‘The best music you ever heard in you(sic) life’ said the subject in the email.
‘Yeah right,’ I muttered and decided to give the video thirty seconds. I hear that so and so is the best so often it’s beyond being a turnoff.
And yet…Tiger Love may not be the best thing I have ever heard in my life…but I really like the song and the delightfully OTT video. It’s fun, it’s upbeat and it’s going to annoy po-faced idiots. That’s got to be a good thing, right?
According to the press release, the London-based band are Roy, Gigi(Originally from New York), and Loral. The girl who sings does so with a French accent and she’s namechecking cool places in Europe. I know no more than this – but I love this tune.
Slagging off Toploader is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. In fact, I like most people believed that they had split up. But it appears they were only on hiatus, and after eight years, are back on a new label and with their third album.
People, I honestly, truthfully tried to give this album the benefit of the doubt. The sad fact of the matter is that within a few tracks I found it boring, towards the end I was just absolutely desperate for it to end. The sad fact of the matter is that they are U2-wannabes, with cod spiritual lyrics that are ultimately empty.
Take the forthcoming single ‘A Balance To All Things.’ With lyrics like ‘You can swim to the right if it makes you feel alright/you can lean to the left, get your problems off your chest…’ you either feel this is singalong stuff or you feel it’s trite. You pays your money and you takes your choice. I’m sure that Toploader are lovely people.
But this is just a crushingly dull album to these ears.
Damon & Naomi -‘False Beats and True Hearts’ (Broken Horse)
It is now nearly twenty five years since Damon and Naomi first emerged. Initially as two-thirds of the seminal Galaxie 500, and then afetr three albums, as an act in their own right (starting their career with the gorgeous More Sad Hits album), Damon and Naomi have been responsible for some of the most sublime music released in that period.
Whether you are a new fan, or have followed them since the day you first heard ‘Tugboat’, their recordings are still sublime, and – I’m going to say it – life-affirming. This is folkier than some of their previous albums – ‘Shadow Boxing’ has hints of both Richard & Linda Thompson and Fairport Convention – and none the worse for it, either.
Other highlights on the album include ‘Nettles and Ivy’ and the little short of astonishing ‘And You Are There.’ I’ve already played this twice today, I want to play this album at least twice again before sundown. It’s that good…
Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat -‘Everything’s Getting Older.’ (Chemikal Underground)
I’m starting to lose track of how many projects Aidan Moffat has done since Arab Strap cheerfully called time, nearly five years ago now. In a way, he’s rather like Darren Hayman who also appeared round about the same time fronting Hefner, relishing sticking out like sore thumbs at the time of Britpop and having a slew of prolific releases over the next fifteen years.
This collaboration is with legendary jazz man Bill Wells. Wells and Moffat first met when Wells contributed to Arab Strap’s penultimate album Monday At the Hug And Pint, in 2003. Moffat and Wells decided that they’d like to work together, and although recording sessions actually began not long after, the album has taken eight years to come into being. I think when you hear it you’ll think it has been worth the wait.
‘Cages’ is like ‘The First Big Weekend’ fifteen years on. Only instead of living it up in Glasgow and Falkirk, the protagonist is dealing with the crushing mundanity of life, signing off with the resigned ‘Freedom’s overrated anyway.’ ‘Ballad Of the bastard’ is just that – a man who knows he is forever destined to cheat on his partner, and is actually starting to despise himself for it. ‘The Copper Top’ is the drunken reflections of someone who has skipped off to the pub becuase they can’t face a wake, and ends up pondering the significance of his new suit in all this: ‘Birth, love and death; the only three reasons to get dressed up.’ The spectacularly edgy ‘Dinner Time’ tells the story of a boy who goes back to the house he used to live in, and has a nose around…what happens when he ruins into the new owner and catches her by surprise is only hinted at…
Of course, it is a collaboration album, and the album owes just as much to Bill Wells as it does to Aidan Moffat. It’s beautifully scored and just as amazing in its’ own right. And if the word ‘Jazz’ tends to freak you out…well, maybe that says more about you and your prejudices than anything else, frankly. Let’s just say, though that if you’ve enjoyed Herbie Hancock’s music (think more Blow Up than ‘Rockit’) and the scores of Bernard Hermann (Psycho, Taxi Driver etc..) then you might well enjoy this more than you think.
In all seriousness, this might well be the most accomplished album of Aidan Moffat’s career. When will he write his novel? And with both Zoey Van Goey and Found’s albums already out, this looks set to be a fantastic year for the mighty Chemikal Underground.
Almost completely under the radar, this three piece have emerged with their debut album, and in doing so, have quietly produced one of the records of the year.
A rayograph – just in case you’re interested, is a photograph where an item is placed on the photographic paper without using a negative. this often uses strange juxtapositions of objects. This works well as a description of Rayographs the band: Astrud Steehouder (guitar/vocals); Jessamine Tierney (bass/vcoals) and Amy Hurst (drums/ ‘occasional’ vocals).
There may well be antecedents here (Patti Smith, Throwing Muses, PJ Harvey), and yet what is striking about this record is just how original it sounds, how utterly accomplished it is for a debut album. ‘Falconberg Court’ is spoken word over a slight case of feedback ‘n’ blues. ‘November’s slow descent into a maelstrom that is threatened and yet never arrives, not finishing how more predictable bands might. ‘Space Halls’ and ‘Cartwheels’ feel more like ‘songs’ but not in a conventional way; The Rayographs are not interested in working in the simple verse/chorus/verse approach -and the album is all the more interesting for that.
The album is at once stark yet beautiful, psychedelic yet ethereal, original and yet building upon blues music that stretches back decades. Expect to see them soundtracking a film at an arthouse near you soon.
Don’t let this just be a critical hit; spread the word and go and buy it.
Rayographs is released on April 25 on desire records
I don’t know quite what it was, but -despite my best efforts – I never connected with Low’s last album, Drums & Guns. A shame, because records like Things We Lost In The Fire, The Great Destroyer and (perhaps to a lesser extent), Trust had been an important part of the soundtrack to my life for the previous few years.
So it is a great relief to find that this is another Low album to be able to fall in love with. Low may be a cult act but an established enough one that each album release is still an event (see also Yo La Tengo etc..) to a not insignificant amount of people. Low’s music has been described as slowcore, sadcore…call it what you will (and only eagleowl have ever come close to being able to capture what makes Low so special). The album opens with the gorgeous lullaby ‘Try To Sleep’ (as a new Dad that’s just so, so appropriate right now!) It sets the tone for an album that is sad and reflective in the best possible way, without being self-indulgent or -and here’s the really clever part – being depressing.
Ten tracks long, and with hardly a duff moment, it’s classic Low, and a gorgeous listen. Long may they run.
Le Reno Amps seem to be diversifying their sonic palette on this, their third album. It is a very impressive and rewarding listen which shows a band who genuinley do avoid pigeonholing, and who know their way around the musical world.
‘Never Be Alone’,which starting circulating last year around Hallowe’en, is a wonderfully creepy song, making you wonder exactly what horror films the band had been watching. Some songs ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Saturation Day’ are more in the category of indie bopper, but rather than being run of the mill, instead lead you to consider the effects of a cross polination between Weezer and They Might be Giants in Scotland with a filter to remove any excessive quirkiness. Yet ‘Cottonmouth Rock’ takes us back in time, and makes us wonder what might have happened if Robert Plant had not gone on to front Led Zeppelin, but had instead fronted a kick-ass glam rock band. ‘Weight’ is in 3/4 time (i.e. waltz time. Yes, like ‘Golden Brown’ by The Stranglers). And it all sits together wonderfully.
There’s a number of great songs on here -and the album revels more and more with each successive listen, and adds up to a very impressive whole. Le Reno Amps have claimed they are a ‘Marmite’ kind of band – you either love ’em, or hate ’em. Well i love Marmite and I’m loving this.
Tomorrow is Record Store Day. This now seems to be a fairly worldwide thing (OK, North America and the UK) which is now starting to be a victim of its’ own success. To whit: There are now a huge amount of special releases, which is great that bands are encouraging fans to buy physical releases; but not so good if a bunch of ebay Pirates get therte early, snap them all up and flog them online before true fans (i.e. the ones who might want to, y’know, actually listen to them) get a chance. NME have listed fifty essential purchases. Great if you are rich enough and don’t have to go out to work, I guess.
However; rather like libraries (I’ve worked in both Record Shops and for the Library Service over the last ten years), Record Stores have their place. They are worth fighting for. As a punter, I still get more of a thrill browsing new and second-hand racks than gazing on eMusic or iTunes. I do use these services, but this is back-up, not as a replacement. It was far more thrilling to hold the physical releases that we have put out as 17 Seconds Records than to see them on digital services. There’s still something that is tangible, collectible. I remember the thrill of buying my early records – the first 7″ was ‘Caravan Of Love’ by the Housemartins back in late ’86, from WH Smiths.
Yes, there have been a lot of record stores that have gone, because they made mistakes. It is bizarre that HMV now seems to hardly sell any music (though we did get the Aberfeldy 7″ in the Edinburgh one!). However what the Megastores tended to do was to focus purely on a quick turnover. I don’t really mourn the loss of these, but I get sad when the small stores suffer. Small stores run by staff who are knowledgeable, who take an interest in being able to point out stuff you might like. Sorry, but there’s something more personal about this than ‘74% of people who bought this item also bought this.’
Avalanche in Edinburgh has continued to survive whilst others failed by focusing on supporting local acts, and I have seen many customers come in from abroad who will then buy stacks of CDs that they have been recommended. I never saw that in Woolworths. It also does a lot of second hand stuff, which is brilliant. Oh, and when I’m buying second hand vinyl I like to be able to check it. I’m not into sniffing vinyl (except to put the wind up people), but I do want to be able to chat with people about what I am buying.
Can you do so much of this stuff over the internet? Well, yes, you can. But then again, I’d rather go out for a coffee than sit in a chatroom online. Like David Byrne points out in his excellent book on Cycling, Bicycle Diaries, there’s something far more organic that comes together when people collide and come together naturally, rather than just gravitating to people or things they think they’ll like. I’ve bought stuff I have liked because I heard it playing by chance in a record shop. I tend to do less with links on digital record shops.
There’s excellent articles on RSD on Song, By Toad, some interesting points from the NME here, and The Scotsman’s Radar has contributions from both Bruce Findlay and Kevin Buckle.
We have done a limited CD-R as 17 Seconds Records, which is being given away in Avalanche.
This is the tracklisting:
Fiction Faction ‘Apparitions’
X-Lion Tamer ‘Neon Hearts’
Factory Kids ‘They Used To Call Me Baby’
Chris Bradley ‘Beggar to fall’ ‘
X-Lion Tamer ‘Hope’
Wildhouse ‘More Stars’
Factory Kids ‘One’
Chris Bradley ‘Hand Me Down’
Last Battle ‘Any Ocean’
The Last Battle are playing there tomorrow at 3, right next door in Red Dog Music. Remember, a record shop is for life, not just Record Store Day…