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

Cut Copy: HMV Forum – Sunday 6 March 2011

Cut Copy

If ever there was an ideal band to re-write the pop handbook so the genre could be cleansed and its image overhauled, Cut Copy would be the ones to commission.

The four knights in shining armour from Australia were on a rescue mission of sorts at London’s HMV Forum on Sunday 6 March, and succeeded in breathing life into an otherwise plastic, clichéd world of boy bands, poor Madonna and Kylie replicas and cringeworthy Euro cheese. Their brand of 80s-influenced synth pop unstuck the shoes of a somewhat static crowd, transforming the old theatre into a mass of flailing arms and happy faces.

Arriving to one of In Ghost Colours’ atmospheric interludes, Visions, the band appeared through an eight foot high panel with a door playfully projected onto the screen. Mirroring the album, they launched into Nobody Lost, Nobody Found, and in stark contrast, a Pretenders beat introduced Zonoscope’s Where I’m Going. This was neatly knitted into So Haunted, whose guitars hammered home the realisation that the band never really been solely about synths and beats, and its twinkling xylophone at the break also became a wake up call for the crowd’s dancing feet.

Flashing lights played with the techno beat and cowbell of Corner Of The Sky, whipping the atmosphere into a soft peak. But it was perhaps the most popular Cut Copy offering to date – Lights And Music – that ensued a frenzy to its immaculate sing-a-long-ability and perfect piques and troughs. Dan Whitford and Tim Hoey’s on-stage confidence visibly grew with the reaction to their pop chemistry.

After the blissed-out, beachy Take Me Over, comparisons between Pharaohs & Pyramids to The Orb’s Pink Fluffy Clouds became visual as well as audible, as clouds floated in and out against a bright blue sky on the screen behind the band, rather like a Chemical Brothers live performance.

Amongst the 12 tracks there was even slot for synth-saturated Saturdays, from Bright Like Neon Love, with its edgy 80s-come-funky-house feel. Nevertheless, it was Hearts On Fire’s deep bassline and pleading chorus that galvanised the band’s party atmosphere and prickled the hairs on the back of the neck. Its soulful saxophone was a deliciously impossible to refuse, textbook example of a hands-in-the-air moment.

A straw poll of the audience would have probably concluded that Sun God’s inclusion was a bit self-indulgent. Announcing, ‘this is probably a good time to take a toilet break’, the band’s 15 minutes of button pushing, freestyle percussion and woven synths – although delightfully anorak-ish and introspective – would have been better spent on three more tracks. It felt like finding out you’d missed out on a three-for-one deal after spending as much on buying the product on its own.

Aptly choosing to include Zonoscope’s Need You Now in the encore, the track was a new favourite with the well-versed crowd, who’d clearly had the new material on regular repeat since its release. Signing off with Out There On The Ice, the quartet were greeted with a chorus of, “Yes, no, maybe, is all I need to hear from you” – the backing ‘doo doos’ layered amongst other instruments to give the track a complexity that’s become so rare in pop, while the slow build up was dropped at just the right level of tension. Fundamentally though, this track is like a biopsy that shows the fundamental make up of Cut Copy.

In a nutshell, they make immaculate, un-soppy songs about love and life that are both complexly layered and structured, but sound simple at the same time. Live, you might have expected them to struggle to translate that magic, but instead, it feels like Cut Copy might be the new owners of the keys to electro pop perfection.

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The Death Set: Michel Poiccard – album review

The Death Set - Michel Poiccard

The Death Set’s punchy collection of 17-tracks is as much a schizophrenic celebration of musical styles as it is an obituary to a curtailed life.

After losing Beau Velasco to a drugs overdose in September 2009, you might have expected remaining protagonist, Johnny Spiera to lose momentum. Instead, through Michel Poiccard he has reformed The Death Set into a trio, who collectively, have created a dizzying concoction of genres and styles.

I Wanna Take This Tape And Blow Up Ya Fuckin’ Stereo is a five-second mark of intent for the Aussie-rooted America-based band’s 17 tracks. Slap Slap Slap Pound Up Down Snap feels like the punk offspring of The Prodigy, but much of the album is deeply rooted in early Beastie Boys’ hardcore, punk-influenced, hip hop sounds. Can You Seen Straight? Illustrates that, but adds a touch of The Go! Team’s double Dutch choruses and garage rock.

A Problem Is A Problem It Don’t Matter Where Your From and Too Much Fun For Regrets, run in that same frenetic vein amongst power pop and electro beats, only showing a tendency for cathartic lyrics.

The whole album is laced with memories for the former band member – We Are Going Anywhere Man is pitched amidst Tokyo Police Club-esque drawling vocals and mellow keyboard riffs. And Velasco’s ghostly, tongue-in-cheek nonsensicals are looped with art-installation instruments on Is That A French Dog?

I Miss You Beau Velasco, one of the best – and notably the longest – tracks of the collection, is a post punk beauty with piercing keyboard loops and echoing vocals. More blissed-out sadness swallowing riffs appear on 7PM Woke Up An Hour Ago, during which SpankRock appears as guest.

Michel Poiccard ranges from jangling memorable indie to metal rock – but the trio aren’t afraid of electronic touches to lift the mood and keep the music more party than circle pit. There are even instances where they teasingly pause at Public Enemy, before jumping back on their more characteristic high octane, hardcore punk, hip hop train.

There’s no doubt things have changed for Spiera since album, Worldwide, was released in 2008. In fact, a lot of the tracks on Michel Poiccard do feel like a cleansing process for him to get over and make sense of what happened, moving on with his new band mates.

What this record lacks in brilliance and cohesion, it makes up for in gusto. But then that’s always been the same for The Death Set. In fact, the album’s chameleon quality ends up being just the thing that makes it so appealing; especially during the pit-of-the-stomach, saddening album closer, Is It The End? In fact, by virtue the last track sitting in such stark, depressive contrast to the rest, Spiera probably accidentally, but definitely effectively, makes you want to skip back to the start – an analogy for the underlying feelings he  gives away over Beau Velasco.

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The Joy Formidable: Leicester O2 Academy 2 – Sunday 13 February

 

Matt, Ritzy, and Rhydian

With the build up to The Joy Formidable’s debut album and first headline tour lasting longer than the entire shelf life of some bands, this push could’ve been mistimed. But the threesome’s immaculate maelstrom of noise at Leicester’s O2 Academy 2 shows their ‘Big Roar’ hasn’t arrived even a moment too late.

Fairy lights and chimes acted as a clever disguise for The Ever Changing Spectrum of a Lie’s wall of sound that hit. If reactions to this and the other new tracks on debut album, The Big Roar had been muted at first, opinions were overturned after only a few seconds of see-sawing guitars, spat out, diction-perfect lyrics, and rib cage-shaking drums.

Chilling cackles introduced blistering paced, The Magnifying Glass – a track with complexities that exposed how tight the band has become – both musically and personally. The grumbling bass and familiar chorus of “aaahhhh aah ahh”s introduced Austere, which although delivered with polish didn’t spoil the band’s personality, as they reacted to the crowd’s ecstasy with bemused grins.

A clattering typewriter beat introduced the grunge of Chapter 2, softened by sound effects and half-whispered verses, before the force of Ritzy Brian’s chorus almost forced the body to leave its skin.

I Don’t Want to See You Like This encapsulates the essence that makes The Joy Formidable so irresistible – simple melodies that mask the difficulty of making a track that is both instantly memorable, yet good enough to endure. Tightly coiled riffs contrasted with Ritzy’s beautifully soulful repeated pleading of the track title over and over again, her expressions hid beneath the blonde bob.

Rhydian Dafydd’s Mansun-esque voice served Greyhounds in the Slips, during which a pregnant pause prepped the way for shouts to exclaim, “29, 29 equals gone!”, producing a moment you’d like to box up to take home. Perhaps more gloriously, an echoed guitar loop paved the way for drummer, Matt Thomas, to deliver a complex, eye-watering drum roll section that required visual proof to verify it wasn’t delivered by a machine.

Buoy’s haunting guitars paved the way for its metal and doom influenced chords, before crowd favourite, Cradle’s acerbic tones of an ending relationship.

The Joy Formidable showed the value of a pace breaker with 9669, nodding to their softer side. That said, even in their loudest moments the maintained that intimacy by showing how much they enjoy performing on-stage together. The revamped version of Whirring was played at each other, and with cheeky nods to Matt, Rhydian and Ritzy signalled the newly added drum section with metal-inspired double foot pedal rhythms that feel worthy of a stadium.

A Balloon Called Moaning EP’s The Last Drop was the first of the encore – its start-stop rhythms and repeated lyrics an instant crowd pleaser. Saving the best until last, most knew the breathily-delivered lyrics of The Greatest Light is The Greatest Shade. It’s initial slow rhythm created suspense before the track’s pleasurable snap into double pace, amongst a room filled with echoes of “Happy for you, happy for you” – a sentiment that The Joy Formidable built so much during the gig that these lyrics appeared to be sung back at them by the crowd as acknowledgement of the hard work they’ve put in to get to this point as a band.

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Cut Copy: Zonoscope – album review

Cut Copy - Zonoscope

To last the distance, a serious relationship must be able to get past the heady early days, eventually giving way to affection and security. Cut Copy could easily have failed to translate the surge of dopamine-excitement they created with their first two albums into something more long-lasting. But in Zonoscope, they’ve managed to maintain flurries of stomach-turning moments with a developed sound that makes it feel like a natural progression.

The original Aussie trio of Dan Whitford, Tim Hoey and Mitchell Dean Scott have now been joined by bassist Ben Browning. And together, they’ve delved deeper, producing an album mixed by Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter) that feels like calm after the rush of 2004’s Bright Like Neon Love, and the near-perfect In Ghost Colours of 2008.

A long build up on Need You Now piques curiosity for the new material, giving way to that familiar Australian vocal and altogether less familiar electro-minus-the-pop sound, prefixed by 80s tinges. Take Me Over’s calypso drums add percussion elements to the kind of Cut Copy sunshine dance that originally stole the heart, while its stories of love rely heavily on metaphor to ward off any triteness.

There’s a strong Beach Boys feel to Where I’m Going – from the cooing harmonies, to the off-beat drums and guitar rhythms. Psychedelic keyboards hark back to The Who, while the chorus, which at first feels a bit cringeworthy shouts, ‘Woah, yeah yeah yeah yeah!’. Any initial adverse reaction later settles upon imagining the response it would receive in a festival field.

Both Pharaohs and Pyramids and Blink and You’ll Miss the Revolution have a knack of smoothly soldering two tracks together. The former flutters in like The Orb’s Fluffy Little Clouds, yielding to Kraut-dance influences before a 90s keyboard loop bursts in halfway, sending unmistakable Cut Copy coursing through the veins with shades of melancholic New Order riffs. Breathy wooden notes and uncharacteristically low vocals punctuate the latter track’s suspense-coiled verses. In a Jekyl and Hyde twist, soaring keyboards and disco beats are reintroduced as Whitford declares, ‘Blink and you’ll miss the revolution’.

Unlike the frequent dreamy interludes of In Ghost Colours, the stark piano, dreamy ‘oohs’ and rewinding chimes of Strange Nostalgia for the Future make up the only instrumental segway track on the album. Escalating notes introduce This Is All We’ve Got, where Dovesy offbeat drums and electric guitar once again yield to quixotic reverb and see-sawing fairground notes. These blend into Alisa – a heavier, shoegazy track with a determined beat, served with Pink Flloyd experimental, ranging guitars that threaten to snap strings until the chorus releases the tension.

If unfamiliarity begins to reign severe towards the album’s end, Hanging onto Every Heartbeat’s fiddly chimes and twinkles reward loyalty by breaking midpoint, sending the track coursing through the ear drums. Corner of the Sky continues whetting the appetite for big beats and buzzing synth loops. Sun God satisfies, signalling Cut Copy’s bold intent as Zonoscope’s 15-minute curtain call. It drills ‘Are you gonna give me your love? Love won’t be enough’, into the subconscious over an insistent beat that batters you into submission with piques, builds, drops, and repeats.

This epic close is the emphatic full stop that should ward off any whispers suggesting the album is a disappointing come down from the heady, poppy positivity of In Ghost Colours. Those who fell for Cut Copy after Bright Like Neon Love will notice that – like all relationships that are built to last – the heady beginnings haven’t disappeared. They’ve just been blended with a new maturity and breadth of sound that’s taken them to new and better things.


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Flashman: To The Victor – The Spoils – album review

Flashman: To The Victor - The Spoils

The most successful stories are always ones that encourage the mind to imagine new worlds, illustrate tales and fill in blanks with personal interpretations.

Bearing that subjective visual imagery in mind, To The Victor – The Spoils, is Lemon Jelly frontman Fred Deakin, and The Beta Band’s Robin Jones’ musical story of a journey to banish a traitor. The six tracks make up a tuneful dual, but Flashman tell it through so many instruments and styles that it ranges from masterful to at times, a difficult listen.

Limited to 1,000 copies in either blue or red covers, the success of this album will depend on how successfully the tracks strike a chord with those that lay their hands on it.

Familiar Lemon Jelly-esque soft beats creep across The Proposition’s stark, mixed suspense-ridden dischords that speak of a beginning. Falling into shuffling drums and subtle ‘plink, plonks’, dense layers give it a scat-like structure that twists in different directions, punctuated by guest star, British-Canadian Wally Falkes’ jazz clarinet.

Deakin’s “jazz-folk-techno” description of Flashman fits well with Setting Forth, where a plucked bass bosses the frenzied tempo. Jazz pianist Brian Kellock’s guest piano dives in and out with Spanish fiesta notes, and there’s a brief pause to catch breath before the track takes the same course, only this time with a solitary pre-bull fight Latino trumpet.

Tight Spot merges a piano loop reminiscent of 90s dance with slow, bossa nova jazz beats. It’s mesmerising piano is the purposeful instrument, relaying with an ethereal hummed loop, harmonica, tabla drum, and clarinet.

Pitter-pattering rainfall pianos begin The Quisling – an odd, atmospheric track that wouldn’t sit uncomfortably backing a homes-abroad TV programme. Santana siren guitars weave with hold-music beats, but it’s the talents of Kellock stop this track fading away.

Guitars and a sung loop banish the doom-laden keyboards that introduce Redemption, and layers of instrumental repeat give the track richness and depth. It’s one of the few of the collection that could easily fall onto dancefloors from the hands of jazz-techno crossover DJs like Mr Scruff. The Flashman duo steady their listener using peaks and troughs, each time building the same insistent jazz beat from which the layers cascade gloriously.

Then, re-visiting a Lemon Jelly trademark, a breathy, see-sawing male vocal repeats track title, Heading Home. Backed by a slow, ranging piano, the pace slows after Redemption like an aerobic warm down to a sunrise soundtrack.  Soft violins contrast with ear piercing keyboard notes, and sentimental plucked guitar riffs speak of the melancholic reminiscing that people often do when thinking of places they used to live.

There’s no doubting this is a complex and at times, beautiful record – it’s hard not to be impressed by the myriad of layering. At times, it provokes emotions and imagination where other instrumental albums fail, but the jury’s still out on whether this group of individually brilliant musicians lives upto To The Victor – The Spoils’ original promise of a story. And that’s because it’s not quite cohesive enough to create a jass-folk-techno world you want to experience over and over again.

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Metronomy: Birmingham Hare & Hounds – Sunday 23 January

 

Metronomy

A packed crowd in the room above the Hare & Hounds in Birmingham patiently waited with bleary Sunday eyes for the Brighton four-piece. Patiently because despite the late start, most already knew Metronomy’s carefully woven synths, driving bass and falsetto harmonies would be more than worth the wait.

Originally hailing from Totnes, Metronomy have created their signatune over years from carefully mis-matched chords, unusual beats and a quirky on-stage presence. And on the night, they chose to exploit the best bits from the 2008 masterpiece Nights Out, leaving out any reference to debut Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 you owe). A large handful of gems from their third album, The English Riviera, were also given an airing.

Arriving on stage with trademark chest-height lights, the circular jewellery pierced the darkness in time with the band’s off-beats – another feature that’s now synonymous with Metronomy.

Kicking off at full pace with On The Motorway then My Heart Rate Rapid, the repertoire of complex bleeps and tweeps, changing drum rhythms and robot dance moves were perfectly offset by the foursomes faux-nerd look. Whipping the vast student contingency into an early frenzy, they force an army of voices to call back at them, ‘It won’t be long’, which had a faint echo of a 2011 prediction about it.

Formal introductions were made to the new material via latest single, She Wants – a track punctuated by funk grooves and deep bass keyboards that instantly blew the speakers with a proud, but marginally embarrassed acceptance. The Look is a new frontrunner with its insistent fairground piano loop and repeated chorus lines that force a shuffle from even the most two-left-footed. But all of the latest editions feel as though they’ve had more soul shoehorned into their nooks and crannies, with deeper bassline hooks injected by Gbenga Adelekan’s guitar and Joseph Mount’s electronica. There’s also a smidgen less staccato, but it’s all served up in just as quirky a fashion.

On The Motorway delivered more falsetto, while Holiday’s forlorn tales of tussles of the heart were a perfect match for the pulse of the Blondie-rhythmed guitars. Beneath the on-stage antics and dance moves, Heartbreaker stood out as the most impeccable pop song on Nights Out. And it carries the imprint that Metronomy have now kept to propel them into the third album.

There was also time for A Thing For Me’s layers of oom-pah synth and metronomic drum rolls. Its complex rhythms still serve as a reminder that the band don’t shy away from tackling things others might not dare to try live, let alone pull off so effortlessly.

On Dancefloors – a sorrowful soundtrack to a bad night out – was given as a gift from the band to anyone who had work the next morning. A fitting pre-encore track, it drowned the four walls in melancholic loops that perfectly offset Mount’s despairing, ‘I want to get more from this than you’. Radio Ladio then provided balance as the finale, with the foursome acting as cheerleaders to coax their audience into an ecstatic, dancing end to the Birmingham leg of what should become a landmark tour for them.

Metronomy might just be the perfect antidote to the creeping fear of Monday morning. However, there is more to them than the on-stage angular dancing and light-adornments that give them an idiosyncratic air. These eccentricities do blend seamlessly with their sound, but look beneath the things that make them such a great aural and visual spectacle, and you find that Metronomy have been quietly chipping away, making a slow and steady impact on their genre for a number of years now. But this year could well be the one when their art-electro soundtrack gathers many more followers who will dance to their beat.

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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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Cloud Nothings: Cloud Nothings – album review

Cloud Nothings: Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings’ self-titled debut breezes in like a welcome breath of fresh air, just weeks after Britain’s answer to Lady Gaga and My Bloody Valentine’s musical cousin were labelled as 2011’s musical compass.

Signed in the UK to Wichita, Dylan Baldi’s scratchy recording gives it the unpolished warmth of an album recorded two or three decades ago. And its catchy indie-rooted hooks, punk-engorged riffs and lo-fi tendencies give it a teenage bedroom-pop effect that makes it instantly likeable.

The upbeat Understand At All and Not Important are cut from the same cloth. Baldi’s guitar feels unforced and his vocals, ranging from almost helium-drenched to huskily shouted, inject sing-a-long lines and sunny days into his music.

At just over a minute apiece – and delivered in two short, sharp blasts – Heartbeat and Rock are refreshing Pixies’ Vamos-tinged interludes. The glorious guitars are so blisteringly paced that frankly, his declarations of, ‘You loved me but now we’re all dead’, could be saying something far less meaningful and it probably wouldn’t matter.

Sometimes the Ohioan takes you back to The Hives, where the song steamrollers through your aural cavities and rolls around at maximum pace and maximum volume. Then the Best Coast, drawling, melodic vocals haul the tracks wonderfully back from over-familiarity.

One of the highlights of the 11 is Forget You All The Time. It’s so melodic and lo-fi that the lyrics could come straight from the mouth of Kim Deal herself.  You’re Not That Good At Anything and Been Through also bear the same hallmarks of a teenager who’s been heavily influenced by doses of Pixies, and generous helpings of 70s and 80s punk.

Occasionally, the album does go all ‘American teen’. But Dylan’s punk vocals, cleverly combined with a love of airy, jangly riffs and re-crafted lo-fi, should melt many a cynic’s heart that has been frosted over by the chosen would-be big hitters for 2011.

 

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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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