Albums I Discovered (Mid Dec – Mid Jan)

This feature is starting to lose its interest to me. Firstly because it is not extensive enough (I never list all the albums I discovered in the month, just those I remember), secondly because often the rating or review I give the album differs from how I eventually feel about it after further listening and lastly because the ratings system is unnecessary to the max.

So let me just get this last, final, irrelevant “Albums I Discovered” out the way before I return, hopefully, to more interesting musical fare.

Vampire Weekend – Contra (11/20)

Yeasayer – Odd Blood (13/20)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F#A# (Infinity) (14/20)

Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days (16/20)

Johnny Flynn – A Larum (14/20)

Stephen Malkmaus – Real Emotional Trash (10/20)

Wilco – Sky Blue Sky (13/20)

Kevin Federline – Playing With Fire (1/20)

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Albums I discovered (Mid Nov – Mid Dec)

I now realise that that is a terrible way to describe the process of selecting albums to be used on this post. Albums I discovered? Like I am some form of music archaeologist, unearthing new albums by digging up Burial sites (if anybody laughed at that joke, I’m even more disappointed in you than I am in myself).

So, new setup! I will now list all the albums that I first listened to during the last month (that I remember at least), and give personal ratings on each based on the minimal listening I have given. I will also select one of the albums and write a full-length review of it. I imagine mostly I’ll write it in the same post as the ratings. However, I shall not be doing that today, due to business. But be safe in the knowledge that a proper album review of one of the following albums will appear on this blog within the next few days. Unless I don’t write it. In which case it won’t.

of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (8.5/10)

Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs (5.5/10)

Fanfarlo – Reservoir (8/10)

Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass (9/10)

The Most Serene Republic – …And The Ever Expanding Universe (6/10)

Beach House – Teen Dream (8/10)

Frightened Rabbit – Sing The Greys (6.5/10)

Seeing as the Beach House album isn’t out for another month or so, it may be pertinent of me to produce a review of that, to go alongside those of people who actually, y’know, know how to write. Either way, I think the point of this is to implore you to check out Yo La Tengo, Beach House, Of Montreal and Fanfarlo. Seems reasonable.

Also, you should check out the Last.FM links I’ve left with each album, as you may well receive samples of the music. Wouldn’t that be nice? Seeing as Teen Dream isn’t out yet there is no Last.FM page for it, instead you are linked to an early Stereogum review of it, which may prove informative and just an all-round lovely thing to read.

Albums I discovered (Mid Oct – Mid Nov)

Title really explains it, this is my second post I’ve made regarding purchases/ first listens/ re-discoveries that I’ve made over the past month, along with my feelings on them. I did promise you one of these a month, and so I feel I’ve planned things quite nicely. 14th of every month expect an update on my wild and wacky music taste (please note, for reasons of clarity, that my music taste is neither wild nor wacky).

LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem

An immediately addictive mixture of electronic pulses and guitar anger, LCD Soundsystem typifies what his sound is about with a constant barrage of tracks crafted to encourage you to lose your senses. The peak of the opening is at the start, in 5 minutes “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” achieves more in the field of combining rock and dance than Hot Chip have managed in their entire career (bar “Over And Over”, of course). The album carries a frenetic sense of joy that is difficult not to fall for, but does not do so well at the other end of the emotional spectrum. It’s odd for me, having only heard “Sound Of Silver” beforehand, to think that James “All My Friends” Murphy would fail at portraying tenderness in his music, but those parts of the album that aim at wistful emotions are the ones that let it down, “Too Much Love” being a prime example. I would not want to hear a whole album of “Tribulations”-esque funk fun, but it has to be said that the weakest parts are when this formula is avoided. Overall though, a very good listen, and a great mood-enhancer.

The Antlers – In The Attic Of The Universe

Slow mood music is what drives The Antlers, and they are very skilled at creating sparse sounds and melodies. On this particular album, however, a sound is developed slightly, but never grows in the listener’s mind to be particularly enjoyable. Another album which I can appreciate the quality of without being able to say that the quality leaves a positive impact on me. The problem is that individual tracks fail at feeling like a piece of work in their own right. The opening and closing tracks, “In The Attic” and “Stairs To The Attic”, are very well written and atmospheric, but they bookend 17 minutes of what can be best described as a “lump” of music. It feels as if it just sits there, as a mass of sound without an actual purpose. Sure it is pleasant, but I couldn’t possibly assign it any purpose, not as a “lump”, nor as its constituent parts. And that is disappointing considering their skill and implies that potentially they can combine both long-period mood and individually interesting tracks.

Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary

This is the sort of straightforward indie-rock album that starts off feeling ordinary and grows with each listen to become a very stirring record in its own right. If there is such a thing as a generic classic, this feels like it. The differences between Wolf Parade and the bands they will inevitably going to be compared with (Frog Eyes, The National), is wafer-thin, but with that wafer they manage to do enough to make their album feel special. “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son” is a stop-start introduction to the band, the harsh vocals recall Isaac Brock (well, the man himself did provide the production after all), coughing out eccentric gems such as “I’ll build a house inside of you, I’ll go in through the mouth, I’ll draw three figures on your heart” whilst a slapped piano and stop-start drumming jerk the landscape every which way. If the top two or three tracks were removed this album would be consistently decent, with a slack ending (“Dinner Bells” over-extends itself more than once during its 7 1/2 minute duration), so the placing of the key songs is of utmost importance, and it is pulled off well, with the eerily dramatic stand-out “I’ll Believe In Anything” seeming to pull up the quality of the surrounding tracks as opposed to making them seem worse. Nothing you won’t have heard before, but if you want more of the same, this will give you it better than most other similar albums.

Islands – Vapours

“Vapours” arrives with me desperately wishing for Islands to slip back into pop sensibilities, to cut out the flab that weighed down the second album and to hear some of the variety in styles and lyrics that made “Return To The Sea” so compelling. Well, I would call “Vapours” patchy, but it is certainly a head in the right direction in comparison to “Arm’s Way”. The opener “Switched On” is an instant reminder that Islands have some electronica-influence also, crashing cymbals and tribal drums dancing around staccato piano and filthily-toned guitar, breaking suddenly away into a vocal croon and retro-synth. This settles down into more of what is expected from Thorburn’s vocals soon enough, and for the opening few minutes of the album it seems to be that the template of “Return To The Sea” would be the direction this record would take. The title track is a strong point, its stop-start nature allowing the various instruments to show off, and with the lyrics sounding crisp and coming in at under three minutes to remind the listener that this will be the welcome lean affair after the bloated “Arm’s Way”. The skill at taking a physical plotline and mixing it into the cauldron of music is shown most openly on “Disarming The Car Bomb”, fairly standard indie instruments surround almost laughably surreal lyrics such as “I had my doubts about it, when I heard your henchmen shout it”. For the most part the album does not reach these highs. Unconventional often enough to be interesting, there isn’t too much that is fantastic, and they are extended periods where ideas fail to hit their target. It has plenty of hooks, and there is pop abound here, but the gall to mix up the styles without warning or reason that helped “Return To The Sea” along is missing, and the best songs are good, not great. Plenty to enjoy, a definite improvement on “Arm’s Way”, but unfortunately too mediocre in too many places.

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

I really did want this to be as good as the hype has it be. The tide of positive opinion did indeed have me believing that this was a rebirth of Beach Boys style psychedelia, and that AC formed the third point of a triangle with Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes. I was underwhelmed. Perhaps because of these high expectations, or perhaps because this album is somewhat deceiving. It wants you to think it is far more complex than it in fact is, because what it is, is simple pop songs wrapped in layers of electronic haze like a force field between the listener and the song’s core. No doubt this method adds to the mood, and is a fundamental part of the style within which Animal Collective exist, but all I think as I listen is, did this wall of sonic sound really need to be there all the time? Could they not have at least felt around outside of their comfort zone a little? I am in shock that some refer to this album as experimental, mainly for the reason that this album does not even have the guts to experiment within its own genre, let alone within music as a whole. I’ve focused too much on the negatives because I want to make the point that this should not be anywhere near Veckatimest on end-of-year polls, but there’s certainly positives too, the oft-discussed “My Girls” and “Lion In A Coma” most notably. But the incessant sound and unflinching refusal to change really does grate by the albums end.

Don’t expect me back with another one of these on December 14th, as I am assuming plans for that day. Day after, though, I will be happy to provide you with a new months’ worth of discovered listening.

Albums I “discovered” in the last month

Here is just an overview of my recent listening habits, in the guise of a few rushed opinions on some of the albums I have obtained in legal-honestly-completely-100%-legal ways. Firstly this is because at the moment I don’t feel completely sure of where this blog is going, and also because I’ve got into some pretty good albums in the last few weeks, so maybe I could do with sharing them. This might be a regular thing. If so, watch out for 14th November, where I will update y’all on what will then be the previous month, but is at the moment the coming month.

*Temporal-Grammatics fail*

I warn you these following views are very much hurried and probably will evolve into new views with further listens but I’m writing this post now, and I’ll post my current judgement, rather than an anticipation of future judgements.

Frightened Rabbit – Midnight Organ Fight

Frightened Rabbit are a new band to me, all I knew is that they were Scottish and critically well-regarded. They craft alternately merry and lovelorn music is coupled with the sort of intelligent, realistic wording that seem talior-made to compel me. The singer, who sounds like The Proclaimers if they lapsed into adolescent self-loathing. Its all very standard, basic indie-pop, but it comes together impressively and entertainingly. Somehow it sounds simultaneously like a lot of other bands, but better than these bands. It doesn’t actually draw on folk, but fans of folk would no doubt enjoy it, maybe because of the joyfully playful self-deprecation of the vocals as they contradict the rising instrumentation. The opening track “The Modern Leper” is a great place to start, compressing all that follows it into a single 4 minute lament of beautiful disgust.

The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

I already knew that The Flaming Lips were somehow too distant from me for me to enjoy them. In a sense I am proud of my linear, blinkered taste (certain people like certain styles, what’s so wrong with that?) but I don’t like to completely ignore styles just because I didn’t enjoy whatever limited material of that style I’ve heard. And yet somehow this album gives me nothing. Yes, there are certain interesting hooks and there’s intelligence in the structuring of both the whole album and individual tracks, however, they don’t interest me enough to re-listen to them nor to be able to properly describe their quality. It’s a jumble of ideas that doesn’t connect with me, and it seems to be self-willingly removed from the listener. There’s a story in there somewhere, but it’s too hidden to matter.

Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

Highly anticipated (by at least one person) debut folk album which manages to work both on the basis of single tracks and as a whole. I am already certain that I will give many repeat listens to the bleak and brooding “Thistle and Weeds” and the highly-charged “Little Lion Man”. You could easily call it part of the wave of post-Fleet Foxes bands that deal in seasonal moods and harmonial bluegrass, but I really think this album is more intelligent, borrows from more complex sources, and in many ways is imbued with far more emotion than the average record of this style. The music is very crisp and doesn’t at all get repetitive, the vocals are passionate throughout and the songs are disimilar enough to keep the album interesting all the way through to the end.

The Avalanches – Since I Left You

Yes, I have already reviews this, kind of, in a previous post, but here it is again. Interesting ideas, just not enough of them, and to often a single piece of material is extended beyond its capacity, extended outtros blend into not just the next track, but all the way through it and into the next track, single static styles are held for too long. But the moods are sustained well, the techincal achievements are impossible to ignore and certain tracks, “Frontier Psychiatrist” especially, and just too damn addictive and inventive to ignore. The over-reliance on beats is noticeable, but the skill at applying them into the surrounding layers of music is admirable, and improves the album as a whole.

Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antractica

For me, this is something of a “wow” record. The album takes in a lot of grand themes, by the end of “3rd Planet”, the stunning, shimmering opening track, the Earth has been born and then destroyed. The album contains a lot of overly cerebral rock that defines all my favourite virtues in the genre I so callously refer to as “indie”. The guitars are there in a way that has an impact without them ever being particularly forceful on the mind. Lots of ideas are thrown around, fast tracks and slow tracks intermingle, rise and fall, and the album goes on the sort of evolving journey that would befit a concept album, but avoids the limitations that the plot of one would create. So many aspects work, the short folksy interlude of “Wild Packs Of Family Dogs”, the jovial repitition in “I Came As A Rat”, the dirty, pulp anger that vibrates throughout “Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes”. There is skill and deftness in quantity, and applied in exactly the way I want from music.

Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People

Yes, another album I’ve already sort of mentioned before. “Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” is a soothing, slowly-expanding glory, “Lover’s Spit” has melancholy scrawled over it in thick black ink but the sincerity of the words and the accompanying melodies create a mood that worms its way around the listeners brain way after the song itself has finished. Tracks are constructed by slowly adding layers around a singly droning hook and rising to clever climaxes. The drumming is dominant and yet do not dullen the impact of the light, soothing strings. The instrumentation is balanced impeccably to maintain a gorgeously soft and colourful sound.

Wilco – Wilco (The Album)

The closest to pop Wilco have been, the instruments do not lie in the forefront, and the tracks do not rely on interludes as much, but the vocals are competent enough to keep the album interesting. More listens probably necessary, as the songs on their own are far too light and uncomplicated (not necessarily a bad thing) to get too excited about.

I think I might go back to making lists. I really do prefer noting the quality of albums by ranks as opposed to words, even though I do have a love for words. I guess all the good words and phrases have already been used up, and I’m just trying to replicate the best writers in the sort of beautifully derivative way that has become so standard amongst amateur-music lovers that I am now, in fact, derivative of them*.

I’ll be back next time with my favourite opening tracks of all time. These will not come with descirptions or reviews, but instead with links to their last.fm page because, dammit, I refuse to stop advertising that excellent site.

*This clearly makes me meta-derivitive, or, for those of you skilled in maths, I = d2x/dt2, where I is equal to me, t is equal to time and x is equal to original writing.