LoudAndQuiet Zero pounds / Volume 03 / Issue 24 / 100 percent nostALGIC
Marnie Stern CLOUT! Rival Schools Stealing Sheep Tu Fawning
2010 r e vie w spe cial featuring our albums, gigs, tracks, books, films, cassettes and disappointments of the year
in case you’re wondering, yes, we are fully aware of how impossible – and childish – judging the best stuff of 2010 really is. How can you rate a hip-hop album next to a psych record? What makes an electronic laser show in a car park better or worse than a punk band diving around a pub? And let’s face it, we’ve not nearly heard every track released this year, but that’s not stopped us from presenting our top ten here. We take our End of Year Review issues seriously, because they’re so much fun to make. It all starts as early as January with us dog-earring albums, shows and tracks that we’re certain will still feel just as exciting in twelve months time. Some of them don’t. Or they get bettered as the months roll on. But everything that features on any of our lists has been scrupulously placed where you’ll find them. The most recent releases aren’t there because we can’t remember anything pre-October; the more obscure bands haven’t been included to make us look smart. These are the bands, songs, records, gigs, films and books that made our 2010, and for the first time – on page 25 – you can win our top ten albums of the last twelve months to see just how accurate our judgement is. And treat this issue with patience and care – our following one will be out in February, once we’ve caught our breath and enjoyed our annual New Year’s holiday, by which time the planning of our 2011 Review Issue will be well under way.
C o n t e n ts
01 | 11 LOUD AND QUIET ZERO POUNDS / VOLUME 03 / ISSUE 24 / 100 PERCENT NOSTALGIC
MARNIE STERN CLOUT! RIVAL SCHOOLS STEALING SHEEP TU FAWNING
2010 REVIEW SPECIAL FEATURING OUR ALBUMS, GIGS, TRACKS, BOOKS, FILMS, CASSETTES AND DISAPPOINTMENTS OF THE YEAR
Design by LEE Belcher
07 .................. Strictly Come Leaving 08 .................. Fatal Attraction 10 .................. EPs & Singles 12 .................. The Only Way Is Essex 14 .................. Super Guitarist 16 .................. Baby, It’s Dark Outside 17 .................. Twee Goes Black Metal 18 .................. United By Fate 23 .................. The Best Of 2010 30 .................. Win Win Win 33 .................. The Year’s Best Album 36 .................. RIP The Streets 42 .................. French Revolution 46 .................. Film 2010 50 .................. The Tool List 04
firstname.lastname@example.org Loud And Quiet PO Box 67915 London NW1W 8TH Stuart Stubbs Alex Wilshire Art Director Lee Belcher film editor Ian Roebuck Editor
Bart Pettman, Chris Watkeys, Daniel Dylan-Wray, Danny Canter, DK. Goldstien, Elinor Jones, Edgar Smith, Frankie Nazardo, Holly Lucas, Janine Bullman, Kate Parkin, Kelda Hole, Gabriel Green, Mandy Drake, Martin Cordiner, Matthias Scherer, Nathan Westley, Owen Richards, Polly Rappaport, Phil Dixon, Phil Sharp Reef Younis, Sam Little, Sam Walton, Simon Leak,Tim Cochrane,Tom Cockram, Tom Goodwyn, This Month L&Q Loves
All of the contributors that have worked on Loud And Quiet throughout the last year, and epecially Lee Belcher and Alex Wilshire The views expressed in Loud And Quiet are those of the respective contributors and do not necessari ly reflect the opini ons of the magazine or its staff. All rights reserved 2010 © Loud And Quiet.
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01 | 11
Strictly come leaving
Illustration by ALEX WOODHEAD
Your (indie) disco needs you, says Stuart Stubbs
One week before this issue of Loud And Quiet was published, I took a trip to São Paulo; Brazil’s financial, fatty heart that should have stopped beating long ago considering the staggering amount of poverty that clogs the arteries that connect airport and business epicentre. On arriving I was told that in a perfect world you’d live in Rio in the day and São Paulo at night, the former having the carnival beach culture that has forever greened other coastal cities, the latter offering a dangerously exciting nightlife, equal parts sleaze and glamour. In daylight hours São Paulo is sound-tracked by beeping horns and the continual buzz of banker’s helicopters; at night the students fill the clubs and dance. They dance when the bands are playing; they dance before they’ve started; they dance once they’ve finished. Or at least they did at Studio SP, where Brazil’s answer to Vampire
Weekend, Holger, pied-piped the night way. Of course, São Paulo is a cultural light-year or two from London and most western cities and towns (their clubs, for example, don’t even open until midnight, at the absolute earliest), but I had to question why this could never happen back home. Unless I’m mistaken, it used to. Londoner’s have always been particularly stuffy about moving when a live band is on. It’s as if we’re all thinking, why should we? But once they’ve packed it in and we’ve all clapped politely, it used to the be the case that – at club nights with late licences – we’d stay put and drink until dancing down the ‘indie disco’ became virtually involuntary. Hearing our favourite records played louder than our rooms allowed – and flailing around without levelling our CD racks – was the reason to go out in the first place. Now, we can’t wait to scarper once the headlining band
have put down their instruments. ‘Club nights’ have largely become gigs, often in inferior venues. Saturation can be blamed to an extent, sure. Especially in a city like London where alternative music played in public isn’t a month long wait away like in smaller provinces. And maybe our new free music culture hasn’t helped either – we can have our own discos at home now, with DJ Spotify on the ones and twos. Councils enforcing early live music curfews; let’s point the finger there too – our bands are over and our nights have peaked long before somewhere like Studio SP has more than two people in it. And yet, what seems to be really killing the indie disco is something far odder. It’s the very thing that was meant to make them a better, more sensory experience. It’s the bands. By adding live music to the mix we’ve confused our own minds. We think that any club
night is simply a live show, not unlike those at Brixton Academy or Wembley. You pay your money, see two or three bands and then it’s time to leave; weeping, lonesome tumbleweeds spinning around the place for no one but the bar staff and unlucky final DJ to sympathise with. Live bands were meant to be an added something, not the main event. The indie disco doesn’t have to die because of this, though; nor because of the curfews, saturation or our new (un)healthy appetite for music files. We might even be able to work out a way around the extortionate drinks prices that often have partygoers fleeing to the nearest Weatherspoons ASAP. We just need to pick our club nights a little more carefully, and then stay in them a little longer. A lot of them are playing the sort of music that we once craved the opportunity to hear outside of our houses. A lot of them could give São Paulo a run for their dinheiro.
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By Janine & Lee Bullman
Threepenny Memoir By Carl Barat (4th Estate) The rise and fall of The Libertines through the band’s chief fop’s eyes --------------------Unbelievably, it is now over a decade since The Libertines stumbled out of Filthy McNasty’s and into the annals of British rock history. Perhaps more unbelievable still is the fact that one of them remembers anything about it. Threepenny Memoir is Carl Barat’s highly personal take on the run-up, rise, fall and immediate aftermath of the band that revitalized a generation. As you’d expect from a group whose story is made up of equal parts tragedy and comedy, the tale Barat tells is not all sweetness and light, but then, dear reader, neither is Rock’n’Roll.
Fatal Attraction Reef Younis is an obsessive fan who also respects the power of goodbye
Ask me what my favourite album is and I’ll either punch you in the face or walk away, muttering something about the “impossibilities” and “impracticalities” of such a “ridiculous” question. Ask me in a plural sense and it’s considerably less likely to result in casual violence. But, like any music fan, I will often find myself regressing, because as much as I like to convince myself I’m forward thinking, I’ll always, naturally, be inspired by what preceded. More acutely, though, I find myself attracted to the legacy; the implosions; the disappearance; the silence and the prospect that we’ll never see or hear a band again. There’s romance in absence, in fundamental finality, and it’s a simple, cardinal rule: always leave them wanting more. “The most important thing we can do is get massive and throw it all away. We only wanna make one album, one double album, 30 songs and that’ll be our statement, then we’ll split up. It’s all we wanna do; it’s what we’ve aimed for all our lives. There’s no glory in being top of the indie charts, there’s no glory in being Top 30. You’ve gotta be Number One. We just wanna be the most important reference point of the Nineties.
That’s all.” Remember that bold, definitive statement? It was a manifesto steeped in political anger and philosophical ideology; buried in beautiful lyrical prose; decorated in glitter and eyeliner and delivered at the fingertips, and by the voices of, four seemingly eternally angry skinny white boys who wanted to take over the fucking world. That was the Manic Street Preachers in 1990. “Ask me this in 1999 and I’d have said ‘We’ll sell a million records’. Now, we could sell 50,000. We survived Madchester, Britpop, whatever. We’ve drifted away and made our own niche, much like the best bands do… we’ll always be around,” Nicky Wire, October, 2010. As a diehard early Manics fan, I’ll vehemently argue their case until I run out of logic, reason or expletives but it’s not difficult to see the contrast. The sex, drugs and rock n roll is/was the doctrine of every rabble of adolescent upstarts looking to tote guitars in search of fame and money and it’s not a charge levelled solely at any one band. Music history is littered with culprits (see Oasis, The Cure, Metallica, U2, Ryan Adams etc.) content with churning out half-baked albums of drivelling
revivalism, a world away from the vitality of their earlier work and there is also a fine, self-righteous line mythologizing a band’s legacy, constantly feeding the mystique through fond reminiscence vs longevity and opportunity. After all, what self-respecting fan wouldn’t want the chance to see one of their favourite bands live and direct? But it often dregs up the spectre of grizzled reformations; garish renaissance tours fuelled by commercial greed; super groups idly trotting out the line that they have something to prove other than the ability to meet the minimum payment on their Amex. Few bands are arrogant enough to believe they’ll get it perfect first time but no one wants to hear dead relics either. When it works perfectly, we’re left with a spectre and a gnawing sense of conclusion that both thrills and angers at the mere mention of their name; the dormant love re-ignited; a reminder of the power and unrealised potential. But when that passion is put under needless routine demand, it’s like any relationship in that respect: you always know when it’s time to call it a day. Then again, perhaps I’ve just got commitment issues.
Tree of Codes By Jonathan Safran Foer (Visual Editions) Everything’s Illuminated author reinvents the form of the novel --------------------A haunting new story from the renowned author of Everything’s Illuminated, Tree of Codes is a complex labour of love. Initially deemed impossible to produce, this book is as much a piece of sculpture as it is a beautifully crafted story. Foer has never been shy of experimenting with the novel form, but this book takes it to a whole new level, with each page individually die-cut. Using his favourite book, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, as a canvas, Foer has quite literally carved out a new and original story from the old. The fragility of the die-cut pages act as metaphor for the tale of one person’s last day of life, and this is by far the most exciting novel to be published this year and Foer’s best work yet.
s i n g les & E Ps
01 Athens Polytechnic Selling Out Fast (Lost London) Out now
If you’ve ever seen south London five-piece Athens Polytechnic scream their way through a live set, duel ‘singers’ Rory and Tommy twitching uncontrollably and continually pacing back and forth, respectfully, you’ll know that their brand of punk is a little hardcore and a lot of a laugh. Take away their hotchpotch look (even more punk than their music is that they couldn’t care less about haircuts and jeans) and Rory’s moshpit, wild performance style, and we’re left with something that feels more snotty and antagonistic. The band are still having fun throughout this, their debut five-track EP, often breaking down their young man retching screams into drunken mumbles (halfway through tracks
like ‘Where Did All The Young Men Go?’, which fleetingly makes them sound like fellow Clash fans The Libertines), namechecking Alexandra Burke through ‘Last Good Citizen’ and calling one track ‘And I Would Have Gotten Away With It As Well If It Wasn’t For Those Meddlin Books’, which is their silliest title yet (sillier even than ‘Cameron Youth’) but definitely their most catching song here. ‘Selling Out Fast’ isn’t a novelty release - it’s simply a ‘complete’ collection of punk songs that dare to enjoy themselves as they piss off parents. If a band like Flats are our new Sex Pistols, Athens Polytechnic are our new Replacements - they’ll care what you think even less.
Lights On A Leash
Dog Bite Machino Machino
(Chess Club) Out Jan 17 -----
(Too Pure) Out Now -----
(R&S) Out Now -----
(Young Turks) Out Now -----
When Modest Mouse released ‘Float On’ many thought they’d found their new favourite, happy-go-lucky indie band, only to find out that they’d fallen for an outfit with a dark past. It might be a similar deal with GROUPLOVE of course, but debut single ‘Colours’ once again suggests that we’ve come across a band to cheerily bob about to, gleefully ignoring the warning signs because their pop music is just so sing-a-ble. Slightly manic as if close to breakdown, singer Christian even sounds like Isaac Brock, but if GROUPLOVE can remain demon free, think just how uplifting an album of ‘Float On’s could be.
It’s hard to tell what the hell ‘Lights On A Leash’ is. At first it seems to be some austere, lyric-less homage to the early work of The Cure, cold and echoey in its spindly post-punk guitar riff. There’s a krauty simplicity there too as monotonous, stark drums click on before the eventual eruption of sonically disrupting guitars fuzz over a keyboard that’s more than a little bit like Metronomy. Five minutes later and this third single by Civil Civic is no easier to get a handle on, but while the first listen suggests some vocals won’t go a miss, the second simply asks to be turned up.
In today’s musical climate, when you open your debut EP with a song called ‘California Analog Dream’ and dish out that EP in a sleeve depicting the foamy surf of the west coast, you’re basically saying, “Pop us on the shelf with Wavves and all those other lo-fi garage sorts.” Unless you’re south London’s Vondelpark - a two-step operation with a live bassist that makes them sound like The xx collaborating with Burial. The four songs of ‘Sauna’ stretch on too, rarely shy of five minutes, which definitely works best on ‘Jetlag Blue Version’, which trips and beats like Janet Jackson’s saucy stuff from the early ‘90s.
If Dog Bite - or Phil Jones Jnr. from Atlanta - signifies what sound we’ll be hearing a lot more of next year (and there’s a good chance that he does - with the advent of ‘chillwave’ in 2010 and krautrock having made a return we’re clearly not over weightless dream music just yet), we’re all in for a lot of trouble. Not because the American or ‘Machino Machino’ makes for an undesirable listen, but rather because it’s brainstoppingly relaxed. It’s the sort of comically hippish, loopheavy music that has you staring into the middle distance with your mouth open. It could probably be used at war.
Reviews by S. Little, M. Drake
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Photographer: Holly Lucas
Writer: Stua rt Stu bbs
clout! The experimental poster boys for why downloading music is no bad thing
Like most British towns smaller than London (so all of them), Southend-on-Sea, Essex, is defined by its stereotypes. We know this because it’s Loud And Quiet’s hometown. It’s where boob-tubed girls and protein shake addicts go to clubs called things like TOTS (which means Talk Of The South) and throw their manicures up to DJ Luck & MC Neat (still), where cars rule and boot-cut jeans sell. That’s what most people presume, and most people are right. For the optimistic few, a more flattering, five-year-old typecast is what springs to mind when Southend is mentioned, made up of The Horrors and These New Puritans listening to rare garage records and The Fall. Not even a TV show like The Only Way Is Essex can change some people’s minds – Southend has a burgeoning, subversive music scene, and it’s very cool. Fuel on that particular fire comes from experimental fivepiece CLOUT! – a group of
instrument-swapping childhood friends familiar with the perils of TOTS and its magpie culture. “I worked in Debenham’s for a year and everyone there was exactly like the people from The Only Way Is Essex,” confirms Chris, the band’s programmer, guitarist, drummer, synth player and bassist, just like CLOUT!’s quietest member, Jordan, their saxophonist (Chris) Schubert and the more chatty Grant and Bradley. “We’re not really the kind of band that has a moody bass player and a drummer with his shirt off,” says Grant. “No,” agrees Bradley, “and because I’ll play guitar when writing one song and someone else will on another song, it’s a completely different approach and you get a different type of song by doing that.” Bradley reasons that “people with similar interests will always find each other”, but there’s little denying that CLOUT! have been lucky in coming
together. Their approach to making music is not normal. They don’t jam or practise like most young bands are keen to – they assemble their songs by using the Internet as a kind of virtual conveyor belt. “I’ll like meet up with Schubert and have this record I’ve found or sample I’ve found, or intro, or break,” explains Bradley, “and I’ll give it to him thinking he’ll use it in one way and he’ll use it in a completely different way. He’ll then email it over to Grant who’ll muck about with it and he might email it over to Chris, who’ll clean it up a bit and muck about with it, and it might then go back to Grant and so on, and then someone will eventually have the guts to do a vocal take on it, and that’ll completely change it. And then we’ll come together to record and mix it and someone will turn up late and be like, ‘What the fuck are you doing!?’ And that’ll change it all again. It’s a very
gradual process.” “Of course we get pissed off sometimes when we think a track should go one way and we pass it on and it goes another,” says Grant, “but we’re all totally open about that. It’s totally fine because we’re all friends.” “I’d rather people say that the vocals make you sound like a wanker,” says Bradley. “I’d rather that than go out there and not know. The point of passing the song on is so that we’re not too precious of it. It’s not my song, it’s our song and we can criticise it openly.” Grant: “If you’re too precious over it it’ll lose the sense of spontaneity…” Bradley: “And even if I made an initial demo, for me it would be a privilege for someone else to feel like they had as much ownership over it as I do. It’s far more gratifying.” Describing how CLOUT! sound (or rather attempting to) is a similarly convoluted affair, only without the pleasing end
result. Tracks like ‘Maxwell’s O’ and ‘Maybe Another Day’ make for cold-wave-ish neighbours that share a similar dark and dreamy likeness, but then ‘The Pre Party’ is a ghostly jazz interlude and the lyric-less ‘Blossomshoes (For You and For Me)’ (free to download via the band’s Myspace page now) more blatantly highlights the band’s fascination with hip-hop. “I was thinking about how we’re a generation who’ve been able to download music for ten years so we’re not necessarily leading on from the previous thing,” explains Bradley. “We’ve had the availability to listen to any type of music from the last forty or fifty years, so consequently, when we’ve come to be writing songs, we’re not going to be referencing one particular thing. And I think especially in the last five or six year there’s been a lot of bands who haven’t honed in on one particular thing from the past and recreated it.
Fundamentally, hip-hop can be made from anything, and I see it as a documentation of music made up to the point of that hip-hop song being made. So we take hiphop as a main source of inspiration.” It’s a neat antidote to the usual doom-and-gloom line of how free downloads have killed the music industry. There’s still an argument for that that will rage on way past the fall of Sony, EMI and every other label in the world, but as CLOUT! see it, all of this free music can act as inspiration and be recycled into more inventive music than ever before. You don’t have to be a goth or a raver anymore – you can be both. “It’s hard to explain what type of band we are because some of the songs we make are built up around samples,” says Bradley, “and we’re willing to use any type of sample that we find, and that means that we can build up any type of song that we like. One song will come from one area,
one song will come from another. “What links them all together is that, and pardon the poor expression, they’re all grooves. The percussion is quite similar. There might be a late snare or it might be slightly out of time but the tracks all simmer along in a similar way.” In CLOUT!’s lawless world, it’s perhaps the only recurring theme. Even the vocals (shared between Bradley, Grant and Jordan) veer from ‘extra sonic element’ to ‘driving force’, and that’s when they’re featured at all (“there is no feeling of responsibility that any of our songs need vocals,” they say). “[When we do include lyrics] we want to simplify it, though,” explains Bradley. “We want to make verses feel like choruses. I know that sounds poor,” he says as his band snigger, “but what I mean is we don’t want to over intellectualise it.” “We don’t want to write lyrics that make us sound smarter than we are,” adds
Grant. “We want to write songs that people can understand and feel something from.” Bradley: “I listen to a lot of soul and for me the vocals on old soul records are incredible. Like, ‘How did she sing that?!’ They’re like perfect pop songs and everywhere feels like the chorus.” Bradley giggles, visibly excited by the thought of Aretha belting out ‘Chain of Fools’. And then Schubert turns up just as we’re done. “It’s okay,” he says, “I wouldn’t have said anything, just shut the fuck up. Or I might have told you how small all of these guy’s dicks are. They’ve all got tiny dicks.” The rest of CLOUT!, who’ve spent their first interview articulating the inner workings and ideologies of their fascinating name-less, experimental music, fall about laughing, all the way through our snowy photo shoot. Like Bradley says, someone will turn up late and everything will change again.
marn i e ste r n The certain past and uncertain future of a self-taught super guitarist
Photographer: Phil Sh a rp
Writer: DK Goldstein
Housed inside her bulky puffer jacket that’s used to fighting off the icy winds of New York City is Marnie Stern’s slight frame. But for a petite woman she has big ideas and a big personality, so we decide to take up the biggest booth in the bar. A late starter to music, Marnie released her first album, ‘In Advance of the Broken Arm’, back in 2007, just shy of her thirty-first birthday. Exploring the realms of experimental sounds that jumped and flipped and refused to adhere to standard pop sensibilities, she tunnelled her way in with the likes of Deerhoof, Ponytail and the Mae Shi. Her second offering came in 2008 in the long-winding shape of ‘This is it and I am it and You are it and so is That and He is it and She is it and it is it and That is That’, and last month, after a two-year break, Marnie returned with her eponymous LP number three. Huddled behind the table, face buried in the menu, she describes it as more mature and says she’s stopped trying to prove something. “For a long time I was trying to prove to people, and to myself, that I’m a good player,” she says distractedly in her delicately, high-pitched American accent. “I don’t really feel like I care or need to do that any more. So I chose simpler parts with more space and I think that makes the songs breathe a little bit more.” Having been brought up and lived in NYC her entire life – “Unfortunately,” she retorts. “I’d like to live some place warm, but all the warm places are filled with idiots.” – Marnie explains that the first two records are about the trials of her life there in the eight years it took to get signed (to Kill Rock Stars) from the moment she decided to pursue a music career after graduating from her journalism degree at twenty-two.
Her latest album is less of a moan and more personal. “The others were relatively abstract,” she intones, dragging out certain syllables that expose the cogs of her mind working away as she speaks. “I mean, I knew what they were about, but they were a little bit hidden because I was only thinking in broad concepts, artistically. “The first two records were really about those years of having nothing to show for myself on paper. You know, no external things; no car, no money, no husband, no nothing that people usually use to determine success. So, most of the lyrics were me pushing myself to keep going in the face of all of that.” In the past couple of years, Marnie explains, she got a “personal life” and started dating and got hurt and so she decided that the tracks on her third record should best reflect the real Marnie, which is why she named it after herself. “Musically I think it’s my most concise batch of songs,” she smiles. “Also, the last record had a really long title and I didn’t realise that was going to be such a big deal, so I just named it after myself.” When Marnie decided she wasn’t any good at journalism she wanted to become a musician, but she didn’t know how to play an instrument. “Everyone thought I was insane and trying to escape responsibility,” she explains, “but I just…I don’t know. I had some kind of calling to it, a real dedication. So, I worked my butt off and practiced between five and eight hours every day for years and years and years.” It was in this time that she established her ‘tapping’ technique, which involves her shredding the guitar as she fingers the frets up and down like she were adeptly pattering a piano. “It became easier because you’re using two hands
instead of one, so you can get to a lot more notes. And it wasn’t from Van Halen or any of those bands, why I started doing it so much. It was from later experimental bands who were almost mocking those older bands. It was more for the kaleidoscopic sound that it brings.” Those noise-rock experimentalists she speaks of include Lightning Bolt, Don Caballero, The Flying Luttenbachers, Hella and more. “Lots of strange and experimental bands in the late ’90s in New York bubbled their way up,” she starts telling me. “There was a slew of bands who were doing the coolest stuff and I started becoming interested in music that was different, that made you feel funny. Even Yoko Ono’s stuff I like because she’s so Goddamn weird it makes you uncomfortable. So I listened to all this really strange music and that’s when I started paying attention to guitar parts, bass parts, drum parts and the way they interlocked, time signatures and stuff like that. “Those bands really kicked my butt into gear because I would see them play and think that they were so good that I felt a healthy competitiveness. I just wanted to get as good as them, so I’d go home and play and play and play and it was a really fun feeling.” Between hours of solitude, hidden away practicing guitar, Marnie spent seven years of her twenties working at an advertising agency as a secretary, as well as temping all over New York as a waitress, hostess and jewellery store assistant. “I worked a lot!” she exclaims. “But the good part about that long period of time was that I was by myself, figuring it out, so I found my own style through sheer practising alone.” She still writes everything alone now, which she describes as “a blessing and a curse”.
“It’s great because when the parts lock together I think they’re pretty interesting, but it’s really hard to generate ideas constantly from the same brain.” Once Marnie’s laid down the tracks using Pro Tools at home, she emails the ones she doesn’t throw out to Zach Hill – who drums for Hella and has moonlighted in Wavves – in California and he writes the drum parts before Marnie joins him to do overdubs. “That’s how we’ve done all three of [the records].” And while making the three albums on Kill Rock Stars, Marnie gave up her day job. “Because from seventeen to thirty I was never without a job, I sort of hit a wall where I said ‘I’m never going back to an office,’” she stipulates in a firm voice, “but that was just me being a brat. As soon as I get home I have to get a job immediately because touring is expensive. I’m in extreeeme debt. Extraordinary, extreme, panic-stricken, unbelievable debt from touring for four years without a job.” But if she becomes shackled to the desk again will we be waiting another eight years for the next Marnie Stern offering? “I’ve been in a rut for the past year so I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she confesses, furrowing her eyebrows in wonder and doubt. “Usually by this point I have at least half [the amount of songs] that I can use. I mean, I work every day but I just haven’t been coming up with stuff. But that’s good, I think that means I’m on the verge of, you know, a new jump, creatively. A surge.” She grins a grin of anticipation that eradicates any doubt that might actually be going through her head, so we leave her waiting for the Mexican breakfast she’s ordered and wonder if and when we’ll be hearing from this glowing girl of mystery again.
Photographer: N euer Ordn er
Writer: Da niel Dyl a n W r ay
tu fawn i ng Baby, it’s dark outside
Based on the eerie, often twistedly melancholic debut album by Tu Fawning, I expected to be met by some strange, twitching and socially inept artist. Instead, I’m greeted with a bounding, enthusiastic and charming young man by the name of Joe Haege – the band’s co-founder, along with his female counterpart Corrina Repp who, with Haege, is joined by members Liza Rietz and Toussaint Perrault. Stemming from Portland, Oregon, Tu Fawning are a band that have made a meticulously produced debut LP that is sweeping yet subtle, tristful but playful and when you think it may be about to divagate it retains its direction with force and intent. Put simply, there is a lot going on in this record. “Corrina was already a solo artist and I was in my band 31 Knots,” explains Haege of how the project started, “and we both liked one another and we invited one another to sing on various things back and forth until our own projects had a break and that was the impetus to start something.” So the name must have some mystical and subversive meaning to it, representative of the music itself?
“No, not really,” says Haege. “Corrina likes to look through National Geographic books and pulls out random words that she likes and Tu Fawning were two that came together, and she said, ‘do you like this?’, and I did, so that’s the name.” The band have recently just finished their first tour of the U.S supporting Menomena (of whom Joe is also a touring member), which “went really well.” “The response was great,” says the singer. “I was a little worried people would find it too weird or dark, but people really seemed to like it”. ‘Hearts on Hold’ is a densely atmospheric and multifaceted record, though and you’d think that translating it live must be a difficult feat. “We try to recreate some aspects of it,” explains Haege, “but others we have to approach from a completely different angle. For the most part we try and stick pretty true to it and again for the most part it conveys pretty well.” It’s the album’s opener and lead single ‘I Know You Know’ that’s particularly disturbing: warped and lingering, it feels like it would have been suited a 1950’s dance hall occupied only by ghosts, or something you may
hear coming out of Tom Wait’s basement at 3am. “I think that ‘spooky’ element organically happened,” says Haege. “First off I’m always prone to writing in minor keys, it’s what I’m drawn to and it’s what I play, but it did happen organically. I mean, I could see our next record not being as dark.” But you do agree that Tu Fawning can (and no doubt will) be described at ‘spooky’? “Yeah. I mean, it definitely wasn’t our intent and it wasn’t like we were trying to be dark, we’re just doing what we do. A lot of the feelings I get from it are the feelings I get from modern hip-hop, but nobody would ever call that dark. So in the context of non hip-hop music I guess it’s dark, but yeah, spooky is more apt than, say, Goth, because I really hate that stuff.” The hip-hop comparison is an interesting one. Like many modern rap records, Tu Fawning’s material shares a refined and glistening sense of production combined with pristine and penetrating string parts and fragmented beats and rhythms. Also, most importantly, there is a sense of playfulness within the songs that counterbalances
the weight of the gloom. The results are often of eloquence, at times sounding like an amalgamation of Joanna Newsom backed by the The National. “The production was the most difficult part,” says Haege, “especially recording the drums, setting up microphones in different positions in different rooms to get the right sound. It was trial and error, with a lot of error! It turns out the kitchen was the best place to do it. Our next-door neighbours are these young kids who used to have parties all the time until the early hours, so we’d use that as a shield to record the drums through the night. A couple of times the police would come out and we’d be like, ‘it’s those kids next door, man.’ The production itself I laboured over for about five months.” It shows. The record has a resonating crispness to it. The opaque sense of atmosphere makes the experience as textual an adventure as it does an auditory one, and it seems the coming together of Joe and Corrina has created not only an intriguing vocal duality and cementation but also the birth of something truly interesting musically that creates a dark, lamenting and enchanting world.
Writer: Da niel Dyl a n W r ay
steali ng sh ee p The sweetest homage to Black Metal
One quick listen to (or even a glance at) Stealing Sheep would be more than enough to convince you that they probably have no ties to Norwegian black metal. However, their name comes directly from it, or really a rather hilarious tale around it. As Rebecca Hawley – the band’s founding member – tells me, “There was this Norwegian band, I can’t remember their name [it was Enslaved], and to protest against a governor’s legalisation for free downloading they stole his sheep from his garden and there was a headline that read ‘Stealing Sheep’.” There is a video of this on Youtube, of two very hairy and very tattooed grown men running through the woods and rugby tackling a sheep. Anyway, Stealing Sheep sound nothing like black metal. They are in many senses the polar opposite. They embody a warm yet whimsical style of folk that evokes a certain sense of 60’s psychedelia merged with an undeniably sweet and modern twist that brings to mind some of Slow Club’s work. They are three girls (Rebecca, Emily and Lucy) from Liverpool who have recently been championed by the likes of BBC 6 Music (like
everyone) through to Sir Paul McCartney (not like everyone), even if Rebecca is an attendee of Macca’s school, LIPA (Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts). So, the beginning, then. “Well,” starts Rebecca, “I started writing and performing under this name by myself when I graduated in 2008 and then I adopted Lucy and Emily about three months ago, who were also both in bands [Emily & The Faves and The Long Finger Bandits]. We wrote a set in about two weeks and then started touring and we’ve played about thirty shows.” That’s an average of three gigs a week, which is a boastful feat for any band, made all the more impressive by the fact that Stealing Sheep MK II only had two weeks of practicing behind them. And they’re a trio that often rely on tricky three part harmonies. “Well, I did pick them because I liked their voices,” reasons Rebecca, “but we had no idea until we started practicing whether all our styles would match and we’re still finding out really. We are all into massively different things musically too.” When discussing the different aspects of the band, it seems
the industry and press have – as always – been making lazy and inaccurate comparisons based on the bands gender. “We keep getting comparisons to Warpaint and loads of other bands, but we sound nothing like them,” sighs Rebecca. “It’s just because we’re girls. “I wouldn’t say that kind of sexism has directly affected the band. I think for now it’s benefiting us because we get a lot of coverage because we’re different. But I think for getting a label it will be a different matter. For example, we’re really big fans of the label Bella Union, but we’d never get signed to them because Mountain Man are on there and they are a three piece girl group. That simply would never happen with a male band, because their sex wouldn’t even be considered.” This is of course scarily true and endlessly sad when you put it into context that originality and idiosyncrasies can only get you so far, whereas a leather jacket, derivative guitar chords and a penis seems to be able to get you a lot further on occasion. Liverpool itself is an example of such a problem; home to a form of ladrock that is bafflingly labelled
Merseybeat. “It’s getting better, though,” says Rebecca. “There are a lot more venues and promoters putting stuff on which is good. Like the Kazimer. But all the Merseybeat stuff I just ignore.” Liverpool does have a tendency (from personal experiences, at least) to be somewhat musically regressive, always clinging onto something gone by and draining the life from every last pore – an average night out will still see people screaming the words to ‘Dreaming of You’ by The Coral, as though it came out last week and still held some degree of relevance. For Stealing Sheep there’s a juxtaposition in play; the band’s sound harbouring a hazy and often mystical element that conjures up lazy afternoons and a velvety antidote to cure a raging Sunday hangover, yet their relentless and ferocious touring means Stealing Sheep are consistently active and progressive as well as clearly being a band to encounter live as well as on record. It seems that breaking convention, constraints and perceptions is something Stealing Sheep are intent on doing. A little like kidnapping livestock.
rival s c h o o ls After eight years, Rival Schools finally return, even if at the risk of ruining their legacy Photographer: Ga briel Gr een
Writer: R eef you nis
“I’ll probably do at least one full breakfast while I’m here with any luck. It’s really delicious but right after I’ve eaten one I just want to fall asleep. As for everything else, I guess it’s just the normal things; tea, beer drinking-er… glassing. You know a little ultra-violence.” As I sit in Atlantic Records’ rather plush top floor terrace with Rival Schools’ Walter Schreifels pointing out the nuances and pitfalls of British fine dining and culture, my adolescent self is having palpitations. After all, Rival Schools, and specifically the brilliant ‘United By Fate’, soundtracked some of my early love affair with music and music writing; train hopping across the border from North Wales to Manchester and Liverpool; unashamedly peppering my home phone in the AM hours with frost-bitten requests to come rescue me from extended city escapades. It’s a fond flashback characterised by a desperate failed scrabble for Rival Schools’ reunion tour tickets just two years ago and the flying, caffeine-fuelled 140 mile death race from London to the Midlands to catch the searing guitar of ‘Holding Sand’ (well, the stripped down version), the anthemia of ‘Used for Glue’ and the sweaty image of a sinewy Walter straining every tendon to hit and hold his note engrained on memory. Sentimentally, sure, it makes for (hopefully) great copy but after all, it’s these people and bands that instil the love, and foster the reckless desire in all of us moved by a guitar chord, drumbeat or bass line to listen and write this meandering bollocks. Ahem. In 2001, Rival Schools released ‘United by Fate’ and subsequently disappeared little over a year later. Rumours and conjecture abounded; side projects and other endeavours surfaced and the faint promise of a second album never fully
emerged. And with that, the band created a legacy – a perfect example of ‘always leave ’em wanting more’. A surprise reunion tour two years ago hinted at a new chapter, with the premise of the elusive second album to follow soon after, but in a seemingly sad parallel, we were left waiting. Wanting. Hoping for some closure. So with the promise of new album ‘Pedals’ set for official release early next year, it looks like we finally have it and Rival Schools have some explaining to do. “It was always, for us, just a starting point to get touring again,” guitarist Ian Love begins. “It was surprising when we played the reunion shows and having people still into the songs that we hadn’t played for nine/ten years. It just makes us look at each song in a completely different way, like they’re really important to the history of the band.” A lot’s changed in the near decade since ‘United by Fate’, and despite retaining a hardcore following, as evidenced by the reunion shows, the anticipation of the fans was met with the band’s sense of trepidation. “I think there’s a natural apprehension picking up something where you left off,” says Walter, “and you start asking yourself what can we do with this, is it something for the future, is it just a reunion tour? We’re very proud of what we did with the band so we don’t want to do a disservice to it. There’s apprehension with that but when we got in the studio and on stage, it felt pretty natural.” It’s no surprise it does. With a hefty personal history and no definitive split ever confirmed, it seemed the reunion was born of opportunity as much as it was of time. With each member having explored their own individual paths, it seems the logical conclusion was to find out if Rival Schools had one of its own.
“I think we know it wasn’t the best career move at that point but at that stage we all just had to branch out and do those different things,” explains Walter. “For myself, I always thought it’s kind of a shame we didn’t follow up on that album but we didn’t draw it down or say we were totally broken up or say, “fuck Rival Schools”, so when enough time passed, and we did that tour, it was a case of we’re not getting any younger so why not give it a go, clear our schedule a little bit and just see how it feels. “The way we look at it is we’re just four people who’ve known each other for a long time and enjoy playing and I guess we wanted to project into something futuristic. I think it’s cool we made an album then disappeared for a long time but I don’t want to release one album and disappear for another eight years. I think we run some risks of alienation but it could be genius, I don’t know,” he laughs. “I think we did a nice job of picking up where we left off but we’re also showing where we will go. We want to progress and that was something we didn’t really get to do. We owe something to ‘United by Fate’ and we owe something as a band
to see what kind of album we make and what kind of direction we can take.” It’s an internal commitment Walter and the rest of the band are focused on but comfortable with. Driven by the desire to do Rival Schools’ curtailed previous life justice, and with just one glorious point of reference, the comparisons between ‘United by Fate’ and ‘Pedals’ are an inevitability they’re prepared for. “The way we look at it is we’re just four people who’ve known each other for a long time and enjoy playing,” says Walter. “It’s just about making a record of quality and there’s no way you could consciously, I think, say this is the solution. “I think if you take stuff too seriously then yeah. [Adopts cryptic voice] ‘Listen, we have to transcend the legacy of ‘Used
for Glue’… there’s 100 people in London whose lives depend on it!’ If you do, then you’ll end up fucking up. “Naturally people are going to say the new album sucks compared to ‘United by Fate’ and then there’ll be someone in a chat room who’ll go, ‘No way! This sounds way better’, then someone else will go, ‘You’re a fuck, I hate you’, then the next person is going to say, ‘You’re a fucking racist’, then the next person will be like, ‘Really, Obama sucks.’ “Seriously, I think the album is going to have its champions but if you think about those things, you just can’t control it. If people say ‘United by Fate’ was the greatest album ever and it left this unattainable legacy, how can you make another album? It’d be impossible.” However ‘Pedals’ is received, it marks a pivotal moment in the band’s chequered history. As a cliché, it’s about as difficult as second albums get but crucially, you can’t help but feel a lot’s riding on it. Mirror the acclaim and success of its predecessor, we could get a glimpse of the band Rival Schools always threatened to be; underwhelm and it undoes much of the band’s mythology. “On this record, we focused on the music a lot,” says Ian. “It was a case of making sure we really liked everything and that we could experiment as much as we wanted, and because we were in my studio, we could record and play whenever we wanted. It was nice to not have to rush. “I think ‘Pedals’ has the same spirit, the same guys. The other day I wanted to listen to ‘United by Fate’ because I hadn’t for a while, and it was awesome. Then I listened to ‘Pedals’ and it held up. I can see people who loved ‘United by Fate’ getting into this but it might take a few listens.” “I think with this record we had similar themes and went about it in the same way and some of the themes are going to be similar but not too repetitive,” Walter continues. “‘Ringing Out’ and ‘Travelling by Telephone’, the openers on
both albums, are linked to relationships and have similar themes but there’s still that sense of accomplishment.” And it’s a wholly deserved satisfaction. Where their debut had the safety net of Island Records taking care of the wider machinations of recording, licensing and distribution, this time the band were on their own. And the learning curve was steep. “All of it was different,” Walter states. “We had to get all that back in place. From our perspective of just making the music, we were on point. We had all the music ready but everything else is important too. How do you deliver it to people? We can’t control all of that aspect… The last record we put out was nine/ten years ago and we had to sort of figure out what’s the best way to put a record out these days?” “We had no producer and had to figure everything out ourselves and find the right way for us,” adds Ian. “And it was good to do it like that. It might have taken an extra year…” “…But it’s a totally different world,” Walter confirms. It’s a process that pointedly explains the stuttering nature of ‘Pedals’’ release and one the band, although extremely satisfied with their near total self-sufficiency, are eager to establish wasn’t part of the wider plan. “The intention was definitely to get it out sooner,” Walter smiles, “but the way that it all worked, it was supposed to come
out in the fall then it was due to come out in the winter… It’s maybe a cliché but these things work out the way they’re meant to work out. We could’ve recorded an album very shortly after we did the tour two years ago and who knows what that would’ve sounded like? But it took us time to find the right people, make some mistakes and get everything set up properly. Things have worked out for a reason and I think we have our game relatively tight so it was pretty much the only thing we could control. It definitely
wasn’t by design.” “We were actually preparing about two years before,” Ian explains, “but because we made ‘Pedals’ without a label, the record was done before we really knew what to do with it. I recorded it at my studio but once we found a label to put it out, that was another process. The record’s been done for almost a year and a half…” “Jesus Christ!” Walter exclaims, “we did our part! I think as Ian was saying, we did this record on our own and the last record; we kind of filled a vacuum as the band. The deal was already there but we had to rebuild everything ourselves and this time there was no-one holding our hand and we just had the desire to see it through. When you have that dynamic, it’s more important to you.” In an age where the propensity to return and reform
in whatever lineup can generate the quickest buck (however reduced said lineup might be) Rival Schools have returned older, wiser and prepared to risk a legacy they created almost a decade ago. It’s not the fact that they are still around that should fill us with sentimental optimism; it’s the fact they feel they’ve got something to prove. “We’ve never been a heavy band or a band who you can go, ‘these guys are nu-rave’, and we never fitted into the emo thing first time,” says Walter, “and I think it’s more important than ever to hold onto your identity and nurture that integrity. All we can do is control the music and the effort we put into it. Once you’ve done that, all you can do is just let it go.” “We were talking about starting to do another record and getting together in the next six months and trying to write another one,” Ian continues. “I think we’ve wanted to make a third record for almost a year now but it’s been on the backburner. I’m sure that’s what we’ll be doing in the next six months…but you can expect a record within eight years,” he grins.
Albums of the year >
review This is how we saw the first year of a brand new decade
Writers: Chris watk eys da niel dyl a n w r ay da n ny ca nter Edga r Smith M a ndy Dr a k e M atthias Scher er Nath a n W estley Om a r r r Ta nti R eef you nis Sa m Little Sa m Wa lton stua rt stu bbs
High Violet The National (4AD) Released: 10– 05 –10 Like another of the US indie heavy weights, Arcade Fire, The National stand alone in the kind of music they make. Their songs are instantly recognisable as their own. Rather than springing from – or conforming to – any particular scene, the band defy generic limitations, making a virtue of idiosyncrasies and celebrating their uniqueness. They’ve been making genuinely superb albums since 2005’s ‘Alligator’ (their third), gradually gaining commercial momentum without losing credibility, and in 2010 ‘High Violet’ cemented much wider-reaching success for the group. It’s because ‘High Violet’ has no weak links – no temptation to reach for the skip button. It’s an album that can be listened to in its entirety as a standalone, coherent whole, while the rich orchestration of the music places it high above the limitations of dumb guitar‘n‘drums stodginess. Opener ‘Terrible Love’ pitches you into the whirlwind, building to a climax of drama and emotional intensity, and for the rest of the album there’s no let-up. As much as anything, it’s a showcase for the intelligent, soul-baring lyrics and rich, deep vocals of their awkwardly disposed frontman Matt Berninger. Upon its release in the spring, we dizzyingly eulogised about ‘High Violet’; its tumultuous climaxes; its cathartic releases; its heartbreaking majesty. With the passage of this time, these gushes of praise remain undiminished. The album still has the capacity to provoke sorrow, joy and a wordless, allenveloping emotional liberation, and The National achieve this without recourse to melodrama or bombast: just quietly powerful, assured songwriting. It is a majestic piece of music. CW
in evening air Future islan ds (Thrill Jockey) Released: 17– 05 –10
Photography by Phil Sharp and Gabriel Green
You can be fairly sure amongst the ribbons of ‘end of year lists’ doing the rounds Future Islands’ ‘In Evening Air’ won’t feature in too many. That’s because it crept out to little fanfare back in May. But the wider public’s loss is our gain. Consistently fantastic, the most impressive element of this album is leadsinger Samuel T Herring’s (we say singer, it’s more like the low growl of a pissed off guard dog) vocals. He lays his broken, bleeding heart over a canvas of throbbing drum machines, sighing synths and stark melodies, which, combined with his decidedly blue outlook, makes for a harrowing, yet addictive, listen. They call it “post-wave”, whatever that means. All we know is that it lifts, drops, twists and turns like all great alternative pop records (see highlights ‘Tin Man’, ‘Walking Through That Door’ and ‘Swept Inside’). “We wanted to make something a bit more meaningful,” Herring told us when trying to explain the Baltimore trio’s second full length effort. “A truly balanced, complete piece of work.” Mission accomplished, spectacularly. OT
Turning On Cloud Nothings
Grinderman 2 Gr inder man
(Wichita) Released: 25 –10 –10
(Mute) Released: 13– 09–10
(True Panther Sounds) Released: 20– 09 –10
‘Turning On’ is a record that fizzled and sparked when you put it on your stereo. It was lively, enigmatic and youthful, and the best bit is that it just seemed to come from nowhere. We now know that nowhere was the bedroom of eighteen-year-old Dylan Baldi and that it was a record that captured the agitated and accelerative manner that most eighteen-yearolds can only apply to girls or getting drunk. It was a ramshackle collection (essentially demos) but even under the grain, under the dirt of the fingernails, was glistening and gleaming pop nuggets of gold. ‘Turning On’ seemed to seamlessly co-exist between these two outlets and as a result it was utterly charming, scrappy and catchy all in equal abundant share. The youth it both represented and presented was a vital and much needed injection that resulted in a genuine sense of excitement and giddiness, and by doing so it had the intended effect, leaving you feeling young, frivolous and care-free, and for those forty minutes that’s a wonderful feeling to experience. DDW
You get the impression they called it ‘Grinderman 2’ on purpose, rather than for lack of a better name. After all, much about the second album from Nick Cave’s side project felt like a sequel: the lavish 30-second “trailers” that hyped the album two months before its release, the beefier sense of intent, the higher production values. Like the first record, this was an album of theatrical villainy and stylised gore, played by dashing men whose ages suggest they really should know better. But unlike its predecessor there was now more poise to the carnage: the blasts on standout tracks ‘Wormtamer’ and ‘When My Baby Comes’ felt like careful craft rather than indiscriminate bloodletting, and there was distinctly less comedy too. Cave scored two films between Grinderman’s two albums; a process that manifested itself here in a cinematic sense of violence rather than the thrilling video nasty of its predecessor. The sense of abandon remained, but ‘Grinderman 2’’s more calculating malevolence made it even more exhilarating. SW
Because LA born Cameron Mesirow is a) female, and b) making intelligent, symphonic music that isn’t easily surmised, she’s spent a fair bit of 2010 being compared to Bjork and Fever Ray. And while there is a sense that ‘if it’s going to happen you might as well be likened to the best of ’em’ such comparisons added an extra pressure to the release of ‘Ring’ – a concept debut album devised on free GarageBand software, rather unbelievably once you hear its finished form. How ‘Ring’ coped with this pressure was by being made up of tracks as enchanting as the oriental ‘Glad’, the rhythmically African ‘Apply’ and the kraut pop hymn if ‘Mirrorage’, all of which are playfully complex vehicles for Mesirow’s haunting, weightless vocals that ultimately sparked the Fever Ray comparison especially. And when the songs are this capable of bewitching any listener and oiling their imagination, the added detail that ‘Ring’’s concept is that it’s completely cyclic – with the idea that all tracks are valid start and end points – is almost completely irrelevant. DC
Hidden These New Pur itans (Angular Recordings/Domino) Released: 18– 01–10 The award for successful creative reinvention in 2010 has to go to Southend’s These New Puritans (perhaps with Linkin Park a close second). ‘Hidden’ is an almost bottomless well of sonic constructions, assembled with a discipline, attention to detail and love that defies belief – especially considering that the man behind this operation was only 22 years old at the time of its release. For some bands, having an orchestra pop up in the album credits constitutes pushing the boat out, but band leader and chief songwriter Jack Barnett, after soaking up Steve Reich, dubstep and minimal electronics, integrated classical instruments into TNP’s apocalyptic drum and percussion sounds in a way that makes the results sound utterly and inevitably original. It came out in the same week as Yeasayer’s ‘Odd Blood’, and while the latter is an organic, fun record, its hits do not stand as united as tracks like the monumental, thundering ‘We Want War’, the beat-ridden, robotic (despite the children’s choir) ‘Attack Music’ – which includes the sounds of swords, shattering glass and handclaps – and the weirdly (TNP don’t do ‘normal’) tender mumble-core electroballad ‘White Chords’. Granted, there is little in the way of humour or a sense of perspective, but these normally commendable attributes would have diluted what is an at once desperate, crushing and inspiring record. The Barclaycard Mercury Prize nominations snub was a disgrace of fairly epic proportions (Villagers? Really?), but the Barbican gig showcasing this snapshot of modern misery proved that, when looking for no-compromise innovation and ambition this year, there was no way past ‘Hidden’. MS
Flying Lotus Cosmog ramma (Warp Records) Released: 03– 05 –10 Californian producer/sound-manipulator Steve Ellison’s previous album, ‘Los Angeles’, may have won him a small cult following but it was this, his third full-length record, that saw him cross over and flirt vivaciously with the outer limits of society’s collective mind-frame. Some may point to the fact that the guest appearance of Thom Yorke may have caused some Radiohead aficionados to sit up and take notice; others may point to his much written about blood-line as a point of interest. Neither accusation takes away from the fact that ‘Cosmogramma’ is a giant step forward, though. Rather then stay loyal to the ideas of rigid structures or reproducing conventional, tired sounds, what this record does offer is a highly complex array of twisting sonic structures that contort smooth jazz-inflected melodies to lazily tinged hip-hop beats. Veteran critics may have a habit of deeming it ‘challenging’, before politely casting it aside for a niche audience, but there is little doubting that ‘Cosmogramma’ is a fascinating album from a truly progressive electronic artist. NW
Vol. 2 Wooden Shjips
Crush Abe Vigoda
(Sick Thirst) Released: 29–03–10
(City Slang) Released: 20–09–10
‘Vol. 2’ is one of those albums that’s billed as “a collection of rarities and hard-to-come-by live recordings”, and that hardly fills anyone with great confidence. Wire-haired new kings of drone Wooden Shjips release their own records though, and spiritually they’re hardly the type of band that would cash in on selling us cuttingroom floor debris that we don’t really need. ‘Vol. 2’, then, really is a goldmine of cosmic west coast rock, from the far out jet purr of the opening ‘Loose Lips’ to the closing, fittingly named ‘Outta My Head’, which pulses to Dusty Jermier’s endless, five-note bass groove, which the band hang many a tune on. The real strength of the album perhaps lies in the fact that “rarities”, in this case, doesn’t mean “crappy demos”. The slow Doors-esque ‘Start To Dreaming’ was first on a Sub Pop seven-inch with ‘Loose Lips’ in 2007, while New York micro label Mexican Summer initially put out the band’s cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Contact’ – the only song on ‘Vol. 2’ that noticeably makes full use of a wah-wah pedal to a whispered, stammering vocal delivery by Merlin-a-like singer Ripley. A second cover, of Neil Young’s ‘Vampire Blues’, lends itself to Wooden Shjips’ cool drool and loose, psych grooves even better. It gallops on and on (as much as a band this louche can be seen as galloping anywhere), unwilling to stop, caught in a cyclic kraut-blues jam – familiar ground for Wooden Shjip to tread. It’s how they’ve made the seven songs of ‘Vol. 2’ last fourty three minutes, and yet somehow engrossingly far out instead of tediously self-indulgent. SS
Singing in a Robert Smith voice, dropping the scabby guitar sound of the record that made them a hipster favourite, turning up the synthesizers – on paper, Abe Vigoda should have made a terrible third album. And yet, by embracing their sombre side and developing a taste for 80s pop and cold wave revivalists, these Californian noise poppers managed to craft a rather brilliant record. ‘Crush’ oozes icy blood, melancholy and melodies – there are some killer hooks on there, notably in the wave-y, anxious ‘Pure Violence’ and the synth pop gem ‘Dream of My Love’ – but has the sense not to harbour too wide-ranging ambitions. Pulling the vocals out from behind the noise curtain of older material and adding a Martin Hannett-like muffle to the drums works wonders for already strong songs, but there are remnants of what turned many people on to the band in the first place: the rollicking drum patterns are still there, and the jangly guitar fills of old make the odd cameo. Sometimes, it is better to carefully edit rather than tear up the notebook. MS
Echo Lake Woods
Escape Moon Duo
Lucky Shiner Gold Panda
(Woodsist) Released: 10– 05 –10
(Sick Thirst) Released: 16/02/10
(No Town) Released: 11–10 –10
On more than one occasion this year the terms ‘DIY’, ‘lo-fi’ and ‘garage’ were all mistaken as meaning exactly the same thing. And so, propelled by the fact that Woods main man Jeremy Earl runs his own DIY record label and releases a lot of lo-fi recordings, his Brooklyn band were sometimes tagged a garage band, wrongly. ‘At Echo Lake’ marked the vast distance between the band’s campfire, hippyish stylings and those of a real garage outfit like, say, The Black Lips. It’s all in Woods’ delicate touch, best witnessed on the beautifully nostalgic back porch lullaby of ‘Pick Up’, which offers an idea of what Ganglians were trying for with their less impressive debut album this year. Earl himself is less Iggy Pop/ more Neil Young; singing with a rural strain even though he’s a New Yorker, and there’s a sense of summers spend stones in fields throughout, not on uppers on beaches with Surfer Blood. So, while ‘Echo Lake’ is DIY, it’s also a hell of a lot more besides. SS
If you’re acquainted with San Franciscans Wooden Shjips, then you already know what it’s like to be pounded by this kind of riff-heavy psych-revival rock. This is because one half of Moon Duo is Shjips’ creative epicentre Eric ‘Ripley’ Johnson, the other is his sampler-andpedal-literate partner Sanae Yamada. Just when we were still savouring the last drops of fuzztone and feedback of Wooden Shjips’ ‘Vol.2’ (that’s it at number 13), we got this – a four-track long-player that’s even better. It’s a similar affair but it’s underpinned with drum machines that serve to highlight the inflections of Suicide and Silver Apples, and it leans further towards dream-pop with brighter, almost Spaceman3-esque textures. That said, the heavy, dirty riffs and atmosphere of give-afuck stoner cock swagger are still very much felt and each tune is a memorable garage freak-out. Closer ‘Stumbling 22nd St.’ is particularly good, making us imagine we’re driving round LA, running people over. ES
Gold Panda began 2010 on a promise. On the basis of the excellent, genre-shifting ‘Quitters Raga’, big things were expected and in stark contrast to GP’s aloof persona the full-blown deliverance was always likely to arrive with a fanfare. From the clumsy, dreamy chimes of opener ‘You’ to its dramatic, operatic closing incarnation, ‘Lucky Shiner’ was an album wrought with personality: eleven pulsing, shifting, shimmering mini-scores wracked with emotional subtlety and unexpected warmth. Having named the album after his grandmother, there was all the rustling, comforting sentiment you’d associate with such a homage, but a backdrop of Derwin’s understated experimentation, laconic loops and earthy vinyl crackles cleverly and delicately moved the album away from being too Last of the Summer Wine. For all of the contrasting, resonating brushstrokes, it’s in the modest isolation of ‘Same Dream China’ and the wordless ‘Parents’ that we’re dropped into a
void of introspection; a delicately insistent xylophone and understated percussion evoking buried imagery of grainy, sepia-tinged family albums, super-slow-motion shots of raindrops hitting leaves and isolated walks through rain-soaked, neon-lit streets. And while ‘Lucky Shiner’ was an album inspired by familial warmth, it still burned with a theme of beautiful, contented loneliness that permeated throughout; seeping through granular beats and crystalline blankets of melody, dwelling on dreamy swathes or purposefully moving with every punctuated drumbeat. Finding a balance between ricocheting, tantrum percussion, big beats, iridescent synth-driven dynamics and burying introspection must have been quite the challenge to undertake; finding clarity to make ‘Lucky Shiner’ personal and ultimately beautiful took a stroke of genius. Where there were no words, there was fond recollection. Sometimes you just don’t need to say anything at all. RY
Nothing Hurts Male Bonding
A little over a year ago Male Bonding became the first English band to sign to Sub Pop. It was a big deal that, considering the trio’s penchant for grungey garage, and their vocalised love for No Age, made complete sense. They traded Dalston for the States to record ‘Nothing Hurts’, following in the footsteps of friends Lovvers and seemingly taking one more step toward full Yankee metamorphosis. They were Sub Pop’s English band who couldn’t be more American, or at least that’s certainly how the haters saw it who’d spent 2009 moaning that Male Bonding liked Nirvana and pizza over Chas’n’Dave and whelks. When ‘Nothing Hurts’ arrived though, any naysayer was swiftly silenced; not just by its shear exuberance but also by how English it remained. On tracks like ‘Weird Feelings’ and the more aggressive ‘Paradise Vendors’ early Nirvana references were still a plenty but a standout track like ‘T.U.F.F.’ – an ADHD punk track, spat out almost out of character for the band – had more in common with Blur’s brilliantly messy ‘Popscene’ than anything on ‘Bleach’. ‘All Things This Way’ reminded us of the never-cool-but-never-bettered-in-thepogoing-world songs of Symposium, and singer John Arthur Webb, despite the temptation, doesn’t strain out an American twang once. It’s probably unfair to pin the playful, nuttiness of ‘Pumpkin’ (all squealing high-fretted riffs and cowbell knocks) on the band’s British heritage (Americans are fun too, y’know), but then the fact that ‘Nothing Hurts’ is equal parts here/equal parts there is ultimately booted aside by the strength of its thirteen songs. When you’re jumping around to ‘Nothing Use To Hurt’ you have no time to compare its opening wall of static to those of No Age. Such matters are way too trivial. SS
Crooks & Lovers Mount Kimbie (Hot Flush) Released: 19 – 07 – 10 In a year where Skream can have top-ten hits, Burial can feature on Channel 4 idents and teen pop producers are heading ever more bass-wards, being “dubstep” carries less of the cultural cool it once had – surely one reason why Mount Kimbie have had so many daft labels pinned on them by critics eager to point out the fine piece of work that is ‘Crooks & Lovers’. However, with the benefit of time to digest, another reason might be that for all the “chill-wave”, “glo-fi” and other blog-busting nonsense that has flown about in the past twelve months, Mount Kimbie’s debut is fascinating precisely because of its slippery relationship with categorisation. Its twists and turns are a feature, not a bug, and make for an arresting listen: there’s sped-up vocals and moody field recordings (very dubstep) alongside live instrumentation and moments of spiralling aural bliss (very not); the record is book-ended by two beautifully homespun tracks, but they sit astride the artificial, the synthetic and the sheeny. Seldom does a track edge far beyond the four-minute mark; never does one feel overcooked, and the result is serpentine, pleasingly unclassifiable stuff. SW
albums of the year continued on page 31
Photography by Gabriel Green
(Sub Pop) Released: 10 – 05 – 10
XXXO M.I.A. (XL) Released: 13 – 07 – 10 Far odder than the fact that M.I.A.’s third album, ‘/\/\ /\ Y /\’, was free of all the high profile cameos we were expecting from a rapper lorded by Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne in recent years was that ‘XXXO’ wasn’t gobbled up by mainstream radio. If it had been a Britney Spears song – which it could have easily been – it probably would have recouped ‘/\/\ /\ Y /\’’s disappointing loss in E4 trailer royalties alone. Over glistening ’80s synths, the refrain of “You want me to be somebody who I’m really not” perhaps says it all. But whether ‘XXXO’ was M.I.A.’s long-overdue homage to ‘True Blue’-era Madonna or a cynical (or sarcastic) commercial cash-in following the surprise success of ‘Paper Plane’, it was definitely the coolest pop song of 2010. SS
Pass Out Tinie Tempah (Parlophone) Released: 19 – 04 – 10 Believe us when we say that we tried to ignore ‘Pass Out’, much like most people ignore a song when it destroys the charts, appears on an XBOX advert and appeals to fans of NDubz. We even fought it when Tinie Tempah muscled in on Snoop Dogg’s Glatonbury set to perform ‘Pass Out’ to an extra bouncy Worthy Farm. But we were missing out. From the GameBoy synthesier to its hammy drum’n’bass outro this embodies what made the 2010 MOBO Awards far more fun and exciting than the square old Brits. DC
Stephen Veronica Falls
Day Tripper Plug
Paris Café The Ar t Museums
Swim Surfer Blood
(Trouble) Released: 01 – 03 – 10
(Upset The Rhythm) Released: 15 – 11 – 10
(Woodsist) Released: 22 – 02 – 10
(Rough Trade) Released: 27 – 05 – 10
Found on the b-side of the almost as brilliant ‘Found Love In A Graveyard’ single, ‘Stephen’ is a rise and fall tale as concise as they come. In just two minutes twenty Stephen goes from the queue-jumping “king of everything” to a man who folk are saying has “lost his way”. Veronica Falls singer Roxanne stands by her crush though, cooing to twee girl group jangles that really do manage to sound more inventive than other’s inspired by Phil Spector and The Shangri-Las over these past twelve months. SS
London clatterers Plug managed to make The Beatles’ ‘Day Tripper’ their own by crossbreeding it with what may or may not be the lead synth riff from The Eurhythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ and interjecting lyrics from ‘Ticket To Ride’. So a fair amount of tea-leafing went into this standout track on the duo’s debut album. It’s quite the advert for petty crime though – charmingly resourceful like only DIY can be, surprisingly emotional as the band’s vocals teeter on cracking and a welcome newer electronic sound for Plug. SL
The Art Museums – a mod-loving/flare-hating psychedelic twosome from San Francisco – showed us just how lo-fi things can get when they released their debut album,‘Rough Frame’ (recorded on a four-track recorder, of course), in February. Too lo-fi was sometimes the case, but under the tape hiss were sweet Byrdsian jangles like that of ‘Paris Café’, which would have been totally dug by Arthur Lee and The Mama & The Papas in 1967. So sweet are the duel cherub vocals they even mask the extra naff drum machine. MD
Fuck slow, atmospheric intros – it’s all about songs that hit you with everything they’ve got the second you press ‘Play’. This rambunctious bro hymn was originally self-released in late 2009, but it was the Rough Trade re-release that made its way onto indie disco playlists in spring this year. There are classic rock riffs, drunken shouting, an afro pop guitar interlude, and then another glorious release of power chords and finger pointing. Better than anything on the album and 95% of 2010’s guitar-based music. MS
Fool’s Day Blur
Offline Dexterity Disclosure
Your Idol Cerebral Ballzy
Empathy Cr ystal Castles
(Parlophone) Released: 17 – 04 – 10
(Moshi Moshi) Released: 06 – 09 – 10
(Article) Released: 13 – 04 – 10
(Fiction) Released: 24 – 05 – 10
With lyrics like “Porridge done/I take my kid to school”, Blur’s first release in seven years may have been no ‘The Is A Low’ but it did humanise Damon ‘the monster’ Albarn and remind us that all of the band are or course mortals like us who even share some of the same mundanities of life. It was stripped back Blur; modest and simple Blur; hummable Blur; but most importantly it was…well…Blur. Nostalgia is worthless if it comes without a melody though, and ‘Fool’s Day’ definitely had that. DC
Brother’s Guy and Howard Lawrence were once into UK grime and Slipknot, respectively, and they’ll always be the schooled musicians of a prog-loving, guitarist dad and a professional singing mum, but these days, as Disclosure, they make ambient two-step. ‘Offline Dexterity’ is still their only release to date and sounds not unlike ‘Untrue’-era Burial – chipmunk chatters flashing by the endless Casio tones before a dubby sunset breakdown. It’s a taste of what could easily turn into an album of 2011. MD
Cerebral Ballzy have done a very good job of convincing us all that they’re dumb-as-fuck, maybe because they largely are. Releasing a debut single called ‘Puke Song’ certainly suggests so, but on the b-side of that limited release was ‘Your Idol’ – a hardcore track with something of a melody, whined and sneered out by singer Honor like a King of Leon with a working heart. The band have since deferred to a more speedy, standard hardcore delivery, but this more controlled brand of punk fooled no one. Ballzy do have some brains. SS
‘Celestica’ was Crystal Castles’ ’10 comeback single; their first release on a major label, and boy did it sound like it. It was airy electronica; ‘en trend’ and featuring Alice Glass singing as opposed to bellowing into a smashed, distorting microphone. ‘Doe Deer’ – also off the duo’s second album – was then way more fun but uncomfortably psychotic, while ‘Empathy’, with its sexier-than-JT-bumping-toTimberland RnB beat (surely inspired by ‘Futuresex Lovesounds’) and ethereal vocals, gave us the best of both worlds. MD
01 M.I.A. Br ixton Academy, London 10/11/10
HEALTH The Ruby Lounge, Manchester
Stooges/Suicide Gig Hammer smith Apollo, London
tUnE-yArDs The Scala, Kings Cross, London
Shakira Glastonbur y Festival
14 – 10 – 10
Before HEALTH took to the stage at this year’s In The City festival, all four members of the LA noise band could be found separately lurking around the basement hovel that is The Ruby Lounge, very much as four individuals, avoiding the gaze of one another. Then they got on stage and played the tightest set we’ve seen from a band who simply don’t do lax, even when they do. Much has been said about HEALTH’s seeming extra sensory perception and how they effortlessly navigate through half-seconds of silence amongst a mêlée of feedback and drums, and while that side of the band never gets tired to watch, what’s more baffling these days is how they seem to be getting better at playing their albums out live when, really, we thought they’d reached that ceiling some time ago. Alone HEALTH are four individuals; together they’re the best live band around…still. DC
Having seemed a novel idea a while back, you can’t walk down the street now without seeing a classic LP being played live. Now that they’re at saturation point it’s easy to see them as cynically capitalising on diminishing album sales and rising ticket sales. ATP’s Don’t Look Back series has always been miles ahead of the bandwagon though, and their pairing of Suicide’s first album with The Stooge’s ‘Raw Power’ in one night could surely do no wrong. Both records are musical revolutions in themselves; two instances of rough-edged creative genius that ruin any teenager who listens to them. Bunch of geriatrics though they are, they all smashed it, The Stooges even joined by ‘Funhouse’ saxophonist Steve Mackay, and the openers set the (ear-grating) tone with a still, chic mysticism. Totally uncynical, a wee-bit nostalgic but just as breathtaking a show as it looked on paper. ES
On the evening of England’s sole win in an otherwise soul-destroying football tournament, a real moment to celebrate: among the dust and bustle of Kings Cross, Merrill Garbus brought her tUnE-yArDs persona to the Scala for a show that was as beautiful as it was batshit; as tender as it was truculent. Realising a record as rich and untamed as ‘Bird Brains’ in gig format was always going to be a curious experience, but with the aid of two drummers, banks of loop pedals and that trademark ukulele, the on-stage incarnation retained the looseness and lolloping groove that mark the album’s high points. It should’ve been a recipe for sloppy playing and rank disorganisation, but among the chaos and guttural nonsense syllables, Garbus conducted a show with a light touch but impressive control. Warm and sensual, exhilarating and fierce, this is how all furious independent music should move. SW
While we admit that in our post-ironic world including Shakira in our Gigs of The Year List could come across as disingenuous, the Columbian’s Glastonbury set really was a highlight of the weekend, and we certainly didn’t have more unashamed fun at any other show this year. If 2010 wasn’t the year that Glasto nudged closer to resembling V Festival it was the year that all major weekend events caught up with the Eavis’ in terms of lineup. It meant that the decidedly ‘un-indie’ folk were the best bits (you could see The xx everywhere else). Snoop Dogg was a laugh to begin with but it waned; Shakira – admittedly looking far better in a tight white vest (which she soon doused in water) – had the tunes (‘Hips Don’t Lie’, ‘She Wolf’, ‘Wherever, Whenever’) to last the distance on the hottest day of the year as pure pop unified Worthy Farm rather touchingly. SS
Photography by Elinor Jones
Don’t bother looking for M.I.A.’s 2010 album on our list. It’s not there. She’s not made the clean sweep of best track, best gig and best album of the year. Two out of three is more than respectable though, and the rapper’s Brixton show served as a day-glo reminder that while ‘/\/\ /\ Y /\’ was one of the year’s most frustrating disappointments, its creator still knows how to throw a party. Granted, it was a short party (an hour in total, including a three-track encore), and sure, it was in full swing when we were hearing highlights from albums ‘Arular’ and ‘Kala’, but we didn’t care. Nobody in Brixton Academy did. Travelling light, M.I.A. walked onstage with two suspect ‘street dancers’ in gold jeans and a DJ, and then, stood in front of a screen the size of Brixton’s proscenium arch, ground her way through ‘Bucky Done Gun’, ‘Ganglang’ and ‘World Town’ in what felt like sixty seconds. The giant screen violently flickered with the kind of low budget gif files found on the most garish of Myspace profiles and nobody stopped thrusting to M.I.A.’s carnival raggeton hip hop until the closing ‘Paper Planes’, which we’d forgotten all about, even when gently bobbing to less mental newies likes ‘Teqkilla’. M.I.A. did us a favour – we’d have struggled to last longer than sixty minutes. SL
By Janine & Lee Bullman
A Rocket in my Pocket: The Hipster’s Guide to Rockabilly Music. By Max Dechar ne.
Falling and Laughing: The Restoration of Edwyn Collins. By Grace Maxwell
Book of the year by a country mile, A Rocket in my Pocket finds ex-Gallon Drunker, current Flaming Star and legendary London lounge lizard Max Decharne training his unwavering gaze on Rockabilly – the reverb drenched, slap bass sound that crawled from the deep South in fifties America sounding like nothing else and changing rock’n’roll forever. Where today we are assaulted from all sides by cookie cutter floppy fringed posho careerists clogging up Myspace with slews of indie drivel, A Rocket In My Pocket harks lovingly back to another world entirely: one where musicians both
looked and sounded genuinely dangerous and rebellion couldn’t be brought with Christmas vouchers off the peg in Top Man. Decharne’s book rides rockabilly’s ragged tail from its earliest rumblings as the soundtrack of choice for amphetamine gobbling gap-toothed Memphis hillbillies to its most current incarnation, via five decades of pomade and pompadour revivals and reinventions. And as with all of Decharne’s books, both his love of the subject and extensive research are obvious; the tone somewhere between wide eyed fan and learned scholar. If this book doesn’t make you want to get drunk, listen to Charlie Feathers and get into a fight, then you have absolutely no soul.
Richard by Ben Myer s (Picador)
When Orange Juice frontman, indie pioneer, vintage guitar obsessive and highly regarded solo artist Edwyn Collins fell seriously ill in 2005, the initial diagnosis didn’t look good at all. Falling and Laughing tells the story of how Collins, with the unfailing love and support of his partner (and the book’s author) and teenage son Will, set about overcoming the huge obstacle placed before him. The book offers a heartwarming tale of rock’n’roll, love, determination and redemption, told with more heart and humour than the miles of run-of-themill bios currently cluttering the shelves of your local Waterstones. A lovely, warm, intimate book which, despite the gravity of its subject matter, refuses to take itself too seriously.
Ben Myers latest and bravest novel is a fictional retelling of the life and maybe death of one Richard Edwards (aka Richie Manic); lyricist, guitarist and mascara’d masthead of The Manic Street Preachers. Edward’s story unfolds against backdrops of London, America and Wales over two decades as the unhappy young man trying anything to quiet the nagging destructive voice in his head joins a band, which then duly go on to make it big. But not quite big enough to quieten those voices. Myers treatment of his subject is sympathetic and sensitive, his prose is subtle and poetic throughout and the resulting book is a quiet, moving, understated gem.
At the beginning of any given year, helping us get through the desolate month of January is the promise of what’s to come over the next twelve months. Returning albums feature high on the list of things to look forward to, but sometimes those that we anticipate the most prove to be as uneventful as a second Klaxons record. Klaxons’ second record certainly did. ‘Myths of The Near Future’ follow up, ‘Surfing The Void’ (we looked it up – that is what it was called), was by no means an agonising listen, but how ordinary it sounded did sting a little. Having been re-written after Polydor rejected the band’s first attempt at a second album almost three years ago, you have to wonder if that binned record wouldn’t have come closer to recreating the lawless pop fun of the band’s debut. Apparently it was “too out there”; ‘Surfing The Void’ sounded like we never thought Klaxons would – conventional… and a little bit like Mars Volta. At least they finally managed to put a record out though, which is more than can be said for the laziest band on earth – The Strokes. Their fourth album (in ten years!) was slated for a 2010 release, but as January made way for
eleven more Strokes-less months the most we were given was a secret show that nobody could get into and a couple of festival performances that nobody wanted to get into. And out of those show, none featured a taste of what’s to come. Instead the band opted for sturdy enough greatest hits sets while apparently refusing to even talk about the new record in the few interviews they gave. The frustration lies in the fact that, even a decade after ‘Is This It’, they remain the coolest band in the world and one largely with untapped potential. But nothing disappointed quite like the virtual disbanding of Battles this year. They formed in 2002 and have only managed the one album to date, and now it doesn’t look too promising that a follow up to ‘Mirrored’ will ever be completed. Tyondai Braxton quitting the band to pursue his classical-leaning solo career is what’s stopped one of our most captivating live bands in their tracks. And while the remaining members have hinted that next year’s tour in support of a new record will go ahead, it takes a very optimistic fan to believe that Battles will ever be the same again.
The cassette format spent 2009 threatening to re-emerge and 2010 doing so. Out of the tonne we heard our favourite three were…
Mad Mind Sauna Youth
Treads EP Pipes
Dance Magic Dance Var ious Ar tists
(Suplex Cassettes) Released: 30 – 08 – 10
(Clan Destine)Released: 16 – 08 – 10
(Dance Magic Dance) Released: 03 – 07 – 10
Four months on from its release, it’s still impossible not to squirm at the sight of Pipes’ debut EP. Its cover features five severed cocks, and the four tracks within are only slightly less unnerving. It’s what made the twisted Dalston trio one of the most captivating punk bands of the year, giving us the blatantly scary ‘Scare’ and baroque horror show ‘Juried’, which, with its falsetto wails and axing time changes, rightly suggest that this band are more imaginative than a lot of the DIY crowd. They are named after the ghost from early 90s, shit-ya-pants BBC show Ghost Watch, after all. SS
Side B of Dance Magic Dance’s celebratory birthday tape is pretty far out, and particularly brilliant. Featuring two surf instrumentals by One Fathom Down and Phat Trophies, Please’s squealing ’70s prog jam ‘Sutton Hoodoo’, Bo Ningen’s wildly psychedelic ‘Koroshitai Kimochi’ and Bitches’ sludgy ‘Can Not Love’, it manages to show up it’s far-fromshabby flip side that’s focuses on DIY garage from the likes of La La Vasquez and Sex Beet. Rather impressively, all the band’s featured are past performers at DMD parties, which, when lumped together, makes the London promoters look very smart indeed. MD
When The Steal broke up, a lot of people were massively bummed out. To them, the band had been proof that intelligent, innovative punk rock still had a place in the UK music scene, and they severed as an inspiration to start a band or start putting on shows. Luckily, the vacuum created by the end of this band was filled by the very same people who had created it. Pacer, a cracking punk band, was formed by two former Steal members, while the other two went on to start Sauna Youth. The latter, although scattered across the country and committed to normal day jobs, have self-released a 7” and a handful of limited
edition tapes this year. One of these tapes was ‘Mad Mind’, a roughly recorded, lovingly designed bit of awesome that underlines just how important this band is. The struggle with and against external forces and demands is the idea that holds together snappy garage pop punk, looped ambient rock and a beautiful short story (courtesy of young writer Jennifer Calleja). The songs were mainly written by guitarist Lindsay Corstorphine (who emailed the song skeletons to his bandmates so they could learn their parts) and recorded on a whenever-possible-basis, but the quality of the songs does not suffer in the slightest. MS
In last year’s review issue we didn’t pay our respects to any one promoter. It wasn’t because British nightlife had taken a turn for the pointless; more a case that the best independent club nights – many of which became integral outlets for fiercely subversive new music – were difficult to tell apart. After their summer break this year, south London’s Off Modern proved just how square pegged their art’n’music parties are in London’s circular scene, and the ravey Corsica Studios (OM’s most recent home) was a fine new base for a collective intent on celebrating visual
artists and DJs as well as live bands. It’s because all three are treated as equals that Off Modern feels a lot more impressive than just another gig. The bands ending doesn’t sound the death knell; simply that it’s time to start dancing again, and dancing is something of a stranger to many a club nights right now. Grime, two-step, hip-hop and rhythmic guitar music will all get heard, and get all people moving. And if you need an indicator of just how good Off Modern is, drive passed the front door at midnight and see just how many people are queuing to get in.
It’s all very well us suggesting that our favourite albums of 2010 are well worth investigating, but let’s face it, twenty albums in physical form don’t come cheap. To make our list a little more affordable though, we’re giving away our top ten, slicing that record bill in two. So to be in with a chance of winning albums 1 to 10 off our list email the correct answer to the below question to email@example.com by January 1st 2011. Which album was number 1 in our end of year list last year? A B C
‘Get Color’ by HEALTH ‘Two Suns’ by Bats For Lashes ‘Primary Colours’ by The Horrors
All albums will be in CD format and we’d like to thank everyone who donated albums to the prize fund.
Stubbornly, valiantly or with a huge sense of stupidity, since its July release, KickingAgainstThePricks has continued to ignore the internet’s biggest benefit. Websites trump the printed press by being instantly available, but KATP aren’t interested in how soon you want their interviews with – and reviews of – alternative guitar bands. They store them up and, not unlike us in our obsolete fashion, publish them in one go, once a month, each time as a new issue of their online magazine. It sounds like an old fashioned way to use new technology, but it’s infinitely better thought out than most blogs and plenty of music sites without a magazine ethos. Which is probably why the Sheffield based site has earned itself so many clicks since the summer.
albums of the year continued from page 26
Swim Car ibou
The Nightmare of JB Stanislas: 40th Anniversar y Edition Nick Gar r ie
(City Slang) Released: 19 – 04 – 10
(Elefant) Released: 06/09/10
Way back in March, I doled out my first ever 10 out of 10 review in a literary display of effusive, gushing, fan-boy praise for Dan Snaith, Caribou and, particularly, ‘Swim’. So, if you happened to read it, and loathe every superlative-laden word then, it’s advisable to look away now because everything that made ‘Swim’ ambitious, intriguing and ultimately brilliant then has had a few months to manifest. Needless to say, it’s made ‘Swim’ pretty vital. This was the album where Snaith reined himself in, compromising himself with a simple doctrine of keeping it lean and clean. Where the previous ‘Andorra’ was bold and ostentatious, ‘Swim’ was contained and regimented; a filtered redux of Caribou’s
trademark ambition. Except it wasn’t; ambition was at the album’s core and Snaith wasn’t content to just let his tracks aimlessly wander (much), he wanted purpose and, dare we say it, a disciplined narrative. ‘Swim’ was an album born of consideration and contemplation, masterminded by its author’s intelligent design to make it both potently mesmeric on record but flexible enough to allow Snaith to realise and unleash the explosive potential that makes a Caribou live set so invigorating. It glorified the focused, economic and efficient qualities Snaith so desperately wanted to instil, and while it’s an album that doesn’t possess that sonic killer blow, the threat to do so was deliciously always there. RY
Seeing as this was recorded in 1969, perhaps it shouldn’t be in our best-of-2010 list. Then again, it wasn’t ever released – Garrie’s French record label went Titanic after it’s owner committed suicide – and its appearance in any best-of list is long overdue. Kudos to Elefant Records for re-releasing it as it really is a lost classic; a sweeping film-reel of impassioned baroque pop numbers that seems to come and go faster than you can say, “better than ‘Pet Sounds’.” It’s beautifully recorded too. You feel like your in a small room alone with Garrie’s effete, slightly Syd Barretlike voice while strings that sound like sliding metal sheets and horn arrangements cascade over the two of you, even if Garrie himself
shied away from this orchestral richness. Though he’s now a French teacher, you can picture him being a folk puritan at the time, ambling piss-poor around France with his guitar, drugged to his eyeballs and falling in love a lot. No doubt, his wrangling over arrangements was a contributing factor to the delay in getting it out, although he shouldn’t have worried really. Though it’s definitely a sweet-sounding record – to be enjoyed like sugar in tea or wine in the morning – really it can’t go wrong. And if you’re a fan of ‘White Album’ era Beatles and are not convinced, YouTube ‘Ink Pot Eyes’ – a mercury-lined invitation to jump into the plasma pool, it’s not even the best track here. ES
King of The Beach Wavves
Photography by Gabriel Green
(Bella Union) Released: 02/08/10 However much we pretend that “it’s all about the music”, it’s not; especially in a bare-all age of twenty-four-hour promotion, Twitter feeds, blogs and bands leaving little about themselves to the imagination. Context is impossible to ignore and that Nathan Williams spend 2009 acting the brat and delivering two identical records so lazy one of them crowned our Disappointments of The Year List twelve month’s ago made ‘King of The Beach’ all the more impressive. Still recorded on a diet of weed and pizza, Williams’ third album was also conceived in a proper studio under the much needed supervision of Modest Mouse producer Dennis Herring, partly to make sure the skateboarding enthusiast delivered the record on time, partly to realised its creator’s goal of making “his ‘Nevermind’”. It turned out to be a smart move, the finished article ending up concise, focussed and packed with the kind of grunge pop would-be hits that Nirvana’s second album offered. Key to ‘King of The Beach’’s appeal was Williams’ reverb-less vocals – an insistence of Herring’s that allowed us to clearly hear the singer’s self deprecatory lyrics, which pitched this record far above anything else resembling garage punk this year. “Well, I hate myself, man, but who’s to blame,” goes ‘Take On The World’, while ‘Green Eyes’ sees Williams tell us, “my own friends hate my guts.” It seemed like the baby-faced stoner from San Diego had learnt his lesson and only the coldest of hearts would have struggled to forgiven him. The pop melody of the album’s title track was even more likeable, and Wavves’ new depth found on the dreamy ‘Baseball Cards’ – not a rickety, fuzzy punk song at all, but rather a beautiful and sad love song. It’s still about weed because Nathan Williams hasn’t completely change, thankfully. SS
Treats Sleigh Bells
(Young God) Released: 20– 09 –10
(Mon & Pop/Columbia)Released: 21– 06 –10
It’s sad how many new bands – hot new bands with enough self-belief for the whole ‘First we take Manhattan’ trip – ‘die’ on their second or third album, or even earlier. Sometimes, whatever special quality their demos seemed to have evaporate on their first release. Putting 2010’s bunch of young hopefuls to shame were Michael Gira and Swans: a Room 101 of a band that Gira restarted after a 13-year hiatus. ‘My Father…’ meshes together the gun-down-your-throat feeling evoked by Swan’s first records and the poignant, more dulcet sounds of their leader’s later work, and it does so perfectly. Swans’ twelfth LP is carried by its arrangements. Only opener ‘No Words/No Thoughts’ and the Devendra Banhart-featuring ‘You Fucking
People Make Me Sick’ were written as “Swans songs”, but epic twelve-hour studio sessions turned what were acoustic solo pieces into a catalogue of swarming, densely-patterned head trips. Poetic abstractions combined with themes of obsession, human origin and punishment, woven-through with sex jokes and sex not-jokes that go past disturbing and ensure the lyrics stay on the same fucked-up: beautiful ratio as the music. This was just as visceral and hallucinatory when played live, October’s Koko show being equal parts hipstergasm and pilgrimage of inspired youth. It was proof, if needed, that Swans’ vital signs are still hitting unreal peaks. Let’s hope those that were listening can leech off their beautiful, fucked-up lifeblood. ES
History dictates that each year there is at least one band that will emerge from the seismic undercurrents of Brooklyn, New York, and go on to have a sudden large-scale rise to notoriety; one that reverberates throughout the media, beyond Pitchfork.com, and ensures them a place amongst the higher echelons of near every End of Year List published. Many would have laid all there chips on The Drums being that band in 2010 but it is Sleigh Bells who have gallantly trotted their way to the honour at year’s close. Though many could passionately canonise their finely tuned blend of distorted noise pop as being the type of hipster-adored nonsense that only connects with a handful of people in each of the world’s major cities (fashion fans, not music fans etc.),
there is little denying that this M.I.A.-approved and signed duo of Derek E. Miller and Alexis Krauss have cooked up a debut album that positively bustles with frustrated energy, gnarly synthetic beats and acutely channelled anger. And via the viciously pent-up power chord riffs (born from Miller’s hardcore punk past), and vocals that flit between hip-hop sass and being almost coquettish (thanks to Krauss’ pop history), ‘Treats’ was the year’s best party record, with as sense of beastly fun that overshadowed the duo’s aesthetic and hipster tag. Whether people will be looking back and proclaiming this to be a contender for Album of The Decade in just under ten years time is another matter, but right now this is an album that needs to be enjoyed. NW
Photography by Stuart Stubbs and Gabriel Green
My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky Swans
The Fool War paint (Rough Trade) Released: 25/10/10
‘The Fool’ being our number one album of the year certainly wasn’t a given from our very first listen. Not like last year when we instantly fell for Bat For Lashes’ ‘Two Suns’. Now it’s with no mild embarrassment that we say we initially found Warpaint’s debut album “okay”, even if such a time does suddenly feel like a lifetime ago. Of course it’s our favourite album of the year – it’s the record we worked hardest at, and, as is often the case, it’s the album that rewarded that hard work the most. After all, nothing really good comes easy and in any given year all released albums unwittingly enter a tortoise and hare style race, the slow burners justly beating those that offered a quick fix, usually in the height of the summer when our better judgement is frolicking in a field or on a beach somewhere.
But why did we bother slogging away at ‘The Fool’ and not others? What made us keep putting on an “okay” album? Well, we don’t know, but the answer must lie somewhere in the opening, wholly sultry ‘Set Your Arms Down’ – a track that is as confidently patient as the whole of this record transpires to be, gently lolloping on for three minutes before a final surge of arpeggios rise with building, understated drums. There was something about it that prevented us from switching off, and something about the following ‘Warpaint’ too, which offered more subtle guitar tones and angelic, layered vocals. ‘Bees’ was a more instantly excitable track, featuring lyrics entwined in mathy riffs and a thumping semi-break beat, while ‘Composure’ remains a favourite even now, boasting the most obvious vocal hook on the album, which
comes after a chanting intro that sounds like the band playing a schoolyard skipping game. It would be totally unexpected if Warpaint weren’t so clearly the lawless types. Each track can go anywhere, and more often than not they do. There are moments of psych (‘Set Your Arms Down’), folk (the totally acoustic and heartbreaking ‘Baby’) and even dark electronics on the haunting ‘Majesty’. It’s not to prevent the usual pigeonholing (although it does neatly do that too), but rather because Warpaint start each track with no particular destination in mind, or at least that’s how it seems. It means that we can’t offer a snappy summation of what genre ‘The Fool’ should be filed in, and we still can’t quite point out what it is that we like so much about it either, but we definitely do like it more than any other album released in 2010. MD
re JAN vi 11 ews A l bums 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Anna Calvi Beards British Sea Power Cold War Kids Death Deerhoof Esben & The Witch Fujiya And Miyagi Funeral Party Harrys Gym Hype Williams Jonny Le Sera MEN Minks Phil Manley Sea of Bees Sore Eros Suuns Thank You The Go! Team The Moondoggies The Streets White Lies Wire
Live 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12
Arcade Fire Beach House Caribou Gregory & The Hawk Interpol Plug Tamaryn The Horn & The Hunt Torche Trans Musicales Festival Trophy Wife Visions of Trees
The Streets Computers & Blues (679) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores Feb 7
Ten years ago an unknown Mike Skinner implored us to “push things forward!” and leading from the front he gave us two albums that reinvented UK hip hop - ‘Original Pirate Material’ and follow up concept album ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’.The Streets sounded like no one else, simply by being unquestionably British; documenting kebab shop scuffles over Compton drive-bys and giving us an alternative to the then unstoppable - but hardly relatory - raps of Eminem. Skinner remains true to his word today. He said the fifth Streets record would be his last and ‘Computers & Blues’ definitely is. It’s probably his third best record. It definitely features some of his best tracks this side of ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’. ‘Puzzled By People’ is especially reminiscent of Skinner’s early high standard, featuring a late
’90s RnB piano hook and an auto-tuned soul vocal like those found in provincial clubs when UK garage first emerged. ‘Going Through Hell’ – all faux rock riffs and “Do it! Do it!” lairy refrains – assures us that ten years on the game hasn’t quashed the geez or humour in Skinner; the double-dutch couplets of ‘Outside Inside’ that would twist and knot lesser skilled rhyming tongues suggest that The Streets might be getting put to bed prematurely. At the other end of the scale, down where the likes of 2008’s disappointing ‘Everything Is Borrowed’ stews in its misguided, commercial vibes, are tracks like the almost passable ‘Roof of Your Car’ (a song so breezily aware of its own organ pop heart that it’s most likely to be the album’s lead single), the even more annoyingly chipper ‘Without A Blink’ and the plainly sickening ‘Blip On A Screen’, throughout which Skinner expresses his love for a foetus on a scan. Thankfully, these three potholes on The Streets’ final stretch of road aren’t enough to disrupt our bon voyage ride too much. Once they’ve passed there’s still a weepy to finally
replace ‘Dry Your Eyes’ (although ‘We Can Never Be Friends’, as its title suggests, doesn’t share the same sense of optimism that that Streets hit did), a song of heartbreak via Facebook called ‘OMG’ and another strong highlight in ‘Trying to Kill M.E’, on which Skinner seems to tell of knocking the thing he loves most on the head – not music but weed. And before long we arrive at the final ever track on the final ever Streets album, which is quite sad. ‘Lock The Locks’ is as poignant as you’d hope it to be from a man who once gave us ‘Stay Positive’ and ‘Weak Become Heroes’. Thinly veiled behind a first hand account of quitting an office job and packing an anonymous desk into a box, Skinner defends his quitting by rapping, “Even though to most it looked random/my heart had left/I was going in tandem.” It’s the only track that references The Streets’ retirement, and it’s more matter-offact than it is sombre – the beats and reggaetinged guitars are positively upbeat. It’s a powerful parting shot, and ‘Computers & Blues’ is a fine memento from a real game-changer.
Fujiya & Miyaci
Talk About Body
Spiritual, Mental, Pyscial
(Domino) By Sam Walton. In stores Jan 24
(IAMSOUND) By Sean Denning. In stores Jan 31
(Drag City) By Polly Rappaport. In stores Jan 24
(Full Time Hobby) By Sam Walton. In stores Jan 17
(Secretly Canadian) By Laura Davies. In stores Jan 10
Anna Calvi is a half-Italian, halfEnglish south Londoner who appears to have just composed the rightful follow-up to Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’. Her debut album is all that Buckley’s was 15 years ago – grand, melodramatic and piercing, shot through with equal measures of doomed melancholy and spiralling euphoria, full of space and passion, idealism and heroic melody.With a rich, guttural voice and beautifully expressive guitar-playing that brings to mind Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti Western film scores, Calvi weaves darkly cinematic, romantic songs that feel classic enough to avoid accusations of cheese, and immersive enough to be utterly believable. A debut record this instantly striking, impressive and bold is a rare thing. Occasionally rough around the edges, it is, but as a 40-minute ride through such intense territory, ‘Anna Calvi’ is exhilaratingly breath-quickening.
Come on then, let’s get wacky. MEN are a trio spearheaded by JD Samson of Le Tigre who play vibrantly coloured electro pop whilst wearing boiler suits.That is what ‘art/performance collectives’ do, and ‘Talk About Body’ is proof that MEN do it quite well.Things start off with ‘Life’s Half Price’. An arty disco track, it comfortably defends MEN’s current live slots supporting Peaches, especially once its cutesy bounce dips into a darker rabbit hole where swearing is allowed. At over five minutes long though, it does go on, seemingly forever, and we’ve still got eleven lengthy, chirpy (like, children’s entertainer chirpy) numbers to get through. It doesn’t help that by track two (‘Off Our Backs’) it’s quite apparent that MEN sound a hell of a lot like New Young Pony Club. Glimmers of LCD Soundsystem aside, MEN are fun enough... until they’re annoying.
Being ‘punk before punk’ is quite a claim for a band, especially one in the “I’m sorry, who?” category. But have a listen to this, look at the years said band were operational and consider this: Iggy only beat them to it by a year or two, and the Ramones were nowhere in sight, let alone the Clash et al. In 1971, Detroit proto-punk trio Death (the best named band ever) stomped forth with their no frills, raucous, musical insolence – clattering tin can drums, neckbending guitar and gives-a-fuck vocals, paving the way for the likes of The Damned,The Buzzcocks, and later the hardcore scene.This record is packed with crunchy, snot-nosed punk, with the odd bluesy bass line and psychedelic riff – Death drawing on their influences and carving sharp, new, lasting impressions.This is definitely one of the best bands you’ve never heard of.
Fujiya & Miyagi have been toiling away at a very English interpretation of taut, pared-down funk for over a decade now. ‘Ventriloquizzing’ is their fourth and most sinister album, and would also be their best were it not marred by intrusively clichéd lyrics, in which people are up and down like yo-yos and others throw their hands in the air like they just don’t care.When the lyrics take a back seat, however, ‘Ventriloquizzing’ is wonderfully creeping, with a narrow-eyed slink that’s as aggressive as it is classy.The title track’s heads-on-sticks imagery and skulking synths invokes Stereolab at their coolest, and ‘Cat Got Your Tongue’ has a strut of pleasing oddness that only Radiohead have bettered in recent times. Elsewhere though, overblown vocals and crushing self-awareness leave an abiding impression of frustrated brilliance.
Ignore what your iTunes pigeonholes this as – ‘Zeroes, QC’ is NOT a pop record. From the opening bass heavy onslaught of ‘Armed For Peace’, Montreal born Suuns mirror Blur when at their best and Kasabian when not. Mostly, they are. ‘Gaze’ merges a Sonic Youth drone with scuzzy Nirvana-esque guitars, but don’t fear, the four-piece haven’t made an entirely grunge nostalgia album, even if they would clearly sell their grans to live in an era of Kurt Cobain haircuts and Pixies T-shirts. ‘Marauder’ is an unexpected change of pace and could launch into Foals’ angular ‘Cassius’, there’s traces of a synth-heavy Fugazi on ‘Sweet Nothing’, ‘Arena’ is Primal Scream during their dark days (so, all of them) and ‘Pie IX’ is what would happen if Bjork stage invaded an XX gig.These Canadians sure do keep this music stuff interesting.
British Sea Power Valhalla Dancehall (Rough Trade) By Chris Watkeys. In stores Jan 17
British Sea Power are the kind of British name you can trust – the Marks & Spencer of the indie world, if you will. Rough Trade stalwarts, it’s heartening to see Scott Wilkinson and his foliage-loving cronies still releasing decent records. A self-consciously eccentric bunch, even the title of this new album is tongue-incheek; there’s little sign of either Norse mythology or Jamaican disco to be found here (barring perhaps the steel drums on ‘Observe The Skies’).The album opener dishes out some familiar BSP riffage, but with a punky turn and some stadium-heavy drums, suggesting that the band have ratcheted up the quality on this, their fourth long-player. ‘We Are Sound’ is brushed with Arcade Fire-esque grandeur; ‘Georgie Ray’ is reminiscent of classic Buffalo Tom, ‘Mongk II’ is a hard-edged standout track. At an hour the album is slightly too long, and there are certainly one or two weakish songs, but ‘Valhalla Dancehall’, on the whole, proves BSP’s unique musical powers are yet to wane. www.loudandquiet.com
Al bums 08/10
Red Barked Tree
(Agitated) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Jan 31
(Thrill Jockey) By Nathan Westley. In stores Jan 24
(Fiction) By Danny Canter. In stores Jan 17
(Turnstile) By DK Goldstein. In stores Jan 31
(Pink Flag) By Polly. In stores Jan 10
This is an album that was recorded directly to a half inch 8-track reelto-reel without the use of any computers. As a result, it’s an album that feels textural, earthy and in touch with its components. Oddly enough, the ramshackle, lo-fi result you may expect from an analogue recording is in fact nowhere to be heard – ‘Know Touching’ is a meticulously executed and interconnected album. It’s also wraithlike, floating and fragile.The album carries you along, acting like the soundtrack to a dream-like flight amongst the clouds. It’s hazy, dense and wonderfully atmospheric, yet you are never far away from a pop song.The vocals are sometimes so intimate that they “whisper in your ear” as it’s aptly described onomatopoeically on ‘Pull My Hair’. Multifaceted and deeply rewarding, this album drifts seamlessly between pop songs and curious soundscapes.
The term ‘solo instrumental album’ strikes dreaded fear into music critics, label managers and all but the most dedicated of fans.They are often employed as a platform to create self-indulgent pieces by ego-laden people with little to say. ‘Life Coach’, crafted by a founding member of legendary DC trio Trans Am and now in-demand studio engineer Phil Manley, does not fall completely foul of all the usual road-tested demons and has resulted in a reliably steady album that predictably passes with little turbulence. But whether sounding like a motorik-hugging Kraftwerk on opener ‘FT2 Theme’ or swerving to an atmospherically acoustic piece with flashes of Indian inspired overtones on ‘Make Good Choices’, this album maintains a lacklustre spirit throughout.There are many good reasons why these kinds of albums tend to disappear without a trace.
This is where we’re meant to stick it to White Lies for being a successful, mainstream band trading on the good name of indie and, more accurately, the deep, gloom croon of Ian Curtis. But we’re not going to do that because a.) nothing is going to stop ‘Ritual’ from being a big fat hit next year, and b.) the trio’s second album – produced by Alan Moulder – is quite deserved of being a big fat hit. A track like ‘Strangers’ certainly won’t earn the White Lies Top Trumps card any much needed credibility points, because it sounds exactly like The Killers made it after listening to Editors, but ‘Bigger Than Us’ executes the brooding verse/epic chorus formula exceedingly well. So does the baggy ‘Is Love’, while Klaxons could currently do with the cosmic, harmony-happy ‘Peace & Quiet’.Very White Lies and, to be fair, very good.
Upon first listen, this – a joint effort between Welsh singersongwriter Euros Childs and 45year-old Glaswegian guitarist Norman Blake – you’d be forgiven for dismissing ‘Jonny’ as another piece of dull indie pap. But hold those judgmental horses, because further listening reveals it as a, perhaps not ‘out there’ effort, but a safe and tuneful piece of work.The duo have taken a heavy dose of Beatles pop hooks and added a dash of Dire Straits’ classic rock guitar, with harmonies of The Shins. Opener ‘Witch is Witch’ is a prime example of this, simple lyrics and beats building a bopworthy entrance to the world of Jonny. It’s when we get down to ‘Cave Dance’ that we realise just how influenced by the Fab Four these two are, as they drag out funfair sounds for ten minutes. It remains a worthy enough intro to music of the sixties.
There’s a peculiar emphasis in the press release that accompanies Wire’s new album:This record was written and recorded “with no guests”. Is this defensive in that the band didn’t need any help from some celeb whiz kid for the album’s conception, or is it pride in the fact that, after more than thirty years,Wire are still making strong, individualistic records with no gimmicks and no bullshit. While the sound hovers somewhere between the darkness of ‘Chairs Missing’ and the brash energy of ‘Pink Flag’, there is artrock vitriol in the vocals and a lean punk sensibility to the tight guitar work and spitting drums, much more reminiscent of the Wire of the 70’s. Deliciously articulate rant ‘Two Minutes’ is a highlight (“And you know what? Coffee is not a replacement for food or happiness!”) but each track is sharp and compelling in its own way.
Esben And The Witch Violet Cries (Matador) By Nathan Westley. In stores Jan 31
In an effort to neatly categorise, there are some that will try to package this enigmatic Brighton trio as either a British version of the highly lauded Zola Jesus or Fever Ray, but this is the point where the age old expression “banging round pegs through square holes” rears its head. Because although there are many similarities between these acts, through the course of ‘Violet Cries’’ ten tracks this easy-breazy comparison proves to be slightly ill fitting.With a healthy habit of marrying twitching electronics to ghostly, spirited realness. Esben And The Witch’s debut album can stand proudly as a delicately crafted, maturely dark album that melds an almost gothic vibe to exposed hauntingly musical backdrops and powerfully touching vocals that flit between recalling Diamanda Galas at her most controlled or the dynamically rich Beth Gibbons, which will surely only further encourage comparisons to Portishead.There is little arguing against ‘Violet Cries’ being a very special album.
The Go! Team
Cold War Kids
Mine is Yours
(Memphis Industries) By Reef Younis. In stores Jane 31
(Downtown) By Daniel Dylan Wray. In stores Jan 24
(Hardly Art) By Laura Davies. In stores Jan 31
(Thrill Jockey) By DK Golstein. In stores Jan 24
(Hardly Art) By Mandy Drake. In stores Feb 14
It’s always been pretty difficult to dislike The Go! Team and their uplifting, upbeat, jacked up on Enumbers brand of boisterous playground vocals, busy handclaps and infectious sunshine optimism. It’d be like hating a school play for the unconvincing acting or failing to crack a smile if a St.Bernard fell into an orchestra pit.There’s has always been a busy, vigorous sound that crashes and clashes funk, pop and freestyle into animated three minute snippets. It’s much the same formula at work on ‘Rolling Blackouts’, with bombastic Beastie Boys-tinged opener ‘T.O.R.N.A.D.O’ setting the early tone and serving as an instant reminder of Ninja’s bratty vocal delivery. Part maverick brass band ensemble/part Theme from M*A*S*H, ‘Rolling Blackouts’ is difficult to pin down but it’s pretty enjoyable for it, regardless of the undeniable sense of ‘same old...’.
There is a sense of ambition and enormity within ‘Mine Is Yours’. It feels big, or certainly like it has big plans. Sadly these plans fail to be executed and instead we are left with a gaping and unoccupied album – like the experience of watching a stadium gig condensed into a recording.Truth be told, the songs hold enough weight and the structures are progressive and uplifting enough to warrant Cold War Kids playing such stadium shows, but ultimately that will only appeal to a certain MOR listener. The echo and treble-ridden guitars are ever-present and evoke U2’s The Edge, which continues to emphasise the grand but vacant ‘Hello Wembley’ associations, but the hardest obstacle to overcome is how difficult it is to work out if you’re listening to Maroon 5 or not, which is a pretty rigid roadblock to try and break through.
Soft, slow, sombre… welcome to The Moondoggies world. It’s not full of fire eaters and dwarves offering illegal delights on silver platters, that’s for sure. Bun then they are called Moondoggies. It’s delicate, melancholic and honed. ‘Tidelands’, the Seattle sons’ second record, has a Band of Horses relaxed presence running throughout; so relaxed that by mid way my eyelids were heavy and I’d forgotten what I’d started listening to. It’s not going to set your world alight (see previous fire eaters), but if leisurely country is your thing, then let this unfortunately named band into your life. ‘What Took So Long’’s harmonies echo The Coral and ‘Lead Me On’ borders on Richard Ashcroft indie vocals, but that’s about as much spice as the four-piece are going to give you. Think plaid shirts, ironic cowboy boots and sombre smiles.Very, very sombre.
Three EPs in and experimental noise-rockers Thank You have finally decided to make a full album. Hurrah! It only took four years! But don’t expect the grunts and moans of ‘Pathetic Magic’ and previous works, because now words can be heard in the echoing, melancholic vocals, if not quite understood, and Thank You’s tracks have begun to resemble something akin to ‘proper’ song with structure.The Baltimore trio have created the kind of work that the likes of Yeasayer and Marnie Stern are producing at the moment, with polyrhythmic beats and erratic guitar/synth riffs, as on ‘Strange All’ and ‘Birth Reunion’ especially. Opener ‘1-2-3 Bad’ really shines a light on pop-hooks with a teethgrindingly high riff that sticks in your head as it skips over the headnodding drums and smooth, humworthy harmonies. It’s an exciting, full-of-energy debut.
The first track on La Sera’s debut album is called ‘Been Here Before’, and yes, we certainly have, courtesy of the band’s driving force and bassist,Vivian Girl Katy Goodman, not to mention many dreamy girl bands of late. Like Goodman’s day job, La Sera are a trio who’ve clearly gorged themselves on records that pre-date 1970, and like Vivian Girls, La Sera are proudly simple, which leaves you wondering, why would the bassist form a busman’s holiday of a side project? ‘La Sera’ is a more twee and sweet record than others though (cute where the likes of Dum Dum Girls are sassy), and it’s only occasionally – like on ‘Devils Hearts Grow Old’ – that the band pilfer the now tiring sound of Phil Spector.This album is more innocent than that, and it fittingly dives all the way back to the late 50s.The real issue is just how irritatingly hushed the vocals are.
Hype Williams Find Out What Happens When People Stop Being Polite and Start Getting Reel (De Stijl) By Luke Winkie. In stores now
Hype Williams is a hyper-nostalgic, ultra-sedated production duo from London who, like everyone else involved in ‘chill-wave’, add forever-young melodies, snickering references, and chemical-dazed inspiration to their low-rent tunes. Hell, look at the name of their debut album, and know that its opener, ‘Rescue Dawn’, starts with an auto-tuned baby cry and ends with an artificially low-toned recounting of favourite Pokémon.There’s not even a glimpse of straight-faced musicology in sight.The songs find life in padded drum, cheesy, space-opera bleeps, and muffled keyboards, but only hen they can actually count as songs, and a few of these tracks hardly can be (‘Untitled’ in particular is bare-bones ambient wankery, supported only by an acoustic drum-loop and a loopy synth-sigh). In an album that’s already only 24 minutes long, that’s not a good sign. ‘Gettin’ Real...’ is all gimmicks and games and not even the few moments of glory can make up for the flimsiness. www.loudandquiet.com
Al bums 08/10
Sea of Bees
Songs For The Ravens
Golden Age of Knowhere
By The Hedge
Brick by Boulder
(Heavenly) By Kate Parkin. In stores Feb 7
(Jive) By Matthias Scherer. In stores Jan 24
What Was Ours Can’t Be Yours (Splendour) By Tom Goodwyn. In stores Feb 7
(Captured Tracks) By Luke Winkie. In stores now
(Ouse) By Stuart Stubbs. In stores now
Sea of Bees surfaced from the mind of artistic loner Julie Ann ‘Bee’ Baezinger, whose hazy, mellow style is inspired by Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle and vocal songstresses Mountain Man. Cutesy titles like ‘Gnomes’ and ‘Wizbot’ belie the depth and sensitivity of her voice on ‘Songs For The Ravens’, softly enveloping the ears, and with a country twang and a wicked way with a big chorus, comparisons to fellow limelight-dodger Cat Power are thoroughly justified.The Cali girl can seem lost at times though, wandering dreamily until ‘Marmalade’ delivers a much needed melodic punch. At once, bleak and starkly beautiful, ‘Strikefoot’ then delivers a sharp, longing intake of breath, but it’s her hopeless naivety about the wider world that makes Sea of Bees so easy to fall for. Come next year she’ll be poised to fly.
Enthusiasm, generally, is something to be applauded.There is a line though – nobody likes someone who’s constantly going “THIS IS AWESOME, CHECK THIS OUT!” in your ear. Funeral Party are definitely more social gathering than interment, and aren’t afraid to show it – their sound references turn-of-the-century New York dance punk and usually bops along at around 120bpm. It’s not bad, but it has more in common with the annoyingly upbeat bits of The Wombats than with the innovation of The Rapture.There’s also a deflating lack of cynicism and lyrical bite (there is a line that actually goes, “It’s in the lines I’ve never read/with your bleeding heart and my cheating heart”). On the other hand, Chad Elliott’s urgent vocals are very strong, and ‘Finale’, with its gang vocals and catchy chorus does hit the sweet pop spot.
Harrys Gym sounds like it should be the name of a disco act that tours the grotty nightclubs of middle America, singing songs with implied over muscularity and bad innuendo.What they actually are is a Norwegian quartet who make music that could be very loosely described as ethereal pop. Their second album is built around the constant barrage of clattering drums, with choruses and melodies subtlety worked in around the din. Singer Anne Lise Frokedal has a vocal delivery not unlike Holly Miranda’s and Natasha Khan’s, but she allows it to be a lot more dominating over the instrumentation. Musically, the tracks vary between the echoey pop of ‘Old Man’ and ‘No Hero’ and straight-up rock’n’roll tracks like ‘Mountains.’ As a record, it both draws you in and keeps you at arm’s length, making it a pretty captivating listen.
Minks take you deep underground, into a swirling mixture of bleary melody and padded down drums. Like a darkened Beach House, the songs on ‘By The Hedge’ are chilled to delirium, sometimes – like on ‘Indian Ocean’ – reduced to a few twangy guitar elements. The blood does occasionally get pumping (‘Funeral Song’ is a sleepy-eyed jaunt over a rumbling Black Flag-like bass beat) but this is primarily music for meditation – slightly less saccharine than your average gleaming dream pop outfit, but equally placid. Minks spiral downwards instead of upwards. They shine with a sense of melancholy and while ‘By The Hedge’ is still a blissy-as-hell excursion in nap-friendly songwriting, the waters are murkier, the skies less golden, the subjects more human. It shapes into a serviceable sidestep from their contemporaries.
Nodding in time to Leeds trio Beards is pretty impossible. As this, their super limited debut album (there’s only 350 copies being pressed) proves, they’re a band who don’t believe in 4/4, standard beats and verse/chorus/verse niceties. A punk-band-doing-progressive-jazz, they define what it is to be manic. ‘Tried Searching (Search Trying)’ is a little funky as it dares to settle into a repetitive groove, but it’s a rare moment – most of ‘Brick by Boulder’ is full of free-formed jams that change in pace and tone as soon as you think you’ve worked them out, while singer Claire Adams sharply yells along to make Beards sound like Plug used to: simple and aggressive, and yet fascinatingly complex. And while ‘Brick by Boulder’ is certainly a challenge, often with grating vocals, its musicality does make it violently appealing.You just can’t click your fingers to it.
Deerhoof Deerhoof Vs Evil (ATP) By Reef Younis. In stores Jan 24
After 16 years and 10 albums, Deerhoof have never found their rhythm; settled into a neat, niche little groove, consolidated to the point where they could turn and churn out a few more identikit efforts.The fluid line up of those pervading years certainly contributed to the groundswells of bold creativity and skittering innovation that’s characterised the band’s busy output, and for a band cited and credited by a modern wave of celebrated acts – see Dirty Projectors and Grizzly Bear – the plaudits have always largely been deserved. ‘Deerhoof vs Evil’ substantiate the compliments.Wracked with off-kilter time signatures, strange falsettos and even stranger synthesized noise and flashes of genuine loveliness, it teeters between the confident and the calamitous; ready to fall in upon itself at any moment.Weird and regularly wonderful, in the same way Animal Collective set an intolerably early LP marker back in January 2009, Deerhoof have set a standard few can match.
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Trans Musicales De Rennes
Rennes, Brittany, France 08-12/12/10 By Edgar Smith Pics: Nicolas Joubard
We’d expected a dry, industry shindig; a chance for music biz types from different countries to come together, quietly applaud over-hyped bands and weep in the corner for the days when people still bought records.We were very wrong! Except for a handful of in-the-know music heads, no one seems to have heard about it in England, but Trans Musicales is a sprawling winter behemoth of live music that’s been going strong since 1979. It’s home for those thirty-one years has been Rennes, Brittany’s cultural epicentre and something of a cool younger brother of lame, old Paris. Setting can be just as central to the identity of a festival as the bands that play (just take a look at Berlin’s Melt that goes off on the site of an old quarry), and the setting of Trans Musicales has a charming and disorientating personality disorder.The action is split between the old town – all beautifully warped medieval buildings and cobbled streets – where bands play in the early evening, and the ‘Park Expo’ – a monolithic industrial estate with an internment camp vibe – where the bigger-
hitting bands go on playing past bedtime. Egyptian Hip Hop are the first thing we catch and, while they’re exactly the kind of hyped prospect you might want to quietly applaud or beat to death, their set is excellent and it sets the tone for the rest of the weekend. Lumped in first time around with the total nongenre ‘New Tropical’, they traverse hi-hat-happy post-punk and math pop laden with fluid white funk bass lines and North African-sounding scales.The sound system works for this band like the Iron Man suit, and clad in hi fidelity casing, their grooves turn the front of the (huge) crowd into a rabidly appreciative, heaving mass.They finish with ‘Rad Pitt’, their slightly vacuous-ifmemorable lead single, reworked and given a killer five-minute outro that’s held together by a filter-abused sequence from their frontman’s Nord. It’s a neat move and calls to mind Talking Heads’ ‘Stop Making Sense’, which can absolutely never be a bad thing. Trans is still run by its founder, Jean-Louis Brossard, a very likeable ‘heart attack, what heart attack?’ kind of promoter whose policy of
giving great slots to whoever he’s into, regardless of how big they are, produces some brilliant and unexpected results. It doesn’t work out so well for WU LYF though, who have a musical and technical car crash in front of a packed and expectant hall in town.They’re the Manchester hyped band who are still refusing to play in London, and now we know why that is. Also in the shit pile is another band who shy away from playing shows, not just in our capital but anywhere. Salem have garnered a reputation for being astronomically bad live and they don’t disappoint.That’s to say they are, as expected, very disappointing. Every time the guy raps (imagine Lil Wayne voiced by the rapist in Deliverance), the audience halves. It improves when the girl deadpans her simple, ghost-inthe-machine vocal lines but it’s underpinned by two-dimensional beats and washes of widescreen synth that belong on the soundtrack of some shoddy high school rom-com. By far the best French act we see is psychedelic seven-piece Sudden Death of Stars, made of hip, young purveyors of freak-
01 M.I.A. 02 A-Trak 03 Wooden Shjips 04 WU LYF 05 Rennes’ Students 06 Egyptian Hip Hop
Tourist Guide The top four things to do in Rennes once you’re bored of the bands P ray f o r f o r g ive n ess
Wash away the mud that clings to your soul in one of Rennes’ austere gothic churches. Our favourites were St. Aubin and St. Melanie, which are connected by a long cobbled arcade so that you can see and walk in a straight line from one to the other. They’re dimmer and more overwhelming than Rennes’ main Cathedral and make Westminster Abbey and St. Pauls look like bloated bus stops.
C h ec k-o ut F ran c e’s s o c i o-p o l iti cal bar o m ete r Rennes has a huge student population. While it might mean that the streets heave day and night with sugar-high fresh faces, it also makes Rennes a centre of bottled-up revolutionary sprit – ‘What happens in Paris, starts in Rennes,’ goes the saying, probably. Municipal police stand in droves on a number of corners, waiting for the kids to go ape-forprogress and there’s more than a bit of the ’68 look about Trans Musicale’s founder and his gorgeous Patti Smith-like wife. R eve l i n th e g lo bal d o m i nan c e o f An g loAm e r i can c u ltu r e 05
out garage and proud owners of an ace Sitar player.Their sound is permeated with strains of George Harrison, Jacques Dutronc and BJM, and talking to us before they go on, they let us in on Rennes’ small but enviably energetic garage/ psych scenes.They’re also promoters responsible for bringing over the likes of Ganglians to the city – here’s hoping some bright UK promoter gets them over here sharpish. Joining them in the freaky quadrant are Wooden Shjips, playing at half four in the morning on the last night. Guitar bands of their ilk are very thin on the ground here and that, along with the other-worldly quality of their tunes and technique, sets them apart.We hardly needed confirmation but, even after an energysapping fifteen-hour journey from Manchester, they fucking rule. Still, their crowd is surprisingly small. Half their would-be audience lie scattered around the site wrapped in shiny foil blankets and their own sick, but most of those still partying came for the likes of A-Track, M.I.A and Alex Metric.The latter, playing a live set at stupid o’clock, goes
down particularly well, even if he introduces his tracks like an estate agent showing you a slightly pokey higher state of consciousness.True to the general feel of the continent and France in particular, electro is the lifeblood of the festival. It oozes from every speaker and anyone who even vaguely works in this medium is well received. Finding slightly fresher bass-led music here can be hard but Magnetic Man are given a starring role on the first night. Signed to Columbia, their live AV budget is rumoured to be £85,000 and it looks like it. Out in the crowd, old school green lazers hover in indulgent retro abandon, while onstage a line of three Apple Macs shake the floor, the walls, the cartilage in your ears, and the lining of your nose till you are convinced the universe is going to implode.Then their MC, whoever he is, pipes up with some grandiose, hoarselyintoned, z-list bashment patter about ‘Three legends... come together... to form... Magnetic Man’ like a stroke victim reading their press release.While the backstage champagne
might’ve derailed him, the other three do surprisingly well, finding a happy balance between the euphoric commercial direction of their album and the more satisfyingly earfucking bass of Benga’s early material. It’s a testament to their stamina as, when we catch up with them a lot earlier in the evening, they looked like they would soon be joining in with those passed-out on the floor. In fact, they managed to sum up this festival’s refreshingly give-a-fuck party atmosphere. “Anything fun happened?” asks Benga. “Hang on a minute, you’re acting like you ain’t heard about us!” “Fuck!” says Skream. “I pissed over the cab driver...” Benga: “He actually did.” Skream: “I fell asleep with my cock in my hand and pissed over the cab driver.” It might not be everyone’s cuppa soup but there is definitely something impressive and infectious about the arms-in-the-air bonfire of body and mind that goes on here.The weekend is a dose of well sound-tracked oblivion.
If the milieu of centuries-old Gallic customs gets daunting, refamiliarise yourself with your contemporary, disposable existence. Grab a ‘Subway’, buy Call of Duty: Black Ops at Game and head to the Melody Maker Bar to drink under a large pop-art Union Jack. They’ve got everything we’ve got in England! And for all those who won’t eat McShit abroad on principle... ...Eat Rac l et te. It’s cheese, taken melted like fondue but it’s not fondue. You put it in a plug-in heater contraption that looks like a medieval torture device and then mix up the sludge with potatoes, different meats and, for the cholesterol-conscious, vegetables. It’s stodgy, indulgent food from the Alps but the true regional dish is a kind of sausage wrapped in a pancake and, of course, everyone loses their shit for wine, cider and Nutella.
beach house Concorde 2, Brighton 25.11.2010 By Nathan Westley ▼
Simian Mobile Disco. Pic: Sebastian Matthes / manox.net
Interpol. Pic: Lee Goldup
From being hardly known in January, Baltimore’s Beach House have quickly risen to become critically praised broadsheet darlings by year end.This transition has seen the central pairing of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally unexpectedly caught by surprise, and tonight they are almost embarrassingly thankful towards the audience for attending this performance, which largely takes from their third album ‘Teen Dream’ – an album that has connected unlike any of their previous and now comfortably rests in amongst the higher echelons of many of this years best album lists.Transposed to a live environment, elegant dream pop songs such as ‘Norway’ and ‘Zebra’ do not loose any of their immediate tenderness, the understated performance, which sees them accompanied onstage by a trio of colour changing triangular shapes, is perfectly refrained and compliments their shoe-gaze inspired melodies. On one hand, tonight’s performance is lacklustre, void of real presence and blatant onstage charisma. On the other Beach House have no need to be full blown. Sometimes it’s better to take the foot off the pedal and let the songs glide by in a controlled, delicate manner. Tonight is one of those times.
Plug The Nest, Dalston, London 01.12.2010 By Stuart Stubbs ▼
Tamaryn. Pic: Elinor Jones
While Plug have always been an impressively patient punk duo in terms of their notoriety, preferring to let people stumble across them rather than self-promoting via Myspace and other social networks, it seems that they’re more hurried in their song writing. Tonight they play just two songs from their recently released debut album, which, considering the Slits-y delivered hip hop highlights of that record, is something of a shame.Two of the new tracks particularly suggest that Plug have galloped on with good cause,
though. One sounds as close to a disco hit – and as far from their drums and bass punk genesis – as this band are likely to get; the other sounds like a the theme to Beverly Hills Cop. Hip Hop influences once replaced Plug’s skeletal guitar sound; now it seems they’re enamoured with dance music and the occasional ravey breakdown that begs for a tenminute remix. And ultimately it works – enough at least for us to not care that Georgie Nettell is no longer playing the bass guitar with her hands and keyboards simultaneously with her feet, which was always the neatest of party tricks at Plug’s early, nonhip-hop, non-dance performances.
Interpol Brixton Academy, London 07.12.2010 By DK Goldstein ▼
To et lThick waves of blue-lit smoke ripple over the austere silhouettes of Interpol while Daniel Kessler’s striking strippedback guitar – which, four albums down the line has become synonymous with the New York foursome – breaks through the fog.Behind the band looms what looks like a set of huge metal panpipes, adding to the daunting atmosphere, but the thousandsstrong crowd don’t notice; too absorbed in the baritone drone from Paul Banks, their eyes fixed on the stage as the grave-toned outfit pummel through the oddly catchy ‘C’mere’. Interpol fans aren’t exactly a rowdy crowd, but for this slightly up-tempo corker they try their hands at some light pogoing. Suited and booted in their dark outfits, Interpol look severe as they run mechanically through the Pixies-leaning riffs of ‘Rest My Chemistry’ and jittery newy ‘Summer Well’, but the little smiles betrayed by Banks and his crew at the end of each song keep the mood on the right side of airy. The band race through ‘Say Hello to the Angels’ at double time, which again gets people moving, even if a little confused, before finally answering the climactic cries for the chart-topping ‘Evil’ during the encore.What Interpol seem to lack in stage presence, they more than make up for in unequivocally slick skill.
Trophy Wife XOYO, Old Street, London 08.12.2010 By Ian Roebuck ▼
Arguably the blandest bilge to emerge from Oxford’s speckled collective the Blessing Force (musicians that include Fixers and Chad Valley),Trophy Wife are steadily turning heads with their meticulous future-pop. Disco with details is a palatable prospect on record but would their fey nature translate on stage? An initial sugar rush,Trophy Wife’s polished musical talent sprays a Mr Sheen shine over the start of the gig. Effortless melodies delivered with a commercial wink pepper the surprisingly busy venue but it’s devoid of any personality. Only the frantic drummer provides real presence, stood tall and hysterical throughout, his dancing bringing un-intended visceral humour to an otherwise static show. Like a light jog, little flutters the heart as each song segues into the next. A level of decency remains though, and Trophy Wife can still write a killer – ‘Microlite’ dances off the stage with sparkling vibrancy. Still, it’s easy to see them propping up the bar of mediocrity for some time if they don’t find variation to add to their delicate glow.The band themselves admit to playing ‘ambitionless office disco’ and you can imagine them sound-tracking your boss’ drive to work or filtering out of the tinny radio for the fifth time in a day.
Caribou The Warehouse Project, Manchester 20.10.2010 By Reef Younis ▼
In the kind of logjam typically experienced at festivals, the majority of the WHP was spent futilely trying to free arms, desperately trying to maintain balance and buffeting against angry, tousle-haired little nuisances who blindly, insistently and repeatedly barged their way through invisible space. But it wasn’t overcrowding – as always the WHP organisation was largely impeccable – that undermined most of tonight, it was the unfamiliar, sullen air of impatience that characterised the majority of the crowd. Rising
above the sweaty agitation, Caribou proved why they’re almost peerless when it comes to explosive live shows. Billed as Caribou X, their amalgamation of live band dynamics and a thumping re-channelled DJ tweak dispelled much of the vitriol, reducing the crowd to wide-eyed, exultant sky-reachers happy to create just enough space to hit their laconic groove. Playing out the majority of ‘Swim’, an album emphatically designed to be played live, the anthemic repeat of ‘Sun’ is given a new booming resonance; the surround-sound twinkle of ‘Bowls’ almost distracts from the rumbling bass thunder and ‘Niobe’ sings out like it could end the world. Staggering on record; superlative on stage: tonight is confirmation that 2010 was the year of the Caribou.
Torche The Hope, Brighton 26.10.2010 By Nathan Westley ▼
Torche are not a band meant for the large wholesale market, nor are they meant for any of the myriads that spin immediately from it. Instead,Torche are the type of traditionally primal metal band that fester in the lower profiled crevasses of a society largely equipped with short attention spans and fixated with quick fixes. Tonight in a tightly packed venue, the shorn-haired, workman-like American trio roll out a set that is simple in its core design and has very little added identifiable frills that separate one song from another. Primitive and unglamorous in its essence, the one hour set is a doom edged heavy riff-a-thon that smashes into the loud clattering made by a fiercely driven, tightly played metal rhythm section and straight talking, snapped vocals. Some will summarise Torche as being the type of band bred for longhaired head-banging numbskulls to positively enjoy; others will flash mocking devil horn hand signals and brand them as an alternative to cheesy retro-fuelled metal or emo weaned whingers.Yet this committed trio stand as an example of dedication for all those that say metal is a tired genre well past its sell by date.
Gregory & The Hawk Oporto, Leeds 23.11.2010 By Kate Parkin ▼
Meredith Godreau – AKA Gregory and the Hawk – is a fragile soul. Shyly smiling at the crowd from beneath an unruly mop of curls, her voice barely raises above a mutter. Put a guitar in her hand though, and her confidence grows, filling the room with the breathless swoon of ‘Doubtful’.The crowd huddle together as the lush arrangements of her records are laid bare, deftly finger picking as she crosses paths with Emmy the Great, via Nick Drake. Inspiring endless Internet cover tributes, Meredith often wanders into coffee house Emo territory, blending sweetness into her tales of lost love to soften the blow. Bringing out her harp on ‘Landscapes’, she suspends delicate Japanese chords from every crisp, clear note.Then, showing off her new, more mature style seen on new album ‘Leche’, she adds some substance to her whimsical flights of fancy. Despite hinting towards electro with the Four Tet style repetitions of ‘Leaves’, she’s more comfortable turning back to the confessional style that still inspires her sweetly obsessive teenage fanbase. Bringing teary smiles to the audience, Gregory and the Hawk could melt the hardest of cynics without having to try.
Arcade Fire Manchester Central, Manchester 11.11.2010 By Daniel Dylan Wray ▼
For an arena, Manchester Central actually boasts a degree of intimacy and atmosphere that most large venues are unable to provide – the venue an old train station, it looms overhead like a desolate aircraft hanger. It’s still a huge hollow-yetcramped space, but if anyone can do big and pull it off, it’s Arcade Fire.The subtleties displayed on their recent album transform into bombastic and energised romps tonight; the faster numbers become even more charged; the rather throwaway and wretched ‘Month of May’ is even transformed to become brutally
devastating in its effect and delivery, its extended outro an onslaught of noise that brings to mind the sonic molestations of My Bloody Valentine. ‘Neon Bible’ is all but ignored, but the ‘Funeral’ tracks feel as electric as they did all those years ago.When ‘Power Out’ is played, it explodes through the speakers with intensity, before it’s seamlessly mixed into the pulsating and rousing bass lines of ‘Rebellion (Lies)’.When you can predict the encore of a band, and in what order they are going to do them in, it certainly suggests that there is now a fairly expectant template to their shows; fortunately Arcade Fire do it with such relentless energy, erupting intensity and immaculate delivery that it’s rarely anything other than utterly beguiling.
TAMARYN Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, London 30.11.2010 By Chal Ravens ▼
The first Snow Day of the winter (in this postcode, anyway) and the sleety flakes drench your coat and turn your hands red-cold.You don’t even realise how much you crave the warm hug of fifty effects pedals until you’re standing there, dead still, a fuzzy cocoon wrapping round your burning ears while condensation streams down the windows. Singer Tamaryn is a statue of cool constancy as the air around her is bent and warped by guitarist Rex John Shelverton’s lapping soundwaves.You’ll know the duo’s formula, over-trodden in recent years – Kevin Shields’ hazy guitar, Mazzy Star’s distant sweet vocals, Cocteau Twins’ drum-lite dreamscapes – but Tamaryn execute the package with a confidence and control that just about propels them past pastiche. Then again, this Wall of Sound aesthetic always sounds miles better on record than in a pokey Shoreditch bar. Like a mug of the season’s mulled wine, the first tastes are rich and satisfying, spreading warmth to your toes and kneading your shoulders. But by the end it’s a familiar story, the soporific sweetness hanging heavy behind the eyes as you look in vain for an armchair to doze in. Revellers may enjoy a post-punk chaser to cleanse the palate.
The Horn & The Hunt The Drop, Stoke Newington 30.11.2010 By Danny Canter ▼
Leeds duo The Horn & The Hunt are impressively uncool to look at, like Les Savy Fav or Fucked Up, and not just because towering bassist/laptopper Joseph has more hair on his chin than his head. Singer/synth player Clare has Sister Bliss’ haircut, neither members are wearing shoes or socks and it really is hard to look truly hip when dancing to a drum machine.That said, the twosome have pulled an impressive crowd considering the day’s relentless snowfall and The Drop’s isolated location. And when they’re sounding like Kate Bush sings Fleetwood Mac (which to begin with they are) it’s hardly surprising, Clare wailing in black as if at a Stevie Nicks wake. From hereon in it’s a bumpy ride of highs and lows that peaks with moments of PJ Harvey (when Joseph rests the bass guitar and sets his synth to whiplash mode) and troughs with the band’s more wacky, disco numbers, one of which has Joseph deeply saying “Yeah” every now and then as if guesting on a cheesy Isaac Hayes track. If they can harbour and hone their brooding, shamanic side though, how The Horn & The Hunt look could be even more irrelevant than it already is.
Visions of trees XOYO, Old Street, London 06.11.2010 By Chal Ravens ▼
‘Tropical pop’ is a neat – if kind of crude – tag for those sun-drenched songs built on rippling textures, polyphonic rhythms and ‘primitive’ percussion (as if played by whooping loin-clothed islanders, maybe – told you it was crude). But over on the shady side of the island, where the vegetation lies in damp tangles rarely brushed by the equatorial sun, a cooler, dreamier kind of ‘tropical pop’ germinates. Visions of Trees add a dose of minor-chord industrialism to this darker side of trop-pop, like the twisted steel of a burnt-out propeller plane rusting in the
jungle.Without labouring the metaphor any further, the duo carve a downbeat niche from Joni’s mournful beats and Sara’s RnBinflected vocals, like the sadface rave of The Knife or Crystal Castles. Annoyingly, all that ethereal dreaminess falls pancakeflat on stage at XOYO, with the untreated vocals too plain and too high in the mix to chime with the lazy Liz Fraser comparison I’d heard.While the beats are interesting enough – if nowhere near ground-breaking – the show would be more captivating if VoT fucked with the good-girl vocals. There’s no denying the potential, but maybe they can’t visualise the wood for the… nah, I won’t say it.
Simian Mobile Disco The Warehouse Project, Manchester 04.12.2010 By Reef Younis ▼
There’s long been the perception that Saturday night crowds are the rowdy, rough, ready orcs, drunkenly invading town centres, trashing, smashing; leaving chaos and destruction in their grunting wake. Friday night, it seemed, was always the reserve of those after a few quiet ones - a sociable leisurely nightcap to the week.That logic stood up tonight. After the last embattled excursion to the Warehouse Project (that was it over there, under Caribou), the usual anticipation was a little dimmed but after Aeroplane’s effortlessly brilliant set, and a neat turn from Tensnake, Simian Mobile Disco proved why ‘Delicacies’ is a totally different beast in a live arena.With James Ford and Jaz Shaw almost at the end of their self-imposed vocal silence, the emphasis has been on SMD’s typically seamless production skills and with ‘Sweetbread’’s driving electro abrasion anything but sugar and spice, ‘Aspic’’s techno wormhole and ‘Nerve Salad’ obligatorily shredding dance floors, tonight was a set seared and ingrained on the memory. In the dark corners, things shuffled and scuttled; in the main room we lurched and barracked to SMD’s black techno beats; hypnotised, gripped by the static, white noise and screams; silently unanimous that nothing needed to be said. www.loudandquiet.com
film the best of 2010 By Ian roebuck
03 inception This year, opinions raged over Christopher Nolan’s ninth feature film.Was Inception groundbreaking cinema or a daft imitation of a sub-standard computer game? There are pretty sound arguments from both sides of the fence on that, and that’s exactly why it sits comfortably on any list.We were plunged into confusion right from the off and we continued to ask questions throughout, meaning that whether we enjoy the experience or not we had to hand it to Nolan – the sheer balls of it far outweighed most blockbuster ambitions. And if the heavy plot handling bored you silly you could still admire the huge performances, a memorable soundtrack and incredible special effects, which might not be true of the inevitable sequel(s).
Watching Jacques Audiard’s searing, muscular jail drama A Prophet brought two questions to light: 1.) had anyone captured the state of a nation with such vigorous, confident strokes before? and 2.) since when did Antony Worrall Thompson become so teeth grindingly terrifying? Audiard took four years to bounce back from The Beat That My Heart Skipped, but come back he did with pleasing brutality in both content and style.Throwing body and mind at A Prophet, he grappled with the screenplay before stepping behind the camera.We followed Malik El Djebena, a 19 year old Arab about to start a six-year stretch, and like Malik we were thrown into the lion’s den; the journey ahead not for the faint hearted. A fluid social realism flowed from frame to frame, Malik’s search for self surely having particular resonance to the growing Arab population in France, the walls of prison holding up a mirror to the country’s racial issues, but never in crude fashion. Two powerhouse performances pulled this remarkable film together. Malik is played by Tahar Rahim, a jobbing actor who randomly shared a cab with Audiard. After he proclaimed himself a fan and embarrassed himself somewhat, Audiard couldn’t get the Algerian born actor out of his mind, and indeed Malik’s transformation from petty criminal to world weary gangster is a master class in character development. It couldn’t have been achieved without the startling support of vet actor Niels Arestrup, though.The beardy Corsican jail lord Cesar Luciani watches and mentors Malik, his guidance shaping the young prison debutant and the film itself with vicious intensity. Smart, absorbing cinema doesn’t come classier than this.
OK, it’s not actually a 2010 release but Michael Powell’s 1960 slasher movie finally had a well deserved cinema audience this year. Originally launched the same year as Hitchcock’s Psycho, the film effectively killed off Powell’s career with its sleazy concept and shocking content. German actor Karlheinz Bohm plays Mark Lewis, an obsessive film enthusiast who murders women whilst filming their dying throes of terror. It’s a chilling film (Lewis hiding a blade in his tripod and enticing prostitutes with the glamour of a camera) and a beautifully made tale of a troubled loner, an expressive comment on an individual’s place in society and a remarkably powerful denouement.
the social network
How do you follow up 2003’s visually elegant Belleville Rendez-vous? Well for France’s Sylvain Chomet the answer was, ‘with more of the same’. His sparkling paintbrush in 2010 brought us The Illusionist, a love letter to another French filmmaker Jacques Tati (who wrote the film himself in 1956 but it never made production) and a poetic lament for the fading interest in a magician’s trade. Brought to screen with passion, poignancy and a genuine sense of fun, Chomet’s choreographed animation is a delight throughout. Much talk has been made of Toy Story 3’s ending reducing grown men to tear’s, but for real melancholic beauty this year The Illusionist shined brightest.
Although hard to actually like anyone in the entire film, The Social Network has to be the slickest piece of cinema in a long time. It’s David Fincher back to his best and Aaron Sorkin firing on all cylinders – a joy to watch considering all we’re talking about is an intelligent twenty something behaving like a spoilt brat for two hours. Jesse Eisenberg is astonishing as Mark Zuckerberg, managing to be a frustrating plonker who you genuinely care about and even Justin Timberlake comes out looking sharp, although his performance isn’t quite worthy of the glowing praise banded about in the aftermath of its release. No other film captured 2010 quite like this.
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22 Blenheim Gardens Brixton, SW2 5BZ
The Bull & Gate
389 Kentish Town Rd Kentish Town, NW5
Bungalow & Bears Division St Sheffield, S1 4GF
259 Upper St Islington, N1
35 The Headrow Leeds, LS1 6PU
Stoke Newington Rd Dalston, N16 10 Charles Street Gwent, NP20 1JU
12 Kings Court Glasgow, G1 5RB
17-19 Hawley Cresent Camden, NW1
Kilburn High Rd Kilburn, NW6
17 Belmont St Aberdeen, AB10 1JR
170 Uxbridge Rd Shepherds Bush, W12 Kingsland Road Shoreditch, E2 Parkway Camden, NW1
26 Chalk Farm Road Camden, NW1
Earlham Street Covent Garden, WC2
Goldsmiths College Lewisham Way New Cross, SE15
Hoxton Sq Bar & Kitchen Hoxton Square Hoxton, E2
Ice Father Nation
33-35 Commercial Rd Shoreditch, E1
Dyne Rd Kilburn, NW6
44 Essex Rd Islington, N1 8LN 14A Chapel St Guildford Surrey, GU1 3UL
Rokit True Vintage Rough Trade East Rough Trade West Rounder Records Sister Ray Soundclash Records Spillers Records Star Green Tickets Argyle Street Oxford Circus, W1
Tangled Parrot 15 Bridge St Carmarthen SA31 3JS
The Bakewell Bookshop
53 Oldham St Manchester, M1 1JR
10 York Rd Kings Heath Birmingham, B14 7RZ
9 Slater St Liverpool, L1 4BW
Monmouth St Covent Garden, WC2
6-7 West Smithfield Farringdon, EC1A
83 Bull St Birmingham, B4 6AB Matlock Street Bakewell, DE45 1EE
Chalk Farm Rd Chalk Farm, NW1
The Drift Record Shop 91 High Street Totnes, Devon, TQ9 5PB
The George Tavern 373 Commercial Rd London, E1 0LA
Kilburn High Rd Kilburn, NW6 Kilburn High Rd Kilburn, NW6 Hoxton St Hoxton, E2
Baldwin St Bristol, BS1 1RU
Stoke Newington Rd Dalston, N16
The Premises Studios 201-209 Hackney Rd London, E2 8JL
The Relentless Garage Holloway Rd Islington, N1
The Rest Is Noise Brixton Rd Brixton, SW9
Little Portland Street Oxford Circus, W1
The Strong Rooms Curtain Rd Shoreditch, E2
110 Grove Road Mile End, E3
The Wilmington Arms Roseberry Ave Islington, EC1R
The World’s End Camden High St Camden, NW1
Tom’s Record Shop 13 Castle Street Hay-on-Wye HR3 5DF
55 Camden High St London, NW1
Malet St Holborn, WC1E
University Of Arts London Davies St Mayfair, W1K
Brick Lane Shoreditch, E1
Wall Of Sound
42 John William St Huddersfield HD1 1ER
Grays Inn Rd Kings Cross, WC1X
I AM V 5 years of Loud And Quiet magazine
on sale now
The limited 12â€? album featuring exclusive and rare tracks from HEALTH, Telepathe, Gold Panda, Metronomy, Comanechi,Teeth!!!, Chapter Sweetheart,The Bitters, Christmas Island and Trailer Trash Tracys Available in store at Rough Trade Shops and Piccadilly Records, Manchester and at www.loudandquietcassettes.bigcartel.com
LOUD AND QUIET IS NOW CLOSED FOR CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR. WEâ€™LL SEE YOU IN FEBRUARY 2011, THE OTHER SIDE OF OUR ANNUAL, MONTH-LONG HOLIDAY. THANKS FOR READING IN 2010. x
party wolf tool list 2010
Fear ne Cotton
If you’ve ever seen a man more bitter he was most probably made of dog shit and lemons. Fittingly, the former is how Lovejoy likes to treat his guests and co-hosts on Something For The Weekend – a Sunday morning ‘magazine’ show so void of charm it makes David Cameron look like a real boy.The rumour goes that Timothy narrowly missed out on a big presenting job way back, and he’s clearly never gotten over it, bowling around these days like Rodney Trotter’s cunt twin as if he’s still showing off in front of Kasabian on Soccer Saturday. He is a horrible man.
Not everything Party Wolf says is completely true, but this is: A friend of mine went to see James Corden’s woeful World Cup TV show be filmed. He even managed to get into the green room afterwards where its huggable host was being hilarious after filming had finished.There, two young fans (seriously, they liked him) asked for a picture with their brilliant hero, to which Jimmy boomed, “I’ve just finished work! Why would I want my picture taken?!” He then bit one of their fingers off and inhaled a Death By Chocolate.
Watching ‘The Ego’ rejoin Take That this year was no fun at all… to begin with. Robbie was the ultimate fair-weather parasite, trading his spectacularly wrecked career for one that he’d arrogantly shunned when ‘Rudebox’ had him lost in delusions of grandeur.What he’d forgotten is that tortoise always trumps hare, and Gary Barlow was the former.Williams snaked his way back in though, and I was pissed about it, until it became obvious that he was a pity lay; the rest of the group seemingly ‘letting the simpleton play’, to be nice.They’ve killed Robbie Williams with kindness, helping out a washed up pop star who will never be loved enough.
Once you’ve been in one and a half legendary bands (and Monaco) it must be hard to adapt to a ‘normal’ milk’n’bread-buying life. Peter Hook, you must try harder! Sure, endlessly tell your friends and family about the time you made ‘Unknown Pleasures’ with a genius called Ian, but DON’T keep on about it to the world. And certainly think twice about touring postpunk’s definitive album on your own – you were, after all, the band’s bassist. Let’s not have a repeat of this embarrassing display again, Peter. Okay? Good.
Imagine you’re John Merrick. How do you go about making yourself look prettier? Makeup won’t do. Nor will a new haircut or outfit.What you need to do is only ever be seen with someone far uglier than yourself, like Ann Widdecombe, or a corpse. Fearne Cotton displays such savvy knowledge in her Fearne and… TV show, where the ‘ordinary girl next door’ (who’s dead famous and earns a six-figure salary) only interviews people more annoying than herself, and even then the likes of Craig David come across like far more likeable. Maybe it should be Fearn and Pixie Geldof every single week.
Chr is Moyles
Cher yl Cole
Big fat Chris Moyles’ big fat on-air rant about his big fat pay cheque being delayed for two months is of course one big fat reason that he’s made my 2010 Tool List. But I’m sure he will be again. Moyles is the highest paid radio DJ in the country, and the longest serving Radio 1 breakfast show host ever. And considering the funniest thing he’s ever done is call one of his friends Comedy Dave, you’d think he’d constantly be thinking, “Fuckin’ ’el, I’m still getting away with this. Better keep my head down.” It turns out he was actually thinking, “I know what’ll make me more loathsome…” And that is a reference to his Comedy Dave-less, TV quiz show.
Xenophobic speed twat Clarkson used to be my least favourite Jeremy in the world, and make no mistake, he could run over Richard Hammond in a BMW while shouting “I Love Germany” and I’d still rather him rape me for an hour than talk to me for two, but Jeremy Kyle is a far more horrific bundle of cells. He’s like one of those mad fundamental Christians that you find in George Bush’s trousers, only instead of exposing the ‘evils’ of alternative faiths (and lifestyles), he slams toothless half-wits called Dean who put his willy in a girl and made a baby. Maybe Kyle’s righteousness is fuelled by frustration. Maybe he needs a shag himself. Maybe Clarkson can help.
Cheryl Cole (it should be Tweedy again by now, right?) should have never crawled out of Simon Cowell’s arse. 2010’s wicked backlash is the proof of that. Unknockable following her divorce and malaria diagnosis,Tweedy (that’s better), on The X Factor, dared to disagree with her architect.This was of course no bad thing, but you can’t verbally slap the devil without expecting a sharp-tongued response, and you need to be ready for that. Chez wasn’t and, more often than not, wound up looking like a sulky chav brat who wanted real Ugg Boots!!!
Two comics, two Russells, two wacky, cheeky bastards who wish their surname was Brand.They’re not even worthy of a space each on the list and if loveable mole-witha-gag Michael McIntyre was on here too (which is now is), he’d not be getting his own spot either. If you were to make all three observation comedians (“Buses. What are they all about?” etc.) fight to the death though, it’s Kane that I’d most like to see meet the reaper due to his motor-mouth, third-rate Russell Brand impression that isn’t even worthy of the I’m A Celebrity… tripe spinoff he co-hosts. Jack Whitehall; chuck him in there too.
He’s back! Throughout any given year you probably forget that 4ft 5” funk pirate Jay Kay is still breathing. Sadly he is and this year he even wheezed out a new Jamiroquai album that could have only made Jay Kay seem more retched if it had been called something totally cosmic like ‘Rock Dust Star Light’.Which is was.
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2010 Review Special / Rival Schools / Stealing Sheep / CLOUT! / Tu Fawning / Marnie Stern