WATCH/// B.TRAITS & ELIZABETH TROY - FEVER
We’re on a bit of a pop kick today, so if you’re a bit snobby you might want to avoid Hitsville ‘til tomorrow. "Fever" is the sort of euphoric tune that you imagine every dance track strives to be; bouncing beefed-up beats with a great ’90s vibe, it switches from house to D’n’B to straight up pop in the blink of an eye. How is this a hit yet?
20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hell bent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by mate Gary King, a 40-year old man trapped at the cigarette end of his teens, who drags his reluctant pals to their home town and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub, The World’s End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind’s. Reaching The World’s End is the least of their worriesThat, ladies and gentlemen, is the first synopsis for THE WORLD’S END, the conclusion of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost's epic Blood & Ice Cream Trilogy. The film is set to start filming this September and follows the threesome’s cult classics Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz (as well as the sitcom Spaced). The World’s End will be directed by Wright, written by him and Pegg and star Pegg and Frost, as usual. It’s been a long time coming, over five years in fact, and it won’t be released until sometime in 2013, but The World’s End is something to get very, very excited about.
Bethany Consentino is a busy woman. Not only has she recently announced a clothing line for hip high street store Urban Outfitters, her band Best Coast have released the follow up to their surprisingly popular debut Crazy for You. Perhaps the best way to describe sophomore effort The Only Placeis as a love letter to California but, for the most part, Consentino and bandmate Bobb Bruno fail to make me fall in love.
The record opens with the title track and the change is instantly noticeable. No more lo-fi fuzziness; with a new record comes a new, cleaner, more polished sound. The lyrics on this track could well have been written by the Cali tourist board, with countless references to the beach, the sun and the sea (familiar themes throughout, as you’ll discover). It’s catchy enough but fails to ignite any sparks of excitement or do much. It’s clear Consentino has grown more confident in her voice and music, something especially evident in "Why I Cry"as she cries out "you seem to think you know everything."
Things continue in a similar vein for the next half an hour or so. There are some tracks that are more interesting than others; “No One Like You”has a high school prom feeling to it, verging on alt. country, whilst "Better Girl" executes Consentino’s simple lyrics in the best way possible. Album closer “Up All Night”provides the highpoint of the record, with plaintive strumming and some beautiful, tear-jerking strings towards the end but fails to make up for the rest of the album.
Overall the eleven tracks that feature on this record sound so similar it’s hard to differentiate. There’s no denying The Only Place is very closely related to Crazy for You, but the latter had that edge of being new and raw, and actually sounding like a bunch of kids bashing out tracks in a garage. This follow-up is just too clean and sterile. It aims for pure, simple ’60s pop, but there’s simplicity and there’s boring.
Consentino’s never claimed to be the world’s best lyricist but some of her writing on this album reach new levels of clumsy banality. “Last Year”,for example, where she writes "what a year this day has been/what a day this year has been", which doesn’t really say or mean anything. A common criticism of Consentino’s songwriting is an over-reliance on a group of tired, clichéd tropes; sun, sand, boys, weed, cats, sitting around in the sun with boys and cats and weed. Whilst in small doses, stock lyrical themes are fine and dandy (where would rock ‘n’ roll be if young guys complain about girls not loving them?), but Best Coast take it to the extreme and edge close to parody.
It’s perfect for days spent lying in the sun but aside from that the repetitiveness of this LP makes it bland and boring. Sadly underwhelming, after a promising opening shot.
Having gained widespread acclaim and exposure with their third album Teen Dream, American dreampop duo Beach House return with a stunning new album, Bloom; Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have produced yet another beautiful record. Some may say to follow up albums with such stand out tracks as “Zebra” or the classic “Norway” would be difficult, but yet somehow the pair have managed to triumph again.
Album opener “Myth” appeared online before the record’s release and follows Legrand & Scally’s typical ethereal formula; but then why fix something that isn’t broken? Legrand’s sultry tones make it very easy on the ear almost immediately, easing you into the album. The tropical sounding guitars and gentle drums make it Beach House.
"Lazuli" (previously released on Record Store Day) includes more electronic elements than have appeared in previous tracks, but is soon given a layer of effortless, almost whispered vocals. "Other People" is an album stand out; with a chorus that goes against the rules by being unhummable. Even when the lyrics seem simple, the song in all is greatly complex with the vocal layers and number of instruments used. "Wishes" is another highlight, with Scally incorporating a more grungy guitar riff throughout, which may sound like it wouldn’t fit into the band’s musical jigsaw, but somehow the pair from Baltimore manage it!
All in all, this is a lovely album; very easy to listen, to the point where it might just fade into the background, but by taking more notice, you ‘re rewarded and really get to feel the music. Time will tell if it matches up to its cult classic predecessor, but it definitely has the potential to. Personally nominated as my revision album this year, Bloom ranks as far superior to a lot of other new releases, notably the disappointing new Best Coast record. Buy this instead!
WATCH/// THE CHAPMAN FAMILY - NO MORE TEARS
We’ve got big love for the Teeside quintet; we regard them as one of the best and most vital bands in the country right now, with their Cruel Britannia EP (released on June 18th) being one of the best of 2012. This right here is the video for the clattering "No More Tears", filmed at the cavernous Hulme Hippodrome in Manchester and sees Kingsley & co cast as the moodiest-looking house band ever. Quite cinematic for a pop promo, but a great song needs a great video.
I have heard of Keaton Henson, have you?
I’ll just put it out there straight away, that I am fangirling the worst way for 23 year old Henson. I find his debut album, entitiled Dear… so refreshing and touching in a way I haven’t felt since I heard Listener for the first time. What I find so charming is Henson’s crippling stage fright, so bad that no official gigs are likely for foreseeable future, yet from the comfort of his bedroom, he’s still managed to produce what seems to me like audible artwork.
The 10-track record begins with “Prologue” which is not unlike some of Coco Rosie’s earlier work, then comes “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are”, Henson’s single. That song is almost too beautiful, it’s fragile and heart-wrenching, but I feel he uses the pitch-bending technique too much at the wrong times which roughens the tone in a way that’s not really growing on me. I’ll freely admit that most of the songs on the album sound similar to each other but I like it that way. If it sounds this brilliant, why change it? Minor grievances aside, tracks like “Party Song” make up for my criticisms and caught my attention so forcefully that I missed a really nice pair of shoes on eBay, so you know it’s good
Whilst the single may suggest an album of despair and pining for a former girlfriend, which it is for a sizeable portion of the album, mirroring Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago songs such as “Sarah Minor” showcase a youthful and cheerful side to Henson’s eloquently expressed adoration. Take my word for it, this album is worth losing shoe bidding wars over.
Phil Elverum has been making music since 1997 and has 9 albums already under his belt. He is perhaps best known for acclaimed album The Glow Pt. 2 under his previous moniker of The Microphones which gained him a small but dedicated fan base. Clear Moon is the first in a duo of albums to be released by Elverum’s Mount Eerie project this year and the second, Ocean Roar, is due in October. Both records have been said to be a continuation of Elverum’s attempt to document his hometown and the surrounding area whilst also dealing with more abstract philosophical and natural themes which have been present in his work since the beginning.
Opening with "Through the Trees Pt 2" we hear the familiar sounds of Elverum’s hushed voice over the top of fuzzy guitars, drums and organ. He sings out over the music - “there is no other world and there never has been”. Elverum often writes these kind of lyrics – dark, philosophical, bordering on supernatural. There’s another one of these before the song is done - “raw impermanence echoes in the sky”. "The Place Lives" is a much louder affair; the vocals are buried slightly under thrashing guitars and heavy reverb creating the haunting atmosphere that’s so integral to the Mount Eerie sound.
Elverum works with a variety of sounds on this record. Shifting between classical, more orchestral pieces and simple guitar based tracks the result is always dark and, in the case of "The Place I Live", for example - which includes a bassoon and a double bass - fit to soundtrack cult TV hit Twin Peaks. Flirting between the quiet, soft melodies of "Yawning Sky" and the thunderous sounds of Lone Bell this proves to be an exciting first part of the pair of albums Elverum plans to release. The title track is the longest and is without a doubt the masterpiece of the entire LP. Featuring crashing doom-laden drums and echoing vocals, Elverum repeats “imagined clear moon in the black sky”. The whole song sounds so apocalyptic it’s impossible not to picture the blackened sky that’s referenced. The album ends with "(synthesizer)" which sounds angelic in comparison to Clear Moon. If the title track represents the end of the world then “(synthesizer)” its rebirth. Purely instrumental, its heavenly sounds leave the door wide open for October’s Ocean Roar.
Clear Moon, for me, is represents everything I like about Elverum and his music. It’s like watching a storm build up, unleash its power before it ends, the sun breaks through the clouds and a sense of calm settles over the landscape. After the slight chaos of his last record Wind’s Poem this LP sees Elverum return to top form and produce something extremely impressive.
LISTEN/// BEAT CONNECTION - THE PALACE GARDEN, 4AM
Beat Connection take their name from an LCD Soundsystem track, as well as a chunk of inspiration. With "The Palace Garden, 4AM", the Seattle four piece show they know how to craft a shimmering piece of disco-pop that would make James Murphy proud, but retaining that Balearic feel that made their Surf Noir EP so brilliant (seriously, go check it out).
LISTEN/// BAAUER - HARLEM SHAKE
If you were lucky enough to catch Rustie’s BBC Radio One Essential Mix the other week, you will have heard this. "Harlem Shake" shares a few strands of DNA with Diplo & Major Lazer’s music, in that they’re both brilliant and both come out of leftfield with their bangers, built around insistent hooks. Baauer's gone and produced one of our favourite dance tracks of the year, one we expected to find its way on to hip-hop beats, mixtapes, adverts, trailers, everything really.
LISTEN/// KING L - VAL VENIS
Note to all artists: naming your tracks after a wrestler is always a good way to get someone (i.e. me) to listen to you. Sadly, King L's "Val Venis" contains no references to the former WWE porn-star gimmicked grappler, but does have one of our favourite beats of the year; a starker, more threatening, horror movie version of Jay & ‘Ye’s “Niggas In Paris”.