Monthly Archives: June 2009

Glastonbury 2009

I wanted to do a more thorough, comprehensive and excitable post about this with a 20+ song playlist to get you in the mood, but as I’m going there in a matter of hours, have only just packed and need some sleep before the big day, I won’t be. The lovingly crafted spotify playlist by the kind people at eFestival forums have already provided a pretty comprehensive taste of the weekend – so I would have been silly bothering anyway.

So yea, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Blur. Special guests rumoured to be anyone from Kanye West to Muse (Despite being based on this, admittedly suspicious tweet by Michael Eavis, famous technophobe, My money’s on Muse to play Park Stage or at least some big rockers…possibly), N*E*R*D are another late addition, The Dead Weather look very, very, very likely to join them as one of those mysterious special guests.

Anyway, regardless It should be pretty good I reckon. Treat yourself to some music from the headliners that you probably already own if you have the most passing of interests in them, and enjoy yourself however you’re enjoying the weekend’s proceedings!

MP3: Neil Young – Tell Me Why

MP3: Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run

MP3: Blur – Coffee and TV

Spotify: eFestivals Glastonbury playlist

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Bloc Party – One More Chance

Hummm. Further down the rabbithole they go.

It’s probably better than anything off Intimacy, but that’s really not saying much. They still sound incredibly…stilted, caught between two places. It’s almost like you can feel the tension within the band in the music. Perhaps best exampled by the fact that a The House inspired piano intro and the fuzzed out, Silent Alarm era guitar solo exists in the same track. It doesn’t sound ‘innovative’ ‘brave’ or ‘fresh’ it just sounds fractured. Like Lissack’s gone away and Kele have both gone away and written two entirely different songs.

Bloc Party‘s greatest strength was always the unity and driven nature of their music. That tight interplay between the frantic guitar riffs, the relentless drums and Kele’s desperate, wordless yelps. I really appreciate what they’re trying to do here; I’d always rather a band do what they’re doing rather than say, what Franz Ferdinand have done, but this still isn’t hitting the spot.

MP3: Bloc Party – One More Chance
MP3: Bloc Party – Compliments (Shibuyaka Remix)

Mos Def and Turkish Psychedelica

Mos Def‘s new album, the Ecstatic, was released last week. After a couple of listens I’d probably agree with the more than warm reception it’s received. It’s definitely a return to the form of Black on Both Sides, but this isn’t a review – not yet anyway. I just thought I’d share some of the great interconnectivity that comes with music, and perhaps more specifically, Hip-Hop.

As an art form, Hip-Hop attracts a lot of flak. A lot of people will dismiss it as misogynistic posturing using lazily re-appropriated melodies and samples of other people’s work. Of course, such people are usually awfully boring white-rock fans who’ll go on at length about ‘poets’ like Bob Dylan or ‘true artists’ like Led Zeppelin – whilst overlooking that they themselves did a fair bit of appropriating and sampling. But more importantly, they’re missing the point. There’s something very poetic to be said about an artform that creates art purely from art, I’m not going to go into that now, that’s for another post, or at least someone more eloquent than me to go into. I’ve always had an interest in instrumental Hip Hop albums like J-Dilla’s Donuts, DJ Shadow‘s Endtrouducing or Madlib‘s Beat Konducta series, that involves discovering when and where the samples used came from. It makes the finished product all the more inspiring when you realise that that hypnotic chiming comes from a 1970s soul rhythm section, that weird percussive bass is from a 1980s thrash metal album or that demonic spoken word segment is actually a Marvin Gaye lyric reversed with a lot of reverb thrown on top…or not. It’s the sort of musical geekery that both makes you appreciate the product you’re listening to and opens up a lot of new doors for you to explore.

Anyway, how does this relate to Mos Def? The first track of his new album samples, along with a section of Malcolm X’s infamous speech at Oxford Union debate on extremism, a mind-melting, fuzzed out guitar riff. Instantly transfixed I perused the usual channels to find out where it came from. Eventually, Youtube bore fruit and I was introduced to the world of Selda Bagcan and the song Ince Ince.

What other genre can provide that sort of service with its music? From East-coast Hip Hop to Turkish Psychedelica in one leap. Wonderful.

MP3: Mos Def – Supermagic
MP3: Selda Bagcan – Ince Ince

Little Boots’ Hands is released, Arctic Monkeys name new album

Hope you had a happy Hands release day! It seems like only yesterday when I first discovered Victoria Hesketh’s charming ditties of Stuck on Repeat and Meddle but it was nearly a year ago!

Make sure you get out and buy it! It’s very good! Expect a review sometime in the near future.

If, after 12 months of breathless blog hype, you’re still unconvinced, I’ve posted the ridiculously overblown, ridiculously camp, but ridiculously catchy Remedy after the jump…

In other news, the Arctic Monkeys have just named their new album. It’s called Humbug. Yup. Humbug.

Considering the whole album has been showing very American stylings, from Josh Homme producing, recording in the Mojave Desert and a heavier hard, stoner-rock sound anticipated as a result, the use of such a British word seems to be a conscious juxtaposition of cultures which is in typical of the Monkeys’ typically wry sense of humour. Nice.

It’s still due August 24th. Just in time for their Reading and Leeds festival dates (which I will be attending). I was never a huge fan of their hugely over-hyped first record, but Favourite Worst Nightmare was easily one of the best and most consistent record’s of 2007 so I can’t wait.

MP3: Arctic Monkeys – Brianstorm
MP3: Little Boots – Remedy

See Dan Deacon live – now!


(Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/beenwooed/)

Wow, what a show. I’m still reeling from Dan Deacon’s riotous gig at the ULU a full three days later. Bromst has been one of my favourite album’s of 2009 so far, but as it’s the only album of his I own, I’ve never really considered myself a fan of his work. It was only on a the back of a couple of effusive write-ups on his other UK shows that I decided to attend the night before the gig, so I guess I’m carrying the word-of-mouth beacon to anyone on the fence or un-informed.

If you have the opportunity, go to one of this man’s shows. Even if you’re not completely won over my his slightly absurd, avant-garde electro-noise-pop, I guarantee you will have an amazing time. Look at all those smiley happy people in the picture above!

Without spoiling it to much, his shows are a heady combination of traditional gig format, cult gathering – only reinforced by the white jump-suits that Deacon and his ‘Wham City’ ensemble’ are uniformly kitted out in – and drama workshop style audience participation. There’s dance-offs, touchy-feely warm-up exercises, excitable deaconites wearing exotic garments on their heads and great crowd banter. If, like me, you often feel that gigs can be a little sterile and can lack that communication that can make the artist on stage come alive, then Dan Deacon’s shows are for you.

Being an artist that has been predominantly hyped – on these shores at least – via Pitchfork and performing in a venue slap-bang in the heart of the London student community, equal distance between UCL, the British Library, Senate House Library, SOAS and numerous smaller colleges and places of learning, the gig was filled with young hipster types. The kind of hipsters who are usually very self-aware, apathetic and generally ‘meh’ about everything, which makes the cultish adherence Dan Deacon inspires in his show to make these usually vapid, reserved types to throw themselves around a small, sweaty venue like they were at a primary school disco all the more remarkable.

Gigs in the dance/electro genre can often be a bit dull to watch, with the musicians hunched over a laptop or any other instrument that requires a stoical level of concentration, but Deacon was a consummate performer as well as musician. No bullshitty, pre-arranged encores either, which was a breath of fresh air, he said when they were done and then hung around the front of the stage a while after shaking hands (including mine!) and posing for photographs with adoring fans. A true gentleman.

It’s been quite a while that I’ve grinned, laughed, sweated, moshed or danced so much at a gig. By the close I had that wonderful feeling of shared euphoria that only live music can give you. If by the close you’re not grinning inanely at complete strangers, your clothes caked in your own sweat and that of others and wondering if life gets any better, then you’re probably doing it wrong.

The music wasn’t the greatest, the sound was muddy at times but I’m hard stretched to think of a better example of what a gig should be. Riotous, sweaty, vaguely life-affirming, unpretentious, exciting and well, fun.

MP3: Dan Deacon – Snake Mistakes
MP3: Dan Deacon – Woof Woof

Regina Spektor’s new song is really, really sweet

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Ok. This is the perfect remedy to the po-faced piety of Laughing With. It’s just as simplistic, but so much more fun, unpretentious and with just a little pinch of playful self deprecation that nicely erases the horrible image of her I had after Laughing With.

Even the one camera, home-made setup of the video is miles better than the mid 90s styled, surrealist acid trip of the last video. If only because it’s quite hypnotic to watch her boobs bounce as she crosses the road (sorry).

Anticipation levels: Raised…slightly.
MP3: Regina Spektor – Dance Anthem of the 80s

Review: Veckatimest – Grizzly Bear


More than any other release this year, Veckatimest is an album that begs to be listened to whole. Lyrical themes and moods are shared; songs often serve as miniature symphonies within themselves, album opener Southern Point seems endless, moving through movement after movement that not only sets the scene for the whole show, but seems to be a show of its own – turns out it’s barely over five minutes long. Relentlessly written in the minor key, it has one tempo: mid. And it’s mostly all rather stately chamber-pop. This is Grizzly Bear after all. Guitars intertwine with one another, glistening just enough to shimmer on top of the warm fuzz of the bass which creates that familiar autumnal swirl and there are harmonies, lots of harmonies. That’s pretty much it. Such brave, unified statements are rare – rarer still in the singles driven climate. Even the most cohesive and mulled over records seem to make notable concessions to the need to have an opening gambit to draw in punters.

Sure, after the opening curtain of South Point there’s lead single Two Weeks, now quite ubiquitous and more than suited for radio play, but it’s within bounds and doesn’t so much as shatter the album’s aesthetic as accentuate and help get it underway. Its ornate staccato piano riff, rich vocal harmonies, deep, crashing bass and Ed Droste’s mournful croon (all elements present throughout the rest of the album) set each other off perfectly and deliver one of the most moreish slices of bittersweet baroque pop since The Beach Boys.

On the other end of Vecktaimest’s spectrum is album closer is Foreground. Also piano led, the piece acts as a settling closing action in the shadow of the fireworks of I Live With You (one of the rare moments where the album threatens to take off into full-on rock territory). Though essentially the credits roll of the band’s panoramic movie, it still more than holds its own. The circular piano melody is perfectly delicate and stripped down; Droste’s trembling falsetto lies in stark contrast to his warm, soaring croon on Two Weeks; it’s the negative image of its poppy harmonies in every way and bookends the record perfectly by completing the showcase of the album’s tonal extremes.

Despite this stylistic uniformity, Veckatimest is not dull, tiring or even a particularly difficult album. As well as the aforementioned piano led tracks, While You Wait For The Others, Cheerleader and Ready, Able all provide the necessary hooks to keep you satisfied on those sometime difficult initial listens, but the real joy comes from appreciating the album whole.

To rope in The Beach Boys again, as Pet Sounds is, for me, the sound of the dog days of a California Summer were relationships have begun to fade like the weather after an initial short and joyful burst, Veckatimest inspires images of the autumnal countryside, isolation and, well, what I imagine the particular New England corner of the world to be like. The rich bass tone; the hazy, shimmering guitar tone and the floaty, transient vocals are all evocative of this time and place before you even get to the barely noticed touches of echoed laughter, radio chatter and a dozen other incidental touches buried deep within the layered production. It’s a credit to the effort put into the album’s aesthetic that such lucid imagery is possible.

This imagery is reinforced in the album’s lyrics as well. The quiet/loud dynamic of All We Ask initially seems typical in the wake of Two Weeks, Droste opens the song on a hopeful note, “In this old house, I’m not alone/ In a bedroom, a telephone” but why what would be an anthemic outcry against loneliness and the strengths of communication is sung in such a tender and delicate voice – especially in comparison to Droste’s assured croon on Two Weeks – is made clear in the closing verse where Droste and Rossen harmonise a refrain “I can’t / get out / of what I’m into / with you” which is delivered with a curious regret. Later, in the brief lull between the staggering squalls of majestic guitars on Fine For Now Rossen repeatedly questions an anonymous lover, “If we’re all faltering, how’d I help with that? /If it’s all or nothing, then let me go.” Droste’s mournful cries in the background only lend to the trance like quality of the lyric that sticks in the mind, the crashing guitar break that follows signifies a catalyst for action and escape.

With the grand designs evident in every other department of Veckatimest, you won’t be surprised to learn how immaculately produced it is. The band have indulged a clear interest in the production side of things; repeated listens are not only rewarded with the songs complex compositions, lyrics and hooks, but with previously unnoticed layers of guitar buried deep in the mix, disembodied groans and delicate drum fills revealing themselves over time. As with the album’s unified style, it’s a wonderful gesture to make in the face of 128k transcode leaks and the over proliferation of crappy iPod headphones that displays a wonderful passion for their craft.

Sure, there’s a slight mid-album slump – if you could really call songs like Dory or About Face slumps. In a sense they only are due the staggering quality of the rest of the album and as the album’s symphonic outlook shuns immediate highlights for a slower burn, it also lifts lesser tracks.

Veckatimest is a mighty album. One of the year’s best. Its overarching artistic ambition may be its biggest fault, but it’s also the album’s biggest credit – and, as faults go, it’s a rather small one. Sure, as many people will be turned away by the band’s stately approach as are turned on by what a grower it is; people might find it all a little dull, a little too deliberate and precisely paced. If you weren’t a fan of opulent chamber-pop or weedy psych-folk before, this is unlikely to change your mind, but there’s undoubtedly something in the music that is very momentous and grand, yet heartfelt and intimate – something very hard to pull off and only made possible by the unashamed ambition on display. There are no bangers or huge hooks here, sure. It’s unapologetically a single piece. But what a piece it is.

9/10

MP3: Grizzly Bear – Fine For Now
MP3: Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks