Album review – Asa

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Asa -’Beautiful Imperfection’ (Naive)

It took a few listens, but once the weather picked up slightly, I started to get this album a whole heap more. Maybe it was the sun shining through the window, becoming a Dad, or just maybe the fact that this album managed to penetrate these ears that have got over exposed to far too much indie-by-numbers. Now with this playing, it’s wiping away the stresses and strains of the day.

Asa (pronounced Asha) hails from Lagos, Nigeria and has a fantastic voice which is infectious. Lead single ‘Be My Man’ is classic soul (and an awesome video to boot) which in a more just world would be booming from every stereo this summer. To these ears it gives the likes of Amy Winehouse, Adele etc.. more than a run for their money.

It’s not a pioneering album, but it does provide a great mix of her influences, taken from her Father’s record collection in Nigeria, to say nothing of the time she has spent living and studying in France, and travelling further afield. While many who claim to mix a variety of influences end up either a) presenting listeners with a mishmash that is worthy but unlistenable or b) trying to make out that that their record collection is less bland than the music they make, that’s not the case here, thankfully. It really is a mixture of pop, soul and reggae.

It’s a very warm sounding record, not just in terms of the fact that it reminds this listener of warmer weather, but the fact that her voice has a very warm, natural feel to it. ‘Be My Man’ is probably the highlight – but the two opening tracks ‘Why Can’t we’ and ‘Maybe’, as well as ‘I Feel ‘ and ‘OK OK’ are strong contenders, too.

Having built up a steady following across Europe, particularly in France (home to her record label) it would be great if she could do the same here. This is certainly a strong enough sounding album to do so, and marketed properly, if the likes of Adele and La Winehouse can shift into 7 figures in the UK, this deserves too, as well.

****

Beautiful Imperfection is released on Naive on April 4. She plays the Barbican that day with Tiken Jah Fakoly.

Asa – Dreamer Girl by asaofficial

Asa – Ok Ok by asaofficial

This track isn’t on the album but it sounds flamin’ gorgeous:

Asa – Ces petits riens (Serge Gainsbourg cover) by asaofficial

Album review – Vaccines

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Vaccines -’What Did you Expect From The Vaccines?’ (Sony)

In a world full of fun of the mill indie bands (Pigeon Detectives, The Enemy, Wombats etc.. etc..), the indie kids are on the lookout for new heroes. Are the Vaccines the band to save the day?

Thus far, they seem to have made inroads. they started off the year sharing the NME cover with Brother (who are, frankly,execrable). Seconds single ‘Post breakup Sex’ was a Top 40 hit. This album debuted at no.4 in the UK album charts (Adele’s current dominance making everyone else’s chart positions seem like they aren’t trying hard enough). So far, so much further ahead than they were six months ago. But then some people want to give then a major slagging for being ‘posh.’ Others feel that the album is not groundbreaking enough.

Well, for what it’s worth, I feel that there’s a fair bit to commend and recommend here. If you have a problem with the MTV2/Evening Session/NME notion of indie in 2011, then this may not change your mind. But if you are actually capable of just enjoying an album because it’s fun, with, you know, tunes and stuff, then this might well be your bag. Yes, it’s easy on the ear, but it’s not candyfloss, and these tunes stick around.These are songs that charge along with the joy of The Rakes (RIP), alternately bittersweet and airpunching fun. ‘Wreckin’ Ball’ and ‘If you Wanna’ get the album off to a cracking start and it leaves a big stupid grin on your face.

If you enjoyed The Drums’ debut last year, then for non-complicated fun you might well enjoy this too (no, I didn’t say they are like The Drums. Just that…oh, never mind). Does it change the world? Well no, but remember this: debuts from the likes of Radiohead, Blur, The Cure, Talk Talk…even The Beatles were not, generally speaking, the reason why they were remembered in future years.Put your cynicism aside for forty minutes and see if you can still remember what it is to enjoy something again.

***1/2

What did you expect from the Vaccines? is out now on Sony

More from Fiction Faction

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Fiction Faction are not men to allow the grass to grow under their feet.

Not content with having released a single with us earlier this year ‘Apparitions’ they have already been back in the recording studio this weekend and this is the first fruits of their labours…

This is entitled ‘Malenky Lizards.’ Liking this a lot.
Malenky Lizards by Fiction Faction

The band also support Scanners at their gig at the Captain’s Rest in Glasgow on March 29 (yes, tomorrow, you were told).

Update: go here to hear more from Fiction Faction.

Album review – Cold Cave

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Cold Cave -’Cherish The Light Years.’ mp3 (Matador)

Cold Cave is essentially the work of one man, Wesley Eisold, and a cast of contributors. Of the impressive list of those featured here, the most well-known one is Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The theme running through the record is that of nighttime walks in his adopted city of New York.

Critically acclaimed though Cold Cave’s last album, Love Comes Close was, I have to confess that it left me feeling underwhelmed overall. Part of this may be due to the fact that the two mp3s I heard first ‘Life Magazine’ and ‘Laurels Of Erotomania’ were perhaps the best things on the entire album. Some of the album was great, but others just seemed like yet another rehash of eighties new wave/electro.

This album feels much more consistent and I have felt the urge to play it far more (and indeed I have). Sure, I think it’s clear that the band still have a deep love of the likes of the Cure, New Order and Depeche Mode etc.. (so do I !), as well as more recent electro-infused acts like The Faint. The press release mentions Suede’s Dog Man Star and Pulp’s Different Class, albums which I have loved since their release and cannot say I really feel here.

What I do feel is that Mr. Eisold and co. are finding their own voice far more on this record. Amongst the highlights are ‘Underworlds USA’ ‘Icons of Summer’ and the free track doing the rounds ‘The Great Pan Is Dead.’ I still feel that they have it in them to produce a truly great album, and whilst this isn’t it, it is streets ahead of their debut.

***1/2

Cherish the Light Years is released on Matador on April 4.

Cold Cave – ‘The Great Pan Is Dead.’ mp3

Album review – Poly Styrene

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Poly Styrene -’Generation Indigo.’ (Future Noise)

Oh God, I HATE it when this happens. Seriously.

I was really pleased when I heard Poly Styrene was returning to music, loving what she did as the frontwoman of X-Ray Spex. I loved the track she put out as a free download before Christmas -’Black Christmas.’ And now here comes her comeback album -and to my horror, it just leaves me cold.

Don’t get me wrong – her voice sounds as awesome as ever, possibly even better than it did in the days of X-Ray Spex. What mystifies is why she has released a record that aims for Santigold’s debut -and ends up feeling like a collection of demos for a Bananarama album that was never released. The producer was Youth who has certainly shown that he can produce some excellent records.

Perhaps the problem is with the tunes which far too often sound like cheesy bubblegum pop, and not in a good way either. The lyrics are also quite poor in places -’Kitsch’ actually manages to rhyme the title with ‘witch’ and ‘bitch’ which may not be as cliched as rhyming ‘fire’ with ‘desire’ but is hardly much better.

There are some great moments here – ‘White Gold’ Colour Blind’ and the fantastic anti-Iraq War ‘Code Pink Dub’. These tracks are definitely worth hearing -and I suppose in this download age, going and buying. But I can’t help wishing that Poly had explored more tracks in this vein. I hope that there will be another Poly Styrene solo album, because there is no question that she is talented and a legend. Unfortunately, too often this album doesn’t allow her to show this.

**1/2

Generation Indigo is released on Future Noise on March 28.

The return of Bill Callahan

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Rather chuffed that Bill Callahan will be returning with a new album next month.

Entitled Apocalypse, it’s the former (Smog) frontman’s fourth solo album, and will be released on April 18.

There’s seven tracks in total on the album, of which one, ‘Baby’s Breath’ has been made available as a free download.

Drover
Baby’s Breath
America!
Universal Applicant
Riding for the Feeling
Free’s
One Fine Morning

Bill Callahan -’Baby’s Breath.’ mp3

His label, Drag City, have some excellent releases coming up very soon – the High Llama’s latest Talahomi Way, which has had several plays already at 17 Seconds Towers, as well as Baby Dee and Matt Sweeney with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy…

Album Review – Micachu and the Shapes with the London Sinfonietta

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Micachu and the Shapes with the London Sinfonietta -’Chopped and Screwed’ (Rough Trade)

This is being billed as Rough Trade’s first classicial release. personally speaking, if some of the work of Brian Eno comes up as Classicial when you try and iPod it, I would argue that Virgina Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure might also qualify for the title, and that came out in 1983. No matter…

This album is a document of a performance given last year, which was a collaboration between the London Sinfonietta (who are apparently very highly regarded) and the three piece Micachu and the Shapes. Classical music written in the last one hundred years can sometimes seem quite unfathomable and challenging (see Igor Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring, Philip Glass’s Einstein On the Beach, and don’t even get me started on Benjamin Britten). Classicial and rock collaborations can also be very hit and miss. Elvis Costello and The Brodsky Quartet’s The Juliet Letters is briliant, Emerson Lake and Plamer’s mauling of Mussorsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition bloody terrible.

Whilst this isn’t as extreme as some, anyone expecting something where it’s music that’s nicely scored will be taken aback. Unless you listen to a fair amount of avant garde music, this may seem disorientating. ‘Everything’ and ‘Low Dogg’ may be good places to start.Some tracks are harder to get to grips with ‘medicine’ seems like a fascinating piece, until the last minute or so when it slips into pure self-indulgence.

There is a fair amount to take in here. However, while for the average listener it will require patience and a number of listens, there are a number of rewards to be had here.

***1/2.

Chopped and Screwed is released on March 28 on Rough Trade.

The return of Thurston Moore…solo artist

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Thurston Moore is set to release a new solo album (his fourth or fifth, depending on who you ask, apparently!) entitled Demolished Thoughts in May.

It’s been produced by Beck (yup, Beck Hansen) and the word is that it actually has more in common with reecnt releases by the likes of Kurt Vile and J Mascis that I’ve been raving about over here at 17 Seconds, than some of the music(s) typically associated with Sonic Youth.

No tracklist available yet that I can find, but see what you think of this. If I had a radio show at the moment I would definitely be playing this:

Thurston Moore -’Benediction.’ mp3

17SEC26…finally!

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It’s been a little while going live but the latest release from 17 Seconds Records, as promised, is the new

It’s a four track release featuring four new songs:

Palatine
Go
Palace Of Swords
Calvinball

At over fifteen minutes long, ‘Calvinball’ is the longest track we have released as a label. It is also the most extreme thing we have released, so we are very proud of that. This is release 17SEC26.

Download ‘Palatine’ here:

Wildhouse -’Palatine.’ mp3

Album Review – The Strokes

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The Strokes – ‘Angles.’ (Rough Trade)

When The Strokes appeared in 2001, they seemed like a breath of fresh air. In the post-Britpop doldrums, indie had largely gone back underground, and we needed a band we could fall in love with again. The Strokes not only looked cool (which, less face it, we were never going to say about Travis or the Stereophonics, were we?) but they sounded coo as well. They kickstarted a new wave of interest in bands, and before you knew it, America had given us the White Stripes (a couple of albums old, but only on import in the UK) and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, too. The band’s debut Is This It? might not have been the best album of that year, but boy, did it signify a seachange.

As a result of that debut album, the second and third albums got a lot of coverage too, and even the frankly awful solo projects that came along as well. This album has not been five years in the making, but it has been five years since First Impressions Of Earth. Stories have circulated about difficult recording sessions, whispers that all was not well. As indie is (supposedly) in the doldrums once more, how do the Strokes measure up ten years after their debut?

The first three tracks on the album, ‘Machu Icchu’ ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’ and ‘Two Kinds Of Happiness’ are all great, and join the canyon of wonderful Strokes songs. Unfortunately, from here on in, it’s the Strokes by numbers. Of course, the Strokes by numbers is better thah many other bands by numbers, but it’s still a little frustrating. ‘Metabolism’ sees them threatening to go metal, which they’ve threatened to do in the past and – with the exception of ‘Heart In A Cage’ _ wiah they would not do.

In essence, then, it’s a solid enough album, and certainly better than the solo projects that the band members fositered upon us in the interim. The problem remains that because they hit such a high with the first album, ultimately this is something of an anticlimax.

***

Angles is out now on Rough Trade.

Stream Angles here