We'll start our first mp3 roundup of 2008 with something new from one of America's most celebrated literary lo-fi favourites. The Mountain Goats' Heretic Pride, released February 18th, is their fourth album on 4AD - got it right that time - and sixteenth in seventeen years in total. After two confessional collections this one returns to John Darnielle's storied song cycle routine and is not conceivably worse off for it. This opening track is about the nature of love and returning home therein. Two other notes: the advance copy press release features a three page explanation of the songs' themes as drawn by Jeffrey Lewis (click on '1', '2' and '3' on this story); and their Myspace features 2005 single Dance Music recorded from - not for, from - a Peel show and hasn't been accessed since June 2006. That's the spirit!
The Mountain Goats - Sax Rohmer #1
(Further Darnielle reading: his blog, Last Plane To Jakarta, and/or Daniel Handler interview for The Believer. And, if you really want, you can download Darnielle's acoustic Suede cover.)
Sax Rohmer was a Birmingham-born peacetime novellist who created Fu Manchu, but it's not especially about him. The second song is inspired by but not named after "artist, perspectival moral relativist, atheist, vitalist and socialist" Teemu Mäki, who in 1988 was prosecuted over a video installation called Sex And Death, during which in the subtle fashion we expect of new artistry he stabs a stray cat to death and then masturbates. It's by fellow Finns (well, we've had enough Swedes and Norwegians already) Cats On Fire, who we drew attention to on Weekender but whose album The Province Complains slipped through our net last year, sounding somewhere between the Smiths (especially vocally), Felt, the Monochrome Set and Belle & Sebastian. So not the most hardcore of bands, but they make a very attractive noise.
Cats On Fire - The Smell Of An Artist
Ice, Sea, Dead People is not the most promising name you've ever heard for a band. "I hate it sometimes too" admitted singer Craig Sharp, which isn't promising. Unlike their sound. Artrocker are behind this Bedford art-punk trio who class themselves alongside the likes of Future Of The Left and Maths Class and cite influence from Fugazi, Liars, Jarcrew and Q And Not U, which all matches up. Essentially, it's sharp as a needle splintered post-hardcore that deserves another quote: "the one thing this single proved to us is that we want to be as uncompromising as possible. If people don't like it, they're welcome to step off and search for the next NME-sponsored piece of crap - we don't want people like that anyway. We're here to make music that we'd listen to normally, to have fun and not to groom our egos or re-live some boring, tired rock and roll clichés or even brand new, luminous new ones."
Ice, Sea, Dead People - Hence:Elvis
On a completely different musical tack, Gossamer Albatross isn't much better as a band name but at least there's a solid reason for it, being the name of the first human-powered plane to cross the Channel. The band comprise an 18, 17 and 16 year old from Hereford who instantly make a mockery of their peers' London press-powered Pull In Emergency/Bombay Bicycle Club teen scene's slavish post-Liberstrokesparty sound by claiming influence from Neutral Milk Hotel, The Magnetic Fields and Final Fantasy, and having the ability to back it up. Their strings-led sound definitely makes them part of this fast growing lo-fi folk scene enough to file them alongside the likes of Jonquil, Noah And The Whale and Luke Leighfield, also with hints of Jeremy Warmsley's ambition, Beirut's baroqueness and M Ward's ideas. In a nutshell, their EP, which can be ordered through their Myspace, is four tracks of all kinds of wonderful from a band you'll be hearing a lot about if we're any judge. They've played with Napoleon IIIrd, the aforementioned Jonquil, SixNationState, Sam Isaac and This Ain't Vegas, and Londoners can see them at Notting Hill Arts Club's free Saturday afternoon RoTA event on 8th March.
Gossamer Albatross - Raging Bulls