26 November 2009

V a n S h e - EP (2005) & V (2008)

Brian B's review on Amazon (5/5):

"Like fellow Aussie Dance Rockers Cut Copy, Van She craft their full-bodied rock-dance sound to maximum effect on their debut self-titled EP. VS was released on the rising Aussie dance label Modular, which is also home to Cut Copy, The Presets and New Young Pony Club. Van She lean more towards the rock side of the spectrum while utilizing synths and a sequencer. However, their songs are a dance-rock hybrid that sizzle and pop with club energy, and new wave influence. "Kelly" was the first single released. Very much reminescent of 80's dance pop, with synth-driven melody, and poppy lyrics, this sounds like something M83 might put out. The second single -"Sex City" is a dark, driving dancefloor standout that pulses with heavy dance beats and flashy synths, packing an incredible punch. "Survive" is another solid song that flirts with rock song conventions before veering off into glittery, dancefloor territory. The instrumental reprise of Kelly feels like an interlude. "Here With You" surges with floating layers of electronica and echoing vocals; this is a great conterpoint to their other songs, adding variety to their solid contribution. Van She show amazing potential on their debut EP."

David James Young's review on SputnikMusic (3.5/5):

"If you’ve ever seen a picture of Australian band Van She, you’ll appreciate the difficulty of actually taking them seriously. Decked out in the kind of clothes even Rick Astley would have cringed at in his heyday, they pushed this even further on their debut EP, a ghastly tribute to Countdown glory days where the only thing cheesier than the synth lines were the lyrics themselves.
Three years after that, however, it’s an almost entirely different story. They are still undeniably fashion victims, yet the music has taken a significantly sharp turn in the right direction. V is energetic, ambitious and versatile; a snapshot of, and subsequent soundtrack to, Australian city nightlife. You will certainly enter the record doubtful, but the band makes every effort to keep you entertained throughout the 45 minutes you spend with them.

It is hard to pin down Van She to a certain sound on V. Some elements to each of the songs are consistent throughout. Vocalist Nick Routledge’s breezy pop harmonies immediately come to mind; so too does the confident, distinctive backbeat, provided by drummer Tomek Archer. The musical environments that said elements are surrounded by, however, vary significantly throughout. The layered, dynamic build-ups of lead single “Cat and the Eye” and closing number “A Sharp Knife” find the band at their catchiest, with assertive big hooks and a near-perfect mix of both natural and synthesized sounds.
V juxtaposes this with straightforward rollicking grooves, such as the spaced-out funk of “It Could Be the Same” and the buzzing alternative rock of album highlight “The Sea”, packed with an impressive drum beat and distorted electro guitar. “Virgin Suicide” provides further contrast from its peers on the record by stripping the sound back to lush acoustic guitar and a dreamy shoegaze backdrop- in turn proving to be one of the stronger cuts from the album.
Even when the band’s past comes to haunt them in the form of their first-ever single “Kelly” from back in 2005, the band flesh out the song in a very stylish re-recording that is just as retro-sounding as before, yet does not sound as forced and artificial as it once did. It’s certainly miles away from the song that Phil Jamieson of Grinspoon once described as “the one song I never want to hear again”.

Perhaps it is not the variety of sounds that are found on V that are its best asset, but how well Van She pull it all off. Given, the songs are at times a little too refined and tightly structured, occasionally restricting the band from going the distance. However, when the band present you with a potential hit (“Cat and the Eye”, “Strangers” and “Changes”), the charm and appeal of them is practically irresistible. Despite a few average tracks along the way (the irritating filler of “Temps Mort” and the lagging Tears for Fears tribute “Sunbeams”), some below average lyricism (Both apple and orange juice are mentioned somewhere in “Changes”) and the keyboards occasionally going into overkill (granted they’re a synth-pop band, but it wouldn’t kill them to have the guitar up a little louder), the band don’t drop the ball once here.

There appears to be new-found purpose to what Van She are doing. With a handful of high-octane numbers that could well garner a new legion of fans, Van She are out to impress and prove all of their past critics wrong. Many bands are afraid to make the next step into trying new things and fulfilling their potential as musicians and songwriters. V, however, is the sound of a band that is willing to take that step.

Hurry up and get both here while you can.

20 November 2009

Blue Sky Black Death - Late Night Cinema (2008)

Tyler Fisher's review on SputnikMusic (4.5/5):

Instrumental hip-hop, a form of hip-hop that almost goes against the very basis of the genre (in essence, rhythmic poetry), makes the artist's job both harder and easier to create a timeless album in the realm of hip-hop. While the instrumental nature of the music allows for music much more melodic, it often completely leaves the hip-hop category without the correct beats, labeled better simply as electronica. Blue Sky Black Death's Late Night Cinema, the first album for the production duo to not feature any emcees throughout the album, strikes the balance between the necessary melodicism and hip-hop beats perfectly, making a stunning and enthralling album from start to finish.

With this balance, many will mark the album's primary influence as Endtroducing..., but besides both albums' incredible melodic composition, these albums have little in common. Beneath that veneer, Late Night Cinema breathes much more as a whole rather than a collection of samples – largely because many of the parts on the album were recorded live. Instead of a plunderphonic album, Blue Sky Black Death, comprised of producers Kingston and Young God, composed a true musical entity with violinists, vocalists, trumpeters, and keyboardists adding their contributions while still keeping it in the vein of hip-hop.

In terms of production, the album has that decidedly hip-hop feel, a groove completely different from neo-classical electronica, a realm that the album's melodic content takes much inspiration from. For example, the breakbeats in “My Work Will Be Done” envision an ensemble where Venetian Snares provides the background accompaniment rather than the main material. Throughout the whole album, hip-hop cliches are abound in the beats – from the actual drum sounds to the rhythm of the grooves to the fills that transition between parts. Even some of the synth melodies, such as the ones that begin “Forgive Me”, recall modern hip-hop.

What really makes Late Night Cinema stand out, however, is the way these two aspects blend for an incredible, enveloping sound that even Endtroducing... could not accomplish for more than a few tracks. The album is dense and packed with material, which is both its greatest strength and its greatest (perhaps only) flaw – at some points the listener doesn't know where to listen. Kingston and Young God know exactly where they stand, however, and each song has enough natural harmonic motion to complete itself, a remarkable feat especially for the lengthier cuts in the beginning of the album. They almost always return to a main theme and link everything together masterfully. Opener “The Era When We Sang” achieves all of this brilliantly, reaching a climax that is capitalized by a catchy trumpet melody that brings a new sense of regality to the sound with its fanfare-like rhythm. Where “The Era When We Sang” delivers its progression harmonically, “A Private Death” does so rhythmically, progressively becoming more intense with more breakbeats and rapid bass drum kicks. The frenetic string sample, which provides the song's main melodic theme, helps advance this nature in the melodic spectrum.

On first glance, it may seem that the duo placed their longest, strongest songs at the beginning of the album to give a powerful first impression that wows the listener until the album's end, thus hiding some of its flaws in the lesser tracks. And after “A Private Death”, it seems impossible that the album will continue its road of excellence. While nothing bests the first four songs (also the four longest), the album suffers from no major drop in quality. “Listen Child” offers relative repose from the constant swirling of melodic material with a simpler format, though still very evolved in comparison to other artists. “Different Hours” uses all its different sounds brilliantly, from the soaring violin to the constant undercurrent of the organ chords, perhaps the most soulful song on the album. Moment for moment, the album never falters, but what makes songs like “The Era When We Sang” and “Ghosts Among Men” stand out is the scope of the composition, the way it weaves so many threads together and remains cohesive.

Those threads extend to tie together the entire album, as it all falls inside an umbrella sound that makes Blue Sky Black Death unlike any other artist around right now. Their combined melodicism and appreciation for hip-hop cliché make an album at first accessible and still worth listen after listen after listen. And, for once, I find myself not going back to Endtroducing... to get this album, but better. Late Night Cinema is a beast of its own kind. While they have detailed their future as one of collabaroations with emcees, something they have done twice in the past with Wu-Tang affiliates Holocaust (Warcloud) and Razah, this is a duo that can stand on their own two feet and are best when not suppressed."

bmlarson's review on Rate Your Music (4.5/5):

"What BSBD have accomplished here is so much bigger than an instrumental hip-hop album. It's some kind of post-rock electro-hop frankenstein that is indescribably, paralyzingly beautiful. Throughout the 11 tracks, I heard shades of Shadow and Blockhead sure, but also Burial, M83, Godspeed!, Diplo, and Explosions in the Sky. It's that dense, that diverse, and that epic.

Every layer, every bar seems crafted in a way that reaches IDM-like levels of OCD and perfectionism - the architecture of each piece expansive yet balanced. Listening to where songs like "The Era When We Sang" and "Forgive Me" begin compared to where they end is amazing - NO other hip-hop producers have that kind of confidence in their ability to shift the mood within a track...absolutely groundbreaking. Luxurious in its sonic depth but rewarding in its compositional complexity, this is the music I would make if I was a lot better at making music. It is simultaneously the most organic and the most sophisticated hip-hop album I've ever heard, and I cannot recommend it highly enough"

Get it here.

Katy Perry - MTV Unplugged (2009)

Before I start getting heckled, I just had to clarify that, yes this is Katy Perry, and that her unplugged was brilliant. I am speaking on a completely objective basis (although I fucking love her as a pop star anyways), but this performance affirms my belief that Katy Perry is a decent singer-songwriter, and more importantly, a musician. First off, I absolutely loved the way how all her soulless mega pop hit songs are arranged in an intimate acoustic manner. Everything seems to be on point, the guitar, the bass, the drums, to a certain extent; it is a very professional yet raw sound. I believe that presentation is everything in music, and Katy Perry presents 7 songs, and they are an extremely enjoyable listen. “I Kissed a Girl” jazz style never sounded so damn good.

Another important thing was her voice. I feel as if Katy Perry has finally found her place, as her voice sounds absolutely fantastic in this small intimate setting. So don’t give me that bullshit that she can’t sing, because she sounds soulful.

Either way, if she could move her career to doing shows like these, I’d be down.

Stream Katy Perry’s Unplugged performance


Get it here

18 November 2009

Tarwater - Animals, Suns & Atoms (2000)

An album with sentimental value if anything. I remember buying this album high with my friend Nick and Steve, my friend/ other writer on this blog. It was tossed in among the other shitty used CD’s that haven’t seen the light of day. Anyways we played this and took a cruise around town, and to say the least, it’s a very decent album. The sound is mellow, and very reminiscent of The Notwist, and Department of Eagles, and maybe, just maybe a small pinch of Portishead with the use of samples and/or sampling, repeating motifs within songs . In case you haven’t heard of Tarwater (Which I wouldn’t be surprised), they are a German duo who play post rock music.It may sound a bit dated because of the types of sounds the German duo uses at times but nevertheless, it’s a decent album for smoking if anything. Calm, smooth, relaxing listen.

Get it Here

16 November 2009

Jane Birkin et Serge Gainsbourg (1969)

nlm1984's review on RYM (4.5/5):

"As I was playing this album just last night, my mother asked me the name of the title track, the first cut. I told her "Je t'aime... Moi, Non Plus" or, loosely translated, "I Love You... Nor Do I." She gave me the crook eye and asked, "Wasn't that a banned song?!" "Why yes, it was," I replied. That song raised the ire of The Vatican. Well, I must say that my mother surprised me. I had no clue she knew one Gainsbourg song.

Now, to the album itself. As the majority of this album was recorded a Londres, it carries an aire of its time. It's very charming!

The classic title track: Fantastic arrangement for being a C-F-G chord song. I, personally, love the organ and string arrangement. His version with Bridgitte Bardot is all the more better, as it's mix is re-structured with the orchestra in the fore. "Je vais et je viens/ entre te riens" I go and I come/ between your kidneys.

Speaking of organs, L'anamour or Non-love, features some of the best sounding Hammond B-3 organ ever recorded.

The guitar on this album is nice an clean, manipulated only on occasion by a stray wah-wah peddle. This effect is found in the precious Orang-Outan. J'aime ma poupeé orang-outan! En anglais, I love my toy monkey. This monkey is featured on the album cover of L'histoire de Melody Nelson. This monkey is also one of the sources of Jane's tears in the song Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M'en Vais from 1973.

Soixent-neuf, Anneé Erotique is another stand-out. '69 the erotic year. Serge always loved his play of words. Just use your imagination as to what that means. This cut also features a delightful arrangement; bass-driven, orchestra, vibes, peddled-out piano.

Les Sucettes, features a very English arrangement. Written for France Gall in '65, Serge reclaims this suggestive work. Great!

This album is a masterpiece. This is an album that should be owned by everyone, yet thankfully isn't. If you can appreciate this, consider yourself lucky."

Get it here.

Serge Gainsbourg - N°2 (1959)
Serge Gainsbourg - L'étonnant Serge Gainsbourg (1961)
Serge Gainsbourg - L'Homme à Tête de Chou (1976)

11 November 2009

The Antlers - Hospice (2009)

This album has been poping up everywhere from Pitchfork to Blogs, and I am not really into hipster bullshit, but this album lives up to the hype its been getting. The album is about a true story about the lead singer's daughter dying of bone cancer. Its an incredibly sad album, in the sense that every lyric has meaning. The way they blend this story together with the music is heartbreaking, and if you don't feel anything listening to this....you may not have a heart. Nevertheless, every good album should touch you on an emotional level and the antlers did it with Hospice. No Hype, all good.

03 November 2009

Deltron 3030 (2000)

Dolemic's review on RYM (5/5):

"Deltron 3030 is a concept album about an Orwellian future where a giant conglomerate has taken over the world and homogenized our lives, jobs, music, etc. Two heroes have stepped forward to battle our oppressors: Deltron Zero and the Automator. On another level, Deltron 3030 is a concept album about right now where a corporate structure has taken over the music industry and homogenized our hip-hop. Two artists have stepped forward to battle trite, radio-ready rap music: MC Del the Funkee Homosapien and producer Dan the Automator (with DJ Kid Koala along for the ride).

The former concept doesn't really hold water to close scrutiny, as Del's lyrics are designed more to dazzle with acrobatic wordplay and a barrage of pop culture references than to spin a cohesive yarn. Of course, that doesn't mean that it isn't a load of fun. In dizzying fashion, Del spits verses about "Ghost in the Shell", Silver Surfer, the Decepticons, "The Matrix", Neo-Tokyo, Micro Machines, Final Fantasy and Optimus Prime. And that's in the first two songs. To claim that Deltron 3030 is somewhat "nerdy" would not be unfair. Again, that doesn't mean that it isn't a load of fun.

As far as the latter concept, it is sadly very true, both now and when the album was released. In similar fashion to his efforts on Dr. Octagonecologyst, Dan is purely brilliant in his crafting of sonic landscapes for his counterpart to play in. Unlike the aforementioned album, however, he now has a partner who is equally talented in his respective craft. Del delivers his gonzo rhymes with precision and intensity. Together they create a magnificent sci-fi epic with a great sense of humor. Del's crazy lyrics would sound out of place over a Timbaland or Kanye West beat, for example, in much the same way that a generic rhyme about hustling or fashion would never make sense over the cinematic production of the Dan the Automator. Throw in the superb and tasteful scratching of Kid Koala and you understand why this album has become the cult classic it has.

Although Deltron 3030 is meant to be taken as a whole, with skits interspersed between each song, certain tracks do stand out. "3030" is sweeping and grandiose, like a John Williams score. "Turbulence" boasts the darkest, scariest hip-hop production since Dr. Octo. Nowhere do the talents of the three chief collaborators culminate in such a beautiful fashion as on the tremendous "Madness". The best song on the album is also one of the best in hip-hop history.

Deltron 3030 is a fearless, uncompromising and sprawling masterpiece. It doesn't surprise me that it hasn't garnered a lot of attention in the casual hip-hop community. None of these artists have ever made any attempt to market themselves to a mainstream audience. That's not a compliment or a fault, just a fact. Regardless, any fan of any type of music should find this album enthralling and worthy of their time. There really isn't anything else out there that sounds like this. Of course, it doesn't hurt to be a little nerdy yourself."

Get it here.


Trust me on this one: get this. The beats are amazing. Like, you know the beats are gold when you can listen to them alone and you enjoy it as much (if not more) than the parent album. I give this a 6/5. See if you can freestyle over the beat to "3030".

Get it here.

02 November 2009

The Long Blondes - Singles (2008)

The BBC's review:

"Far more glamorous than your average indie band, there was a time when it looked like The Long Blondes were going to make it big. NME and Radio 1 loved them, three singles from Somebody To Drive You Home' went top 40, and Once & Never Again was the soundtrack to every indie disco. Then came Couples; album number 2; and everything seemed to unfairly dry up.

So, presumably to renew some interest, the band are going back to basics with Singles - a compilation of their first four 7"s released on small labels like Thee Sheffield Phonograpic Corp, Angular and Good & Evil, and thus essential only for your most die-hard fan.

Like so many Sheffield bands before them, Kate Jackson and her fellow scarf wearing pals make intelligent indie music with some of the wittiest lyrics in town. Now we hear them at their rawest form, before the likes of super producer Erol Alkan got hold of them and added unnecessary whizzes and bangs.

The very first releases New Idols and Long Blonde are, in fact, so rough and ready that the distortion hurts your ears. But Autonomy Boy soon presents their delicious melodies that we that made us love them so, with the original versions of the complicated Giddy Stratospheres and Lust In The Movies a definite highlight. On the flip side, the shoutier riot grrl side of the Long Blondes blasts through on tale of heartbreak Separated By Motorways.

Distinctly English with tales of Peterborough and darts, The Long Blondes should be a national treasure. Despite having lost their way, this compilation shows that going back to basics isn't perhaps the step backwards it might seem."

Get it here.

01 November 2009

Sunny Day Real Estate - How It Feels to Be Something On (1998)

From allmusic (4/5):

"The cryptically titled How It Feels to Be Something On was the first fruit of Sunny Day Real Estate's reunion, and it simultaneously smoothed out their sound while shifting it into something altogether more ambitious. Always somewhat arty and challenging to begin with, SDRE flirts with out-and-out prog rock here, cleaning up the production to reveal the contrasting layers in their ever more intricate arrangements. There's a droning, almost Middle Eastern feel to some of the songs, pointing up Jeremy Enigk's newfound taste for spiritual mysticism (though the mantra-like chanting on "The Prophet" comes off a little awkwardly). Enigk has matured greatly as a vocalist, applying lessons learned from his solo project; gone is the strangled roar he frequently used on Diary, but even while confirming his softer bent, he's reined in the swooning, bordering-on-fey excess of LP2. Similarly, the band's musicianship keeps getting sharper, handling the twisting chord progressions with an easy grace that keeps the songs flowing smoothly into one another. Almost too smoothly, in fact -- if the album has a flaw, it's that the climactic peaks don't seem to scale quite the same heights as on the band's other albums. That's a minor complaint, to be sure, but perhaps that's why How It Feels to Be Something On can feel at times like a dry run for the magnificently perfected The Rising Tide, where Enigk's piercing falsetto really hits its stride and where the band's songwriting fulfills their every anthemic ambition. But that's only in hindsight; taken on its own terms, How It Feels to Be Something On is a remarkable step forward from a band that seemed destined to leave its full potential untapped."

Get it here.