Monthly Archives: May 2011

Recommended: ANR

Currently touring with The Duke Spirit, synth-happy Miami two-piece ANR are, it’s fair to say, a startlingly original prospect. Despite their small number, every last note on debut album Stay Kids sounds positively huge, a high volume, high intensity attack on the ear coated in a sort of burbling, musical glitter. The opening title track is a perfect warning of what is to come: unfolding gently, then erupting about a minute in to a reverberating wail which is both air-punchingly brilliant and almost difficult to listen to.

Big Problem and Endless Field of Mercury thunder along to who knows where, and while there are gentler moments, as on A Year of Solitude Pays Off, even that comes with a chorus reaching to the stratosphere. It’s flawlessly crafted, utterly magical indie pop, what MGMT could have been with a tremendous leap of imagination

Stay Kids is streaming here.

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Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes’ much anticipated second album Helplessness Blues was released this week, garnering similar acclaim as 2008’s self-titled debut. And it’s easy to understand: they’re a likeable, accomplished band with, in their best moments, a wonderfully lulling way with a melody, but Helplessness Blues feels a bit flat, and the excitement surrounding them is that of listeners desperately wanting them to be a classic band.

There moments of absolute perfection on both albums. Fleet Foxes’ Mykanos, White Winter Hymnal (beautiful video too) and He Doesn’t Know Why are shimmering musical wonders, while the title track of Helplessness Blues is uplifting and devastating, bring a tear to a glass eye stuff, but layered harmonies and acoustic guitars – even as painstakingly put together layered harmonies and acoustic guitars -can make for samey listening. And that’s what has happened here. The band has clearly poured its heart into this album, not a note out of place, and it’s not an unpleasant listening experience, but it is, sadly, unremarkable. Aside from the title track, only The Cascades really stands out for the right reason. The one attempt at diversion, The Shrine/An Argument, builds to an unbearable few minutes of squawking brass.

The inspired moments are just too few and far between. Fleet Foxes do have all the ingredients to become something truly great, and at times they come frustratingly close to realising this, but they’re simply not there yet.

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She’s In Fashion

Blame Lily Allen, her trainers and ballgown chic and her line for New Look if you must (ooh, let’s do), female singers who have emerged in the past few years haven’t been allowed to be just that, they have to be a style icon too, and the stranger the better. Want people to know who you are? Better turn up to the Brits wearing a lace body stocking. On a sliding scale, we’ve got Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Jessie J, Paloma Faith and Florence Welch, and that’s not to mention Katy Perry and Rihanna’s increasingly plastic wardrobes. Even Ellie Goulding, who has the advantage of possessing the ability to play an instrument and come up with a decent tune or two, ends up on magazine covers in her pants.

The gripe is not that pop stars are wearing ridiculous clothing, it’s that being a style icon isn’t optional. You’ve got a record out? Great, fine, we’ll get to that, but first tell us where you got that cerise eyeliner and how much you’re willing to spend on a pair of shoes, and oops, we haven’t mentioned your album at all so we’ll just put a little note at the end reminding people that you’re actually a singer and that they can buy something of yours that isn’t your new line for Very.

Having something to say has moved from the music to what is physically displayed. It’s not about the ba-bling-ba-bling – fair point, Jessie J, but people recognise you for your goth-porn wig of a hair style and that gravel crap stuck in your lipgloss, not for whatever statement your songs are (barely) trying to make. Fair enough if your songs aren’t meant to be saying anything, but so many of these singers are touted as being antidotes to anodyne pop puppets, as someone real offering something real. And it’s a particular school of new acts that this seems to apply to. The likes of Imogen Heap and Jesca Hoop dress like they’ve been raised by crows, but they never seem to get asked about how they get their hair to sit perfectly; it’s the Imelda Mays that push their image so much, and it seems, really, to be masking a lack of personality and, well, tunes. It is perhaps too early to tell, but it certainly doesn’t feel like we’ll be listening to Paloma Faith’s Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful in twenty, ten, even five years’ time. People have always wanted to imitate how their favourite singers and celebrities look, but this is something else. This is music attached to fashion, not the other way round, and frankly, both are suffering.

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