one where Yoshimi P-Wee (yes, it’s her that the Flaming Lips album was named after) took vocal duties in what seemed like their take on Japanese pop, but like all their material, it’s a particularly twisted take. Although The Boredoms were on stage for about an hour and a half, it seemed like it was all over too soon. And given that this is not the sort of thing than can ever be replicated on record, I’m going to have to hold out till Eye and the gang are back in town to experience this magic again. It’ll be worth the wait.


No downloads here I’m afraid. As far as I can detect, V∞redoms isn’t available on record (and it shouldn’t be either). Plus, nothing I post can really represent the greatness of this gig. However, I have taken some recommendations for Boredoms albums to pursue (Vision Control Newsun seems like the front runner) so after I do some more checking out, I’ll report back. This is not the last you’ve heard of the Boredoms on this blog!

Pics of the gig from unresttwothree and _imax's Flickr photostreams. I didn't take my camera to this one. Wish I had now.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Yo La Tengo @ End of the Road Festival 2007

I’ve already raved about Yo La Tengo’s brilliant set at this year’s End of the Road Festival. Now here it is for you to enjoy. I was contacted by a guy called Mike Aldridge after my review post, kindly offering me a high quality recording of the gig that he had made from his position in the crowd. He’s also kindly allowed me to post it as a lower quality (192kbps) mp3 version. It doesn’t beat having experienced it of course, but it’s a good memento of a great gig, which includes the blistering 20-minute version of The Story of Yo La Tengo.

1. Intro
2. Sugarcube
3. Our Way to Fall
4. The Room Got Heavy
5. Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind
6. Shaker
7. The Weakest Part
8. Mr Tough
9. I Feel Like Going Home
10. Deeper Into Movies
11. Big Day Coming
12. Watch Out For Me Ronnie
13. The Story of Yo La Tengo


14. Nuclear War
15. Before it Gets Dark

I've got the whole thing in one zip file if anyone wants a copy of that. If you do, get in touch and I'll upload it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Singles going steady 12: The Breeders

A quick return to the old CD singles then, and this is a goodie. From back in 1993, it’s The BreedersCannonball. In short, this is a great song, and deservedly an 90s classic. From the ace feedback at the opening, though the moment that that bassline cracks into life and then sets about propelling the song along, through the ace guitar lick and all culminating in the big distorted chorus. It all just hangs together so perfectly and it’s no wonder that Kim Deal and her assorted and ever-changing bandmates never made anything else as good as this. Not that they were bad mind, just that this is an indie classic of the highest order.

Download: The Breeders – Cannonball

Police Story

Los Campesinos! Have a new single out. Apparently it’s a ‘concept single’ and playing on the fact that it’s called The International Tweexcore Underground, the band have recorded b-sides that take in both the ‘twee’ and the ‘(hard)core’ of the title. So they’ve gone for totemic examples of each – Heavenly's C is the Heavenly Option (for the twee obviously) and Black Flag’s Police Story.

Now this is not the first time that this particular Black Flag song has been covered this year. The previous one was notably on Dirty Projectors’excellent Rise Above album, where David Longtsreth didn’t so much cover as ‘re-imagine’ much of Black Flag’s seminal Damaged record, based on what he remembered it sounded like when he last heard it about ten years ago.

And of course Black Flag themselves. When I first heard the Dirty Projectors’ Rise Above, I hadn’t heard Damaged. I’ve since got myself a copy, and although I like it, what with all the mad energy of Ginn, Rollins and the rest, it’s not the classic I was expecting. I still prefer Longtsreth’s re-imagining.

Download: Los Campesinos! – Police Story
Download: Dirty Projectors – Police Story
Download: Black Flag – Police Story

4 or 5 Magicians

Here’s something that finally made its way to me the other day after languishing in the strike-ridden postal system for a few weeks. It’s the new single/EP from 4 or 5 Magicians, a Brighton band which reputedly formed ‘due to necessity’ in autumn 2005 when their frontman Dan failed to book an opening act for a gig he was putting n. Two years and a bit of line-up re-jigging later they’re beginning to win plaudits and people are taking notice.

I remember back in the early/mid-90s in Glasgow that every other band seemed to want to be Pavement, such was their influence at the time. So much that when bands came along with a different formula (like Bis) you’d immediately sit up and take notice. These days, with all the young bucks going spiky and angular, it’s actually more interesting when bands begin referencing Stephen Malkmus and co. Sure, Los Campesinos! have been giving the US slacker rock style a shot of energy and sprightly pop tunes, but there’s probably room for some more, which includes the Magicians boys with their pleasingly ramshackle sound.

That said, the song I’m posting sounds nothing like what I’ve described above. That’s because the last track on the single finds the band doing version of the lead track Forever on the Edge in a sort of late night bar-room Tom Waits stylee. And even though it’s obviously meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it’s actually the best thing on the single. I’m not necessarily recommending a change in direction, but it does seem like they’re onto something here.

Download: 4 or 5 Magicians – Tom Waits Blues

The Young Republic: 12 Tales from Winter City

Finally making a long-overdue appearance on The Daily Growl after poking through the recent holiday and general busyness-related backlog, is one of the finest albums of the year. It would have been just plain wrong if I hadn’t featured this. It’s too good to let slip past.

I know I’ve gone on at length before about The Young Republic, and been a little effusive in my praise. So it’s no surprise that I’m continuing in a similar vein now. The backlash hasn’t started yet. Why should it? This is a truly fine album, which should hopefully put the Boston 8-piece firmly on the map when it’s given a full release in January.

12 Tales from Winter City isn’t a new album as such. It’s more of a collection of tracks from self-released albums and EPs that the band has previously put out in America. But it’s the first time they’ve been available here, and although many of these tracks will be familiar to fans of the group, for most people it will be the first time they’ve heard them. The tracks include their three singles that have come out already on End of the Road Records. And thankfully it includes both Excuses to See You and Goodbye Town, my own personal favourite YR tunes.

To recap, although the band aren’t keen on the Belle and Sebastian comparisons, they’re going to continue to be made, especially since the Glasgow group are the best-known purveyors of this kind of high quality indie-pop. The main difference I guess is that The Young Republic are more obviously American, with a bit of a country influence. Maybe this is something to do with frontman Julian Saporiti’s Nashville hometown, or maybe just that they’re big fans of classic Americana. I know they’re Dylan nuts, and their Bob covers set at End of the Road Festival are still one of my festival, if not general musical highlights of the year. They’ve also got a big love for The Beatles (the album’s dedicated to John, Paul, George and Ringo), so that’s maybe where the strong pop sensibility comes from. In other places (like on She Comes and Goes) where the strings really get going there’s a reminiscence of Arcade Fire. So plenty to enjoy all round then.

The various YR members met at the prestigious Berklee Music college in Boston, where they’re currently based, but now that they’re all finishing up, it seems that the band’s going to be a full-time concern in the very near future. These hugely talented young folks are a pretty tight unit, and seemed to arrive fully formed over here this summer. I know they impressed a good few folks at the End of the Road Festival last month. And I’m sure they’re going to impress a whole lot more in the very near future.

Download: The Young Republic – Goodbye Town
Download: The Young Republic – She Comes and Goes

12 Tales from Winter City is out on general release in January on End of the Road Records, but Rough Trade have a batch of upfront copies. Get yours now, or you’ll have to wait! You can still get two of the 7 inch singles from Rough Trade too (Blue Skies has sold out).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Something to celebrate!

Here’s one that may have got away I fear. The Modern Tribe by Celebration has slipped into our record stores without any fanfare, seemingly unreviewed in a week with a heap of other ‘big’ releases. Heck, it wasn’t even the biggest release of the week on its own label, with the new Beirut album being more of a biggie for 4AD.

It would be a shame if it was to languish ignored though, because it really is a fine record, and a good follow-up to their debut self-titled album from 2005. For those who don’t know much about them, the band hails from Baltimore, Maryland, and comprises of married couple Katrina Ford and Sean Antanaitis, with non-family member David Bergander on drums and percussion. Katrina is the singer, while Sean handles duties on a number of instruments including guitar, but more importantly the guitorgan, an electric guitar / organ combo instrument that has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

That’s a bit like Celebration themselves. When I first heard the band, I didn’t pay that much attention. It wasn’t till I saw them as support for TV on the Radio last year that it all made sense to me. Ford is a charismatic and engaging frontwoman as she flails around at the front of the stage. It’s all quite reminiscent of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but one comment on a previous Celebration post hinted that the influence might actually be the other way round (Celebration have been around longer than their two albums might suggest).

Certainly Celebration are a more interesting band than the Karen O and co. are at the moment. The thing that seems to set them apart is their sense of rhythm. And that makes such a difference. Elsewhere the band takes on elements of soul, jazz and choral singing to add to the rich sonic textures organ swirls and complex melodies they create. That it’s reminiscent of TV on the Radio isn’t a surprise since their friend David Sitek is once again on production duties, and most of the rest of the Brooklyn band can be found bringing their instrumental and vocal skills to a few tracks.

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to Celebration, but this album seems a bit lighter than its predecessor. More poppy, without any track really being anywhere near a singalong. Not that this will necessarily make for a host of new fans flocking to the Celebration cause, which is a shame because this is an album that really does reward repeated listens and in a world of identikit indie rock, Katrina Ford and co. are a breath of fresh air.

Download: Celebration – Heartbreak
Download: Celebration – Fly the Fly

There a few remixes of tracks off The Modern Tribe also doing the rounds. None of them really improve or add much to the originals apart from a few beats. But nonetheless, here’s a reworking of Hands Off My Gold by remixers du jour Simian Mobile Disco.

Download: Celebration – Hands Off My Gold (Simian Mobile Disco Remix).

Buy The Modern Tribe, or download from emusic.

PS. At least Drowned in Sound likes it...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I just popped out and...

Things I’ve missed while I’ve been away...

The all-new Hype Machine

So the Hype Machine has had a makeover (or gone into Beta or whatever technology nerds call it). Hello to a new stylised interface. Got to say I like the new logo and ‘corporate colours’ (I would say that, I bought one of the t-shirts), but I’m not sure I like the new site. The real beauty of the old one was its simplicity. Plain background, the minimum of ads and just a straight list of tracks. Now parts of the blog posts are on display, which I think is a bit unnecessary. And it seems only three tracks are visible per post. Just give me the old list! That’s all I need – not all the new interactive thingys. Who knows, maybe I’ll grow to like it, but for now, it’s not impressing me that much.

The BT DMA awards

So the results are in and the list has been published. It looks like rather than improving on my placing of 17 last year, this year I’ve slipped to 26. Maybe there were more people out there in the running this year. That’s my excuse anyway (it’s a fair one mind, since my readership is a good bit up on last year, thus increasing voting potential). Mind you, it’s an odd bunch. The blogging pop stars Mike Skinner and David Gilmour are at the top again. The rest are a motely collection of band and genre-specific blogs, sites that are not really blogs at all, nor music blogs. Congrats to Victoria’s Jukebox which managed to beat off a load of the corporate and star-backed enterprises. Elsewhere, of the music blogs that I recognise and frequent, we have Song By Toad at no 22, Headphonesex, Indie mp3 and Fucking Dance all in the top 40 and Sweeping the Nation , Nothing But Green Lights. Keep Hope Inside, music like dirt all in the list.
I wonder how many of the top 100 will still be active come next year’s competition though? Maybe there should be some sort of vetting process - I mean, this one (no. 56) is surely stretching the notion of both music and blog.

In Rainbows released

Oh yes. It’s finally here, though I missed the release date by over a week due to not having access to my own computer, finally getting it yesterday. I’ve had a couple of listens and it’s good. I think it’s a bit of a grower. There are no obvious ‘anthems’ here, which is a good thing in my book. Instead the sounds are more subtle and complex and will probably take a good few listens to fully embed in my mind. It’s also good to see that Radiohead are still steering a path of their own. They have a lot to answer for in a way, which being semi-responsible for creating the genre of stadium indie which plagues our charts and record shops, but it’s been a while since they trod that path. The are using electronic beats to fine effect, and their use of strings is beautifully restrained. There seems to be a lot more listening pleasure to have here.

Radiohead - House of Cards

Friday, October 19, 2007

Singles going steady 11: Beachwood Sparks

It’s been a while since I visited the mouldering rack containing my CD singles, so I’m returning to it today to bring you Beachwood Sparks.

This band haven’t officially split, but there’s been not much activity since 2002, when they released the Make the Robot Cowboys Cry EP. My single however comes from the previous year, and is a cracking little 4-track EP of wonderfully dusty country rock, which finds Beachwood Sparks clearly revelling in their love of Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. More surprise then that the lead track is actually a cover of a Sade song – By Your Side, from her 2000 album Lovers Rock.

Now there’s always been a real connection between country and soul music which may not always be obvious, but it’s rarely been so well done than here. The original’s a fine tune in itself, but the LA band really makes it their own and this may even be the definitive version of the song. The other three tunes on the EP (including a cover of 60s folk singer Eric Andersen’s Close the Door Lightly When You Go) are none too shabby either.

All of which makes me wonder why I never bought any more Beachwood Sparks records. I did see them live at The Spitz around the time when the EP was out, and was surprisingly unimpressed, so maybe that’s a factor. They have two albums – a self-titled debut (2000) and Once We Were Trees (2001). Maybe I should check them out. In the meantime, enjoy these tracks, and if you’re interested in finding out more about the band, there’s a lovingly maintained fansite which can keep you up to date with the movements of the various members.

Download: Beachwood Sparks – By Your Side
Download: Beachwood Sparks – Quietly Be

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Laura Marling - My Manic and I EP

This year hasn’t been a great one so far for my January tips. So far albums by Kate Nash and Jack Penate have been big disappointments, Ali Love has gone all Calvin Harris, and albums by Fields and The Rumble Strips have slipped past without quickening many pulses. There are still hopes out there, but despite being the best of the lot, Emmy the Great is still unsigned. Oh well.

Which brings me to Laura Marling. Back at the start of the year when I first featured her, she was promising. Her London Town EP was certainly agreeable to the ear, but it seems that she’s really arrived now with her new EP My Manic and I, and the fact that it’s on Virgin Records will surely get her more and bigger exposure. But it’s no more than she deserves. It’s an excellent collection of songs, and a welcome antidote to the shockingly poor output of new artists on major labels lately.

She still reminds me of a younger Beth Orton though (is it the voice, or the acoustic stylings?) but I think that’s a good thing. Lead track New Romantic is easily the best thing she’s done. It’s a simple, effortlessly beautiful song. There’s just something about it – the way that Marling’s vocals slide over the lovely tune – that makes it stand out from so much else of this kind of thing at the moment. The other three tracks are pretty tasty too. In fact, given that a few people have already been posting New Romantic, I’m going with track 2 – Night Terror. Enjoy!

Download: Laura Marling – Night Terror

Buy the My Manic and I EP here. Laura’s out and about touring around the UK and Europe just now, including some Devendra Banhart supports. All the dates on her myspace.

Photo from binghamsally's Flickr photostream.

Back from the dead – with Metronomy, The Mules, Jeff Lewis

I’m back. After a couple of weeks of irregular posts, lots of work, holidays and a gruelling 19-hour round trip to Scotland (the journey, not Scotland of course) I’m hoping that I’m back to more regular posting. We’ll see how it goes. Before I embark on proper reviews again, here’s something that was waiting for me in my small pile of CDs when I got back yesterday. The new single from Metronomy Radio Ladio, which is full of their usual bleepy goodness. They’re touring everywhere over the next couple of months, so if you’re going to see Foals, Kate Nash, Bloc Party or CSS, make sure you get down early. Not sure if they still have their light-up t-shirts, but the beats should be good. Here’s one of Radio Ladio’s b-sides.

Download: Metronomy – Hear to Wear

What else is new? I’m sure I’m missing some music due to east London postal workers’ penchant for striking, and I know that one thing I haven’t received yet is Pick Your Own, the ace-sounding new compilation album based on The Mules’ recent Big Chill House residency. More on that when it comes through, but one of the tracks on that comp is The Mules’ new single This is Your Life. For now, here’s the video.

While I’m on YouTube action, here’s the latest from the Black Cab Sessions – none other than NYC troubadour, Jeffrey Lewis thankfully not playing something off 12 Crass Songs.

That’ll do for now. More music coming right up…

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Best of September

I know this feature is normally a wee bit late, but surely 14 days into the month is a bit too late to be having a retrospective look back at the previous one. Well, it is really, but I've been a hell of a busy elsewhere. And I’ve got a programme here, and I’m going to roll with it, right? So here goes…

Album of the month

Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam

Again, a few decent releases in September, but none bringing me so much pleasure as this one. Haven’t had a chance to review it properly, so this’ll have to do. Needless to say that it’s another woozy psychedelic delight, which reminds you of the Beach Boys without sounding anything like them, and has folky sensibilities without sounding anything like folk music (even freak folk, whatever that is). The band ply on the effects and layer the sounds to create something of a skewed pop masterpiece. Like Daily Growl fave Danielson, AC are another band that sound more like a pop band the more you listen to them, while others are scratching their heads and calling it weird. In that vein then, Peacebone is surely this year’s Did I Step on Your Trumpet?

Download: Animal Collective - Peacebone

Songs of the month

King Creosote – Admiral

I’ve been enjoying the new King Creosote album much more than I thought I would after his disappointing set at End of the Road Festival. It’s a mixed bag, but it can’t go wrong with drop-dead gorgeous tracks like this one. When Kenny’s voice is to the fore, with only miminal backing, it is a wonderful thing indeed.

David Thomas Broughton – Walking Over Me [link to previous post for the mp3]

My discovery of the month. Before End of the Road Festival, David Thomas Broughton was just another name, another supposed singer-songwriter. Now I know that he’s a totally unique talent with a live show unlike anything else I’ve seen. And brilliant songs too. This is the one that’s been going round in my head ever since.

The Young Republic – Modern Plays
[link to previous post for the mp3]

It may seem that the Young Republic has a guaranteed place on my monthly best-ofs this year. It’s not like I have an obligation or anything, but if the keep on releasing top-quality indie-pop like this, they’ll keep on impressing me at least.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What St Vincent did next...

Straight after her excellent gig at The Slaughtered Lamb a few weeks ago, Annie Clark jumped in a cab with the lovely Black Cab Sessions people and did this.

And here's the audio of the session (via blogs are for dogs).

Download: St. Vincent - Dig a Pony

Buy her album Marry Me.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Today's lesson: history and politics

Today, I’m going back to school for some lessons, courtesy of a couple of albums released this week.

First up, history. This comes courtesy of Leeds band and long-time Daily Growl faves iLiKETRAiNS. Anyone who’s familiar with this band will know about their ongoing fascination with dark and obscure historical happenings, which they pay tribute to and describe in their songs. They’re so committed to the whole history thing that they’ve even produced a book of essays to accompany their debut full-length album Elegies to Lessons Learnt, so their fans can understand the whole context to each song. They cover cover the Great Fire of London, the Salem Witch Trials and the strange tale of round-the-world yachtsman Donald Crowhurst amongst other sad tales. That’s educational!

Musically it’s more of the same from iLiKETRAiNS. This is both a good thing and an uncertain thing. It’s good because I like their gloomy, atmospheric post-rock, and they don’t mess with the template already established on their debut mini-album Progress Reform and a few singles. Theirs is a singular sound which lacks variation, and although this is a sound that I find very pleasing over the course of this album and although the lyrical content makes for much more interesting listening than (say) Dave Martin singing that he’s got 99 problems but the bitch ain’t one, it does leave me wondering where they can go next. If they repeat this particular post rock sound and history combo indefinitely, they’re sure to begin to bore their audience. I’m not sure I’d be so enthusiastic about another similar record.

Maybe the answer lies in the track Come Over. I’m never a fan of over-production, but towards the end of this track when the strings surface, and the regular iLiKETRAiNS trumpet is heard a bit more clearly than normal, it becomes quite the beautiful thing. Who knows, maybe they could do something with this. In the end then, this history lesson ends up being very enjoyable, with the facts helped along by some fine music, but I’ll be looking for more next time round.

Download: iLiKETRAiNS – Come Over
Download: iLiKETRAiNS - We All Fall Down

Buy Elegies to Lessons Learnt (with the book of essays)

Next we have politics. But don’t expect to get a fair view of the political system in this lesson. No, the system is the very thing that’s the problem here, according to Jeffrey Lewis, or rather according to old UK punk band Crass, who Lewis is covering here. The album title 12 Crass Songs tells you exactly what to expect.

These may at first seem like strange bedfellows. Jeffrey, with his affable and always enjoyable New York anti-folk (whatever that is), delivered in his rapid-fire, half singing-half speaking manner. His are usually interesting observations on life and art, but what we’re dealing with when it comes to Crass is full-on agitprop punk rock polemic. However all is explained. Instead of a press release, the CD came accompanied by a nice little drawn story by Jeffrey, which explained how he got down with the anarchist punks. It was all due to a skinhead room-mate at college it seems, and although our Jeff was initially wary of such a fearsome looking dude (Lewis was a skinny hippy after all) they hit it off and he grew to like Crass.

Now, I would much rather listen to Jeffrey Lewis meander his way though Crass songs than Crass themselves and day, mainly because I like his style. There’s a certain playfulness about the way he takes on each track, which is a welcome relief from the lyrical content. I’m not sure if Lewis really believes all this stuff, or if it’s more that Crass were an important band for him, but after listening to a few songs in a row, you feel a bit worn out by the lyrics. They’re just so worthy, and stink of so much self-righteousness. There’s only so long you can put up with it being inferred that you’re noting more than a drone of an evil capitalist system just because you don’t drop out and join an anarchist commune in Essex and continually rail against all that disagree with you. Honestly, listening to these words that rail against the state and church make the songs seem like as much a relic as Socialist Worker paper sellers and evangelical street preachers. Over 12 tracks, it’s just plain dull. If that sort of thing is your bag, Jeffery certainly sweetens a foul-tasting pill, but ultimately can only do so much to rescue these museum pieces of songs. Which takes us nicely back to history I guess.

Download: Jeffrey Lewis – Do They Owe Us a Living?
Download: Jeffrey Lewis – Banned From the Roxy

Buy 12 Crass Songs.

A reminder of just how good Jeffrey Lewis can be here though, with his classic Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror.

Monday, October 01, 2007

One year older. Something to celebrate.

Today is my birthday. No, not the blog. Just me. I've been up to Yorkshire and back with work already and I'm pretty wiped out now. Just enough time to polish off some of the lovely cake that Mrs Growl made for me, finish my beer and go to bed. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

Here's a vaguely appropriate tune, from an intriuging Asthmatic Kitty compilation.

Download: Birthday Cakes - Song of Sparrows.