Plaids – Plaids
There’s a moment in the song “Eleven”, on the split EP Plaids released with Football, Etc. last year, where frontman Joe Cee sings, amongst serrated guitars, the couplet “this precarious connection/this assumption of goodwill”. Plaids are a band who write songs about personal politics as well as songs about humanity’s place within the universe. They’re also a DIY band who operate from an ex-fruit and veg warehouse in Nottingham.
Plaids have been around for nearly two years now, and in that time released enough songs to fill two albums, all while touring relentlessly and putting on shows themselves in their JT Soar base. Plaids clearly put everything into what they do, and it shows with their debut self-titled album. Twenty-six minutes of twisting guitar lines, emotional energy and complex lyrics.
Plaids’ have always made their obsession with Dischord Records bands obvious (Embrace is a clear touchstone), but their debut album hints at greater ambition. The aggressive guitar riff that opens “Twenty Six” borrows from At The Drive-In, while the entire record draws from similar aesthetics to plenty of 90s dream pop and space rock bands. The first side attacks you with its pure energy while “Twenty Four” screeches out the beginning of the second side as things get darker, the song beginning with the harshest guitar tone on the album, while “Thirty” closes the album with the line “it could ignite a fire from within”.
The entire concept of Plaids draws from space, inspired by Carl Sagan’s TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. Through this, Plaids are able to demonstrate their lofty ambitions (through their wide musical palette and abstract lyrics) while still keeping strongly to their DIY essence. The fact that their still only naming their songs with (chronological) numbers shows they wish to strike their own path, while still being part of the core DIY network running strong in the UK right now.
Plaids’ debut album is certainly a strong offering that may threaten to break out into the wider scene with its slightly more accessible sound, while still keeping to the integrity the band always offered, with its rough guitar tones and frantic drums and vocals. Whatever the case is, Plaids are still a band people should be glad to have around, and are still one of the best in the scene.
Crows-An-Wra – Kalopsia
Kalopsia creeps and broods for about two minutes before it slashes out in both fury and fear. Guitars crash around you. Singer Jacob Porter screams about Icarus into your skull. The guitars and bass screech before bubbling back under the surface and you realise you’ve only been here a minute.
Cornwall screamo outfit Crows-An-Wra’s 25-minute long debut album features an impressive amount of passion, one not unlike fellow DIY band We Came Out Like Tigers. But Crows-An-Wra are different in that they wrap their intense songs in strangely accessible melodies. Witness the almost upbeat reverb-heavy openning riff in “Dismay! The Seconds Slow” or the haunting yet soothing guest vocals from Elizabeth Burchley on “Heavy Heads (I)” and “Blossoms (II)”. Crows-An-Wra do deliver their twisting and turning songs with fire, but they also deliver them with style. And aren’t afraid to cut your throat from behind with sudden outpours of noise.
What makes Kalopsia important is just how fun it is. While undeniably heavy and hard-hitting, there are lot of influences from the horror punk of Misfits and even early My Chemical Romance. The songs are punchy and quick and enthusiastic yet still dark and enthralling. Enigmatic vocals yelp over enigmatic guitar lines. Yet it is unafraid to stick to its roots, with winding song patterns influenced by genre veterans like Funeral Diner and even At The Drive-In.
But Crows-An-Wra, unlike them, don’t want to die. With Kalopsia, they want to take you on a ride. Like Icarus into the sun. And then Porter repeatedly screams "why can’t we die?" as the bubbling lava of crashing guitar feedback burns you out and leaves you to die instead. Oh well.
Before the big reveal of what you lot, our beloved readers, have voted for as your picks of the year, the Hitsville writers (who aren’t all trained chimps at typewriters… I think) have thrown together their favourite films, television, games and music to be released in the past twelve months (plus this way you know the polls aren’t rigged towards what we think is best). Here’s part one of what will probably be quite a few. Enjoy!
JOE O’BRIEN’S TOP FILMS (in no particular order):
Honourable mentions: End of Watch, Skyfall, 21 Jump Street, Chronicle, Lawless
Intelligent sci-fi and action done right. JGL and Bruce Willis, plus a ridiculously foxy blonde Emily Blunt.
- The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Hits all the right notes on the emotional, comedic and dramatic fronts. Erza Miller steals it.
The opening scene was twice as engaging as anything Skyfall threw at us. Proper intense, and proper hilarious, too.
- Ruby Sparks
Can you say “adorable”? Genius, hilarious and truly heartwarming. If you don’t fall in love with Zoe Kazan, there’s something severely wrong with you.
- The Dark Knight Rises
Never has a comic book movie had so much pressure riding on it, and delivered so emphatically. Pretty close to perfect, in all regards.
One of the most visually stunning cinematic experiences of my life. It’s flawed, but a killer cast and that goddamn “abortion” scene make it one of the year’s best for me.
- Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson’s “live action cartoon” approach works ever so perfectly to make this the cutest, most feelgood film of the year. Never mind how good the A-list co-cast is, the lead kids absolutely nail it.
- The Hunger Games
Also known as “How to Successfully Adapt a Young Adult Book Series” by Gary Ross. So much subtler and cleverer than people give it credit for, it’s a truly remarkable film; certainly better than the book. Gotta love that pushing-it-to-the-absolute-limit-PG 13 violence.
- The Avengers
Despite including it here, I believe folk are jizzing over this one a bit too much. That being said, it’s still rather excellent. Joss Whedon was the perfect man for the job. His script is chocked full of hilarity and the cast have a ball with it. As passionate a comic book film as you’re likely to see.
- Cabin In The Woods
Completely flipping the horror genre on it’s head. Funny and over the top violent. My sick sense of humor ensured that I laughed pretty much all the way through. So, so genius.
JAMES DALY’S TOP FIVE GAMES
- The Simpsons: Tapped Out (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch)
This game may seem to be just another Farmville knock-off on the surface but it quickly established itself as a tongue-in-cheek pastiche. This game is addictive, easily transportable (being on iOS) and hilariously self-aware.
- Dragon Ball Z (Xbox)
I’ve not really given Kinect a chance before but I can safely say that this new addition to Toriyama’s masterful franchise is the best effort so far to convert any gamers who stand defiant against exercising more than their thumbs. The signature art style and graphics work well to create the high-octane combat that DBZ is famous for, and acting out the Kamehamaha against Raditz is a dream most of us have ached to realise.
- Minecraft (Xbox)
Fans of the PC game will know well enough why this is here. In a game where one can create almost anything what is there not to love? The sensation of discovering diamond ore, the shiver when hearing a creeper’s hiss, and the joyful mischief of pouring lava on a friend’s wooden house are among the many reasons to keep going back for more 8-bit styled fun.
- Ninja Gaiden 3 (PS3)
I’ve played this game only a handful of times, most recently on the Wii U, and I can safely say that it had gotten under my skin. The fluid combat, the exquisitely choreographed special moves, and the fact that you play as either ninja or kunoichi all had my inner child elated. I’ll also say that the Wii U version’s superiority has me even more excited about the next generation of consoles.
- Halo 4 (Xbox)
What else could it be? 11 years ago the Master Chief debuted in one of, if not the, finest FPS games ever made. With that kind of hype around a title it’s easy to understand the kind of pressure 343 were under to deliver but that is precisely what they did and the end result was sci-fi gaming brilliance. Of all the games on this least, it is easily Halo 4 that I’ll play again, and again, and again.
An honourable mention goes Pokemon Black and White 2. I’ve yet to play this game but even if it is only half as good as its predecessor it will easily earn a place on a fair share of Christmas Lists.
MEGAN FOZZARD’S TOP TEN FILMS
JOSH BANHAM’S TOP TEN ALBUMS
- The Dark Knight Rises
How could I not put this at number one? A guaranteed ‘film of the year’, The Dark Knight Rises fulfilled all my expectations. I spent the entire first viewing just smiling at the screen and looking a bit deranged, I don’t think I’ve been as excited for a film’s release in quite a while (is this how Twilight fans felt when Breaking Dawn: Part 2 was released?). Nolan pulls it off again; great characters and storyline balanced with great effects. The true master of the block buster.
- Killer Joe
This film was massively underrated in my opinion, and if it hadn’t been ‘the year of TDKR’ this would be top of the list. If you haven’t seen this genre-bending redneck thriller come dark comedy, get it out on DVD. Superb acting quality from the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Juno Temple and Emile Hirsch that is just the right side of weird. One of the most twisted endings to a film I have seen this year, and let’s just say after watching this you will never look at fried chicken in the same way again.
For somebody who stop liking the Bond films circa Pierce Brosnan, I am now definitely back on the wagon. Bond goes back to basics, with all the elements you’d expect from the genre but with a knowing nod towards the 50th Anniversary. Like ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, Mendes has taken a character we already know and challenged them with more modern, more relevant threats.
I was a bit disappointed that Haneke wasn’t as harsh on his elderly subjects as he has been in other films, which I think tainted my viewing of the film in general. A bit slow and lacking any real tension like that in Funny Games, but an honest and brutal portrait of love deteriorating with old age. It’s more about what you don’t see than what you do, and once again Haneke’s framing and use of music is spot on.
- The Master
Again, a little bit of a disappointment for me perhaps because of all the hype surrounding it. I still can’t honestly say I fully know what this film is about or what is going on, and I don’t think that I genuinely enjoyed it. The acting and the cinematic quality is absolutely top notch though so it deserves all the awards that it will scoop up for sure. Maybe a second and possibly a third viewing would help me make my mind up on this tricky one.
A French film about a rich paraplegic and a down and outer from the rough end of Paris that avoids being either too depressing or too clichéd. Who knew that disability could be the subject of so many laughs? It’s the second most successful French film ever made on box office figures and down as their entry into the Oscars this year, so hopefully it will get the recognition it deserves in the English speaking countries.
- Call Me Kutchu
I’ve never considered putting a documentary in my top 10, but this one definitely deserves to be up there. It’s an straightforward, and at times brutal, portrayal of the lives of the LGBT community (called Kutchu’s) in Uganda where a ‘kill the gays’ bill is in the process of becoming law. The film shows the ups and downs of their struggle, focusing on David Kato, the first openly gay man in Uganda. It’s intense viewing and full of stories that are handled in a suitable manner.
- 21 Jump Street
Film 2012 recently named this in their top 5 ‘cop duos’ and I’d have to agree with them. In a just about believable premise, two pretty shitty cops are sent undercover to a high school to bring down a drugs ring. When their false identities (jock and nerd of course) are mixed up though, they experience high school like the other one did. Bear with Channing Tatum’s acting and Jonah Hill playing well, Jonah Hill, and you have quite a clever comedy that references the cop film and the high school coming-of-age comedy.
- The Perks of Being A Wallflower
I haven’t read the book (and I don’t really feel I need to since every other line is constantly reblogged on Tumblr) but even I knew that the film adaption of this book was going to be A BIG DEAL. For others who lived under a rock like me, ‘wallflower’ Charlie (Logan Lerman) is considered a bit of a weirdo in high school until he falls in with a kooky pair of siblings (Ezra Miller and Emma Watson). I found the dialogue a bit clichéd and the whole film looked a bit like it had been put through an Instagram filter, with The Smiths chucked in the background, but I think I’m about 4 years too old to love this film. And- all together now- in that moment, I swear we were infinite.
- Grimes - Visions
Perfectly strange and just as beautiful - truly 21st century record that blurs the boundaries of pop and alternative. Grimes might have been everywhere this year – almost to such an extent we wished she’d not be there, there is no doubt she’s fully deserving of the hype.
- Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland – Black Is Beautiful
Hype Williams/Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland probably don’t exist. Or if they do they’re trolls from the year 2500 sent to show us how easily we can fall in love with something mysterious. Either way Black is Beautiful is a landmark record that marks the duos movement from abstract to (almost) melodic.
- Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
Odd Future got a little old. Swag, Bitches and Suckin Dick wasn’t really doing what it did to people in 2011 in 2012. But then Frank never really was very “Odd Future”. From his first major exposure on Watch The Throne Frank Ocean’s rise has been unprecedented. Channel Orange is the pinnacle of what Odd Future could be, and should aspire to.
- Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
Dr Dre isn’t cool. But has he ever really been? One thing he is good at is picking protégés. Eminem’s rise to fame would have no doubt been hampered had Dre not got on board early. But what is interesting is without Dre on board the only thing this album would be missing is a tragically obviously ghost written verse.
- Willis Earl Beal - Acoustamatic Sorcery
A marine, an X-Factor contestant, a homeless busker… Willis Earl Beal has been everything you probably ever day dreams of being as a youth but still succeeds in writing perfectly simple songs and having a voice that will make you melt then die at the same time.
- Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes
Nobody will ever know what goes on in FlyLo’s head. The creative process wil stay a mystery. That’s probably for the best.
- Sigur Ros - Valtari
Just go for a walk on a cold night with Valtari and you’ll understand.
- Bobby Womack - The Bravest Man In The Universe
The voice that aged beautifully. What Richard Russell did with Gil Scott-Heron on 2010’s I’m New Here he enlists Damon Albarn to help do again, with beautiful and soulful results.
- Best Coast - The Only Place
Sun in our eyes or whatever. That’s the basic Best Coast theme right? Take what Bethany did on Crazy for You and age it, make it more sophisticated and then you have something more like “sun in our eyes and some other more interesting melodies and a lot less reverb”
- Beach House - Bloom
Their most accomplished record yet that takes the basic Beach House formula (in the similar way Best Coast did) but beefed it up and made it more moving.
Don’t forget, there’s still just under three weeks for you to submit your votes for the end-of-year polls. You’ve got until midnight on December 22nd to send us your picks for the best TV, film, music, games, trailers and videos. There are multiple means of voting: on our special voting page here (oooh!), our Facebook, our Twitter or on this survey here. Get to it!
The shortlist of albums for the Mercury Prize has been unveiled, but who cares about that when you’ve got the Hercury Prize to vote in! Okay, so the name’s not the best, but the spirit’s there. The twelve records selected were released between June 10th 2011 and September 11th 2012, by British acts and were not chosen by the Mercury judging panel. With that out the way, here’s who you can pick from:
- Bloc Party - Four
- Burial - Kindred
- The Chapman Family - Cruel Britannia
- Enter Shikari - A Flash Flood Of Colour
- The Horrors - Skying
- Johnny Foreigner - Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything
- Keaton Henson - Dear…
- Laura Marling - A Creature I Don’t Know
- Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness
- Spectrals - Bad Penny
- Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble
- The xx - Coexist
The real Mercury Prize ceremony takes place on November 2nd of this Year, but no one wants to wait that long so you have until the 5th of October to choose your winner for the inaugral Hercury Prize!
(Nope, doesn’t get any better the more you say it)
We’re two thirds of the way through the year, so with only four months left until list-omania kicks into full gear, here are what you lot have been loving so far in the past eight months
- Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
- Death Grips - The Money Store
- Sigur Ros - Valtari
- Killer Mike - RAP Music
- El-P - Cancer For Cure
- Hot Chip - In Our Heads
- Japandroids - Celebration Rock
- Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble
- Burial - Kindred
- Crocodiles - Endless Flowers
- Enter Shikari - A Flash Flood Of Colour
- Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
- Lambchop - Mr M
- OFWGKTA - The OF Tape Vol 2
- Django Django - Django Django
- Beach House - Bleach
- Justin Bieber - Believe
- Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
- Grimes - Visions
- John Talabot - Fin
- Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
- The Cribs - In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull
- The Maccabees - Given To The Wild
- Best Coast - The Only Place
You can vote throughout the year, and multiple times, for your favourite album, track, EP, film, TV show, game, trailer, music video and artwork. Go to http://hitsvilleuk.tumblr.com/ask
MOUNT EERIE – CLEAR MOON
My initial review of this record sums up my feelings towards it in depth; Clear Moon sees Phil Elverum continue his 15 year streak of creating beautiful yet apocalyptic masterpieces. As well as being one of my favourites from the first half of the year this album has secured a place in my heart as one of my favourites from Elverum’s growing catalogue. It’s an extremely cohesive release, full of those familiar themes of isolation, the beauty and power of nature and philosophical wonder that fans of Phil’s work have grown to expect and admire.
REGINA SPEKTOR – WHAT WE SAW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS
I have been a massive fan of Spektor’s work for going on eight years and despite her increased popularity amongst teenage girls, I still enjoy attending her shows simply because, as a self confessed fangirl, I get a thrill from seeing her perform things that very few people know (see: “Silly Eye Color Generalizations”). I must admit I didn’t pounce on this album with the same excitement I have done with previous Spektor records, in fact it took me weeks before I even got around to listening to it. However, when I did I remembered what is so special and unique about Regina Spektor. She mixes her bizarre lyrics with the interesting noises she creates with both the piano and her phenomenal voice and the end product is nothing but spectacular. There are some old songs on this LP that have been given a whole new flavour whilst new tracks hark back to the sounds of Soviet Kitsch and Songs and it’s because of this that Regina fails to disappoint. Again.
MOTION SICKNESS OF TIME TRAVEL – MOTION SICKNESS OF TIME TRAVEL
It’s difficult to get to grips with the fact that Motion Sickness of Time Travel is a one person project. That one person is Rachel Evans and she’s been releasing music under this name since 2008. The reason it’s difficult to grasp this idea is because the music Evans produces sounds so vast. She creates sweeping soundscapes that seem to flow perfectly for the entire 90 minutes. Evans comes at the concept of ambient and drone music from a completely different angle, giving an almost ethereal atmosphere to this record. Though the vocals can be compared to the likes of Grouper and Julianna Barwick the overall sound and aesthetic of this record is much more futuristic, something that is even reflected in the project’s name. Whilst some might criticise the length of the tracks I find that Evans’ use of sound, from ripples to chirps, is what makes the tracks on this LP consistently interesting and memorable.
ADVANCE BASE – A SHUT-IN’S PRAYER
Owen Ashworth is an underrated and under-appreciated lyricist. Previously working under the moniker of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone Ashworth gained a small but loyal fanbase and released a number of incredible records, my favourite of which is 2006’s Etiquette. A Shut-In’s Prayer, released under his new name of Advance Base, is a beautifully simple record. Although Ashworth has kept the basic Casiotone style both musically and lyrically this record has a different feel to it; it’s lighter, more tender. His soft vocals, occasionally backed with a single female voice, are comforting. The instrumentation are also a key sign of the change in Ashworth’s music, although the well accustomed element of nostalgia is stronger, and more beautiful, than ever.
Famous album covers, minus the dead band members. Morbid or quite cool? You decide. Go to http://liveiseedeadpeoples.tumblr.com to see the entire collection.
Rejoice! Kele Okereke has confirmed that Bloc Party will finally release their fourth album this year. Speaking to Zane Lowe on Radio 1 yesterday, the singer said that the four piece were working on the follow-up to 2008’s Intimacy in New York. The announcement comes after last year’s controversy with the NME, in which the publication was duped by the band’s (massively tongue-in-cheek) claims to be auditioning new singers, to replace the then-solo Okereke.
Related: With Bloc Party announcing plans for a fourth album, fellow graduates of the indie class of ‘04 The Killers have stated that they will “definitely” release their own fourth LP this year too. In an interview with Zane Lowe (that guy gets all the scoops), frontman Brandon Flowers said “”It’s just whether it’s [released in] the summer time or the winter time”, before adding it was “exciting getting everyone in the room to make some noise.” The frontman also said that he was keen to make a move away from the sound of their previous albums, stating: "We don’t want to make Hot Fuss 2 or Sam’s Town 2, or Day & Age 2. We’ll maybe take all that stuff, the best of all of it and do what we know how to do".
Also related: Yet MORE new album news. Bumper day eh? Miles Kane, formerly of The Rascals, has revealed that a new Last Shadow Puppets is in the works. In an interview with Noise11.com, the solo star said “There will be [another LSP record] when the time is right. We’ll both know together when it’s right. We’re both enjoying our own things, but we’re still working together and when the time is right we’ll go and do that again… Maybe the end of this year, maybe next year.”
Following on from his hauntingly beautiful debut album Learning, Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius will return next year with Put Your Back N 2 It. The Seattle singer-songwriter will release his second album on February 20th 2012. The artwork can be seen above, and the tracklisting for the record is:
- AWOL Marine
- Normal Song
- No Tear
- Take Me Home
- Dark Parts
- All Waters
- Put Your Back N 2 It
Hadreas has made “All Waters” available for free download as a taste of the album. Click here to download the track. Swapping piano for a more synth-based sound, the track is as atmospheric and melancholy as you’d expect. Definitely one to look out for in the new year.
The votes are in, and have been counted; this is the first instalment of Hitsville readers’ albums of 2011.
50. PATRICK WOLF - Lupercalia
Reclaiming his mojo after the angsty and flat The Bachelor, P-Wolf gave us his best album since The Magic Position. Stacked with lovelorn pop tunes and the most romantic of ballads, it’s shocking how the London troubadour isn’t one of the biggest singer in the country right now.
49. DEATH GRIPS - Exmilitary
Fearsome, fearless and furious, Death Grips are the most exciting new thing in hip-hop, even more so than OFWGKTA. With all the intensity and rage (and shouting) of hardcore punk and the undeniable innovation of the best of the genre, Death Grips are enough to impassion any cynic.
48. CHILDISH GAMBINO - Camp
Recently slated by Pitchfork and lauded by our editor, Donald Glover is proving to be a polarising act, musically at least. Camp represents his first properly released album; thirteen tracks of eclectic beats, punchline after punchline and what almost seems like therapy for Gambino. Dude’s got a lot of issues, but if he’s getting them out through music as good as this, it’s fine by us and you, it would seem.
47. ST VINCENT - Strange Mercy
The difficult third album appears to have not occurred for Ms Annie Clark. “Strange Mercy” blends electronica with parts of her old sound to create an enticing record, full of twists and turns. “Surgeon” is a cracker.
46. FLEET FOXES - Helplessness Blues
More pastoral folksiness from the bearded six piece. One has to hazard a guess that the dark, cold nights by the fire and reappearance of knitwear in your wardrobes was the primary reason for this one popping up here; blokes with acoustic guitars are the best musical accompaniment for winter.
45. NOAH AND THE WHALE - Last Night On Earth
Also known as “The album where NATW got massive”. Seems like recording in LA turned the London folk quartet into actual rockstars. The songs on Last Night… have a wonderful FM rock sheen as well as the big hooks to back up the slick production. It’s also a big volte-face from the maudlin miserabilia of The First Days Of Spring. You’re glad they cheered up?
44. SMITH WESTERNS - Dye It Blonde
Scuzzy and unpretentious, Chicago’s Smith Westerns are reminiscent of the best of British rock over the last forty years, which should come as no surprise to those who know their influences; T.Rex, Oasis, Suede and Bowie. Any album that contains the fantastic “Weekend” deserves a spot on this list.
43. REAL ESTATE - Days
It’s always great when bands just decide to write good songs and do away with all the other shit in the pop world. US three piece Real Estate are just that kind of band. Yes, there are a million and one jangly indie bands out there, but Real Estate just do it so damn well. You clearly think so too, voting their charming and melodic second album into the Top 50.
42. TOM WAITS - Bad As Me
The mad old uncle of rock’s latest album was exactly what you’d expect in both sound and quality. It’s hard to describe a Tom Waits album without diving headfirst in the sea of cliché, but there’s no one out there like him. Going all out with his trademark howl, as well as reining it in on some more restrained tracks, Bad As Me serves as the perfect jump-off point for those new to the iconic madman.
41. BATTLES - Gloss Drop
Possibly the least likely band to ever soundtrack Hollyoaks, the New York three piece achieved it with their second album. It’s pop, but done by a math rock band, which sounds like the best thing ever. Gloss Drop is groovy, playful but also highly technical and rewarding to attentive listeners. Also, Gary Numan features on one track, which is always gonna get some votes.