Sunday, 27 September 2009

In The Jungle, The Scouser Jungle....

A whistle-stop tour of North West England late this week took in Liverpool as the first port of call on Thursday. Had scheduling been just a few hours better, it would have afforded the time to catch the local band Bagheera playing elsewhere in the city. Despite this near miss, it's my pleasure to shoot some attention their way for the sublime music they create on plastic....digital.....whatever.


Already standing apart from their peers by peddling neither Beatles-worshipping DullPop nor third rate metal, Bagheera nestle much more neatly into the lush sound of current indie darlings Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, or even a blissed out Yeasayer. This translates to painstakingly arranged melodies, subtle intrumentation, and floating, ethereal vocals. It's all deeply beautiful and feels not unlike looking out over a dew-tipped meadow towards town, as day breaks and the world slowly stirs to life.

MP3: Bagheera - Horizons Lined With Scars
MP3: Bagheera - Old Machine
Taken from the Hollow Home EP, which costs nothing when you ask nicely

Currently students at the University of Liverpool and relatively new to the live circuit, the band has only just begun to prowl the strange musical jungle of the city. With the right crowds and gigs, they certainly have the qualities of song required to turn heads even at this early stage. Their freely available 'Hollow Home EP' provides an ideal starting point for the curious and is certainly recommended to fans of the aforementioned artists (scene?), or more simply anyone with a penchant for delicate, shimmering music.

Bagheera will be playing out around Liverpool - and York, definitely maybe - to close out the year, so be sure to keep an ear out if you're one of those Scousers with tastes beyond banging heads (be that to thudding dance bass or chugging guitars).


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Now playing: Feist & Ben Gibbard - Train Song
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Vive la RĂ©sistance

Not that a vast majority of readers won't already be familiar with them, but the Muse wagon has been rolling into innumerable locations (both physically and promotionally) in recent weeks and the new album 'The Resistance' is intriguing enough to warrant a mention.


Initially wading in through the lead single
'Uprising', replete with Doctor Who-esque intro and a heroic resurrection of Blondie's 'Call Me' hook, a nod back to indirect influences of the past is evident. After one full spin through the album proper, this theme continues with anything from Queen to classical composers popping up in the instrumentation. Few bands could emerge from such diverse experimentation with their credibility in tact, never mind enhanced, yet first impressions are that the Devonshire trio have done just that.



Buy it at Insound!

To further add to their respectability, the band recently put in an 'altered' performance......heavy on the piss take......for an Italian TV show that insisted they should mime the new single. Be amused by that here and expect a good old fashioned dissection of 'The Resistance' in the not too distant future........which likely equates to 2010 in my skewed, confused version of chronology.


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Now playing: Fuck Buttons - Surf Solar
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 21 September 2009

Poetic Licence

Now safely down on English soil, the catch up on current indie-darlings started more or less immediately - save for a quick I.T. Crowd break in Gatwick Airport - with the familiar sources: reliable music rags and careful interrogation of fellow music obsessives.

Before anything too new and exciting, however, there's the not insignificant form of the old (and exciting) to consider. This in the shape of one Frank Turner. Not that old, granted, but a seasoned veteran on this particular hype machine.


On both sides of the Atlantic, Mr Turner is getting his new effort
'Poetry of the Deed' out to the people in the only way he knows how......touring, gigging, touring. Anyone having visited these pages more than a couple of times will be aware that this gent's live shows come heartily recommended, not least for their fuel the fire, state of the music world addresses. Well, on the new lead off song that will introduce many people to his music, Frank translates this attitude and energy about as well as anyone could onto the plastic.

MP3: Frank Turner - Try This At Home
Taken from the new album 'Poetry of the Deed' - out now (Epitaph / USA)

Buy it at Insound!


A short, sharp slap of a track, it channels his pure punk roots and distills them through drunken Irish folk-fight music. Challenging one to pick up a guitar and do better, it achieves the opposite effect and creates an urge to sit down for a proper listen of the full album. Given that it's out there in the world, waiting to be picked up, that will be occurring shortly. In the meantime, this fesity tune is a suitably tasty amuse-bouche.


"Let’s stop waiting around for someone to patronize us.
Let’s hammer out a sound that speaks of where we’ve been."



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Now playing: Little Boots - Mathematics
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Oh Shhhhhhhhhh.........what?

Tomorrow afternoon, I board a plane bound for the fair isles of the United Kingdom. Though this means grey skies and incessant rain, it also means a proper pint and fish 'n chips. Swings, roundabouts, and all that jaaaaazzz.

Musically, it means I'll likely catch up on a bunch of great British stuff I've missed, so it seems like a sensible idea to focus on some NYC tunes before I shoot off. Enter The Gay Blades.

OFFICIAL SITE / MYSPACE / TWITTER

MP3:
The Gay Blades - O Shot
Taken from 'Ghosts', out now

Buy it at Insound!

Having been introduced to the duo's self-designated 'trash pop' - think catchy, low down rock 'n roll with a healthy punk attitude fusing it all together - by mates either side of the Atlantic, the band is one that proved difficult to ignore. Not that there's any good reason to ignore them in the first place. Any band that summons the ghost of McClusky, lectures it about its lack of pop acumen, then sends it packing with a confident Yankee whoop & holler is well deserving of further attention.

Their 2008 release,
'Ghosts', provides many a high point, not least in the spunky song titles ('Bob Dylan's 115th Nightmare', 'Robots Can Fuck Your Shit Up'). The real draw is the pure spirit of rock that courses through the veins of each song, propelling them onwards with high energy and choruses that can't be shaken loose. Take the insistent riff and vocal swagger of O Shot as your proof. It'll drive you crazy, in the best possible way.

Catch the band across the USA on their upcoming tour, many with the equally off-the-wall but less musically engaging Electric Six. As for me, I'm off the other way.......next stop, old Blighty.

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Now playing: Future Of The Left - The Hope That House Built
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

LIVE REVIEW: Super Furry Animals @ Highline Ballroom, NYC

Following a daytime of sombre reflection 8 years after the 9/11 attacks, this particular Friday night was always going to be a tough ask of anyone performing. Nonetheless, with British mates in town it seemed only right to hit the Highline and check out grizzled Welsh indie-rockers, Super Furry Animals.


As cult heroes, one will often hear that the Super Furries "should be much bigger" than they actually are. Despite this, with packed out NY/NJ shows across the weekend - the band appearing at Maxwell's and ATP New York in a matter of days - they're certainly not in any kind of bad shape.

Before the main event, the gathering throng is 'treated' to a sullen performance from Long Islanders The March Fourth! Although the instrumentation keeps things somewhat interesting, veering as it does from spiky electronica to all-out rock, the singer is clearly irked by something and looks miserable as sin throughout the band's set. Add to this the weak vocal and lack of between song banter and it's hard to feel much more than a gentle relief as they exit the stage. Following them, the pleasant yet uninspiring Jersey boys in Real Estate put in a competent but plodding set. That the band is supporting such livewires as SFA and, next month, the raucous Japandroids only adds to the queer juxtaposition of support vs headliner.

After what seems like an age, the boys from the valleys take the stage. Displaying various signage to encourage crowd 'APPLAUSE!' and 'WOAH!'s, singer Gruff Rhys immediately succeeds where those before him have failed, endearing himself to an admittedly already won-over audience. As a terrible photographer, I invite you to peruse the much more enjoyable section of pics over at the mighty Brooklyn Vegan here.

MP3: Super Furry Animals - Juxtapozed With U
Taken from 2001's 'Rings Around The World'

OFFICIAL SITE / MYSPACE / LAST.FM
Buy it at Insound!

Launching sharply into a familiar trio of Slow Life, Rings Around the World, and Juxtapozed, the band gets off to a healthy start. The latter in particular sees Rhys contorting his singing into weird and wonderful electro-shapes via some form of vocoder, simultaneously poppy and disturbing. Employing a variety of instrumentation throughout - not to mention amusing flash cards and hand signals - the lead singer is an engaging character and, unsurprisingly, the main focus of crowd attention.


Further set highlights include upbeat newie Moped Eyes (taken from the recent 'Dark Days / Light Years' release) and The Very Best of Neil Diamond, which is entirely unrelated to Mr Diamond. Probably. Possibly. Equally adept at pulling relaxed acoustic numbers out of the hat as they are barreling rock songs, even when the PA karks it for 15 minutes or thereabouts, the band are able to battle through with a mixture of solos, shouting, and the reliable fall back to the 'EARTH!' stance. With the reliably rousing Man Don't Give A Fuck helping to close things out late on, the system eventually returns for the band to give everyone one last blast to the cranium.

All in all, Super Furry Animals reign triumphant for a good 2 hours in the face of disappointing supports, technical glitches, and the lingering shadow of this particular date. Where many a lesser band could have fallen, they reign supreme to an appreciative audience. Perhaps, indeed, they should be much bigger.


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Now playing: The Aeroplanes - Just a Girl
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 14 September 2009

Bear Faced Cheek

As things begin to get back into some semblance of routine here.....albeit for just a few days, at least......let's take a second to focus on a band whose chipper, relentlessly bright music has kept the energy high over the last few chocka block weeks. Namely, Jacksonville Florida's Sunbears!

MYSPACE / TWITTER / BUY

Though barely scratching the surface just yet, the band's huge song I'm Alive! immediately reels one in with it's rapturous horn section and Flaming Lips-esque vocal. It's a wonderful, celebratory fanfare of a tune and will undoubtedly spark much more interest in Sunbears! future activities, as well as the current Dream Happy Dreams release.

Check out the song, their Myspace tunes, and eagerly await more from this delightfully upbeat, punctuation heavy band.


Sunbears! - I'm Alive!
Taken from 'Dream Happy Dreams' - Out Now

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Starred & Feathered

At much the same time as Brooklyn's beloved Animal Collective were garnering headlines across the borough and beyond last month, thanks in no small part to a sell out weekend in Prospect Park, Dinosaur Feathers were sneaking out their own 'Early Morning Risers EP'. For free, by the way.


A swirling carnival of tropical synths and lilting vocals, this is certainly one of the more worthwhile bargains granted through the increasingly benevolent musical corridors of the internet. Hinting at only the brightest of futures, the band manages to fuse the joy and experimental approach of their Brooklyn brethren to a sun-drenched, upbeat sound with calypso edges. Check out the EP's laconic eponymous track for all the proof required.




MP3: Dinosaur Feathers - Early Morning Risers

Taken from the EP of the same name.....get the whole thing here


Dinosaur Feathers offer one last glance back at the humid summer, before we pull on the hoody and trot off in acceptance of autumn. If you're in need of some extension to your Labor Day shenanigans, catch the band at Danger Danger Gallery in Philly tomorrow night or Greenpoint's Coco 66 on Thursday 10th Sept. They'll then be local in NYC during October and - if we're all very good - releasing a full length in the not too distant future. Keep your ears to the ground and your eyes fixed firmly on the beach.


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Now playing: SUNBEARS! - I'm Alive!
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

REVIEW: Isis - Wavering Radiant

Long overdue as it is, this review has been justifiably delayed during the summer months. As outstanding as almost every Isis record is, the balmier months lend themselves to upbeat, breezy and immediately catchy tunes, rather than the winding sonic journeys created by bands of this ilk. Add to this the fact that albums of such a depth take a correspondingly lengthier period to digest and you have my roundabout logic for not posting more about this album until now. Run with it.

Following on from 2007's suitably labyrinthine effort 'In the Absence of Truth', Isis has long since passed the point of needing to compare their newest work to the previous outing. From 'Oceanic' onwards, the band has carved its way to the forefront of expansive, intricate music that loosely fits under the post-rock/metal genre. As they release 'Wavering Radiant' - the fourth full length on Ipecac and fifth in all - the band is essentially expected to deliver a cohesive set of songs with an overall vision summarised by the music. Simple, right?

It's important to take a step back and realise how consistently excellent the work of Isis has been over the course of this decade that we unfortunately have to label the noughties. This album closes it out in ever glorious style, with dense soundscapes conjured up as nonchalantly as any one of us may scribble out our signature.

Feeling as natural as the band has sounded since the aforementioned (and landmark release) 'Oceanic', the album opens up with the broad Hall of the Dead. All towering riffs and colossal percussion, the song rips and swirls at the senses before providing brief respite in the slower, more melodic interludes. Often aided by the haunting keys of Clifford Meyer, it's a sprawling piece that somehow whips by in what seems like seconds, yet is really closer to 8 minutes in length. Ghost Key follows, arriving understated with interweaving high guitar lines and a simple rhythm section, before inevitably plummeting into heavier fare replete with gut-wrenching bellows and a depth to the bass that befits the low levels being explored. Similarly lengthy, there is certainly no attempt at making the songs immediately accessible. The music is approached in such painstaking detail, with so many ideas being thrown into the sound, that only similarly careful and attentive listening will reveal the album's truest rewards.


At 7 tracks this is the shortest Isis album since 'Celestial', though the sheer amount of ideas - and the successful juxtaposition thereof - crammed into the songs affords 'Wavering Radiant' an epic, coherent quality. Attempting to decipher the meaning of the songs in the context of the delivery, lyrics, artwork, and song titles puts one on something of a similarly mammoth journey, as there are months worth of musings to be had in doing so. What is evident, however, is that everything fits together exactly as it was intended, or at least we have to assume as much given the band's enthusiasm for the music they have created. The songs meander down a particularly astrological path, shimmering for a time before exploding in supernova style, exploring the fires and chaos of the chemical reactions, then fading slowly into a more reflective, spacious state. The ten minute midpoint of Hand of the Host followed by the far shorter, ambient title track, provides an early case in point.

In achieving this substance through their own oft-imitated, rarely bettered style, Isis has again created a masterpiece that will set the bar for their contemporaries for years to come. Most probably it will only be improved upon by the band itself, with the possible exception of the equally consistent brilliance of Neurosis or Mastodon. Alongside these lofty peers, Isis form a small vanguard of the most talented and productive artists engaging in forms of metal that continue to push the boundaries of the genre (the intriguing black and death subcategories notwithstanding).

ISIS Wavering Radiant Studio Footage from ISIS THE BAND on Vimeo.

Buy 'Wavering Radiant' online here


For all the attempts to review, dissemble, and finally sum up a record such as 'Wavering Radiant', what it ultimately boils down to is the fact that this is an Isis record. Without taking anything away from the creativity and unique nature of the stand alone album, the fact that this group of musicians made it is a seal of quality in and of itself. Having done so several times before under a variety of concepts, the band has proven they will always deliver the goods without becoming stale.


One gets the feeling that they would much rather dissolve the band than release something undeserving of the monicker. In the end, there is no higher recommendation than that of those who created 'Wavering Radiant' in the first place.