Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekender : wondering whether each Britney New Low is properly quantifiable

- It's probably be impossible if one were to follow everything he posts in his blog, but regardless is it wise to follow Dev Hynes' intentions to the letter? He used to be in Test Icicles and before that the Refused-esque The Red In Sophie Loren alongside the now increasingly rated The Train Chronicles, wrote much of Wikipedia's entry for hip-hop rivalries, grew up with musicals and is obsessed with comics. So it's somewhat surprising that his new identity Lightspeed Champion has turned out to be a confessionally driven alt-country project, Falling Off The Lavender Bridge ("may well be lumped with Mika’s Life in Cartoon Motion" - Popmatters) produced by Mike Mogis in Omaha. It's no toss-off either, intricate orchestrations from members of Tilly And The Wall, The Faint, Cursive and Mogis' own Bright Eyes colleagues, not to mention Emmy The Great's backing vocal omnipresence, framing Hynes' dislocated, warm laments and streams of unconsciousness, like a British and thus far less punchable Dashboard Confessional. As for two of its most affecting tracks are called Let The Bitches Die and Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk, well, that'll be the former art-metal trickster at work.

- We've never quite got used to the idea of Chan Marshall being referred to in passing by the name Cat Power as if it were a proper nom de plume ("Power can rescue a a well-worn standard from stifling ubiquity" - the Times). We need an internationally approved style guide. Jukebox, as well as being her second covers album (two originals, but one is her own Metal Heart, a reappropriation trick she also used on 2000's The Covers Record), is her first with a proper southern soul backing band, The Dirty Delta Blues Band (including members of the Dirty Three and Blues Explosion) and her first of her sobriety period, having been hospitalised as a result of alcoholism the week The Greatest came out. As you'd expect it's along the lines of that album that these reworkings run - Living Proof, if you want even more accurate a template - and Chan's in at least as good voice as ever, not least right at the off where she does to New York New York what she did to Satisfaction. Sometimes you wish for the old melodic awkwardness, but as a time filler before a proper follow-up of new songs rumoured to be arriving well before the end of the year it works a treat. Plus it drives Mark Ronson's reinvention pretensions into the sea.

- We're not entirely enamoured with songwriters who work under the assumption that they can write autobiographical songs assuming their audience have followed every last detail about them, but in fairness Mark Oliver Everett probably can't help it given his much pored over family background. His lightness of songwriting touch at least tries to find some pop-rooted joy out of the darkness within, and to invoke the old cliche you forget how much greatness is included in Meet the Eels Vol. 1: Essential Eels 1996-2006, including two top ten singles, six top 40 hits - and this from a band/person keen on a themed song cycle - and much inventive post-college rock vision. There's two unreleased tracks, including their post-grunge take on Get Ur Freak On, and the self-explanatory Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities and Unreleased 1996-2006 sweeps up the leftovers.

- Single of the week? Noah And The Whale, a band who openly defy you to tie them into anything nu-folk. The arrangements are feather-light, Charlie Fink (we're assuming not the one who sang with the Jesus Lizard-esque Penthouse in the late 90s, although stranger things have happened - see top of this section)'s voice rich in baritone, Wes Anderson's works never off the DVD player, 2 Bodies 1 Heart/Rocks & Daggers two sumptuous songs for a double A side. Props once again to Young & Lost Club, and we promise we'll overlook all that Joe Lean etc. nonsense if their forthcoming album, the label's first, is all this good.

COMING SOON: Unlike many a band caught in the Hype Machine chart headlights early on, the far too clever for their own good Vampire Weekend have come through with a strong first album, released on the 28th, that simultaneously reflects and belies their own Upper West Side Soweto tag. They've got far to go, not that they're not somewhere good already, as proved when they popped into MTV's Camden Lock glittering palace recently to go through acoustic versions of Mansard Roof, Oxford Comma and Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.

MYSPACE INVADERS: James Yuill, who played with Gindrinker earlier this week and is hopefully all the better for the experience, is a prime exponent of what used to be called folktronica. Very literally so, too, more so than the likes of Tunng or Adem, as laptop electro blends effortlessly with delicate guitars. Think of what Jamie Liddell did to his hot buttered soul and transpose it onto strong folk storytelling, or Iron & Wine on Ed Banger.

VISUAL AID: "Have the Rolling Stones killed." The House Of Guitars is a much loved huge music store in Rochester, New York that has provided a mecca for many a local musician. It doesn't hinder your image when the Ramones are appearing in your adverts, even if they're hijacking it to get you to buy Leave Home and Rocket To Russia instead. What effect this decidedly odd public access plug had is unknown. While we're about it, let's drop in on Joey's cameo on The Drew Carey Show, an oddly camp Joey fronting Judy Is A Punk in 1974 and Lemmy eventually helping out on R.A.M.O.N.E.S. at their final show.

* Not only does the aforementioned Dev Hynes have an active blog of active self-loathing - and one word, Dev, 'backup' - but he's a prolific video blogger too, his YouTube profile containing not only an excellently wide variety of Favourites but also assorted live clips, home recorded scraps, pieces of inconsequentialism. As far as we can tell from our parochial viewpoint, seeing an artist of international reknown filming the hot drinks machine in the reception area of the Y Theatre, Leicester is just what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind when he legged it down the patent office.

* 28 miles north, according to the AA route planner, of said entertainment venue/disenfranchised youth dosshouse is Nottingham, where we find Love Ends Disaster!, who while recording their debut album are giving away their 2005 debut EP Stories For The Dislocated for free. People who like the sound of something that references Gang Of Four, the Fall and Bloc Party and then rips all their pass notes to shreds, step this way.

* Following last week's not so disguised Noah And The Whale Myspace outlet, is this or is this not the Long Blondes? The first track certainly sounds like what an LBs/Erol Alkan link would sound like and it repeats the word 'Century', which is known to be the working title of one of their new songs.

* So we've done special recordings of bands many times over now, where's the next interactive idea for the music blogosphere coming from? Write Me Stories, perhaps, which collects handwritten very short stories and scribblings from musicians that take his fancy, including all of Arcade Fire, Wayne Coyne, Sufjan Stevens, Calexico, Explosions In The Sky, Neil Hannon, Ben Folds, Jens Lekman, Jeffrey Lewis, Hope Of The States, the Dresden Dolls, Andrew Bird, The Moldy Peaches, The Polyphonic Spree, I'm From Barcelona and so on.

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