Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weekender : lacks clarity of meaning in its writing style

- Somewhat unorthodoxically, End Of The Road Records, the industry arm of the glorious festival (yes, we are going back in September), decided to let us all know that the Young Republic's 12 Tales From Winter City was being given a full release on 21st January in an update on, well, the 21st January. How's a blogger supposed to write clumsily worded reviews with no advance information? Anyway, it's worth mentioning late or not because it's a tremendously assured collection of the band's early 7"s and difficult to find tracks from self-issued records, a kind of twee-baroque Americana/alt-country Belle & Sebastian, a lushly warm, early summery kind of album. Some achievement to get such an effect from an album released in January, you'd have to say.

- As far as albums actually released this week go, this coming Monday that also sees the surely rushed without directly saying so Adele debut sees another universal tip for 2008 great things bring out their first release. Some bands make you want to dance or mope, some make you happy, sad, fearful or hopeful. Only one gets you looking up minor grammatical issues. Vampire Weekend have faced criticisms during their short but loud time in the public eye, being their Columbia University preppy nature, taking on of the Afrobeat sound and that Ezra Koenig (who also contributed to last year's critically acclaimed Dirty Projectors album) sounds a bit like Sting. To which we, who may be sometimes right and sometimes wrong but are always certain, say: and?; and? (many of the same journalists are those who would garland MIA from the top decks of things); and? Talking Heads play a smarter Shins using the Bhundu Boys' backline would be our glib summation. Whatever, it's a tremendous record that in its own small scale way promises much.

- We've always hated Bernard Butler productions. The David McAlmont records notwithstanding, it usually serves as shorthand for "lumpen same-again guitars pretending to fall apart" (Libertines, Cribs, Cajun Dance Party) or "route one strings like Motown would have used. On an out-take" (Duffy). It's a measure of Sons And Daughters' skill that his helming of This Gift isn't the letdown that could have been expected after moving in such a direction from the claustrophobic malevolence of 2005's The Repulsion Box. Instead it's like recasting Blondie as the sort of girl group Morrissey would have lionised or bumping into the Long Blondes in the early hours with flick-knives. And they ended up hating him, which seals the deal.

- If Bernard Butler was ever given a day in the studio with Xiu Xiu he'd retire on the spot. Women As Lovers is the sixth album by the San Francisco-based band project of Jamie Stewart, whose disprite indie-rock avant-garde noiseism defies categorisation as much as it does tunes the milkman can hum. Until now, that is, with a fairly straight-up cover of Under Pressure, albeit featuring Michael Gira of Swans. The rest is post-no wave that crashes around and sound as unnerving and dyspeptic as ever.

- Single of the week was decided last May (not literally, we couldn't see UK release schedules that far ahead, just figuratively) when we chanced across Nacka's teen titans Those Dancing Days. Back somewhere along the journey we described Hitten as "either Camera Obscura doing Pull Shapes or the Pipettes doing Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken", and many Weekly Sweep namechecks we stand by that - it'll tear your heart, but it'll do so while you're dancing, a whole bunch of youthful neuroses colliding with a whole stack of northern soul-influenced proper indie. Plus it's got the tremendous Hammond pop miniature Dischoe on the B-side.

- In most other weeks, though, it'd be the debut by David Brewis as School Of Language, the first release under the Field Music oragnisational umbrella apart from, well, Field Music records. The 7" Rockist Single is a mutant child of two tracks from the upcoming Sea From Shore, this typically sample and lush guitar driven, and helpfully Brewis advises "if you'd like to make your own version using tracks from the album, simply snip the first 25 seconds of track 1 and weld them to the track 11 - as a bonus, your version will feature a few bars of extra guitar solo".

COMING SOON: Laura Marling's push in Britain seems to be as a kind of junior member - literally, given she isn't eighteen yet - to the Adele'n'Duffy post-Winehouse new female singer-songwriter carve-up. Alas I Cannot Swim (February 11th) deserves much more, not least as it comfortably avoids both that categorisation and that old New Lily/Kate one to plough its own ethereally confused folky path. My Manic And I and Night Terror have low-budget videos, Failure a black and white live clip.

MYSPACE INVADERS: We've done a band from Brighton already in 2008, so it's time we counterbalanced our two favourite locations for exciting new bands by doing one from Cardiff. Fortunately Picture Books In Winter, whose name comes from a Robert Louis Stevenson work, are far more than fulfilling a specious internal quota - indeed, they're the type of band that in the face of One Night Only promo campaigns make you feel so much better about the actual prospects for thoughtful, exciting new music in 2008. Mates with Los Campesinos! and borrowing their tight angle hopeful worldviews and penchant for a prominent violinist, they have that ability to sound quite different from track to track without ever sounding like a compromise of eclecticism. Again like those early days of LC!, the four demos so far issued on self-promoted EP (entitled Philosophy Geology Music) speak of just so much potential. Other touchstones include Pavement's inscrutability, Cursive's heavy set indie-rock melodrama, the less post-hippiness parts of the indie folk brigade and a hundred other things that we can't quite place. Plus, topically, they namecheck Konnie Huq.

VISUAL AID: Of course Top Of The Pops, but once the feeling it had superceded the Chart Show for no reason other than commercial subsided we had quite a yen for CD:UK, and there's plenty of clips around, most of which of course have fewer views than "cat deeley presenting cduk wearing tight leather pants", that prove that for a Saturday morning show it liked its grand sweep of the pop world, where one minute it could have an audience clapping along to uncle Trent Reznor and the next see a Noel Gallagher interview interrupted by his mum calling or orchestrate a row between Louis Walsh and Melanie C before Pete Doherty, his top on inside out, shows off rock's least convincing stage dive and Eels dress up for the occasion. Or just Bob Geldof swearing, as he is wont to do (ignore the bloke introducing it).

* We were going to mention it soon enough, honest, but as Andrew mentioned us in the week we'll have to reciprocate with a link to the Smalltown America Records blog, inspired by Big Scary Monsters' own. STA also have their own YouTube channel, containing all the label's videos and Jetplane Landing's album recording diary plus a suitably eclectic list of favourites that among other things reveals they, like us, appreciate the inherent ridiculous of irie Paul Nicholas and his 1976 hit Reggae Like It Used To Be. "You can reggae Beethoven!"

* And in other blog news, the Nicola Roberts-obsessed sark-popism of Talent In A Previous Life has shuttered up, all lowest form of genre wit now directed towards Thickipedia.

* Acapella choir hardcore and punk covers? Could be ironic idiocy, but in the hand of Chicago's Blue Ribbon Glee Club it's something special. Everyone should hear their recorded live version of Fugazi's Waiting Room.

* While Belle & Sebastian do... something, former member Stuart David's oddball beatsy project Looper has returned from a long period of dormancy with the Strangest Girl EP, downloadable gratis via We7, subject to free registration.

* And finally, this has been round the message boards of the world for a while but it's too good not to bring to the several who may not have seen rap lyrics represented in mathematical charts and graphs.

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