Dibder's New Music Series: Entry 8


Ago 27 2009, 13h55

So, in spite of drinking myself silly and being hospitalized on Sunday night/Monday morning, I live to write another journal. August has been a little better on the home front for me, despite the incredible lack of funds to which I've become accustomed. Still, this has meant I have stayed home most nights listening to music and such. But enough about that, time I cracked on with this month's reviews...

Two Dancers by Wild Beasts
One of the most heavily praised albums is first on my list this month, courtesy of these Kendall-based alternative Next Big Thingers. Credit where it's due for wheeling out their sophomore effort in little over a year, but the result is at times leadenly over-earnest and too eager to please, particularly from the band's lead singers' ungainly diving between affected falsetto and impassioned yells, more often within mere moments of one another (one noteable lowlight being All The King's Men). It will certainly impress those that it means to though and maybe I'll just take it lightly that even indie-lovers can be blindsided by pretentious imposters as much as regular pop music...

Catch 22 by Tinchy Stryder
Judging from his continued success this year on the UK singles and album charts, Mr Stryder has done incredibly well to eschew his grime credentials with an unabashed pop influence reminiscent of his US contemporaries. And whilst there's plenty of genial slow jams and some proof of his performance skills present on this big-budget major label debut (and the album reps an admirable showcase for co-producer Fraser T. Smith as hitmaker deluxe), there's a distinct lack of lyrical depth and showmanship that characterises some of the better rappers in the spotlight now, Lil' Wayne and his East London compatriot, Dizzee Rascal being a couple of them.

One Love by David Guetta
Love Don't Let Me Go (Walk Away) (Famous Radio Edit) rather convincingly won the battle for UK Club Anthem of 2006 for David Guetta, launching his profile as one of the finer dance music producers working today, evidenced by the genuinely impressive featuring credits on this fourth album (Black Eyed Peas in particular seem to love this guy). However, despite luminous appearances from Kelly Rowland and one-to-watch Wynter Gordon (and lesser spots from Ne-Yo and Mr Autotune himself, Akon), Guetta's repeated innovations of glitch, electro and hip hop don't serve the album for the better in the long haul (though he gets kudos for making a Black Eyed Peas song listenable!)

Unforgettable by Imran Khan
Another dance tune that enjoyed much success in 2007 was Imran Khan's debut single Ni Nachleh, a fine, guiltily pleasurable mix of bhangra, garage and Eurobeat that attained the premier spot on many UK Asian radio stations. Two years later and the Pakistani-Dutch singer follows suit with a debut album that pretty much picks up where that song left off, slickly produced and inoffensive party bangers bopping alongside typical gossamer-lite ballads. As a result, the louder moments, such as Nazar and Chak Glass, fare better than the allegedly more emotive ones, but those keen to excuse the autotuning can have a diverting, if unremarkable, time.

Years by Years
Also the stagename for Canadian multi-musician Ohad Benchetrit, who also happens to be a member for post-rock band Do Make Say Think, as well as frequent collaborator with Broken Social Scene, Feist and The Hidden Cameras amongst others, this debut album sees Ohad collate all of his solo instrumental works into one of the most studiously enriching albums of the year. Standouts Are You Unloved? and A Thousand Times a Day (Someone Is Flying) betray his evident skills as both musician and arranger beguilingly, taking in plaintive guitars, noble string sections and diverting brass, but some of the album can be accused of being a little too slight for it's own good, not to mention a little short!

Conditions by The Temper Trap
Earmarked as Australia's next big rock export and the natural successors to Kings of Leon with regards to their meter in classy stadium rock, The Temper Trap have been riding a crest of keen hype after being featured on the BBC's Sound Of 2009 list. And whilst they fall somewhat easily into the more acceptable part of that lists inclusions, their overall sound isn't too distinct enough to draw significant comparisons away from most rock outfits these days. In spite of this, some rather are still rather lovely songs, one particular highlight being Sweet Disposition, which transcends the obvious U2-style arrangement to drum up some credence to the hype.

Arecibo Message by Boxcutter
My dubstep adventures continue now with Irish producer Barry Lynn, who takes as much from analogue techno of the early '90s and trippy sci-fi inflected interludes as he does distorted R&B/garage vocals and jungle-style samplings. Whilst perhaps not as gorgeously wrought as the likes of Burial or Moderat (Lynn's jams are less mournful and claustrophobic and trade more on euphoric fantasy), it's still a diverting and funky listen for anyone interested in the burgeoning scene. Highlights here include the heady S P A C E B A S S and Mya Rave v2, the latter in particular infusing all of the above sounds into a very headnodding whole.

Far by Regina Spektor
Spektor's reputation as one of the leading stars of the anti-folk scene appears consolidated with this release, her fifth solo album and follow-up to her 2006 breakout success, Begin to Hope. Retaining the same winsome qualities that saw her fanbase grow exponentially then, Far may appear to be more of the same from the charismatic chanteuse, but songs such as Eet and Dance Anthem of the 80's are keen to prove that Spektor really need little more than a piano and her titular trill to win over a discerning crowd. There's enough percussive staccato rhythms, elegantly wordy ballads and Spektor's own rather sweet star quality to keep fans entertained at any rate.

A French Kiss In The Chaos by Reverend and the Makers
Given his reputation as a political human megaphone, Jon 'The Reverend' McClure's musical exploits are similarly infused with the frontman's grim estimations on the state of the world, whether it be the apathy of the youth in Silence Is Talking and or the consumer brainwash-bash of Hidden Persuaders. However, don't be affronted by the pessimism, as McClure and his Makers tow the line between worthy guilt trip and punkish rabble with enough buoyant riffs and exultant orchestrations to offset the mean streak prevailing throughout. It might be worth catching some of their acoustic car-park based gigs after all for some good-natured anti-authoritarianism.

The First Days Of Spring by Noah and the Whale
It's either rather charming or incredibly misguided when a folk outfit releases an album concerning a certain part of the seasonal calendar amidst its polar end. I'm still in two minds as to whether this English quartet's album is a success or failure though because it captures the forlorn mood of the tailend of winter so perfectly, not to mention the ashen-coated hope of regeneration. Album notes in the press declare it as being the soundtrack to a painful rupture of a relationship, with a film accompanying the LP's release in the deluxe edition; those made of emotionally impenetrable steel, or gluttons for punishment, should be thrilled... others, be warned.

Creaturesque by Throw Me The Statue
Some warmly performed indie pop now, courtesy of four Seattle-based musicians keen to offer politically barbed tirades (hear Pistols) and distinctly cynical personality-dissections (hear Noises) as joyful ditties, mixed into the kind of gossamer-lite lo-fi buzz that encourages further listens. The key addition here, alongside frontman Scott Reitherman's charmingly disenchanted vocals, is a reliance on a warm electronic bass-buzz that helps to subdue the subject matter into something made enjoyable, nevermind listenable. Quibbles can be made that it doesn't capitalise on their hype-inducing debut well enough, but then disarmingness never announces itself, does it?

Broken by Soulsavers
Known by their friends as Rich Machin and Ian Glover, Soulsavers are credited as being electronica producers/remixers, though you wouldn't have guessed this from their third album, which sees them take in myriad influences from rock, jazz and classical worlds to create an exquisite soundtrack to a downer in 2009. It actually shares a lot of similarities with Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse's collaboration earlier this year, not least in its employment of guest stars (Mike Patton and Jason Pierce feature, though Aussie one-to-watch Red Ghost fares best) though the production is less galvanising and more subdued. However, it still more than merits a worthy listen as one of the year's best kept secrets.

Humbug by Arctic Monkeys
So, almost after their record-breaking debut hit the top spot on the UK album charts, the Monkeys have had much more to prove than most other alternative-pop bands this young in their career. With Humbug, benefiting from co-production from Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme as well as regular collaborator James Ford (fresh from Alex Turner's sojourn with The Last Shadow Puppets), they may have answered with their most consistently dark and lyrically bombastic work, eschewing the earlier jovial rabble-rouse with something fast approaching formidable in its authority, exemplified best by lead single Crying Lightning. Much to the snooty's chagrin, the Monkeys may be here to stay.

I Love You by Amanda Blank
I'm a little surprised by the amount of unimpressed stick Ms Blank has taken for her debut album. Understandably, it falls a little short from the hype propagated by the likes of Diplo and XXXChange on production duties, but there's no denying some of the pure fun to be had here (hear the impressively filthy Might Like You Better). Compared with her more raucous peers (M.I.A., Yo Majesty, to name a couple), she pales a little in the confrontational stakes, her finer moments find her exhibiting a touch more humility and soul as opposed to outspoken attitude, probably the finest example being A Love Song, featuring a resonant sample of Santigold's I'm a Lady.

See Mystery Lights by Yacht
Please understand that this album would be far better rated if it weren't for the final track; average wise, the rest of it is brought down that much. Otherwise, this is as fine a major-indie label dubet from an alternative-electro-pop-performance artist that you're likely to come across. Trading in tuneless spoken vocals, über-geeky effects that emerge as über-cool from the other side and a dab hand at finding the kind of hooks that bury themselves within your head, it's certainly one of the most recognisably-hyped records of the past year (I'm a little obsessed with We Have All We Ever Wanted at the moment)... but that final version of Psychic City is irredeemable!

Temporary Pleasure by Simian Mobile Disco
Another dance/electronica outfit whose latest release is positively bursting with special guests now, this time courtesy of British production duo James Ford and Jaz Shaw. Whilst prior collaborators Klaxons and Peaches do not appear on their sophomore studio LP, they receive rather gorgeous help from the likes of Gruff Rhys (leaving me wanting for a sequel to his Neon Neon side project on Cream Dream), Beth Ditto (fulfilling Debbie Harry comparisons with dreamy effort Cruel Intentions) and underserved uber-cool disco duo Telepathe. The main misgiving here though is that the guest spots are that much better than the duo working solo, but as long as they're inspired, they're in fine fetter.

ShortCuts by Trip
For those still waiting on the Jamie T follow-up, if they chanced upon this debut from Alex Child there's a very good chance that wait would come to an abrupt end. Produced alongside those who've had hands in the likes of Does It Offend You, Yeah? and Ladytron previously, Child's LP takes in typical tales of teen romances, hangovers and youthful bravado, but avoids likenings to Jamie T and The Streets' Mike Skinner before him on account of the fine musical intelligence on offer, nevermind the acutely observant lyrics. Opener Applecheeks charts a romantic night out sweetly without resorting to cliché and Who's That might be the funniest single of the year, if only for daring to put Bono in his place.

BLACKsummers'night by Maxwell
Those with eyebrows arched at the eight year wait for Maxwell's follow-up to 2001's Now have every right to have them so. Let it be said though that, whilst I'm still adverse to the questionable misogyny prevalent in male-fronted R&B in general, when Maxwell asks his muse to "prove it in the nude" in achingly swoonsome falsetto on opening track Bad Habits, it takes a less-than-hot-blooded person not to be energised, or at the very least impressed! The first of a duo-disc concept release (blackSUMMERS'night is due for release next year), Maxwell ingratiates himself back into the upper echelons of nu-soul R&B with nary a bead of hot sweat broken.

xx by The xx
After the successes of Burial and Hot Chip, and now the arrival of this quartet of infuriatingly talented 19-year-olds, Putney's Elliott School may well become the successor to Croydon's BRIT School. The kind of dream-pop/indie rock debut that merits repeat listens even after those post-night out sessions with close friends, it's the first album I've come across that has done well to stay homegrown rather than spun into something recognisably hip for fad-listeners (they politely refused Diplo's help!) However, at least on the evidence on the Wicked Game-licking Infinity (how's that for being standard-defyingly good!?), I can't help but agree with this brightly-futured quartet.

Total 10 by Various Artists
2009 marks the tenth anniversary of Kompakt, the German electronic music label that has brought us some of finer examples of ambient dance music of the past decade, including new releases from Gui Boratto and The Field's Axel Willner from this year. Their Total series collates the best remixes and selected tracks over the past year from their roster and the setlist here is nothing short of lovely. Highlights here include the beauteous crescendo of Shumi's The Wind And The Sea, Ada's Ibiza anthem for the intelligent Lovestoned, Justus Köhncke's minimal electro funk session You Make It Easy and Michael Mayer's heartrending remix of Gotye's Heart's A Mess.

Two by Miss Kittin & The Hacker
After new releases from the likes of Peaches and Fischerspooner earlier this year and now the return of DJ duo Caroline Hervé and Michel Amato, it would appear that electroclash is aching for a return to the airwaves nearly a decade after its prominence on the UK club scene. And whilst both prior acts have noticeably calmed down and grown a fancier sheen to their rogue electro jaunts, credit Caroline and Michel for sticking to their guns and kicking a party into ignition to better their debut offering from 2001. Sure, the beats sound that much more polished than they did eight years ago, but the slithering debauchery is still there, offset by some gorgeous electro ballads (hear single 1000 Dreams).

Last Night The Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes In The Street by Jon Hassell
Taking in world music, classical composition, avant garde electronica and freeform jazz, 72 year-old trumpet player Hassell has enjoyed a noted if curiously quiet reputation over the last forty years, not just as a trumpet player par excellence, but also for his wondrous evocations of pre-existing musical genres across the world. His fifteenth release plays like a troubled score for a lost film concerning a lonely figure wallowing in an alien world, characterised by Hassell's own instrument that is at once fearful, respectful, inquisitive and sensual in its improvised nature. A beautifully tortured piece from an auteur long overdue for some breakthrough recognition.

jj n° 2 by jj
One of the alternative music world's worst kept secrets following glowing reviews from the likes of Pitchfork and NME is this Swedish indie pop group, whose reputation remains infuriating in the ether. Little is known, except their releasing this debut album from the Sincerely Yours label; mind you, with harmonies and buoyant melodies this lovely perhaps a visual identity isn't necessarily needed. At once uniquely exotic and yet composed with such a winsome pop sensibility as to make it immediately refreshing (best example being [track artist=JJ]From Africa To Málaga
), it takes someone of emotionally stunted growth not to be swayed by how good this album is.

Scars by Basement Jaxx
So, in accordance with the unofficial theme this month of dance outfits with ridiculous amounts of guest stars on their LP, the Jaxx win the battle both figuratively and impressively. Kelis, Chipmunk, Santigold, Sam Sparro, Yo Majesty, Yoko Ono, Paloma Faith... it promises to be the most eclectic mix to be heard this year, and some tracks here promise to give the Jaxx their best single chartings in years (particularly Sparro's uplifting feelbad ballad Feelings Gone). As a Jaxx album though, it's their most emotionally downbeat yet, attested not just from the ruminative title track, but also how comparitively stripped down the arrangements are to albums past. It could even be their best...

And that is why Scars is my Album Of The Month For August...

Sorry if there are any typos on this as my Internet is playing up at home and I need to do all I can to stop it from cras-


(P.S. It was brought to my attention that the Muse album I had previously heralded as the album of the month was in fact one of those dodgy leaks, so the real version of that album will be reviewed at a later date... Sheepish doesn't even come close to how I'm feeling, still...)


  • brennivin85

    Do you buy these CDS or use Spotify?

    Set 9 2009, 11h30
  • CvaldaVessalis

    CDS?? Buy?? You?? Or?? These??? Mostly torrents, actually, though the Jaxx album I grabbed from work...

    Set 9 2009, 12h48
  • brennivin85

    Funny then, that you submitted this journal to Spotify. I only point it out cause Spotify is my only source of music, more so now that it's gone mobile for subscribers. And Spotify users would expect links to albums/tracks....

    Set 10 2009, 1h25
  • CvaldaVessalis

    Duly noted, brennivin85! As far as I know, most of these albums, and those on past journals, are available on Spotify. Will load links on future journals for easier access from here on in! Can I ask what you make of the albums here?

    Set 10 2009, 9h52
  • brennivin85

    I would love to pint out the many things I find wrong here, for one, I don't see how Dizzee is lyrically deep in any form (have you heard Bonkers or Dance With Me?), not to say that Stryder's deep, but please, there a hell of a lot of deep lyricists to could have pointed to i.e. Lady Sovereign "My heart is like a jigsaw puzzle, pick it up and fix it for me" now that shit is deep! and as for The Xx, they are the hippest-hyped-up band of the moment!!! you should know because of where you work, or maybe you should get out more. Rough Trade has a massive P.O.S. stand dedicated to them, and they've been recommended by many taste-makers. But I do think that their album is lovely and that perhaps they do live up to the hype. Amanda Blank is Oh-Kay, but the album isn't on Spotify so I can't tell. The rest I haven't heard, and probably don't have time to listen to all of em and won't waste my time downloading shit I don't like just because it's there. And I do think you should expand you knowledge on bands from more than a quick glance at wikipedia, cheap tricks always get found out. hugs, A

    Set 12 2009, 0h06
  • CvaldaVessalis

    Eek!! I've been found out!!! And we all know the dodginess of Wiki can yield certain untruths and misinformation. Oh well... Dizzee recently has gone the pop route, but I was talking about his earlier tracks, and given this was Stryder's major label debut, was kind of hoping for something a little more intelligent and insightful. Still a few decent tracks on there though. With The XX, I was referring to the music itself being lo-fi and delicate as opposed to the ad campaign or the hip listeners quotient. You're right though, it is a lovely album, I just happened to listen to stuff I found quite a bit better is all... Will be mindful to try and research that little bit more for you next time though, provided and I have the time and effort. Will be giving my iTunes a spring clean with all of the deadweight music I've accrued this month! kisses, G

    Set 12 2009, 9h16
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