It’s been a wonderful year and I don’t know how to even talk about it in a way that isn’t neurotically structured around lists. Here are my informal reasons behind my favourite things. Merry Christmas!
Another wonderful tongue-in-cheek cut and paste job by the wonderful Books craftsman. Zammuto is jollily demented, electronic music never short of fun and never over-stretching its ideas. Nick Zammuto has always had a knack for modulating the outreaches into something we can all get down to, and from this outing that almost feels like the point of his new project.
The Welcome Wagon
Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices
Direct songs from Christian to God, but it’s not like the word can’t translate.
Life Is People
What’s so satisfying about listening to Fay’s album is how it doesn’t dispel the mythic rock history surrounding it. His first solo record in forty years, after being chewed out by an industry that took its liberty to take up every musician and then dump them, is a spectacle of sorts, something of a comeback overwrought with the emotion of being able to make music again.…
Today things will likely get bad for the English as French-speaking people gear up to grab an unapologetically boring 1-0 victory over them. In a move that would make the proudest indie rock journalist happy, there is a weird layer of self-awareness going around in the English press for this game. Thanks to it, I have never been more optimistic that I am totally not optimistic about our chances in this game. I am daring to dare to not dare to dream. Also, since the majority of our userbase is American, please don’t make fun of us today. It’s not our fault.
Also, something something about the French.
England: Los Campesinos! – Every Defeat A Divorce (Three Lions)
Pretty hard to know what to choose for this one but if the nation’s hopes have been toned down to some sort of footballing nihilism, we should probably call upon Los Campesinos! to make thinly-vieled analogies comparing the sport to sex and the disappointment in both areas. I honestly think if this was our national anthem, our team would sing it proudly before games. Contrary to popular belief (and much to Gareth Campesinos!’ massive dismay), Los Campesinos! are not a Welsh band. This has happened before- I think the sadly misplaced Ryan Giggs would be happy at home in this band.
A few years ago this fixture would have had a very different set of standard pundit clichés riding on it (the perennial underachievers vs. the mighty defenders), but this meeting of two European greats nonetheless promises, as it has in its first half, to be one of the hottest contenders for least interesting game of the tournament. Bring on Bono V Croatia!
Italy: port-royal – ‘Flares Pt. 2′
…And what could be more fitting for the Italian defensive geniuses with an “educating” manager than some seriously academic ambient and/or post-rock music? port-royal don’t speak much, which makes their tenuous link something to do with their great defensive prowess. The silent 1-0 victory of instrumental music.
Spain: Los Planetas – ‘Parte de lo que me debes ‘
To keep in theme with the classical geniuses Dave was showing off for that wonderful Czech Rep/Russia game, here’s my take on the classics: Spanish indie pop. Twee but in seductive voices; Shout Out Louds could learn from this.
Here’s another glare from Stephin Merritt, and this time it’s a reminder: before this non-synth triology of nonsense was a late ’80s, early Indie band falling into the new decade with nothing but the tricks they’d been taught to survive. Tricks which they had failed at, anyway, because of Merritt himself, hands in his face and eyes rolling. It’s funny, because The Magnetic Fields would have been a big contradiction of terms– a breezy synth-pop band with a droning, insulting genius propelling them– if it wasn’t for Merritt’s attention to detail (or: attention to himself). The synthesizers of Holiday didn’t exactly sparkle for the sun shining on them, and why would they? Merritt’s never really gone for the sugary-sweet fare of twee’s higher-ups, writing a lyric like “under more stars than there are prostitues in Thailand” when he might have learned a more romantic sentiment from silliness like “la la love you.”
But Merritt is not silly. He’s like the version of himself Scott Walker sees before ghosts teach him to love Christmas, using the synthesizer as a tool to turn the theatrical into a pantomine, from the aliens-do-country road trips of Highway Strip to his definitely-ironic retelling of how people love on 69 Love Songs. He’s spoiling movies and ruining stories, and “Andrew In Drag” is a track, weirdly, in the spirit of those two records, downbeat and hysterical but told deadly serious, like the man rolling his eyes now and forever. And it’ll make sense in context,…
I’m sorry for the TL;DR length of this. I guess I rambled a lot. And secondly, I apologise for the quality, which might be the result of a late 5 hour rush through this. It has been a very good year.
All of these are lovely Sputnik 4.5s, I would say. Unless they’re 5s. Enjoy!
Dananananaykroyd– There Is a Way
When I saw these guys play their last show in Leeds (ever!) on their last tour of the universe as we know it, I sort of felt like I was hitching a ride. Everyone else seemed so clued in on these guys, so it was like the outside of post-hardcore’s very own in-joke, one that only makes sense when you see how joyous an experience they are. There’s the hair ruffling—which I was on the receiving end of—and the wall of death that converts death into hugs. Most will tell you that prior knowledge of their albums is pointless, and it kind of was that way: I could pick up every chant of “da na na na!” as it bounced from fan to fan. It was the gig first for this band, but going back to There Is a Way felt wholly satisfying to me- I was able to see where one ridiculous song ended and where the next began. The two best—“Think and Feel” followed by the stomping “Muscle…
TV On The Radio’s Nine Types of Light, released this year, was not ambitious.
This was odd. What have we come to expect from TV On The Radio if not ambition? Each record before this one seemed to give us another reason to call them ‘art-rock’, be it for their crazy musical ventures (to think they had the nerve to sample Metal Machine Music) or for their lyrically cryptic nature. Nine Types of Light, then, saw a band happy to slow down and ready to lose whatever “edge” was elevating them above the rest. You have to be pretty confident to do that, or at least very content indeed, and to me Nine Types of Light celebrates losing its higher calling as “art.” There’s no denying, however, that it doesn’t try to carry a statement as dark as “DLZ” or to look at an issue in the way “I Was A Lover” did.
So it feels brilliant to have the Nine Types of Light film as an accompanying piece, no matter how satisfied I am with the hour of music. To me, it feels intriguing to see a band re-imagine their music so immediately. There are other forums to offer a second interpretation on your music, but most of them feel a little more distant than this; the Flaming Lips, for instance, dedicated a musical to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, a record already surreal as hell, but it was released after the fact. Others would prefer…
Perhaps what best sums up Eprhyme’s two passions are his synagogue performances. Signed to Calvin Johnson’s insanely DIY K Records, Eprhyme attempts to blend firm Jewish faith with a love for the traditions of hip-hop, and his strong affinity with the depth of Jewish stories finds an unusual home on his newest record, genuinely titled Dopestylevsky. It plays with both components: it is, at times, perhaps too good at honouring its musical influence (“Let’s Build” shows itself up with its whacky, somewhat cartoonish chorus), but its strongly conscientious focus fits snugly into the unusual backdrop: the lyrics on Dopestylevsky range from issues of religious identity to the strong environmentalism found here, but it never quite feels like a lecture buried in gimmick. Instead, Eprhyme’s music is created interestingly enough- and with two palettes from which he clearly draws inspiration- that his record works both as slightly over-indulgent hip-hop and a good natured show of faith.
That was an interesting night for Tallest Man on Earth fans. They filled Shepherd’s Bush grand venue top to bottom, a venue one might find more fitting for a veteran indie band like Wilco, but not so much for a newbie of folk with two albums and the peak of his career still arguably ahead. It felt closer to waiting for an arena rock sell-out than for the guy who eventually swaggered on a few minutes late. But boy, did Kristian Mattson make the night his: the crowd were surely acting like this was arena rock, and Mattson, so unexpectedly for a man known for such understated folk songs, was happy to entertain that little fantasy. No waiting around or opening with a little song, as many of us expected (“The Wild Hunt” was absent from the night as a whole), Mattson instead opened with the immediate presence of “I Won’t Be Found” and moved through two songs of Shallow Grave like they were anthems for sharing.
And that’s how it was for a good hour of the night. The crowd were more excited to be a part of songs from The Wild Hunt and Shallow Grave than they were to hear them, and that’s the way of this man live. He seemed very much happy for the participation that came with “The Gardener”-…