Trying to discuss Ben Wheatley’s latest Brit genre mash-up without spoilers is no easy task but it’s definitely worth attempting. Kill List begins as a fairly bleak kitchen sink drama set in the rural suburbia of South Yorkshire, where Jay and Shel’s marriage is cracking under the strain of financial woes and parenthood. Following an explosive dinner party argument we discover that Jay is a hitman who has been out of the game for 8 months following a, never actually explained, incident on a Kiev based job gone awry. His partner and best buddy Gal gives him the classic one last job proposal; three names then out. Who could resist?
As Jay and Gal set off on their ‘business trip’ the film finds its feet as a darkly humorous and sporadically violent hitman thriller with added parts hard-man bromance. Wheatley’s exploration of the bland minutia of the mission (waiting in hotel rooms, watching targets routines etc.) along with the earlier domesticity brings us close to the characters and spells out that rather than cold and calculating killers they’re two quite ordinary blokes. This grounding is vital for the final third of the movie, which provides one of the most surprising twists in recent movie history (and to say that isn’t even spoiling it really because it’s so minimally foreshadowed that you probably still won’t see it coming).
Here’s a little playlist I made with tracks from twenty of the best albums released so far this year. It’s by no means exhaustive but it’s some of the stuff I’ve spent a lot of time with this year (and is available on Spotify).
Those tireless instrumentalist Austinites Balmorhea are finally back with a new studio album! I only say finally as it’s been almost double their customary 12 months break, a fact that makes most bands look just plain lazy. Pyrakantha is the first track to be taken from fifth album Stranger, and it suggests something of a shift for the normally all acoustic sextet. The track unfolds slowly with their prickly guitar plucking becoming immersed in electonic static which melts into spritely appregios before summery electric guitar strokes leave us running after them towards the sunset. Like I said, it’s really quite a change from the arid desert invoking epics which they’re known for and how it plays out over a full album remains to be seen, but it’s undeniably a bold and intriguing move. Stranger is released through Western Vinyl on October 2nd.
Just like that. The Secret EP was released via Bandcamp earlier today and is available to download for the pricely sum of 5 US Dollars. Here’s the accompanying blurb for the release…
"new songs for 2012 , a taste of our upcoming 2013 album, but, NONE of these songs will be on that album.. i repeat: NONE of these songs will be on our forthcoming/in progress 2013 LP .. this is our first new material in 14 years ( wtf! )… proceeds from this will help us continue working on the LP and remain as independent as possible.. physical copies (CD) only available at shows on our upcoming tour.."
Natasha Khan marked her return today with the first track from upcoming album The Haunted Man. The sparse muted sway of ‘Laura’ is nothing especially new in terms of style for Bat For Lashes, if anything it is musically less interesting than most of her previous recordings. What is interesting though is the way in which it embraces, even exaggerates slightly, the sometimes overwrought and melodramatic nature of her work. Those escalating piano keys practically scream mournful, and the gentle cracking of her voice over those high notes boil down her sound to its purest form, away from all the quirky image and unusual instruments, to show a really strong songwriter. That it is still capable of holding attention makes it really quite appealing to me, but that said I do still hope that the album has a bit more of variation, rather than being mainly piano based. The Haunted Man is due for release on October 15th.
Menomena have a new album called Moms due out in September. It’s their first since the departure of founding member Brent Knopf (who quit to focus on his excellent solo guise Ramona Falls), and so could potentially see a shift of focus. Certainly hearing this relatively straight forward track would suggest that some of the bands eclecticism, a large part of their appeal, may have left with Knopf. Though it might lack that familiar stylistic schizophrenia Heavy Is As Heavy Does is still an engaging enough listen with some wonderfully deadpan lyrics. Looking forward to see how this one turns out, Moms is released through Barsuk on 18th September.
In February last year the now defunct web-label which I operated as part of this blog released its penultamate record, a short EP by young Russian compser Dmitry Evgrafov. It was one of the ones which I was most pleased to be part of putting out there into the world, and the response to both the EP and Dmitry’s prodigious talent was overwhelmingly positive. So I was delighted to find that he now has a new album available from today, mastered by Nils Frahm no less. Please do take some time to have a listen, as Dmitry is still one of the relatively unknown talents of the modern classical world, though I’m sure that won’t be the case for too much longer.
Take This Waltz is a film which has so far divided audiences; it’s been heralded as both an emotional and visual triumph as well as self-conscious hipster drivel. Personally I’m much more inclined to agree with the former, because this really got under my skin in a way in which very few films do. I actually watched it like a week ago, but it’s still in my head, and I’ve felt increasingly compelled to write something about it. The last time I can recall identifying with something in such a visceral manner was when I seen Charlie Kaufman’s masterpiece Synecdoche, New York in the cinema. In many ways Sarah Polley’s second directorial effort is similar to Synecdoche, though more traditionally structured, in its articulation of human nature (both deal with themes of decay and the fallibility of commitment) and the audience response it will receive; the hoards of misinterpretations surrounding the films themes over on the Imdb messageboards speak for themselves.
From its original release in 2010 and a couple of re-issues last year, Admiral Fallow’s debut album Boots Met My Face became something of a slow burning word of mouth success. Thoroughly deserved it was too, as they (and earlier incarnation Brother Louis Collective) had long been one of the best bands kicking around the Glasgow circuit, and their wistful brand of folk-pop translates quite perfectly to a long player.
One of the biggest strengths of that first record is the subject matter, based on singer and songwriter Louis Abbott’s childhood memories the whole thing has a warm nostalgic feeling about it which is difficult to resist, even in its most dour moments. Tree Bursts in Snow on the other hand is described by Abbott as being inspired in part by “…the sheer volume of gun related violent crimes throughout the world but in particular in the U.S.” Not as many rosy memories expected here then you would think. It’s nothing like the kind of angry polemic that quote suggests though, in fact it feels intrinsically optimistic and if anything it pushes Admiral Fallow closer to the mainstream (without sacrificing too much of their character).
The mighty Errors are releasing a new 8 track mini-album called Relics in October. This preview track sees them continue to develop their sound in some interesting directions, here featuring vocals by Bek Olivia of Magic Eye.
In recent years most music genres have been “re-invented” by some chumps with a laptop who have decided to make a more dubbed up, down beat, lo-fi version of indie-pop or death metal or whatever. Needless to say these are generally quite bad, but not always (How To Dress Well nailed 90’s r’n’b for example) and one which hasn’t really seen this treatment is American country music. Sure it might seem like a strange source of inspiration for a predominantly sample based record but at its best country is a style which paints characters like few others and the kind of genre staple intricate guitar picking and enduring piano melodies are perfect fodder for someone like Daughn Gibson to croon over.