Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Weeknd - Demos/Unreleased

Unreleased The Weeknd by k.niteh (via Pitchfork)

Rolling Stone

The posting exceptions keep coming today. In fact I'm seriously re-appraising what I'll cover here now that Soundcloud/YouTube links are seemingly more prevelant for even the 'obscurer' musical side of things, which means there's more scope to share the music I love and recommend rather than simply telling you what it sounds like.

So, to the matter in hand. Toronto's laid back sex/love ethereal, music makers The Weeknd, hot on the heels of the 'net released 'House of Balloons EP' and things blowing up big style on the back of 'High For This' in general have a batch of demos and unreleased tracks (until now) available to stream/listen - look up there. Press play. Easy peasy.

Holy Other - With U EP

Ordinarily it's albums or live shows that get covered here. Occasional exceptions to this rule are made however and I can't think of better exception right now that the debut EP of Manchester based Holy Other who having wowed earlier in the year is about to see his debut EP drop on Tri Angle Records, June 7th.

Listen. This is what music should sound like!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math

Manchester Orchestra, the reviewed incarnation of the band at least, are a polarizing force. They're either devoutly beloved or massively under appreciated by the music press, depending on who it is you read. They're also not to be confused with the real thing. The actual musicians.

The band's third installment, 'Simple Math', following two previously perfect albums, and perhaps the musical landscape is shifting because it feels like Andy Hull's maturing songwriting may finally win over the audience who've previously been dismissive.

'Simple Math' is a concept album. It really doesn't matter what the concept purports to be, the tendency to question life, love, relationships and spiritually has always been at the centre of their music.

There are some wonderfully lush arrangements, 'Mighty' and the delicate 'Leave It Alone' for example, sat either side of the four sublime songs at the albums heart. 'April Fool', 'Pale Black Eye', 'Virgin' and the eponymous 'Simple Math' are so densely packed with tension, regret and brilliance - each one is its own mini drama. The latter being as wonderfully melodic an example of expressed doubt as you're likely to hear.

Manchester Orchestra set the bar really high yet here they surpass even their own exceptional standards which is why declaring this the best album of the year by far is so gratifying.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Maybeshewill - I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone

It happens. Bands are emotional beasts. Personnel changes. Focus shifts. What was previously relevant seems to no longer reflect their identity. So they take a step back. Re-assess. Consider their next move in light of the fact that they’ve failed to light up the musical heavens as they'd hoped.

It's a well worn path but with 'I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone' Leicester instrumentalists Maybeshewill have seemingly decided that linear progression won't suffice as they've elected to approach this, their new (third) album, as if it was their debut apparently. To give them a fresh perspective and renewed impetus in their approach.

Other than the meatier, clarity of sound that recording in studios has given the songs, there are only hints to suggest a rebirth. They belt out riff heavy melodies with the same glorious power they always have. There's more 'light and shade' now and no dialogue samples. They evoke those same 'spoken' emotions through their playing, meandering piano lines and whirling strings this time out.

This is a progression then? Yes. It's definitely their most cohesive album to date, so reappraisal or not, I guess what they're doing is working.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Austra - Feel It Break

Emerging from the seedier peripheries of synth pop and resurrecting that uneasy sense of dread and sleaze favoured by the likes of Japan or Soft Cell, signer, songwriter, leader, Katie Stelmanis, accompanied by Maya Postepski (drums) and Dorian Wolf (bass), ventures once more into her unsettling 'goth' electro world and delivers something beautifully strange.

Under the Austra name Stelmanis' trio explore a range of territories and emotive areas not unlike the strangely dark edges of the The Knife's best moments where the unsettling meets the playful and then by turns the oddity factor of Fever Ray almost by default.

Of course the most distinctive thing about Austra is always going to be Stelmanis' operatic vocal style but the songs themselves are stronger, poppier, than before, more liable to stick in your brain and have you humming them for hours, in particular the uptempo 'Lose It' which has literally been, rattling around this reviewers brain for weeks.

Perhaps the closest artist to which you could compare Austra would be Bat For Lashes however there's less, fantasy dust on display here as Austra prefer to emote more grit, grime and real world anxiety amongst their own particular brand of fairy glitter pop.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Crippled Black Phoenix - The Cluny, Newcastle - 8th April

As anyone who knows The Cluny is aware the venues stage can comfortably accommodate a standard 4/5 piece band, 6 at a push depending on the setup. Anyone who knows Crippled Black Phoenix, and that's the bulk of tonight's crowd of course, also knows they are far from a standard band and number eight (usually). I counted eight tonight, or seven, maybe, it's hard to tell as it's a bloody tight squeeze up there! People and instruments are cramped together and meld into one!

But it doesn't appear to hinder them as they launch into their own unique mix of prog-cum-post-rock. Drawing mostly from new album 'I, Vigilante' and 2009's '200 Tons of Bad Luck' CBP immediately hit their groove and conjur up a succession of heavy and melodic tunes which ebb and flow as they drive forward. Amply sized songs like the lurching, unsettling 'Troublemaker' or the dreamy epic that is 'Burnt Reynolds' rub glacial paced shoulders with each other, brittle but immensely solid - the sound you'd imagine from musical granite.

The crowd is good (healthy) not huge, but CBP receive enthusiastic and justified applause each time one of these mini-epics reaches a natural conclusion and commence another and when 'Rise Up and Fight' beats out its tribal rhythms, lead by Joe Volk's emotive vocals and a series of strident, drum figures, guitar riffs and embellishing synth swirls, the venue becomes awash in a maelstrom aural nuances making for an unbelievably immersive listen. It's this atmosphere which lingers on throughout their set.

Beautifully realised music from a talented group deserving of more attention.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs - No Help Coming

You can always rely on Holly Golightly to give you something familiar. And 'No Help Coming' is not going to be the album to buck any trends. The songs cover much the same ground as any of her earlier ones. The characters and situations as well worn as any in the country music canon. That's not a criticism by the way. Sometimes familiarity doesn't breed contempt. Sometimes is as welcoming as a hug from a lover or as warming as duvet in winter.

Even when the subjects she's singing about are bitter and/or broken 'The Rest of Your Life', 'Here Lies My Love' – hell any of these tunes would meet that criteria under close scrutiny.

Aided again by long time collaborator Lawyer Dave (essentially a cipher for the Brokeoffs!), who supplies guitar, backing vocals and lead voice on 'Under Arrest' the album is a stripped down back-to-basics homage to old country and rootsy sounds. With newly written originals and resurrected oldie covers sitting side by side as happy bedfellows in what is simple, beautifully clear attempt to allow Holly's knack for storytelling shine through and succeeding wonderfully.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Colourmusic - My ___ is Pink

If I was to only recommend you hear one thing by Colourmusic, assuming that this one thing couldn’t be the entirety of 'My ____ is Pink' for some self-imposed and utterly imagined reason, then I'd have to settle on 'The Little Death (In Five Parts)' an extended mix of psych-drones and hooks at the heart of this album and an epic sounding ten minute arrangement either in celebration or warning of human weakness and lust! Not that you'll know that necessarily. You'll feel it though. Yes, you'll definitely feel it.

Oh, sure there are other songs on the album. Lots of them and they all twist and change and can't be pinned down and genre-fied with an easy descriptive moniker or pithy soundbite phrase either. They have a life of their own. A personality and a drive that gives them their own inherent charm.

But I would say this - any band who'd create, record and release this music demands your full attention. It's heavy, brutal, harmonious, sing-along, discordant and weird at various times (sometimes at the same time!) And I love it. All of it. Well, except for 'The Beast with Two Backs' which serves little purpose.

The album finishes with the rampant, positively charged frenzy of 'Yes', replete with its sublime choral vocals which perfectly sums up 'My ____ is Pink'. This album will in years to come be viewed fondly as a work of genius, vision and (perhaps) misunderstood beauty. I say 'perhaps' as I've not read any other reviews of the music contained herin, I don't know if others are able to divine the beauty of this music, or if it's being passed over for more obvious sounding fare.

I think either way that if you were to listen and recognise this fact - that Colourmusic's 'My ____ is Pink' is a startling force of musical nature - today then you can be smug in the knowledge that you're already well ahead of the curve when it comes to knowing your musical onions!