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Music Albums & Singles

nickcave0213.jpg FEBRUARY 13 ALBUM & SINGLE REVIEWS
 

Album of the Month

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd)

After several rollicking releases over the last few years (with The Bad Seeds and Grinderman) Cave slows things right down to a pace he’s not walked since ‘97s ‘The Boatman’s Call’. But while that album was sparsely arranged, this is fuller, The Seeds filling these tracks out with swelling, nourish lullabies and other assorted, and often soaring, flights of fancy. And, despite barely getting out of studied monologue mode, Cave still manages to inject enough lyricism and keening melodic know-how into these songs to make for an album that is awash with atmosphere; one which gradually unfurls its charms after repeated listens. RM

Released February 18

Matthew E. White

Big Inner (Domino)

The debut album from this Virginian based, former jazz dabbler, has set tongues a clacking in the US and with good reason: it’s amazing. Only seven tracks in length, it, nevertheless, pulls together a whole host of ideas into a supremely satisfying whole, taking blue-eyed soul and gospel tinged grooves into areas of psychedelia, both wistful and with no little funk. The rich orchestration recalls Randy Newman’s 70s output and the circular, incantation nature of the tunes recall The Beta Band in all their ‘Three EPs’ glory. If the US had a Mercury Prize, this would be nailed on. RM

Out now

Softwhere

A Few Weird Little Songs (Blinking Eye Productions)

Softwhere are local duo Sarah and Jonny and they make the kind of music that really keeps the wolf from the door: warm but intelligent, accessible but gently experimental, and packing melodies, to boot. On this album they really display the depths of their talents from the skippy, ambient drum and bass of ‘Keep Comin On’ to the electro reggae of ‘My River Is Red’ to the dreamscapes of ‘What Makes A Man A Human’ to the pop ballardry of ‘Edge Of The Road’. Lovely stuff. DP

Released January 14

Hug

Clay (Revenge Western)

Hug were the Newcastle band Most Likely To back in the early 90s (with everyone from the NME to The Melody Making tossing garlands their way) but, for one reason or another, it didn’t happen for them. They got back together to play a farewell gig last December and also recorded some of their original tracks, the way they were supposed to sound (three of them here), which are included on this release alongside five live cuts from recent gigs. And it’s great! Old school indie, the kind of which you could have heard at The Riverside back in its glory days with plenty of C86-stylings, now with added rocket boosters. Hug it close. DP

Out now

Dead Sons

The Hollers & The Hymns (BeReyt Records)

The debut album from this Yorkshire bunch and, whoah, it’s a goodie; particularly if you like your indie rock to come with a side order of sleaze (and don’t mind sparing the scuzz). It throbs along in the most pleasing of manners and sounds very much like the younger, more debauched brother of The Arctic Monkey’s ‘Brianstorm’. (And yep, you can’t get away from those Arctic Monkey’s comparisons here, but they’ve got enough top tunes to stand up for themselves.) DP

Released February 18

Blake

Start Over (Music Infinity)

Blake are four blokes who used to be a kind of Il Divo, faux-classical ensemble, but on their fourth album they’ve ditched the faux-operatics for some harmonious pop. As you’d expect from the kind of men who wear t-shirts under suit jackets and stare moodily into any camera that’s been pointed in their direction, it’s about as edgy as Fearne Cotton in a onesie and makes Westlife sound like Iggy and the Stooges. If you’ve given up on life, then there’s every chance that this will work for you. RM

Released February 11

Heidi Talbot

Angels Without Wings (Navigator Records)

Talbot is the Irish folk singer who upped sticks for New York when she was 18 to score notable successes with the Irish/American group Cherish The Ladies. She always kept her hand in with her solo stuff however, and her latest album is a real doozy, and her voice – at once fragile, tender but with an underlying inner strength – sounds really fabulous here. It’s not really a solo album however as contributing to it are people like Mark Knopfler, King Creosote, Jerry Douglass, Tim O’Brien and many others. Jaunty one minute, brooding the next, this is always a compelling listen. GM

Released February 18

Ducktails

The Flower Lane (Domino)

Ducktails is ostensibly Matt Mondanile, but on his fourth album he’s collaborated with a whole bunch of people for a full bodied pop album which is packed with real nuggets of goodness including ‘Ivy Covered House’, which sounds like The Byrds in full-on blissed-out mode, and ‘Letter Of Intent’ (a duet between Future Shuttle’s Jessa Farkas and Big Trouble’s Ian Drennan) which is a dreamy delight. Elsewhere the lush arrangements of Prefab Sprout are a touchstone, which should be a plus point in anyone’s book. RM

Released January 28

Comanechi

You Owe Me Nothing But Love (Tigertrap Records)

Sophomore album from this noisy London three-piece which is a real bratty slam-down of a release; rock which touches on metal but mostly harnesses itself to punk. And singer Akiko ‘Keex’ Matsuura (also on guitar and, on occasion, drums) has something of the Poly Styrenes about her (who sung vocals with X-Ray Spex) with the kind of strident delivery that’ll instantly command your attention. Headache inducing, but in all the right ways. GM

Released February 14

Janette Slack

Torture Garden Session (Slack Trax)

Slack is the Hong Kong-born Eurasian DJ whose residency at the Torture Garden club in London has had discerning clubbers’ antennae twitching with keen anticipation for her debut album. And what a truly slap-happy release it is with phat rolling basslines punctured by fizzy electro breakbeats and vocal exaltations of joy. The mood is kept sugary sweet throughout, and its accessibility and infectious nature never slips into heard-it-all-before jadedness. Hooray. RM

Released February 4

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

We The Common (Ribbon Music)

Third album from San Franciscan Thao Nguyen (and her The Get Down Stay Down), darling of US indie pushers, Pitchfork, Spin, etc, who will no doubt be wetting their pantyhose over this sparky release which sees Nguyen in full on jaunt mode with a whole clutch of slanty pop tunes which demand to be whistled. And the general feelgood alt-ness is further burnished by a duet with Joanna Newsom, lending her acquired taste vocals to ‘Kindness Be Conceived’ (although not her harp). Good. RM

Released February 4

Kimberley Walsh

Centre Stage (Decca Records)

Kimberley Walsh has stepped aside from celebrating 10 years with Girls Aloud and used her love of the theatre - backed by a stint in Shrek! The Musical - to rework some show-stopping stage favourites for this warming collection of musical theatre classics. It won’t gather a mainstream pop audience (don’t expect any Cheryl Cole style bangers) and there were only a couple of tracks that were familiar to me (a theatre novice), but it will certainly draw in all of the diehard West End fans. HR

Released February 4

The Big Oaks

Monster Turd (Distraction Records)

The Big Oaks only played 20 gigs during their lifespan (1994-2011) but they still managed to attain a semi-cult status in the region; and with the sad death of head-honcho Simon ‘John The Rat’ Windsor this collection is a fitting testament to his indie-punk-puerile ways. The songs, often weighing in at under a minute, are fuzzy, lo-fi slices of belligerence and sound like a pissed-off Half Man Half Biscuit with all of the subtly mashed out of them. You need to be on their wavelength to find them funny, but who can’t love a song called ‘Crotchless Pasties’? RM

Out now

Various

Change The Beat: The Celluloid Records Story 1980-1987 (Strut)

This compilation collects the best of Celluloid Records, the brainchild of Parisian Jean Karakos, who dropped a steady stream of incendiary dancefloor bombs - covering everything from nu-wave, rock, dub and concrete boogie - on the 80s New York club scene. Shockabilly set it off with their spiky cover of Day Tripper, followed by funky new wave masterpieces from a who’s who of NY nu-wave talent, including Mathematiques Modernes, Material and B Side. RS

Released February 18

Various

The Masters Series: Mixed By Nick Warren (Renaissance)

I must admit to baulking at the prospect of a double album of ambient and downtempo grooves, but this latest in the Renaissance series, courtesy of Nick Warren, was in the end a pleasant surprise. Disc one is all broody and atmospheric, with the sort of big, splashy cymbals and reverbed guitars that knowingly evoke Blade Runner-esque cityscapes, while disc two ratchets it up for a more dancefloor friendly set of deep, squelchy house. RS

Out now

Single of the Month

Bridie Jackson and the Arbour

Scarecrow / All You Love Is All You Are (Debt Records)

Super double A-Side from this local outfit who, on ‘Scarecrow’, have penned a real folky winner; a beguiling, lilting enchantress of a song which features some quite beautiful cello work and is dripping in gorgeous harmonies. And then there is ‘All You Love Is All You Are’, an affecting, heart-stopping ballad that is equally as good. And both, needless to say, showcase Jackson’s superb vocals to fine effect. DP

Released February 11

Ivory Seas

Mother’s Tongue / Still Brooding (Wave Club)

Ivory Seas write warm, pastoral pop which is all about subtle, shifting, twinkling textures and these two tracks had me wrapped around their little finger from the get-go. Elegant and melodic and immersive, this bunch are definitely worth tracking down. GM

Out now

Petite Noir

Disappear (Double Six)

Petite Noir jumps from the ‘Ones To Watch’ lists and into the ‘Ones To Get Excited About’ lists with this single in which he stretches his vocals over a leftfield slice of soulful electronica which is chock full of rhythmic shuffle and yearning intent. DP

Released February 18

Steve Mason

Fight Them Back (Double Six)

First single from Mason’s forthcoming new album (due in March) and it bodes well if this is anything to go by; a hook infused and accessible pop groove imploring us to use fists, boots and baseball bats to fight “them” back. RM

Out now

Mercury

Man/Born Happy (Gomma)

Mercury keep on delivering the goods with this brace of mutant house cuts. Man combines a jacking house beat with a deep house groove and a growling bass refrain, while Born Happy is a masterclass in how to do euphoric, hypnotic, soulful and understated at the same time. RS

Out now

Jimmy & Fred

I See Lights (Exploited)

Satisfyingly slick future disco from James Curd and Fred Everything, past masters at this sort of thing, by which I mean tight, muscular house music that bulges in all the right places, once again proving Berlin to be the spiritual home of European dance music. RS

Out now

The White Lamp

Make It Good (Sonar Kollektiv)

This track's been a steady feature of tastemaker playlists since last year and gets a much-deserved push for 2013. Soulful house music done proper, with an understated 4/4 beat, subtle percussive touches and an intense, smoky bassline. A trio of remixes can't really hope to improve on the original, although the Galactic Disco Mix does bring a fitting retro-futuristic sheen. RS

Released February 25

Zanshin

Muddle In The Middle (Affine)

Wrought for maximum dancefloor effect from some old bits of broken house and dubstep that Zanshin obviously found lying about the place, resulting in a slice of up-and-at-'em electronica that will make you fidget like a crack Smurf. That's a good thing. RS

Out now

Claptone

Wrong (Exploited)

There's no denying Claptone's credentials when it comes to space-age house music with a soulful twist. Wrong is a layered groove machine built round a staccato piano loop, while No Eyes (featuring Jaw) is a classy exercise in vocal house. RS

Out now

Marc Romboy

L'Arc En Ciel (This Is Music)

First heard in 2012, on the label's More Music compilation, this is a slick house number that trades on a hypnotic, layered groove, reworked by a couple of master remixers: Pezzner weighs in with a slice of offbeat deepness, while Trikk foregrounds the beat, colouring it with atmospheric synth sweeps. RS

Out now

Sasac

All Pleasures / Garden Sound (Omega Supreme)

Sister label to the incredible Peoples Potential Unlimited, Omega Supreme specialises in slick 'n' shiny shoulder-pad boogietronics. Sasac bring the badness with this two-piece release of downtempo instrumental synthetic soul par excellence. You need this. RS

Out now

Dazzle

Explain / In The Disco (Peoples Potential Unlimited)

Superb slice of forgotten Milwaukee disco, revived by PPU for our pleasure. You'll ask yourself why you haven't heard In The Disco before, while Explain will blow you away with its incredible disco funk badness. Single of the millennium, hands down. RS

Out now