Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Tune For Tuesday: #shels

Many moons ago....

...wait! Come back. This isn't a long, rambling old duffer's tale....

...a band by the name of Mahumodo stalked the rolling hillsides of England's green and pleasant land. 

More accurately, they toured the toilet venues of said land, yet were worthy of renown nonetheless, given their penchant for beautiful, winding instrumentation set atop heavy, serrated metal riffs and the evocative shriek of one Mehdi Safa.

This, however, was all turn of the century stuff and the band petered out before they'd really begun, releasing only a handful of lovingly crafted EP's and fracturing off into various other post-metal (for want of a better term) acts. Most notably Devil Sold His Soul, who have always interested, yet rarely moved, me musically. 

  *shels - Journey to the Plains by shelsmusic

*shels, however, have picked up the baton of potential from their Shakespearean former selves and run clear out of the stadium with it. Fronted once more by the mercurial Safa, the band hinted at the possibilities on 2007's 'Sea of the Dying Dhow' but have really come into their own on recent release, 'Plains of the Purple Buffalo'

The track that I present to you here opens said new album in grandiose fashion, announced by soaring trumpets before quickly lulling into a quiet brood, pondering where to burst forth next. It finds that moment a little over three minutes later, when Isis-like guitar lines weave up and around distant growls, as tentacles from a giant mythical sea creature, rising from beneath the waves to envelop and slowly crush unsuspecting seafarers above. 

The full glory of the reverberating tremolo to the guitar work, circling the fiery thunder of the rhythm section, really needs to be taken in on strong headphones to be properly appreciated. And it's worth the price of admission (which is, well, free, but you understand...) all on its own. 

From this track the album steps forth into the sonic journey it so ably chronicles, voyaging into territory that warrants a full review to appreciate. This is the perfect track to get you acquainted, though. 

Mahumodo is long dead; long live *shels.

Learn more through their artist collective site, shelsmusic.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Rock You Like A Hurricane

It's an odd situation, planning for a catastrophic storm for days on end. 
Especially so when the prevailing weather is gorgeous and the only previous example of similar meteorological carnage in this region occurred back when old Adolf was up to no good. 

Nonetheless, we find ourselves cramming our fridges with bottled water, watching endless weather reports on television, and trying to figure out just how to keep the cat away from her favourite window perch....one of those might not be a universal problem, admittedly.

But there's also a lot of waiting - and watching - once all the preparation is complete, waiting that needs to be sound tracked by a suitably oxymoronic mix of the optimistic and apocalyptic.

At least it does in my head, so here we go with some of the better tunes to help you ride out the waves / contemplate total oblivion, subject to your own particular preference...

Ride - In A Different Place

"Even if the rain falls down, and all the sky turns cold,
I will feel fine.
Thunder roared and lightning flashed, 
But you and I are in a different time." 

R.E.M.- End of the World As We Know It

"That's great, it starts with an earthquake... 
 Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn,
World serves its own needs, regardless of your own needs."

Frank Turner - The Fastest Way Back Home

"I should have seen you coming, 

I should have been prepared.

After all, getting half of what you wish for isn't so rare."

Muse- Time Is Running Out

"Now that you know I'm trapped,

Sense of elation.

You'd never dream of breaking this fixation."

Aereogramme Exits

"It's not my choice to be here

There's been a little mood.

I've never found an exit,

and I doubt I'll find one soon."

And here are a few bonus MP3's that should also fit a stormy mood...

MP3: Prints - Too Much Water

MP3: Tapes n Tapes Freak Out

MP3: My Brightest Diamond - Something of an End

MP3: Nickel Creek - The Lighthouse's Tale

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Poison, The Remedy: The Joys of The Vaccines

Should you have the deep misfortune to spend any time at all in the vicinity of my social network ramblings - Facebook / Twitter / Google+ / LastFM ... social media slag that I am - you'll have noticed that I've recently been unable to contain my gushings about London mob The Vaccines.

"What's so special?", you chorus? Good question....not sure how to answer it, either.

In all truthfulness, The Vaccines don't blow you away with huge chops, monolithic production, or some deeply ingrained conceptual malarkey. What they do - and to strikingly sharp, immediate effect - is pen succinct, addictive nuggets of vaguely punk-inflected indie rock, in a manner not entirely removed from the halcyon days of The Replacements and their kin.

And most importantly?  After a single spin, many of these tunes from their debut album, 'What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?', have set up camp in your brain space and will hang on to this new land with the tenacity of a squatter in an abandoned mansion.

Only now really hitting US shores, these chaps have enough proximity to the likes of Interpol and Editors to cross into the more moping indie circles ('Wetsuit'), as well as balls-to-the-wall rockers ('Wreckin' Bar', 'Norgaard') to attract more traditional alternative rock minds such as my own. The ticks in the 'plus' column are many but I need to write a full review at some point, so I'll save the superlatives and allow the music to speak for itself, as the best stuff always should. 

The band hit the stage back home at the massive old Reading & Leeds festivals this weekend, followed by another jaunt our way in late September/early October, when they'll play both Brooklyn and Manhattan. Visit the website for full details and more tunes

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Ramble On: Fairweather Academy Travel Further

Travels have been very much the order of the month here recently, so it seems only fitting to return to normal programming with the further exploits of Fairweather Academy and their "Well Traveled Man".

A musical (and artistic) journey that I first previewed earlier this summer, the story is now furthered significantly with journal entries and a brand new music video, premiered last week on the rather dandy Crack In The Road blog.

Produced by Mark Doubleday, there are plenty of nifty little passages here, such as the vocals from Nate of Solomon's Hollow - a longstanding H-T-A favourite - on the final verse, and Dave Wood of the band TEENS playing assorted percussion.

MP3: Fairweather Academy - A Well Traveled Man Pt. II

What's so very compelling - aside from the music, which now sweeps along where before it was cautiously pensive - is piecing together the various elements of content that Matt Dalley and Jay Saenz are using to accompany their aural journey. 

Flick through the journal entries, updated every couple of weeks, and you'll find thoughts, reflections, images, literature...all elements that add to the allure of the songs themselves. It's an artistic jigsaw puzzle that shows what can be achieved by creators embracing the digital era. Your throwaway hit pop, this is not.

Join yer man on his travels...what's your take on this journey?

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Road Trip Reflections Pt II: Frost, Fatigue & FM Radio

Continuing some thoughts from the road, the second installment of last week's road tripping took in more of Vermont, then onto New Hampshire and eventually Maine. Things took an unexpected turn, as I tired of Spotify play lists for periods and resorted to *shock* - - *horror* - - FM radio....

Robert Frost Trail: Ripton, Vermont

Already tuned into aligning the mountainous scenery with appropriate music, journeying further south into Vermont led to the perfect alignment of poetry and panorama in the form of the Robert Frost Trail. Channeling the spirit of the beloved American poet and his penchant for the flora of the area, experiencing the landscape that so enchanted him, through his own words, furthered my exploration of the musical backing to this road trip. 

As with the previous post, here are some reflections from the journey:

  • FM radio still has a role to play in shaping musical tastes and discovery. It's ever present and, despite often lacking variety, wading into less familiar genres yields inevitable bonuses, such as this excellent driving tune from The Boss...

  • If you spin your own play lists ad infinitum in the first 48 hours of your road trip, it's entirely possible to become fatigued by your own tastes. A curious feeling.
  • Burlington Records in Vermont is one of the very finest places to buy vinyl. Bargains from $1 through to pristine classics at higher prices. Stop in and buy one.
  • Genres I hadn't much considered for hard driving shifts, such as calmer classic rock and indie-folk, very much have their place...assuming one can reign in the rallying tendencies around the winding roads and simply enjoy a calming drive towards bright sunshine and pastel blue skies.

  • Sometimes words alone are enough to evoke the same strong passions that music offers us so regularly. Frost's 'Nothing Gold Can Stay', printed in full below and on the trail photo above, being my case in point. 
  • New Hampshire doesn't welcome you...at least by way of jaunty road signs.
  • Trying a pint of Harpoon 10 Year UPA is an experience you will not regret.

"Nothing Gold Can Stay" 
~ Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Road Trip Reflections Pt I: Music For Mountains

Rather than extend the break in posts here ever longer during my road tripping in New England, I thought I'd pump out some music-related reflections and rambling inspired by the journey...

Trapp Lodge: Stowe, Vermont

Knowing, before we set off from upstate New York, that mountains would be forthcoming, I set about cobbling together a Spotify playlist suitable for the undulating Green Mountain state roads. Here's what I conclude after a day's driving:

  • Spotify kicks arse, even in the remote mountains, due to the smart and smooth 'Offline' mode available via the mobile phone app.
  • Sludge heavy rock with elephantine riffs - see: Karma To Burn, Kylesa - propels a vehicle ever faster, more confidently through the climbs and 'notches'.
  • Light weight, bouncy tunes, though ripe for most summer driving, offer less when such epic scenery surrounds you.

  • Perhaps it's just coming away from such a relentless, unforgiving environment as New York City, but there's a purity of thought and refreshing inspiration that arises from being in lush green surroundings such as these. The same has washed over me in Europe on recent trips home, though, so maybe there's more to it than a simple vacation from the 'big smoke'?

Anyone ever been to Burlington, VT or the surrounding area? If you read this in the next day or so, fire out your music recommendations in the comments or over on Facebook, why don't ya?

And driving through sun-drenched, narrow and winding mountain roads, what would you have blaring from the car stereo?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tune For Tuesday: tUnE yArDs

Having blown up the indie spaces last year, Merrill Garbus - or her more resoundingly celebrated musical vehicle, tUnE yArDs - will be familiar to many of you already. Nonetheless, a quality free tune that nestles into those summer playlists rather well should be welcomed with open arms... 

... and here we have just such a gem...

MP3: tUnE yArDs Bizness (via Insound)
Taken from the new 'w h o k i l l' album, out now

Buy it at Insound!

Whether the charm is to be found in the eccentric, soul diva-meets-Bj√∂rk nuances to the vocal, the shimmering undertow of the arrangement, or the addictive repetition of the chorus, Bizness shows off the glorious melange of styles that Garbus weaves and loops to great effect throughout 'w h o k i l l'.  

To take things a step further, you could investigate the curious meander 'Es-so' or the raucous stomp of 'Gangsta', either of which would add a special flavour to your summer listening that few others could achieve. 

For more info, check out: http://tune-yards.com/