Selected Releases: Monday 28 April

Portishead
Third
MP3: We Carry On

The Fall
Imperial Wax Solvent
MP3: Alton Towers

Half Man Half Biscuit
CSI: Ambleside
.

Madonna
Hard Candy
MP3: Give It To Me

Tindersticks
The Hungry Saw
.

Cajun Dance Party
The Colourful Life
MP3: The Race

.
The Roots
Rising Down
.

Someone Still Loves
You Boris Yeltsin

Pershing!
MP3: Some Constellation

.
.South
You Are Here
.

Nalle
The Sirens Wave
MP3: First Eden Sank…

Nadja
Desire In Uneasiness
MP3: Disambiguation

Our Broken Garden
Lost Sailor
.

It was obvious a few months ago that the record of the week would be Portishead’s Third. As many a reviewer has said, quite simply the album does not deserve to be as good as it is. Comebacks rarely are. Third ploughs a neighbouring farrow to the first two records, with beats more upfront, the cinematic strings muted and mutated. Beth Gibbon’s voice is still as fractured as it ever was, tortured, and gossamer-fragile. A real treat to the ears.

Runner-up is more difficult, the superbly titled CSI Ambleside from former John Peel favourites Half Man Half Biscuits has a great shout, purely on the merit of the album title, and some of the track names; National Shite Day, Lord Hereford’s Knob and King Of Hi-Vis amongst the best.

Instead of that, I’ve picked something from almost the opposite end of the musical spectrum, Nadja’s Desire In Uneasiness. Described variously as shoegaze-metal, ambient-doom or more plainly, drone, Desire… comprises five mammoth cuts, each grinding to precisely nowhere near a conclusion. A true meaning of wall of sound, this just sounds huge, whilst at the same time the layers of fog and feedback enduce claustrophobia. A wonderful contradiction, and one that I’m looking forward to revisiting frequently.

Madonna’s latest, Hard Candy, is heavy on the collaborators, and somewhat low on graphic design, that cover is truly awful. Expect the usual polished pop-dance-R&B fluff and you won’t be disappointed. Sadly it’s nowhere near her best stuff, it’s not even close to Confessions On A Dancefloor.

The indie brigade is populated by several releases. From oh-so-quaintly monikered Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, whose second LP Pershing! contains a set of sweet indiepop numbers, worth investigation. Anything named after a teddy bear is a winner in my books, so Nalle (teddy bear in Finnish, apparently) score highly on that front, the music throws a nod in the direction of Joanna Newsom, interesting folk leaning numbers, populated by exotic instrumentation.

Cajun Dance Party annoy me a bit, and I’m not sure why. It’s probably the NME hype. This is another off Bernard Butler’s production line, but its not that great to be honest. South are another middling indie outfit, on a perpetual downward slide since departing Mo’Wax. Don’t expect great things. You should expect great things from Efterklang-associate Anna Brønsted’s Our Broken Garden, whose debut EP Lost Sailor is a collection of beautiful dreampop, not too dissimilar to Mazzy Star. A little gem.

Speaking of indie, can you get more indie than Mark E Smith’s The Fall? They return, recently shorn of the Americans who populated the last release, with their 27th studio LP, Imperial Wax Solvent. I expect anyone who has ever heard a Fall track will know exactly how this sounds.

New! You can vote for the album you think is the best release of the week using the poll on the left sidebar. If the record you want to vote for isn’t listed, leave a comment to this post and I’ll count it.

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Fridays FTW #5

Ladytron – Runaway
Beating the pants of everything else this week is this absolute stompfest from the forthcoming ‘Tron LP, Velocifero. After a fair number of listens, this is the most immediate of the tracks, but as happened with Witching Hour, the best track may wait insidiously for months yet. Really looking forward to hearing this bashed out live come May.

¡Forward, Russia! – Seventeen
Went to see this Leeds lot this week at New Slang, and they tore the place apart. As on previous occasions they didn’t provide me with the set highlight I was looking for, Seventeen. Taken from the debut LP Give Me A Wall, this is probably my favourite Russia cut, and for me demonstrates their whole loose-but-tight ethos. So, Whiskas and co, listen up: when I see you next, play this, yeah!

The Cure – Lullaby
Doesn’t need much introduction this. The Cure operating at the top of their game, this was the lead single from the superb LP Disintegration. Struck through with synth stabs, eerie to the core.

Atmosphere – Shoulda Known
Stand-out cut from Minneapolis duo Atmosphere, from their new record When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. A seriously smooth bassline ebbs under rapper Slug’s lyrical flow, pushing the beats into the background. His rapping style reminds me a bit of Gift of the Gab from Blackalicious, real meaty. For me this is a real find, I only really come across hip-hop by accident, never by searching.

Underworld – Cowgirl
I’m writing this post after traipsing across Central London for a whole day. This is a great wind-down track, made for late night car journeys or plaintive web-gazing. To be honest you could pick any number of Underworld tracks for that purpose, Mmm Skyscraper I Love You, Dark and Long, Dirty Epic, Pearls Girl, they’d all do the job. Bliss.

Aural Geography: Brighton

Our second stop on the Aural tour of the world brings us to the hometown of Blood Red Shoes, Brighton. A lovely town on the south coast of England, Brighton has a great recent history in music. Socially and politically, the town is quite liberal; promoting art, individuality and performance at every turn. Not only does the town have a lively music scene (venues, record shops, labels as well as bands), the music it produces is pretty damn good.

Bat For Lashes produced one of the albums of the year in 2006, with Fur and Gold, heading to Mercury and Brit nominations. Brighton features heavily throughout my collection, British Sea Power’s Open Season is a particular great, The Go! Team’s debut Thunder Lightning Strike is great fun, as is Brighton don Norman Cook’s Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars. Cook is one of Brighton’s favoured sons, with nearly a quarter of a million folk turning up to see his last beach set in 2002. Electrelane, too, make superb electronic music, 2004’s The Power Out is my choice of their back-cat. Not featured in today’s audio selection are other fine bands such as Electric Soft Parade, Brakes, Clearlake, The Levellers, Maccabees and retropop funstrumpets The Pipettes.

So today’s audio choices are all quite modern, and all pretty enjoyable, and demonstrate the variety of the Brighton scene…

Fatboy Slim – Weapon of Choice
British Sea Power – True Adventures (Live in Columbus, Ohio): Thanks to ThaBombShelter for this!
Bat For Lashes – Prescilla
The Go! Team – Fake ID
Electrelane – To The East

 

In Celebration of St George’s Day

Today England celebrates it’s national holiday, the traditional feast day of its patron saint George. You wouldn’t know it, for most this is simply a non-event. There’s no parade like Chinese New Year, no mass revelling like St Patricks, no national fervour like 4th July. The simple fact is, that most folk see being English as nothing to be proud of. Here at WoW, that fact is something we flatly don’t agree with.

To celebrate, I’m going to share some of the songs that evoke memories of England for me. Musically, England has a vast and rich heritage. Through from the Beatles and the Stones, Sex Pistols and Roxy Music, New Order and Aphex Twin: England’s audible past is fascinating, groundbreaking and successful.

So below are the songs that summon up the greatest my nation has to offer: romantic sunsets in London, to shabby council housing in Sheffield. Politics of the state, affairs of the heart and everything in between. These are the songs that, to me, are England.

Kinks – Waterloo Sunset
Pulp – Disco 2000
Billy Bragg – A New England
Blur – This Is A Low
Human League – Don’t You Want Me?

Photo: Tricky

Meltdown Festival Line-up Announced

Massive Attack today announced the line up for this year’s South Bank based Meltdown Festival. The Bristol trip-hop legends curate the festival running between 14 and 22 June. The festival each year give’s the chance for an established act to take over the entire South Bank site, totalling arond 21 acres, and present an arts festival taking in a range of media; music, art, film and performance. Previous curators in the festival’s 15 year history have included David Bowie, Morrissey, Elvis Costello, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Nick Cave.

Massive Attack have unveiled a line up that digs into their influences as well as promoting contemporaries. The highlights for me are two performances from the group themselves, on the opening and closing nights of the festival. Elsewhere, a double header of Gang of Four and Tom Tom Club is mouthwatering, as are sets by relative newcomers Elbow and Tunng. It is a diverse listing, featuring many genres that impact on Massive Attack’s work: punk, disco, cinematic soundtrack, reggae, hip hop and indie. Perhaps surprisingly, there are none of the rumoured performances from collaborators Liz Fraser’s Cocteau Twins, nor Tricky. Other vocalists such as Terry Callier and the incomparable Horace Andy appear on the bill, and will presumably line up with the curators for their shows.

The full line up (musically) is as follows:

14th June – Massive Attack / Gong

15th June – Yellow Magic Orchestra / Reggae Acoustic Songbook ft Horace Andy

16th June – Elbow & Fleet Foxes

17th June – Vangelis Blade Runner Soundtrack performed by Heritage Orchestra

18th June – Stiff Little Fingers / The Shortwave Set & Martina Topley Bird

19th June – Grace Jones / Future Sound Of Hip Hop ft Dalek & Cool Kids

20th June – Gang of Four & Tom Tom Club / Terry Callier & Aloe Blacc

21st June – Tunng & Leila

22nd June – Massive Attack / Saxon Sound System

South Bank’s Meltdown Page

Massive Attack – Teardrop

Tunng – Bricks

Gang of Four – I Love A Man In Uniform (Yeah Yeah Yeahs Remix)

Fridays FTW #4


Photo: Christoph!

Portishead – Machine Gun (Live on Jools Holland)
When I saw Portishead last Thursday they were incredible. Mixing staccato beats with sci-fi strings, the Bristol bunch sounded as vital as they did over a decade ago. Since the show, I’ve barely been able to get this track out of my head.

Björk – Hyperballad
If Portishead were great, then Björk was sensational. One of my all-time favourite artists gave a performance that regularly ascended to heights of pleasure barely felt in the live arena. Already one of my favourite tracks, the section that incorporated Hyperballad, Pluto and samples from LFO’s Freaks was mind-blowingly good. Lasers raked the Apollo, shuddering, pulsing basslines hammered to the very soul of the enthralled crowd. When I next consider my favourite ever live tracks, this would be very high in the reckoning.

Elbow – Newborn
After the double-whammy of musical giants, there was always danger that Elbow would disappoint slightly. I should have known better from a band that rarely fail to deliver. Ending their UK dates at Brixton on Tuesday, Elbow both played and wowed the crowd. For me, recent single Grounds For Divorce really hit the spot, but as a treat to you WoW readers, here’s live fave Newborn.

No Age – Eraser
Having attended so many shows this last week, I’ve barely had time to listen to anything recorded. When I noticed this track floating around the blogosphere I had to give it a try. No Age’s 2007 debut Weirdo Rippers was a great record, and the quality certainly hasn’t dropped here. Taken from the Sub-Pop bow Nouns (due May 6) this great little piece rockets along, riding a wave of fuzzy guitars on a jaunty riff, before exploding into shards of noise.

Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head
It’s Scarlett Johansson. Covering Tom Waits. With David Bowie. Come off it, you may say. But it’s true! And it’s pretty good!

Selected Releases: Monday 14 April

Blood Red Shoes
Box Of Secrets
MP3: You Bring Me…

M83
Saturdays=Youth
MP3: Couleurs

The B-52s
Funplex
MP3: Pump

Jim Noir
Jim Noir
MP3: All Right

Sonic Youth
J’accuse Ted Hughes
. 

The Accidental
There Were Wolves
MP3: Illuminated Red

.
Frightened Rabbit
The Midnight
Organ Fight
MP3: Head Rolls Off

.
Milieu
A Warm Wooden
Hollow
.

The Cinematic
Orchestra

Live At The
Royal Albert Hall
.

I Am Kloot
Play Moolah Rouge
MP3: One Man Brawl

¡Forward, Russia!
Life Processes
MP3: Breaking…

Cary Brothers
Who You Are
.

Some crackers out this week, topped by Brighton’s Blood Red Shoes. Their album was leaked so long ago it barely feels like a new release, but has the advantage of borne out repeated plays. Elsewhere the biggest release has to be The B-52’s first studio album in 16 years. Perhaps surprisingly, it still sounds fresh and  well, good. I Am Kloot attempt to atone for their simply God-awful Gods And Monsters and Forward, Russia release the follow up to the excellent Give Me A Wall. Sonic Youth release the 7th in their occasional series of experimental works entitled J’accuse Ted Hughes, available as a 12″ only. Elsewhere, The Accidental is well worth a listen as is the second release from Frightened Rabbit.