Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Halfway there

Well, we've hit the halfway point of 2009 and so far it's as if the music world has bucked its ideas up and decided to see this most flatulent of decades out with a load of really interesting albums. Strong debuts from Blue Roses, Broken Records, Dananananaykroyd, Emmy The Great, Fanfarlo, Grammatics, Joe Gideon And The Shark, Micachu & The Shapes, The Phantom Band, Sky Larkin, Wake The President and We Were Promised Jetpacks. Stellar North Americans: Andrew Bird, Animal Collective, Au Revoir Simone, The Decemberists, Grizzly Bear, Papercuts. Brits singular in their various ways: Bat For Lashes, Brakes, Camera Obscura, Doves, Future Of The Left, Pagan Wanderer Lu. Hell, even style bunnies The Horrors put out a really good record.

And the fun doesn't stop there. The second half of 2009 is littered with good things afoot, not to mention ll the surprises. Well, obviously, they wouldn't be surprises then.

Just next week there's the amazingly tearful/joyous Slow Club album Yeah, So? August 3rd sees Wild Beasts deliver on their promise of a lightning quick follow-up to Limbo Panto, Two Dancers apparently even more elegaic and odd. Two words which very much describe Mew, a band who have chosen to call their album No More Stories Are Told Today I'm Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories The World Is Grey I'm Tired Let's Wash Away. (But it seems to be fine to refer to it just as No More Stories.) Out on 24th August, they're reunited with Frengers producer Rich Costey and promise a work that's more upbeat and nearly straightforward.

That Owen Pallett's a one. Back in late 2006 he said the third Final Fantasy album Heartland would be out in mid-2007. In mid-2007 he amended it to mid-2008. We're now in mid-2009 and he's still working on it, although he's found time to do string arrangements for the Rumble Strips (Welcome To The Walk Alone, July 13th). He promises it'll definitely be out this year, with a Prague orchestra. We'll believe it when we see it. Also imminently approaching studio finality, Lucky Soul's follow-up to the retro timelessly classic girl-pop drenched glory of The Great Unwanted. Like the advance single it's titled Woah Billy! and includes the string section that played on Brian Wilson's re-recorded version of Smile. Hints dropped on their blog about song structures include "Sam Cooke meets Edith Piaf", "Carole King sings Neil Young's Birds", "exactly halfway between The Smiths and Motown", "a weird mix of Stax, Talking Heads, Dolly Parton and The Specials" and "I still haven't finished the lyrics. It deserves brilliance."

A rather more forceful brilliance manifests itself in the gentlemen and lady of Digbeth that are Johnny Foreigner. "A year ago we were kinda smartarsed and told everyone it'd be a concept album about a band, yeh, who go on tour a lot and go round the world and then go and make their second album. And thats pretty much what we've gone and made." So says Alexei of Grace And The Bigger Picture, out 26th October, produced by Alex Newport (At The Drive-In, Two Gallants, Death Cab For Cutie, Polysics, The Melvins, Sepultura, System Of A Down) and featuring guest appearances by members of Dananananaykroyd, Sky Larkin, Fight Like Apes and Meneguar. Also quoth Berrow: "one of the songs features a title mostly designed to make Tubelord go "aaaaaaww"". Unfortunately Tubelord might be a little busy, the disorientatingly fearsome Kingston trio releasing their own debut album in October. There's a narrative, it says here. If you want noise on 7th September, you've got it in the shape pf two new releases, Yo La Tengo's twelth album Popular Songs seemingly their most eclectic, while The Victorian English Gentlemens Club, slightly reconfigured and definitely pinging off the wires of their nerves, issue the curiously titled Love On An Oil Rig.

And if we're talking inventive, often ear piercing regions, we must as we so often do look to our friends at Smalltown America Records. The Young Playthings have just released their second album, more of which later in the week, and in a Hot Press interview there's the promise of new albums afoot from lo-fi electro-bedroom pop whizzkid Alan MX and hard shell explosives Ice Sea Dead People. Excitingly, there's definite news of a 4 Or 5 Magicians album, 12th October being the landing date for the very much misleadingly titled Empty, Derivative Pop Songs. And... is that a new Jetplane Landing album emerging in the middle distance?

What else? Well, a lot of known knowns and known unknowns. Yoni Wolf excelled himself with Why?'s Alopecia last year; the offcuts are being released as Eskimo Snow, "really the least hip-hop out of anything I've ever been involved with". Monsters Of Folk (21st September) is really the least hip-hop thing Conor Oberst, Jim James and M Ward will ever be involved with, but there's plenty of suss just there to get excited about. People who don't really understand what twee is call Noah & The Whale twee; still, early indications are that they're stung enough by post-5 Years Time associations to ensure The First Days Of Spring (31st August) is a darker, more grandiose offering. It too has a running narrative, and Charlie Fink has made an animation to cover it that will be shown at Latitude in full for the first time. Tyondai Braxton is one quarter of Battles, so Central Market (14th September)'s "orchestral music re-imagined" definitely won't be one to have on in the background ust in case. The Noughties Shop Assistants that are Vivian Girls release quickfire sophomore album Everything Goes Wrong in September. Charlotte Hatherley, currently part of the Bat For Lashes live band, has always done really interesting guitar-pop stuff solo, continued with New Worlds (October). Then there's the Flaming Lips, who get out the costumes and big ball for double album Embryonic (14th September). Word is that Karen O and MGMT are in there somewhere, as is something, thank goodness, a lot more strange than At War With The Mystics.

And then there's all the albums that might come out this year but we half suspect might fall into 2010. Rose Elinor Dougall, for instance, whose particular psych-pop kaleidoscope of a solo debut will be called Without Why - a quote from 17th century German mystical poet Angelus Silesius, for the record - but might now be held up until after her exes The Pipettes have released their disco-flavoured return, produced by Martin Rushent for that full turn of the 80s flavour. Luke Haines, whose fourth solo album is titled Achtung Mother, which he describes as "two song suites. One is about being a man from southern England and the other is a homage to people like Klaus Kinski and Peter Hamill". Distorted piano-drums duo Quasi are back in action, now beefed up with a bassist third member, Joanna Bolme of Stephen Malkmus' Jicks (and wife of Gary Jarman off the Cribs, pop kids). And lest we forget, the Wave Pictures' David Tattersall suggested last year they had two albums ready to roll in 2009, acoustic and electric. The former is presumably If You Leave It Alone; no word of a follow-up just yet.

So there's plenty to be going on with. Let's all try not to die of swine flu, eh?


Tom said...

Wot no LC!? If you follow my punctuation like.

Simon said...

2010, Gareth says.