Friday, December 30, 2011

New Music 2012 - Part 3 - a.k.a. Electra Heart

I seem to have started this thread on the subject of sophomore albums and I'm going to continue with another few before, probably, heading off in the direction of new acts and artists.
This particular story started back at Latitude 2009 when I saw one of the first festival performances by the band, about which I was reminded while driving home last week and ended up listening to the first album 'The Family Jewels', which was to come later. She had arrived at the event in the nick-of-time and had no time to prepare, which was perhaps telling. Just occasionally there are acts or artists that, whatever the circumstances, have quality written through them like a stick of seaside rock. I've had the great fortune to see several over the last few years; it's not something that you realise later, you know it in an instant. Marina Diamandis is one such.

The album 'Electra Heart' is another slightly dangerous game as it introduces a new character that, rather than her alter-ego, is her antithesis. It will still be the strong pop that we know - as 'Radioactive' and newer still while not a finished "single", 'Fear & Loathing' demonstrates but just don't expect unchallenging lyrics - as if you would had you ever heard her appearances on the BBC Radio 1 'Review Show'.
Now listen carefully to, and in particular 'Hollywood' from, the first album again and take an educated guess at the world that Electra inhabits.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Music 2012 - Part 2 - First Aid Kit - Lions Roar

This, as it happens, is another sophomore LP and the follow-up to 'The Big, Black and The Blue' (2010) and the EP 'Drunken Trees' (2009). That is to mention, furthermore, that 2012 is most certainly not the year in which to underestimate music from Scandinavia, always a dangerous game as it comes in all moods and not least this from the Söderberg sisters - First Aid Kit.

Woolly jumpers and fingerless gloves notwithstanding they do barbed lyrics far better than many much older but there is competition. New album 'The Lion's Roar' is released early in 2012 by Wichita Recordings and First Aid Kit is confirmed as appearing at End Of The Road 2012. Tickets available now - see you there!

New Music 2012 - Part 1 - Phantom Limb - The Pines

Where better to start than with this?  'The Pines', released in the UK on February 13, is the second studio album by Bristol-based Phantom Limb and the follow up to their 2008 eponymous début. The more recently released 'Live In Bristol' only me makes me want to hear this LP more, and then live once again.

It has long escaped me why Phantom Limb is not already better known. This, I would like to think, is the album that will finally make amends for there is nothing even two-dimensional about the whole deal: A remarkable vocalist for sure, but most importantly a band that is supremely able to cope with the considerable demands she places on them. Better still is the song-writing and the arrangement is top-drawer.
February 9, 2012.
The reviewer at The Independent (London) seems to like it too...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Driving Home from Christmas...

I did this early this afternoon and it was slightly mad. All the vehicles with 'Baby on board' stickers were weaving between each other and flashing past like they couldn't care less. I decided that ten minutes late (for nothing in particular) is better than a life lost and, in the slow-lane between the few trucks on the motorway,  we almost kept pace with the train on the line alongside that was carrying about 650 tons of timber!
I wonder what everyone else was listening to?
I was in a particularly electro-mood so when the mad ones did their thing I trundled along at about 65 mph listening, and perhaps even singing along (very badly), to an artist who might just be one to watch in 2012.  It is one of my guilty pleasures.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Latitude Festival 2012

I have been to five Latitude Festivals, 2007 - 2011, and loved them all in various ways.
This time you really need to persuade me that I should do so again in 2012.  I feel a change is as good as a rest and, to this effect, I have several alternatives in mind.  I could still be persuaded but I'm certainly not buying a pre-sale ticket this year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Latest 'Thought on Music'

Is a stunningly simple revelation:
Much of the best music is that which I failed to find, appreciate or write about last year. My year-end report says that I must try harder.
If you want an alt-Christmas song then Pulled Apart By Reindeer might just be for you and the guilty party is London-based Kimmy Reader, who is one to watch in 2012.
If you want a cover song then here is her take on Temper Trap's 'Sweet Disposition'; covered acoustic and unplugged on a late night Metropolitan Line tube train. Why not take live music to unsuspecting people and record their reaction?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

2011 in Music - EPs and mini albums

Several people have mentioned that, along with vinyl, the EP is enjoying a welcome and long overdue return in all formats and for reasons that are entirely practical.  It provides a way for artists to release a connected piece of work whether that be on vinyl or download, rather than just odd tracks, and for whatever reason.  It can be a new artist with only a small collecton of completed material or an established artist with a collection of material that in some way does not sit well with the bulk of their output.  Whatever the reasons for this revival are it has been a good year and I'm going to start on a year-high. When I discovered this my 2011 in music changed. Very few people can do that.

The next one is equally different and difficult to classify but I'm going to continue with this, which comes from an artist that few had heard of at the start of 2011 and myself included. It is difficult to describe its genre - tenebrous, intellectual, indie-dance does it for me.
Its creator is Estonian writer-singer-DJ Maria Minerva. Were it not for this EP (vinyl & download) and my self-imposed rules concerning these lists (see previous post) her 2011 album 'Caberet Cixous' might just have been included. I chose this specifically because of its tight and distinct focus.
There will only be three items in this post - the connecting theme being they are neither depressing nor euphoric - and that is what sets them aside. 
What they mean to me, and what I feel about these songs, is like looking in a quite special mirror: one that changes like the sky and can reflect things that otherwise I cannot see.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

2011 in Music - Albums - Part 2

I was planning to do the '2011 in EPs and mini-albums' section before this but that has (once again) proved more complicated.  This, which is not a second-string selection of albums, hasn't been much better and actually more difficult that the first because I have, in order to limit to a dozen, been forced to be even more ruthless.
Here it is, again in alphabetical order by act/artist and (for now) without further comment:

  • Alessi's Ark - Time Travel
  • Black Keys - El Camino
  • Demdike Stare - Tryptych
  • Eilen Jewell - Queen of the Minor Key
  • Gill Sandell - Tarry Awhile
  • Jackie Oates - Saturnine
  • Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
  • Kitty, Daisy and Lewis - Smoking In Heaven
  • Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know
  • Low Anthem - Smart Flesh
  • Naked and Famous - Passive Me, Aggressive You
  • Veronica Falls - Veronica Falls
I might attempt the aforementioned '2011 in EPs and mini-albums' this evening. I have also introduced a new rule for these lists - although I don't think that even retrospectively I have actually violated it - and that is the the same act/artist combination cannot appear in more than one list in a given year with the exception being the 'Live List', if I ever get around to posting one.