Category Archives: Music

Best of 2013: The Wave Machines – Pollen

Disclaimer: I’m still doing a degree, hence lack of posts. Although the interface has totally changed since last time I wrote anything, so this is perhaps a sign that it has been too long.

Released the tail end of last year, The Wave Machines’ Pollen truly came to life this year with the single release of Ill Fit. Easily one of 2013’s finest single releases, it’s funky, just a little bit sexy (‘Bite on a red lip, hold it…’) and a welcome burst of originality. 2009’s debut Wave If You’re Really There still stands up, but Pollen is a big step forward, covering everything from dreamy sentimentality (see Home) to slightly unsettling (Counting Birds). They’re excellent live, too.

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December 11, 2013 · 8:26 pm

Everything Everything and the One Day Like This effect

Maybe it was the decision to release it on 14th January, a traditionally quiet time for releases, but there was a palpable sense that people were waiting for Everything Everything’s second album, Arc.  Press coverage was pretty comprehensive, Kemosabe was never off the radio, and given that Man Alive was one of the most exciting and original debut albums in recent memory, expectations were high. And when you preview an album with singles of the quality of Cough Cough and Kemosabe, well, people are going to be waiting to hear what you have to say.

So, then, how has Arc fared? Well by all accounts – it landed in the top five. Torso of the Week is one of their best efforts to date, and the moment in Radiant when Jonathan Higgs’ furious shredded howl “it’s all I ever had” collapses into a crystalline chiming guitar is absolutely sublime, but there’s something wrong, and that can be summed up in one word: Duet. It is, said Higgs in an interview with the BBC, “one of the few proper songs I’ve written“. What it is is a massive string soaked concession of the heartbreaking proportions of Elbow’s One Day Like This: Duet was, in the week of release, already soundtracking montages on Match of the Day. It’s a pleasant enough song, nicely put together, but it doesn’t feel like an Everything Everything song. It feels like someone’s idea of what a band is meant to do to sound sincere, to mean anything to anyone, and from a band like this, it stings a little. Like One Day Like This, it feels out of character, and while of a higher quality than the likes of Coldplay’s Fix You, there’s no doubt it’s a stadium filler, the end of the encore, the money song.

In the same interview, Higgs deems Man Alive annoying, and other interviews around Arc’s release have seen the band say that they have made a conscious effort to write songs that the audience can sing along to. With this in mind, listen to Arc. The sheer volume of repeated lyrics is striking – not repeated choruses, choruses and verses made up almost entirely of the same line over and over. Ok, maybe it’s easier to make out the words on this album, but when you have a range like Higgs, accurate singalongs are still mostly out of the question. And it’s not like anyone went to see Jeff Buckley to sing along, is it? It’s hard not to sound a bit “oh, I liked their earlier stuff” on the subject, and the frustrating thing is that Arc is perilously close to being brilliant, but when the band have openly said that they’ve made concessions so that people like them better, it’s hard not to object. If they hadn’t been so conscious of people being able to sing along, there’s no telling what this album could have been.

 

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Best of 2012: A Conversation Well Rehearsed by The Birthday Suit

Second album in two years from Rod Jones’s new venture, and A Conversation Well Rehearsed does not disappoint. Lead single Less Worthless Years hinted at significant game raising (try getting that chorus out of your head), and the quality barely dips across the album. It’s a similar mix to last year’s The Eleventh Hour: there’s punch the air euphoria on You Hear The Drum, gorgeous wistfulness on Out Of This World and balls-out rock on Uh-Huh Uh-Huh (which comes with some excellent screams), but everything is just that bit tighter, that bit better, a little more sure of itself.
Jones’s songwriting is going from strength to strength, with even the big dumb rock moments displaying real heart, and there’s an obvious sense of pride and pleasure in each note. If The Birthday Suit can keep this up, this may be just the start of something very exciting indeed.

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Best of 2012: (I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing by Field Music

[youtube http://youtu.be/2cKvLO1PFf8]

Your correspondent has spent much of 2012 telling anyone who will listen about how devastatingly good Field Music’s Plumb is (see?), and it remains my favourite album of the year. Sheer staggering invention. They missed out on the Mercury, but that means nothing: all it has helped to do is get their name out there, and hopefully will encourage people to seek out their rich back catalogue as well.

Picking a favourite track wasn’t easy, but I Keep Thinking About A New Thing just edges ahead. It’s an intro with intent, giving way to a sort of steady funk (Field Music know basslines), topped with that circling, oddly hypnotic guitar. It’s optimistic, yet there’s something strangely downbeat, talking themselves into new possibilities, perhaps. Then, second verse, piano, percussion and a gorgeous breakdown all chime in, adding layer upon layer. On the face of it, it’s a simple pop song, and it sound be enjoyed as such, but getting it this right certainly can’t be easy, and the fact that Field Music do it so often shows what an exceptional band they are. For proof, see the delivery of “played so dumb I can’t bear to look”: the way the voice slides over the notes is shivers down the spine, aural swoon-inducingly perfect

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Best of 2012: All of Me by Tanlines

Dee dee da-da-da! It’s Saturday Night for the first bar or so! But bear with it: few choruses this year can match the sheer joy of All of Me, with those strange, strained ‘yeahs’ being beamed in backwards. It borders on guilty pleasure territory (well, it’s certainly not cool, is it?), but what pleasure it is. Good old fashioned pop fun.

(Apologies for the rubbish photo video. There is an official video directed by The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt here, but there’s a pointless minute before the song kicks in.)

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Best of 2012: Kemosabe by Everything Everything

[youtube http://youtu.be/TKKMfJ8cZoQ]

It’s not actually out until next year, but the second single from Everything Everything’s second album Arc has been doing the rounds since late October, and man, is it addictive. The “at the border, at the at the border” refrain makes it one of their catchiest moments to date, while that chorus “Kemosabe, I’m alone” is at once euphoric and desperate. Plus where else do you find the line “I’m genuflecting in a penitent way”? 2013 is already up on 2012 for having the official release of this.

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Best of 2012: The Drummer by Niki and the Dove

Sometimes, only a bit of fluff will do. And what fluff. Niki and The Dove’s Instinct is platinum grade candyfloss, and is one of the most addictive albums of the year. By rights, it should be terrible. The lyrics are often a bit wonky, and Mother Protect features the worst synth pan pipe noise in existence, but it’s absolutely irresistible. The dreamy Last Night captures the atmosphere of Madonna’s Crazy For You, while The Fox shows that juddering cellos really aren’t used enough in pop these days. Somebody and Love to the Test are sugary pop just on the right side of cheese, while the aforementioned Mother Protect is worth putting up with the terrible synths for the execution of the pay off line “you can’t keep me down, I am young, I am furious”. Never has a vocal catch been so well deployed.

The best moment is perhaps The Drummer, driving, inventive and the owner of a chorus it’s impossible to stop singing. Drop your voice for “human” and you’ll understand: it’s far more fun that you ever thought it could be.

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