Monday, 31 December 2012

My Favourite Albums of 2012 - Part 1

<-- Previous -- Main -- Next -->


Tree Bursts in Snow by Admiral Fallow


Tree Bursts in Snow by Admiral Fallow
Released May 21, 2012
Genre Indie Folk
Length 45:35
Label Nettwerk
Rating
?????

BBC Music Review by Martin Aston | May 18, 2012
Given its strong pockets of similarly inspired bands, "Scottish Indie" is a genre of its own, though it’s been through various mutations. In the immediate post-punk era, it was the Postcard label’s witty, acerbic guitar-pop (Orange Juice, Josef K, Aztec Camera), then the blue-eyed soul-pop version (Friends Again, Del Amitri, Hipsway), and nowadays it’s emotion-soaked widescreen melancholia, spearheaded by My Latest Novel, Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad and last, but not least, Admiral Fallow.
Not least because the Glaswegian quintet are the scene’s most thoughtful brand of emo-scaping, more concerned with simmering space and dynamics than outright brow-beating. The opening title(ish) track surges and slow-burns like prime Elbow; Guy Garvey is a Fallow fan, and there’s indeed something Garvey-like about singer-guitarist Louis Abbott.
But it’s still smaller-scale, tense, and all the better for its restraint. Any band featuring clarinet and flute won’t be climbing the barricades any time soon, and flautist Sarah Hayes’ prominent backing vocals says even more about the inbuilt delicacy.
But this is delicacy with a bruising intent. The title of this follow-up to their fine debut album Boots Met My Face (its title derived from school-day memories rather than gang warfare) may suggest something pretty and poetic. But Abbott says Tree Bursts in Snow refers to "the sound and the image of an artillery shell exploding into a cluster of snow-drenched trees," triggered by global gun-related crimes, especially in America.
There’s no outright polemic to the album but threads of anger, frustration and a lust for (a better) life are tangled up across the board. Musically, it’s both moody and approachable: The Paper Trench has that Mumfords-style foot-stomping tack; Burn and Old Fools mirror the poise and class of a Elbow ballad (and the latter also resembles minor-key Coldplay); and Isn’t This World Enough?? portrays Fallow’s happy-clappy side, and is the track most likely to plonk them on the radio.
All the unsalvageable miserablists out there should also head to the gorgeous and wistful Beetle in the Box, while the closing Oh, Oscar might even be the best track, a gently stark ballad that’s both heart-aching and -warming.
Of all present Scots Indie torchbearers, Frightened Rabbit are the most irresistible; but Admiral Fallow are close behind. Hearts might well burst under prolonged exposure to this record.

Other Links:

Facebook
Bandcamp
last.fm




Theatre Is Evil by Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra


Theatre Is Evil by Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra
Released September 12, 2012
Genre Dark Cabaret
Length 91:50
Label 8 Ft. Records
Rating
?????

PopMatters Review by Adam Finley | October 5, 2012
As one half of the punk piano cabaret duo Dresden Dolls and as one half of Evelyn Evelyn, Amanda Palmer had a thriving musical career long before she went solo. But solo albums unlocked a new room in the cramped, creative attic of Palmer’s brain. Suddenly her songs and her sound had space to live and grow, to stretch in unimaginable ways—like the kid performing on buckets downtown being handed keys to a recording studio.
With the advent of crowd-sourced fundraising websites like Kickstarter, Palmer has doubled down on her ability to be independently financed and creative. She took to the internet with a simple request to fans: Give me money so I can make art. Her fans did, to the tune of $1.2 million and the title of Most Successful Musical Kickstarter in History. In return, her fans asked for an album they would love. To say that Palmer delivered would be a severe understatement. Theatre is Evil is easily one of the best albums of 2012.
After a short introduction to “The Grand Theft Orchestra” by performance artist Meow Meow, the listener is thrown headfirst into the machine gun drum line of “Smile (Pictures or It Didn’t Happen)”, an immediate crowd pleaser. The sound is unbelievably big, disorientating almost, a grandiose cacophony that makes the most soaring Coldplay chorus sound like a tinny music box, with a vocals-only final line to the chorus “PICTURES OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN!” made for audience participation. “Smile” is easily Palmer’s biggest song ever, and the scale fits her as well as the stripped-down piano ballad “Australia” did on her previous album. The swimming, gorgeous arrangement of “Smile” is like baroque under water, and it foretells the sweeping reinvention of Amanda Fucking Palmer that is Theatre is Evil.
The sonic rush doesn’t slow down a bit once “Smile” comes to a close. Over the course of another hour-plus, Palmer puts together one of the most unique records to come out in recent memory. Cherry-picking the shiniest bits and baubles from each musical era, a pinch of ‘80s synths, a dash of Clash-style guitar, and a little Bach organ and faux-military trumpets to taste, Palmer creates a sound genuinely unlike any other, often switching gears multiple times within a song. The sloppy garage-rock blasts of “Do It With a Rockstar” bleed into a driving pop hook which collapses into a bouncy jaunt and echoing vocals before circling back around to garage-rock. It’s so many styles smashed into one song that it becomes its own style. “Want It Back” does the same thing, starting with a heavy synth line that recalls “Forever Young” before dropping into an uptempo piano ditty, layering the synth on top of the piano later in the song to create yet another sonic texture.
Just as the sheer hugeness is beginning to grate, there is “Grown Man Cry”, a break in the wall of sound which Palmer plugs with some of her most devastating lyrics to date, an excoriation of emotional falsity: “And for a while it was touching / It was almost even comforting / Before it became typical / And now it really is not interesting / To see a grown man cry”. Palmer does this again and again, raising the tempo and ramping up the cling and clatter of a full band just to drop into other slow tracks, notably “Bottomfeeder” and “The Bed Song”, a track about making it in life but failing in love where Palmer shrugs off lines like “You take the heart failure / I’ll take the cancer” with devastating casualness.
Palmer’s art has grown both literally and figuratively since her first solo record in 2008. Theatre is Evil boasts horns, strings, sing-along choruses, fierce rock guitars, untamed synths, falsetto vocals, and drums on drums on drums—all instruments and techniques Palmer has used before, but never all at once and never so perfectly balanced, like an ice cream sundae with everything on it in the exact right proportions, the base of which is Palmer’s songwriting. The lyrics tend toward relationships as they always have, but her melodies are intensely pop-oriented and criminally catchy, especially on greats like “Melody Dean”, “Want It Back”, and closer “Olly Olly Oxen Free”. It’s ‘80s new wave meets arena-rock, smothered in black glitter and sly winks.
And the fun doesn’t stop when the album ends. There are a plethora of bonus tracks to hunt down: iTunes tracks, Australian release tracks, Kickstarter bonus and Deluxe bonus tracks. All told, there is another album of material to be discovered, including the great “Ukelele Anthem” and a cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” shocking both in its fidelity to the original and in how demonstrably better Palmer is than Del Rey at understanding and executing the emotional arc of a song. Petty online squabbles about payment for crowd-sourced tour musicians aside, no one can accuse of Palmer of wasting donor money or phoning this effort in.
In Theatre Is Evil, Palmer hasn’t just topped her best releases to date. She’s done it with room to spare. Though, if you’ve followed Palmer’s career, this shouldn’t be a surprise. It makes sense. Fans paid for the project, so she’s giving them exactly what they wanted: a truly special album, one that will reach out and grab you by the lapels and shake the life out of, or into, you.

Other Links:

Facebook
Bandcamp
Tumblr
last.fm




Life In A Beautiful Light by Amy MacDonald


Life In A Beautiful Light by Amy MacDonald
Released June 11, 2012
Genre Folk-Rock
Length 77:25
Label Mercury
Rating
?????

OK, so this one is a definite "guilty pleasure" in my musical collection and it seems I'm in something of a minority in actually liking the record as it was something of a chore to find a positive review (hence the review from noted music review website Female First ;). But I remain unrepentant, there's just something about MacDonald's music that I really dig!

Female First Review by Helen Earnshaw | June 14, 2012
Amy Macdonald has enjoyed huge success with her first two albums This Is The Life and A Curious Thing and now she is back with her new record Life In a Beautiful Light.
The likes of Adele and Amy Winehouse may have been grabbing all of the headlines in the last couple of years but now the Scottish singer/songwriter is back with her best album next.
4th July is the opening track on this album and her very distinctive vocal rings out in this incredibly catchy song.
Macdonald had always been able to pen a great chorus and with 4th July she has done it again with the track as the energy really kicks in with this powerful chorus.
There is a change of pace with Pride as there is a real folky edge to this track - but I really did like the electric guitar chords at the beginning of the track as this works really well.
Once again the energy does come from the chorus but she really is on form vocally and I feel that her vocal seems to have gotten richer for this record.
Slow It Down was the first single to be released from this album and there is a more indie sound to this track.
It’s a great vocal performance once again from Macdonald there is a real strength in her voice on this track and that is supported by some great melodies as well as some soaring dynamics within the track.
Macdonald burst onto the screen with a folky rock sound back in 2007 and she really has begun to move away from that sound and try new things with her music.
There are folk and rock elements to this record as well as pop and indie and it great to see her take on new sounds and genres.
But she regularly returns to the vocal and guitar driven tracks where she made her name and The Furthest Star is a perfect example as her voice and the instrumentation on the track are just the most perfect blend - this really is one of the best songs on the album.
Her song-writing is also incredibly subtle as she tells a story and sings about feelings, love and loss with lyrics that really do pull on the hear-strings.
And no track demonstrates that more than hidden track Two Worlds which is just a stunning acoustic track that is packed with emotion.
Life In A Beautiful Light is an album that shows further development for Macdonald as she experiments with her sound but without forgetting what has worked for her in the past.
This album is a collection of tracks that have been crafted with so much care and it is an album for which she should receiver recognition and praise.

Other Links:

Facebook
last.fm




Bloom by Beach House


Bloom by Beach House
Released May 15, 2012
Genre Dream Pop
Length 60:28
Label Sub Pop
Rating
?????

I've not distinguished my favourite albums for 2012 into any sort of order for the simple fact that I feel any attempt at ranking would be purely arbitrary and no doubt unfair. However, if I were to rank the records in this list, Bloom would definitely be way up the top!

PopMatters Review by Zachary Houle | May 14, 2012
Baltimore’s Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand are in an enviable position. As the dream pop duo Beach House, they’ve released three excellent records – they’ve never turned in anything mediocre – that have gradually racked up sales in exponential numbers (2006’s Beach House sold 24,000 copies, 2008’s Devotion moved 49,000 units and 2010’s breakthrough Teen Dream racked up 137,000 copies) and the group has moved from Washington, D.C.-imprint Carpark to the bigger leagues of Sub Pop. They’ve landed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Conan, did a live session for Daytrotter, and spent nearly 18 months on the road playing the likes of Coachella, Sasquatch! and Austin City Limits, not to speak of opening for Vampire Weekend on their Fall 2010 tour. Scally and Legrand have, in a very short period of time, moved into indie rock’s upper echelon of acts, a position the two have, according to media reports, a bit of an uncomfortable relationship with. However, the success of Beach House also puts the group at a bit of a brick wall.
Already, there are artists such as Toronto’s similarly named Memoryhouse (also a Sub Pop band) that are now piggybacking on the sound of Beach House, presumably to capitalize on the duo’s success. And while Teen Dream is a great album, and justifiably landed on many a critical Top 10 list at the end of 2010, it was arguably a bit repetitive with songs that bludgeoned the heck out of its hooks, and marked a bit of a continuation of a wispy, airy sound that listeners had already heard on the first two albums. So, the question is where could Beach House go from here? Repeat the same formula that has been tried, tested and true for the group, or try something a bit different and hope that it congeals in a way that doesn’t alienate the band’s growing fanbase?
Well, the members of Beach House have taken the latter road with their fourth long-player, Bloom, to beyond satisfying effect. In fact, Bloom is a masterstroke, an utter gamechanger. Instead of offering another collection of songs that feels more like a random collection of similarly-linked ideas, Beach House made a rarity in the MP3 era: an album that you can sit down and listen to from start to end. In fact, Bloom probably can’t be listened to any other way. This is not a record for the iPod shuffle. This is an album that you have to experience in logical order, and get swept away by, with virtually each successive song raising the bar on what followed. The group also makes ample use of interstitial sounds between some of the ten tracks here (not counting a buried hidden bonus song), with wind howling, birds chirping, cars swooshing by, children whispering and so on, to create an experience that suggests a grander sense of unity than the group has tried before.
However, Bloom isn’t as experimental as it may appear: the songs are top shelf, and the group dials down the “dream” in the dream pop equation and turns up the “pop” aspect. This may turn off some of the older fans who are used to and probably expecting more songs that whisk by like a vapor trail, but the rest of us will revel in the sheer musical craftsmanship now on display. Here, the material feels more like actualized songs than repeated riffs, there’s a certain Cure-esque feel to some of the tracks with an aped Robert Smith shimmer of watery guitar, and Legrand sometimes comes off sounding like Siouxie Sioux. If albums such as Teen Dream were, in fact, the sound of interconnected nocturnal stirrings, then Bloom is more rooted in the firmament of reality.
Bloom announces that it’s is a very different beast than anything that proceeded it by the clang of what one might assume is a bell on the opening beats of lead-off track “Myth”. This is a song which even offers the line “found yourself in a new direction”, something the duo of Beach House has, here, indeed, moved themselves in. The reason, suggested by Legrand in the same song is that one “can’t keep hanging on / to what’s been dead and gone” and that “the past will catch you” on “Wild”. Clearly, Beach House is out to mix things up a bit, shake up their bag of tricks and hone their mastercraft of songwriting. This is most evident on official penultimate track, the absolutely haunting “On the Sea”, which starts out with a gently strummed series of acoustic guitar chords before a saloon-like piano gently fades into the song. From there, things go on to new levels, as a spaghetti-Western guitar gently muscles its way into the mix and a careening organ is added in. Instead of repeating the same tired refrain on the same mid-tempo organ and guitar figure, the group has effectively expanded its sonic palette by layering in more instrumentation. And then, the song gradually fades out all of its layers and winds up on the same cascading acoustic guitar figure that opens the piece, and ends on windswept sound effects, which then give way for the final track (not counting the bonus material), “Irene”. It’s simply glorious to listen to, creating the “strange paradise” that Legrand sings about on “Irene”.
However, the rest of the album is full of immediately bracing tunes, too. “Wild” has a certain New Wave feel to it with its antiquated drum machine laying down the foundation, and Scally peeling the paint off of figurative walls with his guitarwork. “Lazuli” gleefully opens with a Casio-like ping of notes, before the song transforms itself into something from the Cure’s Disintegration in its open and spacious sound that feels epic in rendering. “Other People” is perhaps the most poppy and accessible moment on the record, with its memorable hook in the chorus that feels like it came right out of 1982 British indie pop. “The Hours” opens with glorious and angelic multi-tracked female sighs reminiscent of “Zebra” from Teen Dream, before trotting into a creaky and catchy composition, a trick repeated in “New Year” without it sounding like something needless and unnecessary. It isn’t until you get to the hidden bonus track, “Wherever You Go” that Beach House winds up sounding kind of like the Beach House of Teen Dream days and earlier, with its washes of steel guitar and morose keyboards. It’s telling that this is buried at the very end. While the group is obviously reaching back to older albums, it feels as though Beach House didn’t want the song getting in the way of the overall tonality of the much more refined songs that appear on the rest of the album.
Bloom is a record of expansiveness and growth, but there’s also a sense of restraint. The work presented here feels completely effortless and organic, as though the songs simply unspooled themselves. There is not one blemish on the entire record, and the group has matured to a point where they don’t feel that they have to ride a certain feel or emotion for a good five minutes: Beach House has learned and realized the delectability of the foundational nature of a great verse followed by an astounding and astonishing chorus. Its impact is one that is profoundly mesmerizing. Bloom should be to the year 2012 what Loveless was to 1991, or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was to 2002, or Funeral was to 2004: a landmark release. Without diminishing the import of the group’s earlier efforts, Bloom is the first Beach House album that one can love absolutely unreservedly and care about even from the very first listen, and that feeling is not diminished in any shape or form on repeated spins. This may create a new brick wall for the group: I don’t know how on earth the band is going to top this absolutely impeccable set of material (a fact that the group seemingly addresses on “Myth” with the lines: “what comes after this? / momentary bliss.”) But, for now, Bloom is simply the best thing to amble along in quite a while from any band.
Teen Dream may have positioned the band in many a critical year-end list, but Bloom is probably going to be the album, the bar, for other musicians to beat this year. Bloom is a gushing collection of top tier songs that have been carefully knitted together for maximum impact, and is absolutely gorgeous and stunning. In short, Scally and Legrand might have to become a whole lot more comfortable with the trappings of fame, because Bloom is going to rightfully earn them a whole new legion of fans that will lap up the mystery that Beach House so very effectively conjures up with this unsullied release. We’ll see if Bloom will sell even more exponentially and reach gold level status in sales, but, as it stands, this is an album that is simply, in the most awe-inspired sense of the term, absolutely golden from end to end – a real treasure and an utter delight to experience every time you play it.

Other Links:

Facebook
last.fm




Bored Nothing by Bored Nothing


Bored Nothing by Bored Nothing
Released November 2, 2012
Genre Dream Pop, Shoegaze
Length 49:01
Label Spunk Records
Rating
?????

Beat Review by Chris Girdler | May 18, 2012
From the humdrum small-town lives vilified by Morrissey to the whiney, woe-is-me grunge prominent in the mid-‘90s, musicians of the past few decades have proven that ennui can be a perversely invigorating thing. Melbourne’s Fergus Miller shows that boredom and frustration is still good fodder for the young and disillusioned with his excellent debut album as Bored Nothing. That choice of band name says it all, really.
Once you get past the fact that the washed-out guitar music you’ve just put on is not from Brooklyn, Bored Nothing totally slugs you with its fuzzy, slacker hooks. It’s a sound best classified as ‘dream pop’, though there’s an agitation at its core, reflected in shirty song titles such as Shit For Brains, I Wish You Were Dead and Build A Bridge (And How About You Get The Fuck Over it). When song titles aren’t abusive, they seem cast-off and half-baked: Popcorn, Bliss, Snacks.
The lyrics and vocal delivery reflect this blend of aggression and submission. Much of it is a hazy reflection on Miller’s own life, his breathy vocals delivering stories about being young, getting stoned and skipping class. Otherwise, he chooses tragic outsiders as his subjects, sympathizing with the late moonshiner and bootlegger Marvin Sutton in Popcorn and a sufferer of a hair-pulling disorder in Just Another Maniac. You can pretty much dumb it down to a theme of ‘Everyone’s fucked’, though it’s more succinctly put in the chorus of the album’s first song: “And it’s hard for me to say/But we’ve all got shit for brains.”
Bored Nothing was compiled from four tapes of home recordings, with the addition of five new tracks. It’s beautifully track-listed, managing to show a range of tempos and styles but also forming a comprehensive, consistent album. In a rare feat, the second half is even better than the first, hitting you when the echoing Motown throb of Let Down kicks in.
True, there are a couple of down-tempo numbers that veer a little too close to Elliot Smith (Get Out Of here, Charlie’s Creek), but this is an astonishing first album from a new talent still finding his voice and individuality. Having played almost all of the instruments on Bored Nothing, this release is essentially a solo project, but there is a progression toward Bored Nothing branching out to become a full band. This is one of the year’s finest albums, but I suspect there’s even better to come from this chairman of the bored.

Other Links:

Facebook
Bandcamp
Tumblr
last.fm





All Blackshirts To Me by Cats on Fire


All Blackshirts To Me by Cats on Fire
Released March 28, 2012
Genre Indie Pop
Length 44:23
Label Soliti
Rating
?????

The Guardian Music Blog Review by | May 4, 2012
A wet Wednesday night in London, and a handbag is repeatedly hitting us in the face. We don't care, because we're dancing – as is the handbagger – to the best pop music being made on the planet right now. The crew responsible for ramming out the steaming Bull and Gate is Finland's fantastic Cats on Fire, fondly loved in Europe yet virtually unknown in the UK, where they have difficulty even getting their records released.
That's odd, considering the three albums they've given us since 2007 do nothing less than reinject possibilities, politics, wit, erudition and joy into guitar pop. We're not just here, nose-to-nipple, because we love Cats on Fire, or because they also happen to be the best-looking band on Earth. We're here because 2007's The Province Complains contained I Am the White Mantled King, one of the greatest songs of this millennium; because 2009's Our Temperance Movement was the most pristinely perfect pop album seemingly no one but us ever heard; because this year's All Blackshirts to Me is, impossibly, even better. Cats on Fire are sleeping on someone's floor tonight. By rights, it should be the Queen's; by rights, as everyone here knows, they should be stars.
"I don't love music more than anything else," admits the lead singer and songwriter Mattias Bjorkas, "which means I haven't been blinded by the love of music. And I have certainly not been blinded by money. I was a very straight-edge, socialist youth – Cats on Fire has been my lesson in frustration and dealing with second-bests sometimes, but we try to always make the music move on and matter."
The five-piece has come together in fits and starts from the small, isolated town of Vaasa, sharpening and solidifying their magic every step of the way. "No music industry tentacles were long enough to reach as far up north as we were in Vaasa," Bkorkas says. "But trying to be loved was always my main preoccupation, whatever political or musical ideas I may have presented as the true spirit of Cats on Fire. I nurtured the idea of a small, provincial army that was musically righteous and ready to strike against the trendy, metropolitan hypocrisy."
All Blackshirts to Me is a fab mix of classic indie-pop shimmer, radiant cynicism, and joyously open-hearted wonder. Whether it's the strung-out doom of Our Old Centre Back ("But if you think I look good in a beret/ Then I'd be more than happy to be there and get the chance to say/ That art just imitates football"), the bittersweet honesty of My Sense of Pride ("I've been an idiot for years/ Now I speak in a lower voice to blend in/ And I try not to dress up queer"), or the stunning lullaby to old Europa that is 1914 and Beyond ("Greece don't pay your debts/ don't bother with the debts/ Iceland, go on and cover us in ashes"), Cats on Fire seemingly can't help making indie-pop matter again.
They make songs you can't shake and write lyrics that stop your day in its tracks, the sound exquisitely puckered throughout by Ville Hopponen's addictive licks, Iiris Viljanen's poptastic keyboards, and the band's sheer stealth and grace. The last time you felt this way about indie-pop was Pulp. Yeah – that good. Judging by tonight's rapturous reception, it's only their own shyness that's stopping Cats on Fire becoming major stars.
"In big cities," Bjorkas says, "we observe all the other groups of four or five people with good haircuts, unable to shake the worst thought of all – that each of these 10,000 bands had an idea as valid as our own."
They don't. Not by a long chalk. European album of the year. Avail yourselves immediately.

Other Links:

Facebook
last.fm




Outlands by Deep Sea Arcade


Outlands by Deep Sea Arcade
Released March 16, 2012
Genre Indie Rock
Length 39:23
Label Ivy League
Rating
?????

The [AU] Review by Bree Cohen | March 3, 2012
Deep Sea Arcade have been under our noses for quite some time, but have made us wait quite a while for something substantial to grasp onto. They have graced our ears with standout singles including “Lonely In Your Arms”, “Keep On Walking” and “Girls”, and have been hammered on Triple J. But for fans, their debut LP, Outlands, has been a long time coming.
The album begins with the quietly stated title track “Outlands”, which sets the scene for the vibrant album. It’s full of simplicity and a whole range of subtle riffs, yet has a wondrously unexpected guitar solo towards the end, which brings the song beautifully together.
“Seen No Right” follows with a more upbeat number. This pop-inspired track is what we’ve come to expect from the band. It’s such a stellar track and catchy as all hell! "Girls" brings things back a little bit, but retains the stunning vocals we’ve come to associate with a Nic McKenzie performance. The effect on the vocals throughout the entirety of the album gives it an edge, making it kind of ethereal. But then, that’s always what Deep Sea Arcade has always been about.
“Steam” has fast become my favourite track on the album, from its synth bass line and layered riffs to the sparseness when the vocals come in. I also love the guitar riff that pops in every now and then throughout the song, keeping it nice and unified.
I like the bands’ decision to include both “Lonely In You Arms” and “Don’t be Sorry” on the LP. As the songs that we’ve come to love from the band, it’s nice to hear them both get the positioning they deserve.
“Ride” is another track that basks in simplicity and showcases more guitar solos. In this track particularly, the contrast between the vocals and the instrumental sections is amazing. “Airbulance” brings the album to a close with another quietly stated track. It’s something you can feel yourself pulse along to unintentionally. Oh, wait, that’s what pretty much happens for the entire album.
Deep Sea Arcade have proven once and for all that they can produce amazing music and create something that is truly an entity unto itself. This was well worth the wait.

Other Links:

Facebook
last.fm




Delta Spirit by Delta Spirit


Delta Spirit by Delta Spirit
Released March 13, 2012
Genre Indie Rock
Length 43:11
Label Rounder Records
Rating
?????

Absolute Punk Review by Gregory Robson | March 12, 2012
It's always an interesting thing when a band decides to self-title an album a few years removed from their inception. Often times bands credit the decision as some kind of deep artistic statement that fully represents the band's most complete effort to date. Any attempt to validate such a cause can be answered with the new self-titled effort from California/Brooklyn's Delta Spirit.
Opening up with the rattling rocker "Empty House," the disc automatically begins in a winsome manner. Vocalist Matthew Vasquez' voice has never sounded better, the rhythm section has never sounded more locked in and the group has never sounded more focused. Insofar as an opening statement, "Empty House," is everything it needs to be and more. First single "Tear It Up," follows and keeps the momentum flowing forward. Pulsing and urgent, the song harnesses the energy of"Empty House," and packages it into a jaunty three-minute single. Though the disc is only seven minutes in, the album so far is without flaw.
That trend continues on the autobiographical "California," which covers itself in an airy and organ-drenched veneer. Placid, vernal and painstakingly honest it represents Delta Spirit at their very best. The self-indulgent "Idaho," represents the band's first misstep but thankfully it's not a huge one. There's nothing exactly awful about the song, it just feels underwhelming when stacked up against the previous three. But alas, all the disappointment ends on the spartan ballad "Home." Wistful, melancholic and deeply moving, it is about as strong a ballad as any released this year, and as strong a ballad as any the band has written thus far. In terms of the album's composition, "Home," also serves as a fitting conclusion to Delta Spirit's first half.
The fiery "Otherside," and the equally scorching "Tellin' the Mind," open up Delta Spirit's second act with more energy and swagger than any other two songs on the disc thus far. Punchy, polished and incredibly visceral, the songs serve as the group's defacto mission statement. That is to say, they aren't just a bunch of California folkies who wear their heart on their sleeves. For all their sensitivity and honesty, this band can really growl and these two tracks are veritable proof of that.
But not a band to shed their proverbial skin, the quintet offers up arguably the best song they've ever written: the gorgeous and bracing ballad "Time Bomb." Ageless, indelible and deeply moving, it is most definitely a song the band can hang their hat on. The ethereal and ringing mid-tempo cut "Into the Darkness," borrows much of the charms of both "Time Bomb," and "California," and makes for one of the album's most enjoyable listens.
The bristling rocker "Money Saves," is amiable, comfortable and engaging, but nothing about it is deeply affecting or memorable. Much like "Idaho," it feels self-indulgent in places and does not do much to bolster the album's credibility. Calling it filler would probably be a disservice, but as a penultimate cut, it's incredibly underwhelming. Thankfully the band revisits the halcyon moments of most of the disc on the piano-tinged "Yamaha," a hazy affair that leaves it all on the table. By the time the song draws to a close, the urge to go back to the start is almost overwhelming.
With a body of work this strong and an album this captivating, it seems apparent that Delta Spirit knew exactly what they were doing when they self-titled this album. Wide-ranging, engrossing and incredibly powerful it represents a new height for a band who has hinted at towering heights before. Chalk it up to the production of Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Grizzly Bear) or just a band fully realizing their potential, but Delta Spirit is a brilliant album from one of America's most brilliant bands.

Other Links:

Facebook
Bandcamp
last.fm




Shallow Bed by Dry The River


Shallow Bed by Dry The River
Released March 5, 2012
Genre Indie Folk
Length 51:37
Label RCA Records
Rating
?????

The Telegraph Review by Neil McCormick | February 29, 2012
An extraordinary debut from a new British-based band who combine a gipsy swagger with tremulous sensitivity and gothic rock drama. They are not particularly fresh-faced and fashionable: five scruffy, tattooed veterans of hardcore and emo bands fronted by a 25-year-old anthropologist and medical school dropout, but they have the stamp of greatness about them.
They are a big canvas band making folk rock; a fusion of the accessible pastoral pop of Mumford & Sons with the epic electric soundscapes of Radiohead. But when he drops to the fragile intimacy of an acoustic guitar, singer Peter Liddle’s choirboy tenor evokes the tender melancholy of Nick Drake while the group harmonies swell with the sacred hush and precision of 16th-century madrigals. The multi-instrumental band can gently rock or pitch in with the messianic melodrama of Arcade Fire.
All these musical riches are naturally connected to the songs, which unwind with flowing melodies and poetic lyrics, shifting and twisting in unusual ways but never straying too far from the kind of chorus that would have Chris Martin humming all the way to the charts. No Rest and Weights & Measures boast singalong hooks you might not expect from songs that employ the imagery of the King James Bible, framing narratives of complex relationships in historical and mythic settings.
Norwegian born Liddle’s high language alerts you to his intense seriousness. A preponderance of religious imagery suggests a lapsed Catholic, still struggling with burdens of guilt and doubt. On New Ceremony, he evokes a sudden gulf between a passionate couple by suggesting “the Angel of Doubt came down and crept into your bed”, then vainly tries to halt an inevitable parting with a stream of increasingly desperate endearments: “My little one, my kettle drum, my babel tongue, my come undone, my prison kiss, my dying wish.”
A deliciously wonky lead guitar line emphasises how bereft his is, as Liddle laments “I know it’s got to stop, love, but I don’t know how.” It is intoxicating stuff.
I don’t imagine Dry the River are going to take over the world, or reassert the commercial fortunes of rock. But they do offer hope, making music with ambition, spirit, taste, depth and bold conviction that repays repeated listening. Produced by Peter Katis, who has worked wonders with New York bands the National and Interpol, this is, most of all, a band that has the confidence to sound like itself.

Other Links:

Facebook
Tumblr
last.fm




Loma Vista by Family of the Year


Loma Vista by Family of the Year
Released July 10, 2012
Genre Indie Folk
Length 38:42
Label Nettwerk
Rating
?????

BBC Music Review by Ian Wade | May 18, 2012
Family of the Year aren’t anything to do with an arbitrary award shoved at a celebrity to congratulate them for raising a child or two, but are in fact a Los Angeles-based quartet comprising Welsh-born brothers Joe and Sebastian Keefe (guitar and drums respectively), James Buckey (guitar) and Christina Schroeter (keyboards). They lived in a one-bedroom apartment during this second album’s recording, which takes its title from the street they made it on.
Having toured with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that they deal in indie-pop songs with folk tinges, commenting on the love of life and family over west coast vibes and campfire harmonies. Think of a slightly more cosmic Magic Numbers or a looser Mumfords and you’re halfway there.
St Croix is possibly the best summation of the Family’s ethos, with bongos a-bonging in a courgette soup commune kind of way. Cheery and optimistic, yet yearning, if they claimed that they’d recorded the track in one take you wouldn’t be too surprised.
The single Diversity – which has a sort-of-NSFW video where the band’s clothes are literally pulled off them – is a gleeful empowerment stomp. Buried is the sort of hands-clapping composition that could accompany an advertising campaign for user-friendly technology, or a range of organic fruit, with its refrain of “bury me with my guitar”.
Elsewhere, Hero is a sunlit mellow strum held aloft by a large sing-along section about equal opportunity fighting. On closer Find It, one can imagine them surrounded by a choir of fellow travellers with great hair bellowing the big chorus from atop a cliff.
Loma Vista is a fine album of songs of love, longing and celebration that would sound at its best when cruising along a B road in a soft-top, or stumbled across while wandering around a free festival while a bit tipsy. It’s the sort of album that may well become a slow-burn word-of-mouth affair as FOTY’s reputation spreads.

Other Links:

Facebook
Bandcamp
Tumblr
last.fm




<-- Previous -- Main -- Next -->