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Archive for the ‘Music Reviews’ Category

Anais Mitchell – Hadestown

Monday, November 1st, 2010

I’m playing catch up a bit here, as I first discovered Hadestown whilst researching storytelling albums during the late springtime. Anais Mitchell’s gravelly innocence has spawned a number of solo albums, but her folk opera Hadestown has blown me – and many others – completely away.

It’s a concept album based on the Ancient Greek Orpheus myth, arching from the polite, delicate opening exchanges between Orpheus and Eurydice on Wedding Song, to the deep south influenced jamboree of Way Down Hadestown.

My love of folk music is often derided by friends and acquaintances but I challenge anyone not to be spellbound by this creation, which is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Even having said that, the individual parts are mightily impressive. Anais brings in countless guests to play the various characters in the story, most notably for me the wonderful Ani DiFranco playing the part of Persephone. DiFranco was Anais’ childhood idol, she then signed to her label and now for them to be collaborating is a lovely story in itself.

But that’s not where the story ends. I had the pleasure of seeing Anais live at the Hare and Hounds in October, accompanied by the Hadestown arranger Michael Chorney. Towards the end of the show, she announced a one-off performance of Hadestown with Ani DiFranco and Martin Carthy at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow. No prizes for where I’ll be heading in January!

It’s hard to sum up the Americana splendour of Hadestown, so I’ll leave you with some quotes and a sampler for you to make your mind up, but please, do spend an hour of your time listening to Hadestown (Spotify) in its entirety, you shall be rewarded.

See you in Glasgow!

“the earthiness of Shawn Colvin, the child-like bite of Joanna Newsom, and the urban jumpiness of Ani DiFranco” – AllMusic on Anais Mitchell

The songs are lyrical, while dramatic arrangements encompass Dixieland, string sextet and country. A rich, audacious and moving opus – The Observer on Hadestown

Anaïs Mitchell adds another record to this coveted pile, comfortably aligning herself with Sufjan Stevens, Joanna Newsom and the like in the process: singer-songwriters possessing both the audacity to take on brain-weltingly big concepts and the sheer talent required to pull them off. It is, simply, irresistible – Drowned in Sound on Hadestown

“Wedding Song”, both parts performed by Anais Mitchell:

“Why We Build The Wall” (feat. Greg Brown) and “Our Lady of the Underground” (feat Ani DiFranco):

Weezer – Represent

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Can it be true? Is California really the new home of the football song? Hot on the heels of Purple Amp’s favourite footie anthem of 2010, Eux Autres’ lo-fi wonder World Cup Fever, comes this little ditty from Weezer – REPRESENT!

Now I’ll level with you, I have a soft spot for the US team. I’d go as far as to say they’re my second team after the obvious, something i can only admit now both sides are safely though group C. And as Weezer are one of my favourite bands, there’s an obvious interest here.

Represent is typical Weezer fare and wouldn’t be out of place on Raditude. It’s simplicity – you do wonder if Rivers penned it on the back of a fag packet over a beer – is key to the song’s appeal. But the promising start is let down by the climax of the chorus. Although the lyrics read “But thats just one more reason to see that it matters whether you win or lose”, because of the way the chorus is constructed all you really hear is “whether you win or lose” – hardly the inspiring stuff of champions.

One question the song fails to answer – and places it in the same category as so many England football songs of the past – is what do you do with a football song video? The Represent video is an uncomfortable mix of clips of the US team taking on the giants of world football (like, err, Costa Rica and Turkey) and Rivers Cuomo in typical charity record “doing-my-bit-hand-on-headphones” pose.

Check it out for yourself…

Stars – The Five Ghosts

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Canadian intelli-pop rockers Stars return with their long-awaited fifth album The Five Ghosts.

An apt title, as opener “Dead Hearts” has a haunting melodic quality to it, mainly down to the interchanging vocals from front duo Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan. If that sounds like Stars take it easy on this disc, far from it. Yes the summer dreaminess and haunting melodies are evident throughout the album, but well balanced with up-tempo beats and synthesized emotions.

The sound of The Five Ghosts lies somewhere between Saint Etienne, Rilo Kiley, early Cranberries and Echobelly’s Great Things. Standout track is single “Fixed”, whose speedy melody catches you by surprise and grips tightly for three and a half minutes.

Considering their long break, it’s not a knockout return. Some might say overproduced. But it’s more than enough to keep the fans happy and might even win some new ones along the way.

If you fancy checking out Stars, they’re playing London’s Heaven on 1st September.

Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Ok, hands up who thought Athlete were the undisputed kings of the irritating summertime song? Well my friends, there’s a new kid on the block! Introducing Foster The People with their track Pumped Up Kicks.

Different-sized dollops of Snow Patrol, Eels, Ladyhawke, Doves, Morning Runner, The Postal Service and MGMT make up Foster the People and this track in particular borrows a big chunk of its chorus straight from Empire of the Sun.

It’s “nice”. I wish I had a better word to describe it, but “nice” is exactly right. Whether “nice” is enough when the sun goes down remains to be seen.

Eux Autres – World Cup Fever

Friday, June 11th, 2010

England take on the USA in South Africa tomorrow and what better way to prepare than by listening to this cracking World Cup anthem from… California!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the wonderful San Franciscan band Eux Autres with their lo-fi ode to all things football – “World Cup Fever”. And not an oval ball or World Series in sight.

Pretty cool video too.

Vengaboys – Rocket to Uranus

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Toot toot! The vengabus is coming everyone, but look! It’s been transformed into a shiney penis-shaped rocket ship!

The Netherlands may have given us sexy football, a relaxed attitude to cannabis and some rather attractive blonde boys, but they failed dismally with their particular brand of 90s europop.

Remember “We’re Going to Ibiza”, “Shalala Lala”, “We Like To Party”? The smiley Dutch funbus never stopped! Well actually it did, in 2001, and the world of pop music was suddenly a better place.

But now, nine years later, we have comeback single “Rocket to Uranus”, featuring Pete Burns and Perez Hilton. No, REALLY.

The video portrays the group flying to your anus (well I might as well say it) through some sort of Mars Attacks influenced universe. Health warning – male genitalia related puns abound.

Need anything else to put you off? Pete Burns pilots the “Fisto 3000″ ship, one of the camp spacemen declares “Uranus is so pretty, it feels like home” and Pete’s head explodes due to his hatred of *cough* happy music *cough*

The video reminds me of a party I went to once, where everyone was forced to look like they were having fun. You know the kind. A themed fancy dress party where everyone walks around with enormous smiles on their faces. Look at us, we’re all dressed up like aliens and having a great time! How much fun is this! Then everyone goes home and cries into their pillows.

If I were the Dutch, I’d stick to playing football. Has anyone told them there’s a World Cup starting this week?

We Are The World – Clay Stones

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Cast your mind back to the release of Owl City’s Ocean Eyes. Journalists were desperate to find something else to say other than “this sounds just like the younger, less talented brother of The Postal Service”. But they couldn’t, because there was, literally, nothing else to say.

Well folks, we’re there again. WE ARE THE WORLD SOUND JUST LIKE THE KNIFE. There, I said it. But there’s an important caveat… comparing We Are The World to the Knife is like saying if you love Cadbury’s chocolate then you’ll love Hershey’s too. As we all know, Cadbury’s silken wonderlust is streets ahead of Hershey’s vomit-like brown slabs. And while Clay Stones shows definite promise, it’s not a patch on Deep Cuts.

But I’m prepared to give this project time. They’ve gone about things in the right way. If you’re going to create an “artist” to rival the Dreijers, then collecting a film composer, choreographer, designer and burlesque dancer together is a bloody good start.

Bearing that in mind, it’s no surprise their artistic live performances have already lit up Los Angeles and SXSW, amongst others. Will you like it? Much depends on how you consume music. If you like your quick fixes and pop hits, your Spotify playlists and your mix-tapes, then almost certainly not. If you’re the type of person who turns the lights down low and gets swept away on a visual adventure in your head, then yes, give this a shot.

Foot Follows Foot opens the album and you could be forgiven for thinking the Moldy Peaches are at the saucepans again as they were with LCD Soundsystem’s This Is Happening. But the track, and album, soon bursts into life, like a lone gunman protecting his castle with an electronic rifle, letting out short, sharp bursts of beats and bleeps. Title track Clay Stones is the standout pop stomper, destined to be remixed for evermore, while Afire conjures up images of seven-headed monsters rampaging through small Scandanavian villages, setting them on fire before stopping for a 100 degree rave.

Think I have an overactive imagination? Just give this album a whirl and see if I’m wrong.

Watch this space.

LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

Monday, May 17th, 2010

To start an album with a nine-minute track is a brave move indeed, especially with the first three minutes so stripped down they’re reminiscent of a stoned Moldy Peaches playing around with kitchen utensils. But then “Dance Yourself Clean” springs to life when the razor sharp synths click into gear. Akin to Hot Chip’s Thieves In The Night in the “awesome-way-to-open-an-album” stakes.

You’ll no doubt have heard the single “Drunk Girls” by now and made up your own mind. For me it sounds like James Murphy hopped in a convertible with Ima Robot, heading down Sunset Strip for a rowdy boys night out. If that’s your bag, you’ll love this.

From then on we’re into more familiar LCD Soundsystem territory, from the beats and bleeps of One Touch and I Can Change, to the slow-burning craftsmanship of I Wanted a Hit.

As closing tracks go, “What You Need” is a real retro breakfast club funk-a-thon and if this is truly to be LCD Soundsystem’s curtain call, it’s an almost touching way to end.

So long, and thanks for all the olives.

Here’s the opening and closing tracks for your aural pleasure:

Kylie’s Hot Fuss

Friday, May 14th, 2010

The t’interweb is awash with excitement at the impending return of Australia’s greatest ever export.*

I’m yet to make up my mind about this song.

But it sounds like she’s spent all winter curled up on the sofa listening to the Killers.

* apart from barbeques and surfboards