"Who Lyf?" you might well be asking. The Mancunian band have been flitting in and out of the shadows of the music world for roughly a year now, giving away very little until very recently. For a while no one in the wider music world knew how many people were in the band, what they looked like or even what they played, with the only musical evidence of their existence being a collection of rough demos with ever-changing names and the only press shot being that of a gang of disguised rapscallions, seemingly wearing Topman’s "Anarchy" range. Now, with the album officially released tomorrow (and floating around the internets at this very moment), info on Wu Lyf is a lot more concrete, and a lot less interesting than their self-created mysterious air made out.
Four young Mancuninan lads playing music that sounds like very little else out there. Sound overly familiar? It does seem to happen every ten years or so. But where their predecessors were true game-changers and innovators in the alternative music world, Wu Lyf fall quite short. Yes, they’re pretty unique, sounding as they do, like Tom Waits fronting Bombay Bicycle Club. But it’s this uniqueness that also drags them down. Frontman Ellery Roberts decision to sing incomprehensibly as if he’s gargled a ton of gravel does well to ensure some mystery still remains around the band but along with the instrumentation, it doesn’t help distinguish the tracks. Instead of drawing you in, Roberts voice keeps you from truly connecting with the songs.
Basically it seems as if Wu Lyf have two song modes: fast, upbeat indie pop, with impassioned-yet-indecipherable lyrics, reverb-drowned, spectral guitar lines, a bit of organ and funky drumming OR slow, downbeat indie pop with impassioned-yet-… you get the idea. It’s all a little samey, and just melds into one 47 minute long song. Taken on their own, out of album context, most of the songs here are pretty impressive. For instance, Dirt is a great rebellious anthem built around a nice bit of rhetoric (“No matter what they say, dollar is not your friend”, which is at odds with their recent publishing deal with Universal, although they admirably are self-releasing the album, and the street patois used on their website), whilst Spitting Blood is an idyllic alternative summer anthem. But if, say, the tracks came up on shuffle, you’d be hard pressed to name which was which.
The deliberate attempt to stand out from the crowd takes away from what could be an extremely promising debut album. These songs are crying out for some proper skyscraping choruses, to push “Go Tell Fire To The Mountain” that little bit further, but really, Dirt is the only thing you can imagine getting a crowd singalong. I’ll admit, it took me a while to “get” Wu Lyf, and when I did, I was quite excited for the prospect of their debut album, that perhaps we might have something very special on our hands.
But in the end, it’s all a little emperor’s new clothes unfortunately. Sure, they’ll gain a sizeable following with the teenage hipster/typical Tumblr user crowd, with their mysterious vibe and vague anti-establishment stance, same as Crystal Castles. They are intriguing and it’s easy to get swept up in the rhetoric. They’re enigmatic, they look and seem cool, their spiel and schtick, whilst pretentious, hooks you in. Even as I’m writing this, I still sort of, in the back of my mind, want to a part of this movement (or whatever you want to call it). But as a whole, “Go Tell Fire…” underwhelms. The image is more appealing than the songs, which is never a good sign for a band that wants to last. If only they’d spent more time on the songs than the myth they built for themselves. Judging from their image, I’m sure becoming something of an underdog will suit Wu Lyf down to the ground. I’m willing to be proven wrong on album #2.
This is something of a posthumous Spotlight, unfortunately. Jakobínarína’s first and only album “The First Crusade” was released just over two years ago and they’ve since split-up (can’t explain why, since the explanation on their blog is Icelandic) which means it’s very unlikely a fantastic follow-up will be unleashed onto an unsuspecting musical world. “The First Crusade” is basically what the last Cribs album should have sounded like; furious punk rock with an undeniable pop edge, and some great Johnny Marr guitar flourishes on top. Jakobínarína manage it without the help of the Manc legend, so how The Cribs didn’t quite is a mystery.
It’s easy to see how “The First Crusade” slipped into the indie rock ether. Released in the same year as “Favourite Worst Nightmare”, “Neon Bible”, “In Rainbows”, “Myths Of The Near Future” and, to a much, much, much, much lesser extent, The View’s debut, it didn’t stand much chance of appearing -in end-of-year polls or being heralded as an outright classic. In this humble indie geek’s opinion, “The First Crusade is one of the best albums of the last decade and should be remembered as such. Crafted by six Icelandians (Icelandicers?) between the ages of 17 and 21, it’s astounding how powerful and vibrant it sounds. The pace barely lets up throughout the 12 songs, both the drums and guitars play at breakneck speeds, whilst a young Bernard Sumner lookalike bellows at you about the good points and (many) bad points of being young, angry, horny, judgemental and always looking for a good time.
Lyrics like “Jump around, around, around/to the sound/of mediocrity”, “And I thought to myself/ “I’ve nothing to live for”/ Except next weekend/Because there will be a dance revolution” and “Who wants to be wise when they’re 17? Got girls to see and a world to conquer” may not be challenge for Dylan, Morrissey or Richey Edwards in terms of being poetic or world-alteringly brilliant, but they do sum up the life of a 17-to-21 year old almost to a tee (much like The Hold Steady do, but better). It’s a shame that nothing this exciting and/or vital has come out of the music scene in the last four years or so, and an even bigger shame that Jakobínarína have split up. I seriously recommend “The First Crusade” to anyone who likes their music loud, angry, fun and very catchy…or just anyone who like good music.
Miseries! Haters! Naysayers! Lend me your ears/eyes! After a year out of the spotlight in LA (a bit ironic maybe?), Sheffield’s finest trundle back in the pop conciousness with their fourth LP “Suck It And See”. After the modestly recieved-yet-well aging Humbug saw the Arctics go stoner-rock, they’ve returned to the production arms of James Ford (responsible for “Favourite Worst Nightmare” and a handful of tracks on the debut). With the return of Ford, Turner & co have seemingly rediscovered their more accesible indie roots.
Not to say that this is “Whatever People Say I Am: The Sequel”, far from it. I do believe some fans would benefit from accepting that Arctic Monkeys will never write about nightclubs, taxi ranks and dancefloors, and never soundtrack their nights out again. View any comments section to do with new Monkeys material and inevitably you’ll find a small section decrying the new direction in favour of the spiky, shouty sounds of 2006. Whilst an extra WPSIAM or FWN or two wouldn’t have hurt at all, the band have matured into a far better and lasting proposition.
That’s not to say that this is an entirely different band; Turner’s wit and way with the English language still remains, Nick O’Malley’s basslines are as chunky and funky as ever whilst Matt Helders is clearly one of the best drummers of his generation (Jamie Cook’s pretty good at guitar too). Suck It And See just shows that the band has grown up and developed a new, if slightly retro, sound. And so, onto the album itself. Pre-release signs weren’t massively encouraging; uncharacteristically heavy rock-outs in the shape of Brick By Brick and Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair were the first things heard from the album, both of which were criticised for their lyrics, whilst the minimalist cover was so poorly received, you’d think they’d put Susan Boyle on the cover, legs akimbo and all. Personally I love the cover, but horses for courses and whatnot. And there is truth in the criticisms of the two tracks; Brick By Brick and Don’t Sit Down… are piss-poor lyrically, compared to the likes of The Jeweller’s Hands. But stick them in the context of the album and everything changes.
Of the twelve tracks that make up Suck It And See, eight are the Arctics at their poppiest and most radio-friendly. There is a clear 60s pop, Beatles & Kinks influence that shines through. The guitar lines are clear and ring out, making the whole affair a lot more melodic than the heavier Humbug. She’s Thunderstorms, for instance, lingers in your brain long after hearing it, while The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala has summer hit welded onto it. But for all the shiny FM pop, the remaining four tracks could’ve easily slotted in to the Humbug tracklist. The aforementioned Brick By Brick and Don’t Sit Down… show that the band are still eager to turn everything up to eleven and rock with the best, and when listened to in context make the record that bit more fun and varied, but it’s Library Pictures (with its bizarre chorus of “Library pictures of the quickening canoe/the first of its kind to get to the moon" …sorry, what?) and All My Own stunts that are evidence of the spirit of Album Number Three lives on. The former sounds like the little brother of Pretty Visitors with its buzzsaw riffs and scattergun vocals, whist the latter is a slow-burning QOTSA-a-like, which is unsurprising considering it features a barely noticeable Josh Homme backing vocal. All My Own Stunts is probably the weakest track of the twelve, it never really goes anywhere, has no real hook and, other than a few solos here and there, kind of kills the momentum of the album.
After the brief trip down memory lane, the remaining five tracks make up what is the best run of songs on an Arctics album since the second half of “Favourite Worst Nightmare”. Reckless Serenade is in the same vein as Hellcat and exhibits more of Turner’s wonderful way with words (opening couplet: “Topless models doing semaphore/Wave their flags as she walks by and get ignored" as well as "Call up to listen to the voice of reason and got his answering machine/I left my message but did he fuck back to me/And now I’m stuck still wondering how it’s meant to be”); Piledriver Waltz, first heard on the Submarine EP and pretty much unchanged here; Love Is A Laserquest (a classic Monkeys title) molds some of the country influence Turner has talked up into a torch song ballad; the title track which I believe is the band’s first bonafide classic song and closer That’s Where You’re Wrong, which sounds something like a more sophisticated A Certain Romance, with its incessant guitar line and wistful lyrics.
"Suck It And See" has split opinion with fans, with some accusing it of being boring, one-tempo, pop and others hailing it as the band’s best so far (I’m in the latter camp, personally). Perhaps tastes have evolved in different directions; fans becoming enthralled by more complex, challenging music they wouldn’t have previously listened to without the Monkeys (the band were a introduction for many to the world of guitar music in the mid 00s). Or perhaps tastes haven’t evolved at all, as is the case with the small group still praying, never to be answered, for a second I Bet YoU Look Good On The Dancefloor. Either way, Arctic Monkeys are becoming a rare animal; a band that is both big and special with songs that are good and stand out in equal measure. The future’s looking pretty bright…
It was with apprehension that the world speculated over the potential of Bon Iver’s eponymous second album after it was announced in May, and wether or not it would live up to the success of For Emma, Forever Ago. The latter’s incredible authenticity was a big part of what made it one of the most important folk releases of our generation, and of course, with any album following a release of such prestige, it is a daunting prospect for both the artist and their fans.
However, the thoughtful folk fans of the world are in luck and can breathe a sigh of relief, for Justin Vernon has spectacularly done it again. Bon Iver takes the quietly understated brilliance of For Emma, and doubles its intensity with extraordinary conviction.’ Perth’, the shimmeringly beautiful opening track, employs an exquisitely delicate guitar sound that hums with an underlying roar of warm overdrive, coupled with military snare, thunderclap-esque cymbals and enormously powerful toms that almost move the earth beneath your feet. Flowing beautifully through the wildly experimental ‘Minnesota, WI’, which fluctuates between softly plucked strings and magnificently powerful bass and drums, we are graced by ‘Holocene’ which is, like the rest of the album, utterly ethereal in both its composition and delivery.
However, it is pieces like ‘Perth’ and ‘Towers’ which display the progression from For Emma… to Bon Iver.There is more movement in these tracks than before, more being said musically, and more power in the overall sound present throughout the record. The album moves with slightly less finesse than For Emma, but definitely with more focus. There is little messing around with unnecessary ambience, and when a piece needs to reach that epic climax that so many folk artists leave by the wayside, the band do it with clarity, certainty and ineffable brilliance.
When it comes to production, Bon Iver takes another step past its predecessor. Gone are the hesitant sounds of the Blood Bank EP, replaced with assuredness in every aspect of the album’s construction. Every single bar sounds delicately constructed with the utmost care and attention, which is no mean feat considering the number of layers which make up each track. No song is too long or too short, and not even the controversially written ‘Beth/Rest’, which features primarily just Vernon and a synthesiser, displays anything but heartfelt honesty. The indisputable authenticity for which Vernon’s sound is known is no less present here, but it has been developed to have more warmth and feeling laced into it than I have heard on an album for a long time, if ever.
At the release of For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver was simply a quiet, mysterious and breathtakingly raw collection of indescribable sounds which seemed to long for the solitude of an isolated cabin in Wisconsin. Bon Iver, however, takes Justin Vernon’s sound and announces its splendor to the world. It is the sheer level of sincerity and emotion and the fearless experimentation with ideas and textures that makes this record something truly special, and it is with absolute certainty that I say that it will be one of the most important albums of the decade. Merlin Jobst
Key tracks: Holocene, Perth & Calgary
For fans of: The Tallest Man On Earth, The Antlers & James Vincent McMorrow
To be released June 21, 2011 on Jagjaguwar Records
(Originally posted on Little Sparrow)
Scheduled for release on the 29th of August, BBC’s third album is shaping up to be quite brilliant. Featuring the magnificent, best-song-they’ve-written “Shuffle” and "How Do You Swallow So Much Sleep", first found on one of the Twilight soundtracks, the album is a return to their electric sound after a diversion into folk on “Flaws”, as well as a giant leap forward in songcraft. Bombay Bicycle Club are, without a doubt, a special band.
1. How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep
2. Bad Timing
3. Your Eyes
4. Lights Out, Words Gone
5. Take The Right One
8. Leave It
10. What You Want
11. Favourite Day
From whipping boys to darlings of the indie world in the space of two years and one album, The Horrors have entered the realm wherein every future release will be awaited with baited breath from both critics and fans. “Primary Colours” showed the band had talent and vision far greater than their garage rock roots, trying their hand at MBV-style shoegaze. After a further two years and numerous side-projects (Spider & The Flies, Lumina, Cat’s Eyes), the Southend five-piece have shifted direction once more with album three, "Skying".
Elements of “Primary Colours” still remain on “Skying”; there’s more than a few shozegaze guitars chucked into the mix, but the emphasis here is clearly on the band’s rhythm section. Bass and beats take precedence, with Rhys Webb and Joe Spurgeon channelling The Stone Roses throughout. Opener “Changing The Rain” features a bowel-shaking bassline over sweeping melodic synths, marrying the swagger of baggy to a new wave sound. The album then takes a swerve into a poppier territory, with “You Said” having a Bowie feel albeit Bowie under layers of dream guitars, and “I Can See Through You” coming off like a lost 60s beat hit, nicking the beat to “I Am The Resurrection” and slapping a retro organ over it. If the video for the latter isn’t an homage to swingin’ Sixties music TV shows, there’s a definite trick being missed.
Despite these detours to an arguably more pop sound, the punk bite of early Horrors lingers on in tracks like “Dive In” and “Endless Blue”, the former sounding like a unlikely and bizarre reworking of something from the Manics’ “The Holy Bible”, whilst the latter bursts to life as an MC5-meets-Joy Division rocker, after a strolling bass ‘n’ brass intro. Speaking of brass, there’s a heavy dub influence to “Skying”, with a good handful of tracks falling into a dreamy, swaying strut with trumpets worked in at every available moment. You wouldn’t have thought dub could possibly work in the hands of five goths, but they pull it off with aplomb.
"Still Life", the first track to appear from the album, is definitely a highlight. Tears For Fears synths, psychedelic samples and a strutting bassline push the track forward into a big, arms-in-the-air chorus, which eventually has yet more brass thrown into it, creating a triumphant, chest beating (well, as chest-beating as The Horrors can be at least) future anthem.
The final three tracks form a curious closing for the album, shifting moods and sounds faster, almost as if a microcosm for the band’s own progression so far. “Moving Further Away” begins as a brighter, lighter cousin of “Sea Within A Sea” from Primary Colours”, all krautrock beaks and synth riffs, before a scuzzy guitar riff walks in around the halfway mark. From there the track spirals into a Kraftwerk break (seaside samples and all) before returning the dirty Grinderman-esque guitars, a move that is fascinating as it is thrilling. “Monica Gems” sees the band embrace their inner Britpop, all estuary vowels and spiky guitars. It’s also a bit Kinksy, not just because of its title. The album closes with “Oceans Burning”, a lilting near-ballad which is the only real weak point of the album. With more listens, has the potential to either be the best thing the band has ever done, as the track just plods along for roughly five minutes, before bouncing to life with massively effected guitars and one last sublime bassline.
"Skying" more than outstrips the band’s debut "Strange House"(that almost goes with out saying, I think) and definitely stands up to its predecessor. There’s something new to discover in every listen, especially as no track dips below the four minute mark, giving the album a 54 minute running time over its ten tracks. "Skying" is not exactly an easy listen; no stadium rock hooks a la Glasvegas or myriad of melodies like Arctic Monkeys’ "Suck It And See", but then The Horrors aren’t that kind of band that aims for or needs mass audience appeal. They’re already something of a cult band, but this album is sure to cement them as a truly great band.
Possibly more anticipated than The Second Coming/Apocalypse (delete as appropriate, depending on your outlook on life), Kanye West & Jay-Z’s joint album “Watch The Throne” has been give a release date, with the album due out on the 2nd of August. At least, that’s according to the receipts of the album’s pre-orders. Putting an album up for pre-order without a solid date for release is pretty damn strange. No tracklisting has been released for the album, but we do know it will feature the somewhat-underwhelming “H.A.M.”. The artwork (above) is suitably grandiose and over-the-top, but it remains to be seen whether its contents will live up to its cover… that is once they’re finally out.
The funnier, more talented of Manchester’s most famous siblings has finally announced his long-awaited solo album, entitled "High Flying Birds". Set for release on Gallagher’s own Sour Mash label on October 17th this year, the LP is Noel’s first material since Oasis’ demise in 2009, and will be followed up by a second LP in 2012, collaborating with Amorphous Androgynous (who were responsible for the epic remix of “Falling Down”).
Musicians appearing on the records include ex-Oasis keyboard player Mike Rowe, The Lemon Trees’ Jeremy Stacey and American percussionist Lenny Castro, best known for playing on records by The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and Elton John. The album also includes guest appearances from the Crouch End Festival Chorus, who Oasis and Gallagher have performed with before, and The Wired Strings. The album also features “(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine” and “Stop The Clocks”, two songs which were long rumoured to be included on an Oasis release. Demos of the tracks have been floating around the net for some time.
Gallagher is due to tour in the autumn but no further details have been announced yet. The full tracklisting for ‘High Flying Birds’ is:
- "Everybody’s On The Run"
- "Dream On"
- "If I Had A Gun"
- "The Death Of You And Me"
- "(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine"
- "AKA…What A Life!"
- "Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks"
- "AKA….Broken Arrow"
- "(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach"
- "Stop The Clocks"
Rumours surfaced earlier this year that the first single from the record will be the ‘The Death Of You And Me’.
And Liam Gallagher’s response to the news? Witty as ever…
New York hipster hip-hoppers Das Racist have released details of their first album proper, "Relax". The album will be released on September 13th and follows the group’s two mixtapes, “Sit Down, Man” and “Shut Up, Dude”, released last year. Group member Himanshu Suri is releasing the album on his own Greedhead Music label, and production comes from the likes of Diplo, El-P, Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, and Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder.
The tracklisting for "Relax" is:
- Michael Jackson
- Brand New Dance
- Middle Of The Cake
- Shut Up Man (featuring El-P)
- Happy Rappy
- Booty In The Air
- Power (featuring Danny Brown and Despot)
- Punjabi Song (featuring Bikram Singh)
- Rainbow In The Dark
- The Trick
Los Campesinos ready next album
Rounding off a day of album news here on Hitsville, it’s a few days late but what the heck. Exciting times indeed. One of the most brilliant British bands of the past few years gearing up for album number four, more touring, Heat Rash #2 and releasing a hilariously zeitgeisty new t-shirt. Busy days ahead for Team Campesinos!