First track officially available from the new Atlas Sound record, and it features Noah Lennox (Animal Collective/Panda Bear). Not surprisingly the pairing of Bradford Cox and Lennox compliment each other very well, the saccharine vocals of AC mixed with the quirky gleeful instrumentation of Atlas Sound works perfectly . The album, ‘Logos’ is out October 20th via Kranky Records.
I mentioned the Rain Machine LP recently, the solo project of TVotR’s guitarist Kyp Malone. The first track from the album is out, rather than the stripped back acoustics of his normal lone ventures though ‘Give Blood’ sounds like, well exactly like TV on the Radio to be honest. Disappointing then, but there are worse things to sound like and Kyp’s soulful vocals and some nice scuzzy guitar is enough to keep this interesting. Fingers crossed the album throws up a bit more diversity though.
In 2006 London quartet Amy Blue leaked songs from their debut EP as supposed unreleased demos by Smashing Pumpkins…and almost got away with it, this seems hard to believe now though. Certainly the band take most of their cues from that kind of American alt rock as well as shoegaze, My Bloody Valentine being another prevalent influence (as the cover art would suggest). They infect this though with a distinctly English influence, incorporating the kind of anthemic indie tunes that recall the Britpop era. It’s an interesting combination, albeit one which doesn’t always work quite as effectively as they would hope.
The songs are there, opener ‘The End of the World’ for example could be a potentially great straightforward if a little macabre indie track, the introduction of noise and shoegaze elements though leaves it with a bit of an identity crisis and as a result it’s neither as musically interesting or as catchy as it could have been. For a band dealing in these kind of noise elements it is surprisingly in their scarce quieter moments when Amy Blue at their most absorbing, like on the dreamy ‘Speak of the Devil’, they pull off understated melancholy very well. Whilst their heavier side doesn’t quite pack enough of a punch to get excited about, rather just ending up like the forcing together of two incompatible elements, leaving them in a kind of tedious middle ground a lot of the time.
There are fleeting moments where their combination of indie hooks and noise meld together perfectly, like ‘Itch’, it’s Gallagher-esque opening riff giving way to the catchy if slightly clumsy lyrical refrain of; “sat by the windows watching people watching the windows”. Sadly this is one of the few lines which are at all memorable, a record such as this really needs great lyrics to stand up against repeat listens, for the most part though the lyrics are at best un-intrusive, and at worst, slightly cringe worthy.
'Yellow House' is another stand out track, probably the most notable. Again here though it works because certain elements of Amy Blue’s sound have been scaled back. There’s very little of their noise/shoegaze side evident in this track here, it’s just a brilliantly emotive and passionate alt rock song with flashes of experimental tendencies. ‘Amy Dates Destiny’ is also more noticeable, sounding like classic 90’s Britpop in the vein of Babybird or Suede, albeit with a more interesting mathy guitar line lying underneath.
There are a hundred odd bands that I could cite as reference points throughout the course of these 8 tracks. Although Amy Blue’s ambition is admirable there’s just a little too much going on in ‘The Fortress and the Fatalist’ for it to be as cohesive as it ought to be, sonically though it’s a collection of interesting ideas being played with by a band who certainly have the potential to make them in to something greater than the sum of their parts.
‘Colombian Fireworks’, the opening to There Will Be Fireworks eponymous debut album could scarcely be more apt. Electronic glitches and clicks give way to ethereal guitars and the dulcet tones of Scottish poet Kevin MacNeil; “there will be fireworks, and they will light up your eyes and you will feel more alive than ever before”, then erupting in to a cacophonous wall of guitars and pounding drums. It’s a fierce statement of intent, and personifies the Glasgow four pieces self released debut, the intersection of understated beauty and noise permeates the record from beginning to end. As such the thunderous climax of the first track segues in to the delicate, almost too shy to be heard pastoral eloquence of ‘So The Story Goes’. Then again, the lush acoustics and harmonies of ‘Guising’ flows right in to the crushingly heavy guitars of ‘Off With Their Heads’.
The true beauty of this record lies here in the vastness of it’s settings, from the sprawling glacial beauty of ‘A Kind of Furnace’, to the discordant melancholia of ‘Headlights’ or the anthemic soaring of ‘Says Aye’. In terms of scope and ambition it’s pretty much unrivalled as a debut album in 2009, perhaps for maybe fellow countrymen Broken Records. Though where as ‘Until the Earth Begins to Part’ was distant and impersonal in it’s grandeur, There Will Be Fireworks is relatable and intimate, insular. Rather than swelling up around you the songs creep under your skin, inflaming your heart and your soul, constantly bubbling to the surface with the climaxes threatening to burst out in to the outside world. These songs would be destroyed in the outside world though, because for all of their ferocity they are timid and naive at heart. Nicholas McManus’ lyrics seemingly channelling the lost and hopeless romantic that at times we all feel like ; On ‘Midfied Maestro’ he pleads “If I show up at your house, then please don’t scream and shout, it’s only ‘cause I don’t know where to go”. On ‘We Were A Roman Candle’ he screams furiously at the lack of foresight we’ve all cursed, “I should’ve been more cautious, should’ve been less kind, should’ve held my tongue until I knew it was right”. The lyrics come even further in to their own though when paired with the ragged passionate delivery, equally so whether it’s a subdued whisper or a piercing scream.
It’s on those more subdued tracks that you begin to notice the details which lurk in the corners of the record, intriguing noises flitting through the song, little lyrical references to previous tracks; it really is an album which you can get lost in. Everything sits together so perfectly, each track flowing seamlessly in to the next. I really struggle to find anything not to like about this album, what would probably be considered the centre point of the album ‘A Kind of Furnace’ rambles on a little bit too long at seven minutes, but then on the other hand it offers a welcome respite from the intense passion which precedes and follows it. So, nothing then; this is as good as debut albums come. With work all ready under way on the follow up it seems needless to say there’s a lot more to come from There Will Be Fireworks. There Will Be Fireworks on Myspace
In the wake of the success enjoyed by Beirut there are many bands attempting a similar sound. The Centre Piece does it much much better than most though. Fusing traditional folk with a vast instrumental palette and wistful vocals to create a beautiful haunting sound which is often evocative of familiar times and places which just can’t quite be placed. There are many comparisons to be drawn to Beirut, and Samuel Hill’s voice does share similarities with that of Condon, though is distinctly less baritone and often easier to listen to as a result. There are ukeleles and pianos and accordion, too much accordion really (it’s prominent in two of the four tracks). Despite the over abundance of accordion though this is a startlingly beautiful collection of songs.
Opening track ‘Par La Nuit’ exhibits the more Parisian elements of The Centre Piece sound (Hill recently relocated there from Nova Scotia), gentle accordion with sparse piano mix with Hill’s enchanting French vocals. ‘Through the Floorboards’ is undoubtedly the highlight of the EP, a delicate acoustic ballad reminiscent of a more contented Bon Iver. There’s a sense of hope which permeates the record, the production often allowing the vocals to melt in to the instrumentation and making everything seem united and just that little bit more upbeat as one. The waltzing melody of the final track ‘Bourdonnais’ is a perfect example of this, the vocals echoing around the staccato drums before collapsing back on to the sweet piano line. I really wish I could deconstruct this in a more detailed manner, but every time I try to do so I just get wrapped up in the loveliness of it all and completely forget what I’m doing. This is perfect music to wile away lazy summer afternoons, and a great debut from an extremely promising artist.
Individuality is something which eludes many a band, particularly those in their infancy, and as such it’s remarkably refreshing to stumble across something as unique and as fully realised as the music of Odland. Originally the solo project of Lorenzo Papace (formerly of Cherchat), Odland has blossomed in to a wonderous swell of wistful instrumentation and found sounds. Quite unlike anything I can place, at their most adventurous they sound like an 18th century Parisian carnival come to town. Particularly when they decide to step the tempo up a notch, they sound like the soundtrack to some beautifully absurd silent movie. It’s distinctively vaudevillian, a feeling enhanced by the fact that it’s entirely acoustic, completely eschewing any elctronics to create their sound, shimmiering piano lines dance around violin. The true beauty of the music though is in it’s ambience, Odland experiment a lot with creating noise from more unconventional sources; telephones ring in the background, dishes clink, music boxes play, there’s a whole environment developing in the mind’s eye whilst listening. It’s a dream like ambience that conjures images of the kind of picturesque world of Jean Pierre Jeunet’s ‘Amelie’, it’s incredibly serene, though there are occasionally flashes of something a little more disturbing bubbling quietly under the surface. Alizee Bingolla’s salacious voice flits seamlessly between French and English, between falsetto and spoken word. Despite occasionally bordering on sickeningly twee there’s enough delicate charm in these lovingly crafted songs to absorb even the most stoney hearted of listeners.
Message to Bears is the musical alias of 23 year old Jerome Alexander, under which he crafts some of the most beautifully arresting instrumentation one is likely to hear this side of a cinema screen. Lush strings and ambient soundscapes lay peaceful alongside delicate piano and intricate picked guitar lines. Despite being similar in essence to many of our favourite artists, Message to Bears has sculpted out a niche sound that is entirely his own, something which is born from a coalescence of different influences; “Over the past year I have listened to a lot of Yann Tiersen, Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds and Peter Broderick which I believe have all been direct influences. Especially Peter and Olafur as it is so inspiring to hear people my age creating the incredible sounds that they are”. Message to Bears wouldn’t be out of place in the slightest amongst such esteemed company though, and with the release of his exquisite debut album ‘Departures’ on 29th June it seems he may well be edging closer towards the kind of reverance which greets those mentioned.
Over the last few days I finally got my hands on one of my most anticipated releases of the year, it hasn’t left my cd player since and probably won’t do for quite some time yet. I’m talking about the self titled debut album from There Will Be Fireworks. The Glaswegian four piece, consisting of Nicky McManus, Gibran Farrah, David Madden and Adam Ketterer, have only been together for just under two years but have already built themselves a formidable reputation as one of the most exciting bands the city has to offer. Despite this they remain somehow still unsigned, so on July 1st they self released their eponymous debut, and I’m glad to say that it delivers on every inch of promise. Nicky (guitarist and vocalist) has been so kind as to write me a track by track breakdown of the album.
(1) Colombian Fireworks
We wanted to start the album with something a bit striking and different - maybe even a bit brave. The spoken word part, I think, was what we were looking for in that respect. Kevin MacNeil wrote and performed it. I’d read his novel, ‘The Stornoway Way’, and thought it was brilliant; hilarious and tragic and a bit deranged. Kevin came to one of our gigs and we asked him if he would do the spoken part for us and he agreed, happily. He recorded it up on Shetland, where he was living at the time, and sent us the track and we just stuck it in with the instrumentation we’d done. It slotted in pretty much perfectly. The music itself acts, I suppose, as a summation of what the album is about really - a build up and a climax. And noise. Lots of noise.
Brighton trio Esben and the Witch are an intriguing prospect, named after a macabre Danish fairytale about sibling rivalry and…well…witches, the band’s myspace page presents a group consumed by the kind of twisted folklore that is the tale of Esben. This image though is a pretty accuarate indication the kind of music they produce; “Someone recently described our sound as ‘nightmare-pop’, and idea which we’re all quite enamoured with”.