Something to make you smile, perhaps?
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Something to make you smile, perhaps?
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
New queen of soul, Alice Russell, is set to hit Australian shores. Not literally, because otherwise she'd find it hard to perform. Appearing at the Byron Bay Blues & Roots Festival, and solo shows in Sydney at The Forum on Friday April 13.
Effortlessly chilled grooves coupled with a voice that sounds like it was plucked from the deep South in the '50s is Alice's calling card. Teamed with producer TM Juke, the sultry output doesn't invite, but forces you to get on that dance floor.
Alice Russell - Hard Times
TM Juke - Playground Games (feat. Alice Russell)
Released on Tru Thoughts. Buy.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Sometimes you develop this sort of affection towards an artist that ultimately taints you with the dreaded nemesis of all music journalism - bias. There are only a couple of artists for whom I would throw total objectivity to the wind, and submit to as an absolute fan, and M. Craft happens to be one of them.
The first echoes of 2004's I Can See It All Tonight EP saw Martin (the M. in M. Craft) introduce himself as a potential music press darling - just the right amount of everything required for overwhelming praise and attention. Critical acclaim, however, does not sell truckloads of records most of the time. With a modest success under his belt, Martin disappeared from the spotlight to record his debut in the usual manner until things started to take a turn for the worse. Electrocution from a faulty amp, lack of funds, and the perils of the absent muse crept up until Silver & Fire emerged in 2006.
But what would such a synopsis be without talking about the music? I Can See It All Tonight fused acoustic guitar, elements of pop, bossa nova, and the hushed tone of Martin's vocal. Lyrically, songs such as Sweets told tales of call girls walking the streets, but the song never slips into a black and white rendition of what's right and wrong thanks to the delicate delivery. Come To My Senses pairs a gritty guitar and bass riff with a beat so infectious that Martin hums and sings along with the main verse (not really a chorus) and reaches a moment of perfection.
Silver & Fire, whilst not as coherent as its succinct predecessor, speaks volumes as to what good pop/folk/anti-pop/insert musical genre should be. Even though a few songs from his previous release re-appear on his debut, that's for a good reason: they are actually good. Silver & Fire, the title track, allows each instrument to tremble beautifully, revealing what it is that M. Craft does best - simplicity and beauty. You Are The Music is a deceptively simple melody, and when teamed with the incredibly tacky video clip, makes it all the more lovable. Playgroup have remixed this track - a wicked disco rendition that does justice to the original, and more, with Martin's vocals sounding just as well placed amongst big electronic beats as it does with an acoustic guitar. Jim Noir's anti-bully epic, My Patch, is cleverly re-worked by Martin to include his own vocals and an entirely different instrumental track. If you didn't know any better, you would think this was Martin's own version.
The whole point of such an exercise is to expose people to the music. If just one person listens to, and subsequently loves any track, then my job is done.
M. Craft - Come To My Senses (from I Can See It All Tonight)
M. Craft - You Are The Music (Playgroup Remix)
Jim Noir - My Patch (M. Craft Folk Remix)
You can download the entire album of Silver & Fire in instrumental form, from M. Craft's website. Full vocal tracks from Silver & Fire are available on Martin's myspace. Martin plays gigs across London and the UK, but unfortunately not in Australia, where he originally comes from.
Released on 679 Recordings. Buy.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Malcolm was the "musical" part of Arab Strap with his partner in vocal crime, Aidan Moffatt. Now, he's still the musical part, but adds vocals to his enchanting mix. If you're unfamiliar with his work with (now defunct) Arab Strap, think heady and uncompromising Scottish vocals with some incredible melodies behind them, staggered beats and jangled guitar.
Malcolm's new album, A Brighter Beat, is out on the 27th of February. The lead single, A Brighter Beat, is out now - a brilliant guitar riff teamed with piano leads up to Middleton's vocals which possibly hint at a more optimistic sound for the rest of the album. Dare I say it, he sounds as if he is having a good time rocking out to this one. As for the rest of the album, in his own words:
‘If I was forced to describe it (which I am) I'd probably say it was a pop album for people who hate pop music’ - Malcolm MiddletonFind the video for A Brighter Beat here. Directed by Tom Haines, there's a few interesting things happening here. Balloons as heads is sure to stir up the symbolism if that's what you look for in music videos. Otherwise there is a lot of obligatory slow motion music video running to keep you satiated.
Malcolm Middleton - Crappo The Clown (from 2003's 5:14 Fluoxytine Seagull Alcohol John Nicotine)
Malcolm Middleton - A Brighter Beat (myspace)
Released on Full Time Hobby. Pre-order the album.
Monday, February 5, 2007
Epic45 - England Fallen Over
The term "Atmospheric" is used in abundance, and often abused, in such music reviews. When it comes to actually describing the music, rather than rattling on about who a band is or what influences them, it's an important word. Start with an innocent melody weaving its way through a drum loop and synth, and before you know it the vocal enters the mix telling you the one thing that's on most people's minds - time. Listen to this one with the curtain open as the splashes hit the window. New songs from their soon to be released album, 'May Your Heart Be the Map', here.
From the 'England Fallen Over EP'. Released on Make Mine Music. Buy.
Guillemots - Burnt
One of the only bands that springs to mind where the female member of the band isn't overwhelmed by ego, either from herself or her fellow male band mates. Fyfe Dangerfield may take a little liberty in stealing the first refrains of "She" by Elvis Costello, but then Aristazabal Hawkes' innocent vocal comes and adds the ganache to this cake.
From the 'We're Here' single. Released on Fantastic Plastic. Buy.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Distorted beats, duelling guitars and decidedly scratchy keyboards maketh The Octopus Project. The fuzz from the angular beats tends to muffle most of the traditional sounds, and sometimes discord strikes, but when you get through these tracks you forget that perhaps there should be a vocal, and instead wonder what on earth you just listened to.
The Octopus Project - Adjustor
The Octopus Project - Music is Happiness
Released on Peek-A-Boo Records. Buy.
Friday, February 2, 2007
Perhaps I am a little late in discovering that one of my favourite albums last year was a by-product (of sorts) of a movie. Once provides the visual backdrop for The Swell Season, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's mini opus of 2006.
Laced with delicate instrumentation and barely-there vocals, each song paves the way for your imagination to run a little more free than normal. A mournful violin on the title track traipses between whimsical gypsy notes and sombre echoes of loss. Rather than trying to overwhelm each other, Glen and Marketa's voices work almost intrinsically as one when they are together - Marketa's notes subtly highlight pockets of Glen's smooth vocal.
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - Alone Apart
The Frames - Happy
Released on Plateau Records. Buy.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Are you thinking of eclectic, mesmeric compositions with more instruments than you can name on one recording? Instrumental, of course. That's the Coda formula. When it comes to describing something so effortless it seems rather pointless - I guess this is something that can be appreciated by anyone with a broad enough mind. Elements of post-rock, classical, reggae, electronica and theatrics are combined by these talented people into entire moments of pure aural excitement. This is truly something to bask in and to savour.
So many people tend to lump Coda into some sort of "world" music section, when really, world music is everything once you consider the etymology of the word. A treat for both the eyes and the ears, the artwork adorning each of their releases is enchanting and entirely fitting of such music.
Coda - Marine (Calling Mission Mu)
Coda - Giraffe Girl (For Our Animal Friends)
On Vitamin Records. Buy.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
First up, the letter V. Brought to you by Vitaminsforyou, a rather excellent sounding gentleman who, contrary to his name, does not distribute pharmaceutical goods. Lush openings and gentle rhythms let you drift off into the song. Wait for the kick at 2:24 and listen to the beat move the song further than you think it could go. If you like your homemade electronica with a folk-pop twist, try this.
Vitaminsforyou - The Ukranians (The Legend of Bird's Hill)
Released on Sfeericle. Buy.
Then the letter A, followed by R, with Au Revoir Simone. Quiet, unassuming melodies with tinges of electronica moving through breathy but solid vocals from the three ladies in the band. It's what could be called twee, but slightly better.
Au Revoir Simone - Through The Backyards of our Neighbours (Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation)
Released on Moshi Moshi. Buy.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Jóhann Jóhannsson, master of exquisite and often sublime instrumentation, has created an incredibly haunting piece of work with IBM 1401 A User's Manual.
Taking old tapes from an old computer manual, Jóhannsson's soundscapes are sparse and delicate, allowing for an odd sense of claustrophobia to take over when the instructor's voice permeates the reverberated silence on Part 2. Entire symphonies slowly emerge from within such little space and expand into near-whimsical pieces which uplift and captivate with the ease only hinted at on his earlier records like Englabörn. Johansson's skill is knowing when to reign in his compositions, and when to set them free: The Sun's Gone Dim and The Sky's Gone Black mutates a computer voice to sing along, all the while sampling opera and computer noises to elaborate his intentions. The result is an overwhelmingly beautiful record which brims with emotion despite its silicone base.
Sounds like: Tripping through the BBC Sound Archives with a classical score following your every move.
Jóhann Jóhannsson - Part 3 - IBM 1402 Card-Read Punch
Released on 4AD. Buy.
This is not about what's in right now, "so hot right now", et al. It's about the good music that comes out, and has come out, from this moment forth and from all the moments that have passed.