Tag Archives: review

Liam Finn – Champagne In Seashells

Liam Finn – Champagne In Seashells (Transgressive)

liam finn

For an example of the varied guises and stylistic diversity that Melbourne-born wunderkind Liam Finn is now capable of, one need only listen to the closing track on this excellent mini-album. Captain Cat Is Crying begins as a severe and spooked sound collage complete with a brassily-intoned narration (remnants surely from some sick old children’s programming), gradually weaning from that source with gentle vocal samples, rhythms investigated and abandoned until the base ingredients of wonderful epic slope into view. Almost imperceptibly, Finn conjures pop majesty from the merest of beginnings in a truly brilliant finish.

That’s not to decry the five songs that precede it, however, for they are imbued with wit, with honest sentiments and keening, weary pop, fuzzed to high heaven but somehow polished. The whirling organ bedding of Honest Face serves as a perfect balance to the squeaking guitar lines and stomping chorus, but it is the sound effects of waves crashing that tie the record together, remind us of the title and crystallise it as a complete work more than just a collection of songs. If these principles were applied to Finn’s next full-length release, we’d be in for a real treat.

This is out on the 21st September, and the review is in this month’s Artrocker. Which you should buy. Also, just so you know, there’s deliberately no references to Neil Finn in the review. I made the connection, but wanted to do a review that didn’t refer to it. He gets it all day I bet. More here.

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Sleeping States – In The Gardens Of The North

Sleeping States – In The Gardens Of The North (Bella Union)

sleeping states

Markland Starkie has taken his time with this Bella Union debut, and it’s been absolutely worth the wait. Rarely are listeners likely to hear a writer who gives such balance to the realms of pop and folk music and the trappings therein. It is at once atmospheric and direct. Rings Of Saturn creeps without menace but with luxuriating intensity. Starkie is not so much driven by his bookishness as he is by the musical ascents he cleverly creates. Showers In The Summer, for example, shimmers thanks to masterfully beaten toms and careful cymbal, his voice buoyant amongst it all along.

There is something of the spiritual about some of Starkie’s flightier works. Josh Pearson is evoked on the sweetly-cooed Breathing Space, a beautifully judged piece that implies deep consideration of its musical gestures – clearly, the nuance of performance is a trait heavily valued on In The Gardens Of The North. This makes it, above all, a naturalistic, instinctive record with wonder and seriousness equal players in its success.

This came out on Monday. PM DID REVIEW IT IN TIME, THOUGH, FOR GOD’S SAKE STOP WORRYING. Proof? Buy Artrocker this month. Music (lovely, super music) here.

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Dave Cloud & The Gospel Of Power – Fever

Dave Cloud & The Gospel Of Power – Fever (Fire)

Dave Cloud

With intimations this fiery, unfocused and sickly, it’s easy to find ample entertainment in Dave Cloud’s reasonably barmy incantations. Questions about this veteran Nashville Arthur Brown-alike might include the following for the uninitiated: Is he singing in tongues? Why does he have two voices? Does he have some sort of mental problem? The answers are unimportant when lines like “Did I say calypso? Well, shut my lips-o!” are peppered throughout this micro-masterpiece of tension and dirt.

Aside from the artful quirkiness on display throughout, it’s chilling to hear exactly how an elderly David Berman would sound on Try Just A Little – it’s uncanny. The freewheeling spoken-word final track, ‘In The Distance’ is brilliantly atmospheric, sounding almost like an after-thought, but with gravitas aplenty in the spooked tale of a courtship betwixt bugler and belle, providing a fine ending to this short (a shade over twenty minutes) but electrifying collection.

This comes out via the inestimable Fire records on August 24th. Visit.

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Japandroids Videos

Getting dangerously interested in Japandroids now. Head here for a total shed-load of interviews and performances. The interviews feature a blond man.

Here’s a funtime video that isn’t at that link:

Amazing. Myspace. Review. Review.

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Hecuba – Paradise

Hecuba – Paradise (Manimal Vinyl)

hecuba

Hecuba are, if nothing else, utter experts at conjuring a menace that seeps. The boy/girl duo of a filmmaker and an actress are more than competent at maintaining that menace and mutating it gently into serious unease – the buzzing free-form ending of ‘Even So’ is a scintillating climax. Intense darkness surrounds the early stages of the record, with the borderline horror film nursery rhyme of ‘Miles Away’ standing out as paranoia incarnate.

More than just pantomime villains, Hecuba reveal the subtleties of this debut very slowly, but very markedly. Gradually increasing the bombastic synths and widening the contrast between a light spooking and terrifying squelching horns very slowly makes itself apparent, and the listener is faultlessly drawn in. Relentlessly, ‘Paradise’ prangs from Laurie Anderson motorik monotone to joyful keyboard explosion and into the lowest registers of what sounds like a piano being breathed into life by Godzilla. In short: a mood masterclass with enough dramatic pop fun to stop it being relentlessly bleak.

This is out on 31st August via Manimal. That’ll be nice. You can also read this review in the latest issue of Artrocker. Which you should get.

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Telekinesis – Telekinesis!

Telekinesis – Telekinesis! (Morr Music)

Telekinesis!

The best summer records are more than just simple, jolly songs played on acoustics with a little bit of fuzz – you have to capture all elements of the season. The sitting down, the water, the sweat of activity, maybe some romance if you haven’t already cracked a bottle. This is why Teenage Fanclub can be said to produce some summery material, but have not recorded a summer album. The Lemonheads’ ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’, on the other hand, nails it with a blend of exuberance and Evan Dando’s slackerisms. Telekinesis have at the summer album and pretty much nail it too.

The opening sketch ‘Rust’ is the perfect entrée, wistful, homespun and excellently lo-fi, and the following set seeks to gently tweak and rummage its way through your Jun-Sep (if we’re lucky). Main man Michael Benjamin Learner is clearly someone to whom lightness has little adjoining shade, preferring instead the jamboree-pop favoured on all those classic records from nineteen-seventy-whatever. Which means that this is not a record dripping with invention, but it is one that understands the multifarious nature of summer, its stickiness and its sweetness, its sensations and its silliness.

This is out BLOODY TODAY. I don’t care if it’s raining, get it and enjoy the summer. Have a listen. This review is in this month’s Artrocker, which you should buy and stuff. I don’t mean buy and then stuff it, I was being flippant.

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The Heavy – The House That Dirt Built

The Heavy – The House That Dirt Built (Counter)

the heavy

With a Ronseal title like The House That Dirt Built, the listener would expect some serious scuzz, some dusty, taut rock ‘n’ roll, an erring on the side of well-greased punk. We get that, with bells on, we get that. But we also get a confusing amount of genre-hopping. So confusing and, in fact, wilful is that hopping that it goes some way to undermining the potential impact of the album in general. If you’re not sure that your navigator’s got the map the right way up, can you expect a pleasant voyage?

So. When The Heavy tackle their natural targets, it’s a bracing and involving listen, like being shaken awake. The album itself kicks off a house-of-horror-ish excerpt from some old film or other, all portentous, campy warnings not to tread any further… then, with reasonable aplomb, the band launch Oh No! Not You Again!, the lead single. It’s a refined, soulful punk-blues meld of vocals shrieked into a bean tin and guitars jostling for supremacy with squelching sax – a sonic triumph and a little exhilaration to be going on with. Elsewhere, similar set-ups provide similar results – the overlong No Time in particular a high-concept smash-along.

But the blues mutates on this album. It slows down and funks up on How You Like Me Now?, it waltzes on Sixteen, and it totally softens into 50s pastiche on Love Like That. By no means is it a bad thing to stretch your legs on an album, but The Heavy try too much to appear multi-headed. Excelling in some areas while falling down in others gives the impression that our guides through the record are not at all comfortable. Tellingly, they are at their most comfortable when they do very little. That single, Oh No! Not You Again! is by a very long way the strongest song here, and they would have done better to omit the more far-reaching elements. The closing track, named Stuck, is a perfect metaphor for the album and displays The Heavy’s need to contextualise, to minimise. It’s fine to be ambitious, it honestly and truly and nobly is, but the results have to prove worthy of the time spent producing them.

This is out via Counter (excellent job, folks, your parcels are fast beoming my favourites) in early August or something, I left the press release at home… more here.

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