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My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

The Spine Tingler #4: Erland and the Carnival – Map of an Englishman

Map of an Englishman is the first the new material from Erland and the Carnival’s second album, Nightingale.

Named after a piece of artwork from Grayson Perry, the video is masterfully layered with etched drawings of bodily organs, which shrink and expand over the video to mimick the band’s  tale of  lost love.

Erland Cooper – a folk guitarist and singer from the remote Scottish island of Orkney – has written beautifully simplistic and direct lyrics that tell a story. Initially, this appears to be a whole new direction for the folk ensemble that includes ex-The Verve Simon Tong, and  David Nock, formerly of The Orb and Paul McCartney’s The Fireman. But beneath an unmistakably more heavily produced, deep, and rounded sound, the track is made up of the same nuts and bolts of whirring instruments, plodding rhythms and organs that made the first album such a magical listen.

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Ruthsmanuvas: albums for 2011 vs 2010

Just over one week into the New Year and 2010 seems like ages ago. The thing is I’m still so attached to some of last year’s albums that the class of 2011 is going to have to produce some pretty special stuff to make the products of its musical blood, sweat and tears a permanent headphones fixture.

There were a few albums that got shoehorned into my top five list come December 31, niftily sidestepping competition from Frightened Rabbit’s Winter of Mixed Drinks, Errors’ Come Down With Me and Hot Chip’s One Life Stand.

5. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

This 16-song epic flew onto my iPod in August, finally hitting that sweet spot with songs full of charm and honesty that packed euphoric whirlwind violins and piano chords.

It was a watershed of sorts for many people’s love of the American seven piece who, in the past, had struggled to straddle the line between the thrill of the orchestral Funeral, and the seriousness and lyrical craft of Neon Bible.

4. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

With an egocentric title of which you’d expect nothing less, LCD Soundsystem proclaimed this album in May as their self-indulgent last.

It’s not as instantly gratifying as Sound of Silver, but here, James Murphy and co definitely achieved their holy grail of balance between pretentiousness and perfectionism to create musical chemistry. From the stark opener, Dance Yrself Clean, that drops listeners off a spine-tingling bass cliff after three minutes, to the Bowie-esque All I Want and the sentimentality of Home that gives the band a softer edge, it’s a sublime album.

3. Caribou – Swim

Dan Snaith’s collection of intricately placed beats and stark lyrical proclamations made this record an unmissable, refreshing collection of dance tunes that completely challenged those flailing in its wake.

It’s almost obsessive compulsive in sound, and a total u-turn from the folky Andorra. It packs everything; from Odessa’s insistent beat that sounds as if it’s being played through a crackly stylus, Sun’s mesmerising repetitions and Mr Scruff jazz rhythms, to Bowls’ Tibetan percussion and mathematically timed chimes. Then there is Jamelia’s soulful loop and questions of ‘Am I good enough?’ that wrap this up into an album full of elegant musical nuances.

2. The National – High Violet

This one felt like a slow burner – so much so that it smouldered away in my music collection for a while before finally exploding into the consciousness in November.

Perhaps this, their fifth long-play album, mirrors the fact the band have been far from an overnight success. The truth is, High Violet is a masterful collection of melancholic writing. oozing with sorrow and beauty that sits just perfectly with Matt Berninger’s absolutely apt baritone singing voice. And in Bloodbuzz Ohio there might just be the lyric of the year with, “I still owe money, to the money, to the money I owe.” Just perfect.

1. Foals – Total Life Forever

The award for surprise of the year went to Foals in May, with a bolt out of the blue that delivered a mature, sensitive, yet wholly signature-sounding record.

It achieved the holy grail of completely bettering a debut whose math-rock rhythms and carnival quality felt so good it could’ve easily forced them to peak too soon. Some would argue TLF is a departure from the enigmatic, tautly plucked brilliance of Antidotes. In truth, they’ve still retained the percussion led breaks that burst midway tracks like sunlight through opening curtains, not to mention the rhythmic lyrics that double up as instruments in themselves. It’s just that this album also injects soaring, aching guitar riffs and pigeon-toed bashfulness that makes the listener feel they now begin to understand this Oxford quintet.

This all makes last year a tough act to follow – 2011 doesn’t whiff of box office big hitters. But over the next 12 months there are some albums I’ll be on the edge of my seat waiting to hear:

1. Cut Copy – Zonoscope

The long-awaited follow up to In Ghost Colours, Zonoscope is the Melbourne-based trio’s third album that’ll undoubtedly bless us with more sunshine-soaked disco electro pop.

It’s taken three years for this to drop, but if Take Me Over is anything to go by, we can expect healthy dollops of catchy synths, positivity-injected lyrics and more of the same ingredients that put the previous album near the top of record of the year lists last time.

2. Metronomy – The English Riviera

With an album title that either holds a slice of Devonshire coastline in basked glory or gentle mockery, this is another record that’s been a long time coming.

Nights Out was a further favourite offering from 2008 – it had charming dischords, 8-bit beats and riffs, and film set sound effects shoehorned into the fabric of its tracks. The album also boasted the instantly likeable Heartbeat and On Dancefloors that both felt like the soundtrack to a bad night out – or a broken heart. Oh how we wept and danced along with them.

3. The Avalanches – TBC

This album has been a year-on-year promise from a band that brought us Since I Left You over 10 years ago. But if the more convincing- of late – rumours are true, it makes them impossible to miss.

From an album that brought us that flute-led loop on Since I Met You, to the funk-beats of Radio – the band mixed sheer madness with sultry French Moulin Rouge, soul, jazz rhythms and more samples than you could shake a fist at. That is, all played through this scratchy filter that felt like you were sitting in a flat listening to the most brilliant house party though the walls.

4. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

Thankfully, there are now only a couple of weeks to go before the release of this album that A Balloon Called Moaning EP has whetted the appetite for.

With an epic maelstrom of indie rock and pint-sized Ritzy Bryan’s breathy and robust vocals, Wales and London-based trio, The Joy Formidable’s debut should match the swathe of expectation that has gathered around their music over the last 18 months. With tracks like Austere, Cradle, Whirring and The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade, their blistering paced drums and delicious wall of sound is unlikely to pass without impact.

5. Battles – TBC

Even the first listen to Battles’ Mirrored – the band’s first album proper – spoke of the madness within.

With an album cover comprising of instruments caged behind a glass box; it conjured images that this supergroup of four might just need to be reined in to maintain sanity. The tracks echoed that. It was post-punk, glam-rock, sci-fi computational circuit-boards, dance – and more that you can’t even describe because it’s simply in a category of its own. And that’s why I want more this year of whatever Battles were on in 2007…

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The Spine Tingler #3 – The 2 Bears – Church

This post has been a long time coming (over a month!) so sorry for my tardiness on the blog front…

Signed to Southern Fried Records, The 2 Bears are made up Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and Raf Rundell – a South London club promoter and DJ.

I first heard Church on Annie Mac’s show in the middle of November on a drive back home to see the rentals. Without wishing to plunge you knee-deep into soppyness, the sun was setting as Raf’s love-soaked, soft Cockney-vocals wove in and out of the melodic steel drums – characteristic of Hot Chip’s sound. It’s a little bit two-step, a little bit house, with a whole load of extra bits of influence from the pair’s DJ sets added in. At the end it even comes over all anthemic, so the line ‘Hey now, hey now, let’s get up together’ gets etched firmly on your brain for days.

I defy you not to love this.

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The Spine Tingler #2 – Underworld – Always Loved A Film

Underworld - Barking

So I’ve finally got around to posting my second spine tingler, three months after the first one. Ooops.

It’s rare that a track makes me dance whilst jogging up a hill in the pouring rain – but this did it last night.

It’s Underworld’s new single, Always Loved A Film. I’m a bit late on the uptake as it was the Zipper’s hottest record for July, but I’ve only just bought Barking and while it might not be the best thing Underworld have done, it’s their deepest and most melodic.

Always Loved A Film is a slice of deep prog-house with Karl’s beatific vocals and what’s more, the video features a bunch of ‘old’ guys getting drunk. Can’t go wrong with that.

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The Spine Tingler #1 – Chemical Brothers – Swoon

Sitting watching another England World Cup performance that’s about as inspiring as dry toast on a hangover, it occurred to me it was probably a good time to start ‘The Spine Tingler’ series – my song of the week, unreleased, new, old, rediscovered. Whatever. Just something that sends a smile to my face and quickens the heartbeat every time I hear it.

At the moment, It’s Swoon by The Chemical Brothers, from their new album, Further. Tom and Ed have a homely, ‘aw bless ’em’ feel about them, which makes their albums feel like comfy dance sweaters I’m always willing to shove on the iPod.

Swoon just feels a little bit special. It’s a lo-fi, somewhat slower paced stunner that builds and builds to a trip-hop, techno bassline, over breathy sighs and a hook that rings in your ears for days.

The Chemical Brothers – Swoon

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O2 Academy to open in Leicester

Leicester has been firmly placed back on the musical map as a touring destination for big bands with the announcement today that three new music venues will open in the city.

From September, Leicester University Students’ Union will play host to a new O2 Academy, opened by the Academy Music Group (AMG).

It will be the first East Midlands city to host the AMG O2 venues, with a large 1,450-capacity venue as the main Academy, 500 at Academy 2 and a smaller, 250-capacity venu as Academy 3.

This announcement boosts a city which has, in recent times, struggled to make its musical mark following the closure of The Charlotte and financial trouble at the Council-owned De Montfort Hall.

Plan-B will be the first act to play on October 28.

The original announcement can be found here.

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LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening streamed

This Is Happening - LCD Soundsystem

Well isn’t this a nice little pre-tour added bonus? LCD Soundsystem has one of the most , if not the most, hotly anticipated albums of 2010. And thanks to a leak way before the May 17 release date, This Is Happening is now streaming on the website. Thanks James Murphy!

Listen to it once, then listen to it again. That’s when you realise like Sound of Silver, it’s an electronic corker.

Have a butchers…

http://www.lcdsoundsystem.com/thisishappening/

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Hot Chip – I Feel Better Video by Hot Chip – MySpace Video

Hot Chip – I Feel Better Video by Hot Chip – MySpace Video.

Hot Chip’s video for I Feel Better has just been streamed on MySpace. It’s directed by Peter Serafinowicz and is a right boy band-bashing three-and-a-half minute gem. Watch it!

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Bestival 2010 lineup – first announcement

It’s the announcement I’ve been waiting for since I left the beautiful Isle last September. Here’s Rob da Bank’s first raft of artists to play Bestival 2010.

Dizzee Rascal, The Flaming Lips, Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, Gil Scott Heron, Chase & Status, Delphic, Echo and the Bunnymen, Simian Mobile Disco, Rolf Harris, Marc Almond, Ellie Goulding, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Four Tet, Kitty Daisy & Lewis, Stornoway, Tinie Tempah, Vitalic, The Cuban Brothers, Beardyman, Tunng Hurts, Gaslamp Killer, The Vegetable Orchestra, Ulrich Schnauss, The Twinkle Brothers, High Llamas, The Antlers, Archie Bronson Outfit, Beth Jeans Houghton, Mixhell Glen Matlock, Samuel and the Dragon, The Japanese Popstars, The Lost Brothers, Goldhawks, Countryside Alliance Crew, Laura J Martin, A Genuine Freakshow, Bookhouse Boys, King Charles Worship, Sisters of Transistors, Spindle and Wit, Starless & Bible Black, The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, Telegraphs, Tim and Sam Band, Unicorn Kid.

DJ Sets From Rob da Bank, Annie Mac Presents, David Rodigan, Ewan Pearson, Dixon, Greg Wilson, Huw Stephens, Jack Beats, Mary Anne Hobbs, Jaguar Skills, Joy Orbison, Horse Meat Disco, DJ Derek, Greg’s Greats, SBTRKT, Ramadanman, Seth Troxler, Untold The Broken Hearts, Back To The Phuture.

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New Hot Chip album – One Life Stand

Hot Chip are back. And if the rest of their fourth album is anything like the title track, One Life Stand, this return is likely to be as emphatic as Made In The Dark’s was in February 2008.

Self proclaimed as the antidote to aggressive, processed, digital dance music, the fivesome release this first single as well as the album on 1 February, shortly before they start their 12-date UK tour 11 days later.

As a single, One Life Stand isn’t as instantaneously catchy as Ready For The Floor, but it has infectious 80s drum beats mixed with steel drums, catchy keyboard hooks and the soulful, vulnerable vocals of Alexis Taylor. The clever composition is sure to translate just as well live as it will to the dancefloor – after all that’s what Hot Chip are good at – providing an electropop indie alternative to banal chart dance.

What’s more, if you do a bit of Youtube digging you can also find Take It In, which starts with a brooding bassline and siren-sounding keyboards, before a sing-a-long chorus suddenly breaks through the foreboding.

Made In The Dark brought us One Pure Thought, Shake A Fist and Touch Too Much. The Warning, the band’s second album from 2006, brought us Over And Over and Boy From School. So it’s a fairly safe bet that the tracklist will offer more of that feel-good, soulful and melodic dance, littered with influences from all over the musical spectrum.

01 Thieves in the Night
02 Hand Me Down Your Love
03 I Feel Better
04 One Life Stand
05 Brothers
06 Slush
07 Alley Cats
08 We Have Love
09 Keep Quiet
10 Take It In

Words written for www.themusicmagazine.co.uk

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