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Stereolab – Chemical Chords

Chemical Chords
4AD / Duophonic
Released 19th August 2008

Stereolab are a band I’ve long admired from a distance. The snippets of songs I’ve heard have been intriguing, but never enough to stir a purchase. When Three Women surfaced on the net several months back something changed, and Chemical Chords became an essential purchase. Fast forward to having the beautiful double-LP on the deck, and the record suitably impresses.

The album sounds exactly how I expected a Stereolab album to sound; insistent, wistful and melodic. The bolshy Three Women remains a favourite, joined by the noir swirls of The Ecstatic Static. Pop immediacy flows through the album, interrupted briefly by the distortion of Pop Molecule with its driving rhythm and twisted beats. Frequently the pop feel flirts with retro novelty, absurdly squelchy analogue synth stabs burst into life on tracks like the breezy opener Neon Beanbag.

This retrospection only adds to the charm of this album. This set of tunes not only has that immediacy to pull the listener in, they have the sheen of songs that live in the memory and bear out further plays. Chemical Chords is no revelation though, merely the confirmation that Stereolab are, on this form at least, a fine groop!

Tickets for Stereolab’s December UK tour can be found on Gigantic (Brighton only) and the evil Seetickets.

Stereolab – Three Women (mp3)

Selected Releases: 28 July and 4 August

Conor Oberst
MP3: Souled Out!!!
Black Affair
Pleasure Pressure Point
MP3: Subfuge
Port O’Brien
All We Could Do Is Sing
MP3: Stuck On A Boat
Little Ones
Morning Tide
Stereo MCs
Dubble Bubble
Simian Mobile Disco
Sample and Hold
MP3: Hustler (A-Trak Rmx)
Santogold & Diplo
Top Ranking
MP3: Guns of Brooklyn
XX Teens
Welcome To Goon Island
MP3: B-54
Sonic Youth
Andre Sider Af

You can vote for your favourite release over in the left sidebar

The last poll results were:
1. Primal Scream – Beautiful Future
2. CSS – Donkey
=3. Micah P. Hinson – And The Red Empire Orchestra
=3. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

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Sister Ray – Soon To Be Gone?

Sister Ray - End of an Indpendent Era?

Sister Ray - End of an Indpendent Era?

Another of London’s rare independent record shops is feeling the one-two punch of illegal downloads and the credit crunch…  Sister Ray this week announced that it was heading into administration. Since the news washed in a few days ago I’ve been trying to pin down why exactly it saddens me to such an extent. I mean, there’s bigger indie shops in London (Rough Trade East), HMV and subsidiary Fopp have reduced their vinyl prices to more or less compete, and a fuller range is stocked by online funboys Norman and Boomkat

I guess it’s the ever diminishing experience of being surrounded by good music, and people who love good music. Not that I ever spoke to many people in there, I once recommended a chap TV On The Radio’s Desperate Youth And Bloodthirsty Babes as he had a crisis of confidence at the counter but that’s about it. I have, however, got some of my most treasured records from there. It always annoys and astonishes my girlfriend how I will take a good look in the windows of Sister Ray before heading into it’s dark and familiar interior, only to reap more frustration in the haphazard way I’d take to browsing their racks.

Of course the store is not yet bound for closure, the owner is hopeful that the store’s reputation will find it speedy investment. Nor is it perfect, their second hand selection is limited and often over-priced. The offers are never that extensive or special. The pricing is average. But, and it is a big but, they were independent. Run by folks who value selection and variation over profit lines and charts. They’ll be a big miss for me, the particular location having stared at me since 1995 and the cover of Oasis’ (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, the shop hosted my first London record shopping visits when I moved there in late-2001. Hopefully they’ll manage to pull it out of the fire – it’s a long way over to Rough Trade!

Velvet Underground – Sister Ray
Joy Division – Sister Ray (Live)

Selected Releases: 14 and 21 July

The Hold Steady
Stay Positive
MP3: Yeah Sapphire
MP3: Sly Fox
Object 47
One Day As A Lion
The Dodos
MP3: Ashley
She & Him
Volume One
MP3: Black Hole

You can vote for your favourite release of the last two weeks in our poll over on the left.

Last time’s winners were:
1. Beck – Modern Guilt
=2. Tricky – Knowle West Boy
=2. Black Kids – Partie Traumatic
=3. Leila – Blood, Looms & Blooms
=3. Melvins – Nude With Boots

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Live Review: Cornershop, John and Jehn – Amersham Arms

John & Jehn live at Amersham Arms

There is a sign outside the venue that reads ‘Cornershop live tonight…yes, that Cornershop‘. It shows the abyss of public awareness that Tjinder Singh and his merry band have fallen into of late. After all, it’s been six years since Handcream For A Generation graced the album charts back in 2002. However, with the promise of a cracking support from London-based French duo John & Jehn, the trip was made to my original London stomping ground. The gig is a warm-up for their Wireless show the next day, and their first gig seemingly since a mini-tour in November last year.

The Amersham Arms is barely full when John & Jehn take to the stage, their first words enticing the crowd closer. They launch into a taut set, John throwing all kinds of angular shapes with guitar and body, Jehn starting out hunched over an organ but soon taking to bass. The tunes are an amalgam of Stereolab, Velvet Underground and The Raveonettes, all hatchet guitars, pysch-synths and loaded stares. Unlike the Raveonettes, the drum machine clanking away doesn’t detract or become repetitive. In fact, there is so much to enjoy in their all-too-short set that I’m left wanting more. Another debut album to track down.

Cornershop live at the Amersham Arms, 4th July 2008

It isn’t long before Cornershop make their way onto the cramped stage. Launching straight into Sleep On The Left Side, it becomes obvious that this South London pub is about to be treated to the very best that the band can offer. They follow the opening salvo with the bouncy Lesssons Learnt From Rocky I to Rocky III, one of the most bewilderingly unappreciated singles of the early 2000s. The set continues at that pace, drawing faux-Bollywood moves from the front row, and head-nodding from the less dance-inclined. There’s new songs premiered, single-to-be The Roll Off Characteristics Of History In The Making the most memorable. There are also a couple of choice covers, Norwegian Wood with live sitar is a sound to behold, and a cheeky take on The Mighty Quinn brings ear-to-ear smiles. A breezy run-through of Brimful of Asha is followed by the spectacular 6 a.m. Jullander Shere, perhaps the band’s best track. The band leave the stage one by one, with Singh unsurprisingly the first to go. Five minutes later, drummer and percussionist are still at it. A short set, obviously made for festivals, packed full of quality, fun and tunes. Wireless is in for a treat.

John & Jehn – 20 L 07
John & Jehn – You Far Away
Cornershop – Battle Of New Orleans (Peel Session)
Cornershop – Topknot (MIA Remix)
Cornershop – Hot Rocks

Selected Releases: Monday 7 July

Modern Guilt
MP3: Chemtrails
Knowle West Boy
MP3: Past Mistake
Black Kids
Partie Traumatic
MP3: Hurricane Jane

Album of the week is Beck’s Modern Guilt. Both progression and regression from Mr Hansen, as he builds on the success of Guero and The Information, yet strips away many of the superfluous gimmicks that littered his mid-90s albums. Full review later on in the week, but definitely get your hands on this one. Adrian Thaws up next, as Tricky returns with Knowle West Boy. Whilst still not a return to the form of Maxinquaye and Pre-Millennial Tension, this is a marked improvement on 2003’s Vulnerable. An improvement, despite a decidedly unusual cover of Kylie’s Slow. Nevertheless, five years in the making, and a welcome return. Sounding at times like it was five minutes in the making, Black Kids’ debut platter is something of a disappointment. Seemingly rush-released to consolidate their position after the success of single I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend…, this album comes across as unfinished and a bit half-arsed. Which is a shame because when the Floridians get it together, the result can be truly exciting.

Nude With Boots
MP3: Billy Fish
Blood Looms & Blooms
MP3: Norwegian Wood
MP3: Falcon Jab

Co-hosts of this winter’s ATP Nightmare Before Christmas, Melvins trot out their 16th LP Nude With Boots. Still garnering influential fans, this is pretty much Melvins on auto-pilot. The last time I encountered Leila was within a booing Björk crowd, now new Warp-signee unleashes her third LP. I’m assuming I’m missing something here, or the record must be a grower, as up to now I’m not all that impressed. Ratatat’s third record, on the other hand, is pretty obvious. Take it or leave it Justice-esque electro stomping.

Eat Static
Back To Earth
Crooked Still
Still Crooked
MP3: The Absentee
Cute Is What We Aim For
MP3: Safe Ride

Three varied releases make up our third tier this week, with some dance from creaking Eat Static, straight-up indie pop from Brooklyn’s Cute Is What We Aim For and a third LP from folky-bluegrass types Crooked Still. The latter two are particularly enjoyable, even if Rotation has the projected lifespan of a mayfly.

Five O’Clock Heroes
Speak Your Language
MP3: Who
Kids Aflame
Great Big Sea
Fortune’s Favour
MP3: Long Lost Love

Our last three releases throw up two surprises and one dreadful non-surprise. That comes in the form of Five O’Clock Heroes’ second record Speak Your Language. Way back when, I quite enjoyed the Time On Your Side single, but the following album and recent godawful Why have destroyed any enthusiasm for this kind of turgid nonsense. The suprises are particularly good this week, our second Brooklyner, Todd Goldstein aka Arms providing the biggest. The record is some really sharp songwriter stuff, the highlight for me being the wonderful Sad, Sad, Sad. Fans of Bon Iver’s debut will really enjoy this. And finally, the most bizzare concept of the week is Great Big Sea’s continuing journey into rediscovering traditional Canadian folk songs and sea shanties. This is apparently their 9th release, and it is a record full of vim, a great blast of Newfoundland air.

You can vote for your favourite record of the week using our poll in the left sidebar

Last week’s meagre pickings gave the following result:
=1. Watson Twins – Fire Songs
=1. Dirty Pretty Things – Romance At Short Notice
3. Fonda 500 – J’Mapelle Stereo

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