Day 6 – You know the lyrics like the back of your hand

So I’ll be double-posting today to make up for my failure yesterday. I don’t intend on giving up on this, although there will be some minor downscaling. These pleasant prologues that lead up to a big reveal of what song I have selected may have to go, in fact, on days where time is short, I’ll just be posting the name of the track I chose and a video, probably accompanied by a lyric or something (see below).

So anyway, this is a very interesting set of lyrics, for me, and I love the self-hate that forms the core of this song. It’s very easy to remember lyrics when they carry so much emotional weight.

Frightened Rabbit – The Modern Leper

Well I crippled your heart a hundred times

And still can’t work out why

You see I’ve got this disease that I can’t shake

And I’m just rattling through life

Well this is how we do things now

Yeah this is how the modern stay scared

So I cut off all the good stuff

Yeah I cut off my foot to spite my leg

I think the Scottish accent helps.

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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.

The Video Bin

Time to add a few more YouTube videos to The Video Bin. Why? Because it’s Sunday and I need coffee and it’s my blog. Is that reason enough? Hope so. This time I may be so bold as to add captions to each video, rather than allowing the music to do all the talking. If the music could do all the talking I’d be out of a job. And by job I obviously mean hobby.

Things I have managed to conclude this morning:

  • Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer is a good album.
  • I am fairly certain what my top 5 albums of 2009 are.
  • I need coffee to make sentences structure good
  • It doesn’t matter that I’ve been distracted by blogs, emails and of Montreal, I am still going to get this bloody lab report done today

Videos:

By popular demand, here is Mumford & Sons performing Little Lion Man from their Bookshop Acoustic Session. Check out the other songs they did in this session, The Cave is also really good. I was almost tempted to post the Taio Cruz cover of this song, but then I realised I didn’t want to make your ears bleed and your soul vomit.

~~~

I have had a tiny bit of a Neutral Milk Hotel week, and I have also had a tiny bit of a Fanfarlo week, so to find one covering the other is nice. I like the off-the-cuff feel of this video, and though the vocals of course don’t match up to Jeff Magnum, I think that Fanfarlo do the song justice, and give a little extra credence to my remarks a few weeks ago that covers were damn necessary in music.

~~~

Animation in music videos is always cool, from “Paranoid Android” to the classic “Take On Me”, and it’s used very well in this Frightened Rabbit video. The fact it seems to run alongside a clever (if not particularly well portrayed) thought experiment on the nature of choice makes it appeal to me even more. And the song is awesome, all music geeks of a certain disposition will fall head over heels for the line “this is the last song I’ll write about you”.

~~~

Part 2 of this week’s Neutral Milk Hotel double-bill, and yet again it isn’t actually NMH giving the performance. Jeff Magnum gives a solo performance of Two-Headed Boy that does nothing to explain how such a technically unaccomplished singer can be so amazing live. This is one of those songs where you hang onto every word, because each one is so crisp, special and perfectly formed. It is a master class in how to be a singer that can’t sing.

~~~

No. Obviously this isn’t possible. There’s no way that two guys, one with an acoustic, can just stand there on a handheld camera with poor sound quality and create such a stunning performance. There’s some sort of witchcraft involved. I adore this song, and consider it one of Grizzly Bear’s best, but the effortlessness with which they carry off a little-known song on the back end of an EP is just crazy.

Look out for my top 15 albums of 2009, coming soon.

2010: A Year In Music Awesomeness

I’m going to admit it straight away, I’ve spent a lot of time looking back at the decade that has just passed. I’ve pulled up lists of my favourite songs and albums of the decade, and hunted through the indie scenes’ most loved bands of the 00s for my inspiration. I think I may be beginning to feel the effects of noughties-overdose so, as a remedy to this malignant condition, I bring you a look into the future. Some of the following albums are confirmed, others merely rumoured, but if they do all pop up during the earliest 10% of the brave new decade we are about to encounter, then be thankful. Because it will mean 2010 will surely be an awesome time for good music.

Release Date Confirmed:

Vampire Weekend – Contra (January 12)

The self-titled debut goes down as a guilty pleasure for me. I had a bit of a garage-rock phase, Kings Of Leon and The Strokes and The White Stripes, which I like to think I have sort of got over. The elitist in me scoffs at my youthful folly, but I can’t help but enjoy Vampire Weekend’s energy and hooks, which makes their second album of particular interest to me. By the sounds of the first couple of released tracks, “Horchata” and “Cousins”, Contra will be more of the same, slight but memorable guitar-rock, but whether it will contain a hit the size of “A-Punk” is another matter.

Anticipation Factor: 7/10

Yeasayer – Odd Blood (February 9)

Though I wasn’t the biggest fan of Yeasayer’s debut, All Hour Cymbals, there were one or two tracks that successfully combined the catchiness of pop with eccentric instruments and surreal moods. It is with a mixture of hope and trepidation that I listened to their new offering, Ambling Alp, and it seems that the signs are good for the new album. Provided that Odd Blood shows some consistency, this second record could show Yeasayer step up a league in quality.

Anticipation Factor: 6/10

Massive Attack – Heligoland (February 9)

I should try and stop my brain from considering this to be Massive Attack’s Third. There are similarities, the long gap between albums, the cinematic side-projects, but unlike Portishead, Massive Attack have not had a particularly good pre-release build-up. Splitting The Atom EP was lethargic and mediocre, but the fact is it’s an EP and the material on it was clearly not considered good enough for the album. The odds are high that Massive Attack have a large amount of material stashed away, some of it is bound to be quality. And the cameo list alone (Damon Albarn, Tunde Adebimpe, Martina Topley-Bird, Guy Garvey) is worthy of note.

Anticipation Factor: 7/10

Frightened Rabbit – The Winter Of Mixed Drinks (March 1)

The step up from Sing The Greys to The Midnight Organ Fight was notable, if they could pull off another such leap this could be one of the biggest albums of the year. I’m expecting something on a par with Organ Fight myself, a few more basic bittersweet odes which seem to be their comfort zone. It is interesting to note that the band have hired a fifth member, whose purpose is to provide “various instruments”, which hints at a fuller, more layered sound. This is also backed up by a single, “Swim until You Can’t See Land”, which is a soft, slightly ethereal affair, driven by the sly couplet “are you a man or are you a bag of sand?”

Anticipation Factor: 8/10

Release Date TBA:

The National – Untitled

In an interview with Pitchfork, Bryce Dessner stated that “The album will definitely come out in 2010. It could be early. It’ll be some time between January and May, I think”. If they stick to that then we’re a maximum six months away from a new album by The National. Now I prefer Alligator to Boxer, so in terms of career trajectory they’re actually on a downward slope at the moment in my mind (only by a miniscule amount, of course), but still, if this is on a par with their back catalogue thus far, I would still happily shell out a stupid amount of money to get it the first day. A couple of videos of new tracks being played have surfaced around YouTube (search QTV Runaway for one particularly spellbinding track), and the material seems as strong as ever, although nothing that screams “first single”, which is the sort of track they need if they’re going to get the exposure they deserve. Either way, this is still the album that raises my pulse more than any other pencilled in for 2010.

Anticipation Factor: 10/10

LCD Soundsystem – Untitled

A recent release of “Bye Bye Bayou”, a cover of an Alan Vega track, did little to whet the general appetite for new LCD Soundsystem records, but leaving sensationally understated messages such as “back in nyc. in the studio. making record” on his (legitimate) Facebook page certainly did. No idea which direction it will be going in, what the tracks will sound like, or whether it’ll be more than just 50 minutes of silence. Still, there won’t be long to wait, as it is scheduled for sometime in March, but until then James Murphy will be keeping his filthy electro-rock cards close to his chest.

Anticipation factor: 9/10

Broken Social Scene – Untitled

BSS were in the studio back in May, and as a full band too, rather than the many side projects and split ends that seem to occupy most of Kevin Drew and co’s time. Even they have said it is too early to define the direction of their sound, or whether it is in fact staying in the same place, but the chance are this will be out before May. Not a lot of details on this, and not much new live material to go on, as the band members have been busy being other bands’ band members. Still, this album is worthy of note as Broken Social Scene are finally once again coming together as one entity to record.

Anticipation Factor: 8/10

Rumoured Releases:

Radiohead, Arcade Fire, My Bloody Valentine, Portishead, Wolf Parade, The Strokes

That is a hell of a list. A whole lot of music-lovers would give away prized possessions to see those bands pull out an album from the top of their creative drawers this year. Most of these bands have confirmed that they’re working on new albums, and are aiming for 2010 releases, so we could be seeing these albums popping up around a year from now.

Radiohead are, of course, a law unto themselves, so any attempt to predict their movements seems as futile as predicting the outcome of the LHC. What was “These Are My Twisted Words” anyway, a sign? A red herring? An experiment? A whole new branch of cryptography could be opened up trying to determine Thom Yorke’s methods of madness. In that particular field, I am but an amateur.

Arcade Fire have spent the time since making Neon Bible fairly wisely, writing part of the score for Richard Kelly’s “The Box”, indulging in side-projects and touring, which I hope means they will be able to pull out something less mediocre and tiresome come album three. A return to delicacy over fist-pumping politicking would be a good place to start. Nothing confirmed on album status, but rumour has it they have just spent three weeks recording in the Magic Shop studio. Which is news indeed.

Portishead have confirmed that they plan to release their new album in 2010, although this is of course open to delay, unfortunately. No new material has been released, and it is more likely that the album will not reach us until 2011, but I’d happily wait another 11 years if the end product is as good as Third. If they can build on the darkness and lush agony displayed on their last release then the new album may well be my early contender for best album of the decade 2010s, though.

News on the other three bands there seems to involve less strong words and more hushed whispers. A new My Bloody Valentine record would certainly be an event to make any critic and audiophile alike take a sharp intake of breath. A third Wolf Parade album would hopefully right the wrongs that Second Album Syndrome caused “Mount Zoomer”, and The Strokes IV (as hysterical NME kids dubbed it) would give Casablancas and co.  the opportunity to prove they can go beyond one-trick pony status.

All in all, and even ignoring the inevitable debut stunners of the ilk of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, 2010 will be amazing. There will be failures and successes amongst these albums, but the failures will at least be interesting ones, while we, the listeners, will watch over the evolution of some of the current decades best bands into the new decade with perhaps more anticipation than ever before.

EDIT:

How could I have missed out the new Laura Marling album? No title yet, but the new tracks are great live, she seems to have matured lyrically and the full band is being used more effectively than ever. The rumoured February release is not official, but it will surely be out in the first quarter of 2010. A lot of second albums are rushed out due to demands after successful debuts, but a bit of patience never harmed an album, so lets hope theres good reason for the extra few months wait.

Anticipation Factor: Sorry for forgetting you/10

I get hammered forget that you exist

Sometimes it’s easier to fall in love with a song when you know you shouldn’t. Some words are too close to home, there is sometimes a rising interlude or calming coda that makes your breathing heavy. It’s easier to fall when you never notice the ground disappear.

Some songs bring out the worst in me. If a song is too emotional, if it connects too much, sometimes it can just be confusing, whether those emotions were ever yours in the first place, or whether the right piece of music at the right time fills you up. A song should not be able to make decisions for you. But those words can breed ideas in your head. Something somewhere has gone wrong and a skilled hand wants to fix it, and you want to be fixed. Its too easy, sometimes, to lapse into over-analysis. I don’t think we all share the same pain, but sometimes two people go through eerily similar circumstances, and one has the power to put the experience to music, and the other listens in, understanding and believing where there should just be dull and passive acceptance.

Would it be easier if life didn’t have this effect on me? Would it be easy to take your emotional cues from “real-life” events? There’s a reason music can choke you up, though, and its because of shared knowledge. We can’t all understand the same situations but maybe, in small groups, we can know the reactions of others, and they can become our own reactions. I don’t think I can explain much better.

i’m working on my backwards walk
walking with no shoes or socks
and the time rewinds to the end of may
i wish we’d never met then met today

i’m working on my faults and cracks
filling in the blanks and gaps
and when i write them out they don’t make sense
i need you to pencil in the rest

i’m working on drawing a straight line
and i’ll draw until i get one right
it’s bold and dark girl, can’t you see
i done drawn a line between you and me

i’m working on erasing you
just don’t have the proper tools
i get hammered, forget that you exist
there’s no way i’m forgetting this

i’m working hard on walking out
shoes keep sticking to the ground
my clothes won’t let me close the door
these trousers seem to love your floor

i been working on my backwards walk
there’s nowhere else for me to go
except back to you just one last time
say yes before i change my mind

say yes before i…

you’re the shit and i’m knee-deep in it

you’re the shit and i’m knee-deep in it

you’re the shit and i’m knee-deep in it

you’re the shit and i’m knee-deep in it


Frightened Rabbit: The Midnight Organ Fight

This is not a review, technically, its far too short and mostly scatterbrain. It’s also being written while I listen to the album, which some would consider a bad idea. This is just a reminder to people (and to myself, perhaps), that this is a damn good album. I fear that Frightened Rabbit have come around a decade and a bit too late, they would have fit in perfectly in the mid 90s, providing a compliment to the more swaggering BritPop that had emerged. Their music is softer and gentler, but it is more interesting and their lyrics subtly complex. Perhaps then they would get a little bit more of the recognition they deserve.

This particular album, their second, which was released in 2007, has enough variety to sustain the length, and although it seems to come alongside the current wave of indie-rock it seems to hark back to a simpler time. I am almost tempted to call the album timeless, as there on a certain level they engage in what the Coen brothers may refer to as “old-timey material”. The band seem to recognise this on the rhythmic “Old Old Fashioned”, where they call for “that soft, soft static with a human voice underneath”.

The self-deprecation shown on this album befits standard indie, but Frightened Rabbit are happy to throw a curveball now and again, the plodding lament “My Backwards Walk” suddenly breaks off into a quick-fire repeating off the line “you’re the shit and I’m knee-deep in it” just at the point it is least expected. The bitter lyrics are reminiscent of “Final Straw”-era Snow Patrol, as are the tortured Celtic vocals. Lead man Scott Hutchinson seems much happier than most of his rivals, however, to express self-disgust, referring to himself as a “cripple” and a “modern leper on his last legs” before the gorgeous opening track, “The Modern Leper”, has even finsihed.

Often I prefer albums which are sporadically excellent as opposed to those that are consistently pleasant, but I would call this an exception, it is refereshing that average tracks (in the context of the album) do not cause the album to lag or feel excessively long, and instead of putting filler songs near the end of the album, there are instead a number of minute-long interludes dotted around which are moodily interesting but do not ruin the flow of the album, and they are welcome.

So overall, this really is a very good album, and I almost feel like re-writing my Top 42 Albums list that I posted earlier in the week to reflect this. They really do a lot right and if you’re into a form of meloncholy but uplifting pop that provides both smart poetry and consistent quality you really should get this.

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.