Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Gloom-pop, glitch-pop, dark wave; riding a wave of emoticons, reblogs and fickle, LOL hungry teens, the New York duo of Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow deliver their debut album.
Owing a debt both to Blondie’s sleek new-wave and the present generation of synth-pop assisted divas, it effectively pre-empts Florence Welch’s next move by throwing big-lunged choruses over syncopated rhythms and glossy synths. With beats that wouldn't seem out of place on a Calvin Harris record it seems as if every ingredient is present for ‘Secondhand Rapture’ to be a big success. Yet despite Plapinger’s Tumblr friendly hair colour and the duo’s dark-wave pretenses the choruses are as sugary and predictable as they come and there’s no sense of illicit thrills that the very best electronic music can offer; the razorblade in the cotton candy or the bittersweet pill that makes the highs all the more vivid.
At least Florence’s faux-pagan theatrics and private school upbringing were offset by interviews in which it became apparent that the wide-eyed kook in Victorian attire was not some carefully thought out marketing gimmick and she genuinely did live her life as if she were Kate Bush in the Wuthering Heights video. In contrast, by surfing in on a wave of net zeitgeist MS MR are left re-packaging the tropes that made them a trending topic in the hope of making an album that holds together for more than forty minutes. In some ways ‘Secondhand Rapture’ is an unfortunate choice of title because rather than conjuring up the air of mystique that MS MR evidently strive for, it actually highlights their most prominent weakness: we've heard this before.
All four tracks from last year’s Candy Bar Creep Show EP are included here; the product of a record company wanting to capitalise on their online buzz in an era of low attention spans, but the problem is that the duo just haven’t generated enough top quality material. For this reason it will probably be judged a disappointment that ‘Bones’ failed to become a smash hit despite appearing in a trailer for Game of Thrones but both ‘Bones’ and the earlier single ‘Hurricane’ are still the two best moments here. The former’s macabre refrain and enormous piano motif contrast nicely with the clattering percussion of the latter whilst both push Plapinger’s soulful vocals to the front and centre.
They’re not inventors or innovators but they’re competent scavengers with a 21st century grasp of presence and presentation. Ultimately however MS MR make music that when matched to the right visuals or dropped on an undemanding dance floor delivers a brief spark but tends to leave the soul alone.
Monday, 13 May 2013
Her premier release in 2009, Hands, was met with moderate success due to the rise of kinswoman Lady Gaga, La Roux and Ellie Goulding. With her new album Nocturnes, Little Boots delves into the more recent archives of 90's synth pop dance hybrids rather than the 70's disco tinges of her first album. It creates a soundscape immediately familiar to the audience. At times it sounds like Kylie Minogue at her best, and that is served up as a compliment. It's what is needed or expected in order to meet the genre and her perfect pop vocal rides high.
Opening track 'Motorway' is a beautiful segue, a welcome mat of a track. The piano intro is reminiscent of Miike Snow, and the dropping out of the bulk of the instrumentation to highlight the lyrics about the pining of a need to escape with the one you love is blissful. Similarly 'Confusion' has the slow electro clap of a thousand 90's floor fillers. It's a Ministry Of Sound track.
The cool thing about Nocturnes is that it doesn't sound like a straight album, some of the tweaks and drops are akin to the remixes found as B-sides on CD singles, in a time when Woolworths had a purpose. It gives an edge. It's impossible to imagine Little Boots performing synchronised moves in a midst of writhing backing dancers or having elaborate costume changes or set pieces. The songs and their messages and style speak for themselves, she's a serious artist who doesn't need the bells and whistles to be the head of discussion. 'Shake' begins with the Madonna's Erotica form of sensuality through hushed, compressed issues of the title before giving out to the GarageBand preset warbling bass part which is the modern day equivalent of the 80's synth we all mock so readily now. By the time the chorus; "Everybody shake, until your heart breaks" begins, all is forgiven. It's another example of how to work the genre and an album perfectly. This is followed by 'Beat Beat' which is so close to Can't Get You Out Of My Head you can almost hear the court case.
Closer 'Satellites' is the sumptuous end required. Her husky vocals in the opening verse call you in before the chorus jumps about with the bouncing synth spots on either side like being overtaken. What Little Boots has managed to achieve is an absolute feat. In a world where there are far too many artists trying to do the same thing, she has dared to tuck into the pocket of 90's house and pulled out gold.
Nocturnes should be one of the pop albums of the year. It's refreshing in its immediate references and bold in content and delivery. It's not an album to sit on a commute with, it is a top down sunset drive album. Lets pray the sun is around for us to race towards it.
Wednesday, 1 May 2013
Our Mancunian friends and sorcerers of dangerously infectious pop music that will get the indie-kids moving as much as those prone to the dancefloor fillers; Swiss Lips will be playing Live at Leeds for the second year running this weekend. Their new single U Got The Power is bound to go down a storm and we're sure the band will pick up a lot of new friends across the day. Their slot promises to be: sexy, northern, powerful and full of dancing.
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
As good as they are, The Stooges are often forced into the back seat of their own vehicle by putting Jimmy Osterburg Jr up front. As a fan since I heard the opening riff of Search & Destroy it is something of a treat to review their latest work.
Ready To Die represents the second comeback album for The Stooges, and the first since the departure of guitarist Ron Asheton for the great gig in the sky, and it is a pinball machine pull back and release nod to everything that has come before and since. They seem to have constructed an album which will be safe in the legacy of the band. There's no risk, it sounds how a Stooges album should sound forty years on. There are moments of acoustic clarity mixed into the throttle and groan of what could become live favourites. Opening track 'Burn' drops like an Acme safe, and features the potent combination of fuzzy riffs and Iggy's signature croon. This is brilliantly followed by 'Sex And Money', a saxophone heavy blues number courtesy of Steve Mackay, which has a near Stones faculty to it. It's good to see Iggy's priority on song titles hasn't changed. The backing female adds something to the expected wall of sound The Stooges build, it's another aspect, another string to the bow but still sounds like they did on Fun House. 'Job' represents the final piece in the trilogy which opens the album before it changes tact. "I got a job, I got a job, I got a job but it don't pay shit" Iggy sings, leaving the listener wondering which of his enterprises the lyrics refer to.
'Gun' sounds as though it could have been written by or for Lou Reed, there's a sustain to the chorus vocal which could have come straight from Transformer, but the solo it gives out to is straight Stooges. 'Unfriendly World' represents the first of three acoustic tracks on the album, something the band are not known for pulling off. It sounds a little Tom Waits but in a complimentary way. This is twinned with the last two tracks; 'Beat That Guy' and 'The Departed'.
Ready To Die hasn't pulled out all of the tricks at this halfway point though. The title track and 'Dd's' are an absolute treat. It could be assumed the latter was about erstwhile punk pal Dee Dee Ramone, but the chorus of "I'm on my knees for those double D's" reveals the true intentions. It's a tad self indulgent and a little Spinal Tap but if Iggy & The Stooges don't craft these songs, who will?
Ultimately, Ready To Die is a triumph. It recalls the glory days, doesn't dwell on them but shows why so many artists around today owe them so much. The Stooges are a band who deserve to be respected, not just for daring to make the albums they did, but for continuing to do so, and carrying it through with such aplomb.
Monday, 29 April 2013
With Katie Lee leaving for the equally dazzling Port St. Willow, and Raph focusing on crafting the excellent 'Untogether' record under Blue Hawaii earlier this year, it was difficult to see which direction Braids might delve into.
Having established themselves as exciting figures in the Canadian art-pop scene back in 2011 with the mini album 'Native Speaker', it would appear that Braids have morphed into something altogether more atmospheric and grand. Work with Blue Hawaii has clearly carried over and colours the bands a new tint, with the electronic stutters in the vocals, and the sense of stillness conjured in both the instrumental and Raph's now less emotive delivery.
'Amends' builds on the foundations of sprawling experimental pop songs that Braids have done so well before, with the incorporation of a more electronic angle and a whole new array of musical experiences for the band members, and it's by all means, great.
Braids' new album is set for release this Autumn on Arbutus Records.
Thursday, 25 April 2013
Half of our editorial team hit up UK Organisers Rough Trade East from the very early hours of the morning and not only did we pick ourselves up a bag-load or three of incredible records for ourselves; we thought of you too!
So it is with our great delight that we come to you with the following giveaway:
PULP - AFTER YOU 12" featuring Soulwax remix. Exclusive Record Store Day 2013 Release.
And if you're about, we'll also throw in a pair of tickets to our Birthday Party with Death at Sea, Yearbook and Luke Godwin at the Tooting Tram and Social on Monday May 13th.
So what do you have to do to win?
Like us on Facebook and write on our wall with the name of your favourite Pulp track. It's that simple.
The winner will be selected at random on Thursday 2nd May at 6pm which means you have a week and a week only to get all your friends to help you win.
(If you win, we'll either post the record out to you or meet up with you in London at a time of both our conveniences. We promise not to tell any other companies that you like Pulp and Soulwax; because y'know, that's the exact material they want for marketing right?)
Monday, 22 April 2013
Despite the much-discussed and really pretty terrifying artwork, the lasting impression of ‘Mosquito’ is actually a subdued, introspective album, which is perhaps surprising given the loud, bombastic nature of some of the songs on it. Opener ‘Sacrilege’, the first song to be released from the album, is a sexy, ballsy track, with a hugely catchy hook and a gospel choir. A proper YYYs anthem. Then there’s ‘Area 52’ which is a Stooges-influenced tribute to space, and aliens, and that kind of thing. ‘I wanna be an alien’ snarls Karen O over fuzzy guitars. ‘Mosquito’ is another loud one, with the screamed hook ‘They’ll suck your blood!’
Despite these tracks, the album still feels a little understated. This doesn’t mean the other songs lack interest, in fact, it may be that the (for want of a better word) quieter songs are the ones that stand out the most due to their beauty, with touching lyrics and O’s tender vocals. ‘Subway’ is a beautiful song, a sad tale of lost love crooned over a sample of a rattling subway car. ‘Always’ is a synth drenched delight, again quieter than one might expect from this album, based on its opener.
The slow build-up and almost New Order feel of ‘Despair’, a strangely uplifting ode to, well, despair, make it a definite highlight of the album. This is mirrored by the brooding build-up of the closing track, ‘Wedding Song’, with its moody bass and echoing piano. The guitar on ‘Wedding Song ’are strangely reminiscent of Noah and The Whale’s ‘The First Days of Spring’ and the mood of the track seems, at first to mirror the mood of that album. However the lyrics tell a different tale of devotion and never-ending love. It’s a pretty beautiful track to end the album with.
‘These Paths’ is another more chilled song, with almost house inspired elements. This is another impression of the album, a band experimenting with different sounds. The experimentations, although subtle, are present with the aforementioned ‘These Paths’ dabbling with house inspiration. Or the dub-reggae influence ‘Under The Earth’, with its reverberating vocals. ‘Buried Alive’ is also bit of a surprise, with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem producing and ‘Dr. Octagon’ aka Kool Keith providing a rap. It’s a pleasant surprise though, with Karen O’s drawled vocals and a guitar riff from Nick Zinner that can’t seem to remind me of anything other than The Smith’s ‘What She Said’.
With ‘Mosquito’, Karen O proves once again that she has one of the best voices in the whole of rock. Thanks to her obvious passion, she can go from tender to powerful to screeching with amazing agility and always, always sound amazing. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are finally back with a record which might not instantly grab you (other than ‘Sacrilege’, how can a huge gospel choir not grab you?!), but after a few listens, it may start to grow on you. And so it should, it’s fantastic.
Sunday, 14 April 2013
For those smart enough to have jumped on the Phoenix bandwagon already Bankrupt! has been a long time coming. It represents the fifth album for the band, and their first release in four years. For those fans concerned about the prospect of a more experimental offering emerging from the flames of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix you can feel safe in the knowledge the Versailles four-piece haven’t swayed too far from the beaten track.
Starting out with Entertainment which sounds like the child of Turning Japanese by The Vapors and True Love (For Now) by Spector, the album was entirely worth the wait, and exceeds expectation. Each track is pure and definite. S.O.S. In Bel Air shapes the vibe of the album. While there appears to be a lot more focus on electronica and synth there is still the influence of lead guitar pinning most of the tracks down. Lyrically it also sets the tone for further tracks like Bourgeois and Oblique City.
Trying To Be Cool is one of their most obvious and poppy tracks to date. It has an almost Motown rhythm and bass line, covered in a fuzz of 80’s synth. Title track Bankrupt! deserves the exclamation mark and sits as a good central point for the album, the Love Like A Sunset of the new record.
Drakkar Noir is crafted to dance to, it has the catchiest of choruses and the phaser guitar up against the brilliance of the keys. It should carry across as a firm favourite at festival season, given as Phoenix are already confirmed for Coachella and Rock am Ring. It closes with a distorted ice cream van like tone which leads into the next track Chloroform.
Closing track Oblique City is a highlight which is a hard thing to achieve on an album so good. It features a brilliant flow lyrically and the undercurrent of piano taps make you wish it could keep on going. The closing Eagles-like guitar picking is a touch of genius and a beautiful way to fade out.
There is every chance this could be the album which pushes Phoenix out to more ears than ever before and in doing so may mean they are lost forever to those who have held the secret so close to their chests for so long. Only time will tell.
Friday, 12 April 2013
To celebrate, we'll be putting on our first proper show. We've collaborated in the past and we've put Yukon on the tube but this; this is our first proper show.
On Monday May 13th, we'll be taking over the Tram & Social in Tooting, South London for an evening of live music from some of our favourite up and coming acts and if you follow us on Twitter or Facebook you'll already be aware of who these acts are. Incase you're not part of our social media following however, here are the details.
Headlining will be the brilliant Death at Sea and they'll be supported by Yearbook and Luke Godwin. All three acts are acts we're tipping for the future and as an introduction, why not listen to them all below?
So do we have a poster and tickets? Of course we do! Sam Hopper (who also helps with our sessions) has designed us a SoundInPugs poster and tickets are just £3 from our BigCartel!
Thursday, 11 April 2013
Former Disney teen queens Selena Gomez (as Faith) and Vanessa Hudgens (Candy), along with Ashley Benson (Brit) and Rachel Korine (Cotty),star as bored college students at a nondescript school smoking weed, hanging out, sometimes reading and even attending classes. Over a series of dreamy, elliptical scenes that slide from night to day and back, it emerges that the four friends want to escape for spring break but just don’t have the money. While Faith prays on her problems the other three opt for a more psychotic approach: armed with squirt guns and a lady-sized sledgehammer, they go full-on GTA and rob a local fast food restaurant.
From here the girls join an invading army of “Spring Breakers” that swarm every inch of sand, surf and hotel. This tanned, white-trash, white-teethed caricatures of American youth (think MTV’s “Jersey Shore” on mass) spill onto balconies and into pools, laughing and yelling as they drink, snort, dance, grind and thrash. They’re monstrous, enthralling and repellent; western sleaze personified.
A plot finally kicks in when Alien a hustler/rapper/whigga, played by an unrecognizable James Franco, takes an interest in the girls. Wearing grillz and long cornrows, Franco manages to make the character simultaneously cartoonish and stupid yet grounded. For the four girls he becomes something of a slimy Prince Charming, leading them further down the rabbit hole of nihilism and violence.
Unfortunately, for everything the film gets right it seems to get something wrong. Visually the film is often mesmerising with splashes of gorgeous, gaudy color and other interesting touches, like bright pink balaclavas decorated with unicorns, which give the film a unique sense of style and attitude. However the party scenes and constant barrage of crotch shots and bare breasts manage to just seem unappealing and sometimes laughable, but perhaps that’s the point.
Another interesting touch the surreal bends in the narrative and presentation, adding brief flash-forwards and flashbacks that make it seem as if the story were incessantly swaying back and forth. Gestures, lines of dialogue and emotional moments are repeated in a desolate, dream-like fashion. However, while sometimes used effectively, this effect often slows the film down to almost a snail’s pace, especially in the quieter less visually impressive moments, where the director seems far too interested in laborious montage than moving to the next plot point.
Ultimately though, “Spring Breakers” is simply an interesting yet incredibly flawed movie; one that see-saws between stylish satire and awkward soft-core porn, art-house and commercial too often and too poorly to be taken as an entirely enjoyable whole.