Monday, March 29, 2010

Cultural quarter

So that's three months done, by and large, of what looks set to be a more than halfway decent year for good music. Twelve weeks gone and we've already had, for example, these ten albums of the highest quality, capsule reviews rendered, as is the modern way, in 140 characters or less:

Archie Bronson Outfit - Coconut
Blues-rock beardies go thunderous psych-fuzz with heavy riffs, desperate vocals and discordant motorik disco mania throughout.

Beach House - Teen Dream
Victoria Legrand's androgynous appelations top ever darkening woozy, hazy days of dreampop, all endless layers and new audial discoveries.

Field Music - Field Music (Measure)
Dips a bit in the second half, but long by then the brothers Brewis have made their point about luxurious melodic harmonies and pop feints.

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
Growing up proves a painful business but a rewarding one, Marling extending her vocal cracks, instrumental range and emotional weight.

Liars - Sisterworld
Recognisable influences for the first time in a while, but the overall air is still of dank, tense atmospherics. Don't have nightmares.

Los Campesinos! - Romance Is Boring
Growing up is very hard to do, especially when trying to reconcile what you were at first with your scree of doubts and dry self-analysis.

Owen Pallett - Heartland
Orchestrative intensity but not OTT, grandiloquent expressions of idea-filled conflict between self and creation dares you to take it apart.

Shearwater - The Golden Archipelago
The naturalist trilogy concludes with a sweep invoking beauty, modern harshness and a stately emotional sweep from howling to plaintive.

Spoon - Transference
A decade of Metacritic success on, time to take chances and get some dirt under the carefully arranged offbeat house style. Pounding.

Standard Fare - The Noyelle Beat
It's just indiepop. But then again it's indiepop at its peak, regret and defiance expressed through instant melody and three-piece energy.

So that's that tucked away. The second quarter, or at least what we know and have heard of it so far, seems to hold much promise too. Just the facts about the big album releases we know of to date:

Peggy Sue - Fossils And Other Phantoms: 5th April
Usually abrasive NYC producer Alex Newport, Blood Red Shoes' Steve Ansell and Mumford & Sons' Ben Lovett all take a production hand on the nu-folk trio.

Rufus Wainwright - All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu: 5th April
Lulu is a "dark, brooding, dangerous woman that lives within all of us", apparently. And the first part is taken from Shakespeare's Sonnet 43, one of three such sonnets Wainwright has adapted. The boy can't help himself. It's said to be his most musically stripped down work, just voice and piano, but still theatrical.

The Indelicates - Songs For Swinging Lovers: 12th April
At least that's the digital release date. Don't really like quoting direct from press releases, but it's a necessity here: "They are treating this release as an opportunity to experiment with the long-accepted norms of the recorded music market. Working with investors, web developers and artists they have built '' an innovative new digital audio platform that is free and easy to use and that allows anyone to release their recordings quickly and simply in a way that encourages the free sharing and promotion of music while giving fans an incentive to reward artists as they see fit. Songs For Swinging Lovers will initially be available exclusively from the site... the song or album will be available on a 'pay-what-you-like' basis using the share code and social networking buttons provided." Then in June there's a CD, iTunes version, special edition CD with a book of supplementary essays (and how many bands could make that sound an appealing prospect?), Extra Special Edition with an art book and customised USB version, and, it says here, Super Special Edition ("As above + Simon and Julia will come round your house, perform the album for you, record the performance and sign a contract transferring the rights in the master to you.")

Sparrow And The Workshop - Crystal Falls: 12th April
Glasgow's part-American grand ol' opry of dark storytelling are a rollicking live band, and producer Paul Savage is good at emphasising the unglamorous undertow in his work.

Lucky Soul - A Coming Of Age: 19th April
Not that The Great Unwanted was very lo-fi, but Ali, Andrew and co have gone out for the big glossy pop production big time on their second album now the pop world's swung back round to meet them.

Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences - Apologies To The Enlightenment: 19th April
Sometime anti-folk scene leader elect brings love/hate voice, odd lyrical attachments and art-mess attack to, of all things, a double album.

The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter: 26th April
Art-mess attack, you say? Studio album 28 is on Domino, which is why they'll be playing a few festivals this summer. Mark E Smith facing up the festival circuit. Can you imagine? The Quietus, obviously, has done a thorough track-by-track.

The Futureheads - The Chaos: 26th April
The problem with their last album was the absence of light and shade, every song a full throttle charge through a lesser version of the herky-jerkiness that endeared them in the first pace. With Youth and David Brewis taking co-charge we can but hope their second self-released album is more forgiving.

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record: 3rd May
As you'd expect from such a multi-haded venture, BSS projects can veer from self-indulgence to alt-rock genius. Perhaps fearing the former there's a core of six people handling this one, albeit with a load of the usual guests (Feist, Emily Haines)

The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever: 3rd May
Down to four now with black and white villain-tached Franz Nicolay having moved on, and less epic is the watchword. Tab Kubler: "I think this is a much more dynamic record than anything we've done... I really believe it exposes new elements of the band that we hinted at on other records but weren't able to fully realize until this one. Rather than just concentrate on changes in instrumentation, we made changes to the song writing process. And this helped everyone to experiment not only with their own instrument and where they should play, but where they shouldn't. This record doesn't feel as dense. It feels more spacial."

The New Pornographers - Together: 3rd May
Vancouver's most power-pop is AC Newman-heavy and features, alongside an eight-strong core, guest slots for Will Sheff, Zach Condon, Annie Clark (St Vincent) and the Dap-Kings horn section.

Holy Fuck - Latin: 10th May
The thing everyone said about their last album is the recorded output only hinted at their spectacular live sound. They seem to have solved that by conducting things towards the power and mass of their live sound, their first record recorded with the full four-piece touring setup.

Foals – Total Life Forever: 10th May
Moving up from the twelth fret, the Gothenburg-recorded second album was given to The Fly for an early listen.

The Kiara Elles - Slide Over: 10th May

Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster - Blood And Fire: 17th May
Nearly six years since their last album and with what seemed like monthly promises that an album was just around the corner, the once chart-troubling psychobilly scary men return.

LCD Soundsystem - TBA: 17th May
James Murphy's last, according to rumour and report. DiS' track-by-track

Meursault - All Creatures Will Make Merry: 24th May
Label bumf: "This album is rather different from its predecessor, and I genuinely have no idea what Meursault’s growing army of fans are going to make of it. It’s denser in many ways, dirty and noisy, and yet as sad and heartbreaking as you’d expect from the band. When we were writing all the press blurb, Neil decided to describe the album as ‘epic low-fi’ and even thought that is an almost totally meaningless term, it still seems to describe this record pretty well. With two new band members joining, there was a danger that the cello or the electric guitar would end up swamping this record, but it’s all been handled very carefully. I think the first time I heard this album through I pretty much summed up what I felt about it in a single sentence: there’s not so much as a weak twenty seconds on here, anywhere."

Club 8 - The People's Record: 31st May
We've had at least four of the same email about this record from the Labrador-dwelling Swedes, but we were going to commend it to the house anyway. Album seven saw them travel to Brazil for inspiration, use Cuban percussion and West African records as influence and get Jari Haapalainen (Camera Obscura) to produce.

Teenage Fanclub - Shadows: 31st May
The first on their own label and tenth in all, first in fifth years, and you know what it sounds like.

The Chap: May
Idiosyncratic experimental poptronica collection number four, hinted by the band to be around about then.

Rose Elinor Dougall - Without Why: May says here. The album was originally scheduled for late last spring and has gradually moved back and back since but it seems Rose, band and producer just kept on redoing and rewriting bits. We're assured it's now been mastered and is awaiting... something. This is the date she told Under The Radar magazine, anyway.

The Acorn - No Ghost: 7th June
Recorded in a cottage in deepest Quebec, leader Rolf Klausener says it sounds like Crazy Horse. Lordy. (Alright, he also cited Yo La Tengo and Talk Talk)

Johnny Flynn - Been Listening: 7th June
Laura Marling's on it. Of course.

The Magic Theatre - London Town: 7th June
Here's a curio. Active only in name since 2006, Ooberman singer Dan Popplewell has kept his hand in with orchestrated projects. One such is this, with bandmate Sophia Churney, described as a time travel concept record, "Sgt Pepper era Beatles meets Tchaikovsky", West Coast meets English folk in a 60s pop battlefield with a backing choir. It's been available in very limited formats since the end of last year but Elefant have picked it up for further distribution.

The School - Loveless Unbeliever: 7th June
The newest salvo in the 60s girl group revival, the presently octet Cardiffians brought their own indiepop hooks and harmonies to bear with producer Ian Catt (Saint Etienne)

Allo Darlin' - Allo Darlin': 14th June
So much excitement from those who've heard it already about Elizabeth Morris and her ukelele of indiepop power, released on indie of the moment Fortuna Pop!

Belle And Sebastian: June
According to Melvin Benn, of all people, explaining how come they're headlining Latitude. We know they began work on it at the tail end of 2009.

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