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Music Albums & Singles

ondatro769pica.jpg AUGUST 12 ALBUM & SINGLE REVIEWS
 

Album of the Month

Ondatrópica

Ondatrópica (Soundway)

Colombian musician Mario Galeano and British Latin-funk wunderkind Will ‘Quantic’ Holland marshal an all-star roster of Colombian musical talent to produce an album of eclectic tropical sounds with a decidedly modern bent. Cumbia, porro and descarga are blended seamlessly with dub, ska and hip-hop stylings, underpinned by a vintage analogue feel that retains all the authentic Colombian flavours while giving them a 21st century twist for the modern musical palate. Brilliant. RS

Out now

Micachu & The Shapes

Never (Rough Trade)

The debut album from Micachu & The Shapes had a real wonky charm and the follow-up is also stuffed with curveballs aplenty. It’s pop music that appears to be have been constructed by an attention deficient boffin who has saw fit to make instruments from old bits of Hoovers, Tannoys and broken children’s toys with the express purpose of making them his imaginary friends. But beneath it all there appears to be some kind of roadmap, and while I can’t quite figure out where that roadmap is supposed to be headed, I quite enjoyed the ride. DP

Released July 23

Helen Boulding

Calling All Angles (Maid In Sheffield)

The Sheffield-born singer/songwriter lands with her second album and while it’s never going to win any awards stamped “Brand New Musical Genre Alert!” she is very good at what she does. And what she does is write fine pop songs which take in everything was beautiful ballads to breezy toe-tappers in the manner of Kirsty MacColl. Her voice is very listenable too, and the whole thing has been fleshed out by some unobtrusive synths which give the album a contemporary shimmer. DP

Released July 16

The Darkness

Hot Cakes (PAIS)

Does life get any better? First the Olympics, now this: a new (and the third) Darkness album. Their defiant air - “Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us”, “Everybody Have A Good Time” – manifests itself in some glammy style stompers, choppy guitars and yes, plenty of falsetto (which makes its initial appearance about 45 seconds into the first song and runs “Suck my cock”). Fans of Queen should like it, but I think it’s going to put paid to the phrase “selling like hot cakes” denoting an item renowned for shifting a lot of units. RM

Released August 20

Tamara Schlesinger

The Procession (Tantrum Records)

Schlesinger has previously caught the ear with Glaswegian indie folk band 6 Day Riot, but here she strikes out on her own for a quite gorgeous detour. Her original concept of using multi-layered a capella vocals has been fleshed out with strings, guitar and percussion and they perfectly compliment her vision with a beguiling release which succeeds in having the inventiveness, and sheer listenability, of Kate Bush. Mantras, incantations and rousing codas win the day. JL

Released August 6

James Yorkston

I Was A Cat From A Book (Domino)

Yorkston’s first album since his fine ‘When The Haar Rolls In’ from 2008 and it’s certainly been worth the wait. Here he’s playing alongside his new band, made up of members of Lamb & The Cinematic Orchestra, and they grab the tiller and lead James through some beguiling and beautiful waters. It’s gently off-kilter folk sounding like Nick Drake fronting up Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, which is a pretty good combo in my book. DP

Released August 13

Eugene McGuinness

The Invitation To The Voyage (Domino)

McGuinness’ debut album was something of a sleeper hit and certainly kept the wolves from the door for fans of (dreaded phrase) literate pop. And now he’s back with his second long-player which ups the ante with a great collection of tunes (including the very groovesome ‘Lion’) that has something of the Damon Albarns about it. It swaggers when it needs to, but it’s the playful lightness of touch that gives it its real charm. DP

Released August 6

Urusen

This Is Where We Meet (Almighty Rooftop)

Urusen are a British band, but they’ve got something of the US about them, coming from the same ballpark as Midlake or The National. They’ve went down well at festivals such as The Big Chill and The Secret Garden Party and it’s easy to see why their warm, strum-a-longs would really clean up at such gigs. This is the kind of get-on-the-front-foot folky rock that is sun dappled and heart-warming and almost impossible to hate. Stirring and beautiful. GM

Released August 6

Joshu Radin

Underwater (SO Recordings)

Apparently this American fellow has had his songs used in more than 100 different films and TV programmes but he himself has remained a bit under the radar. That should change with this lovely release which displays his singer/songwriterly talents to full effect. Not startling original but with a lovely voice and a Paul Simon way with a melody, this should finally see him getting his name up in lights. DP

Released August 6

Greeen Linez

Things That Fade (Diskotopia)

Electronic MOR and eighties disco funk sounds abound on this super-slick instrumental debut; unashamedly retro, yes, but with a futuristic sheen that calls to mind the best bits of Air, Chromeo, Daft Punk and the like. From the throwback future-boogie of ‘Lift Off’ and the eighties hip-hop soul stylings of ‘Courtside Daydreams’ to the spacey jazz-funk explorations of  ‘Forgotten Shores’, Greeen Linez provide the perfect soundtrack to night-time summer city gliding. RS

Released August 13

Uku Kuut

Visions Of Estonia (Peoples Potential Unlimited)

This Washington DC label specialises in unearthing the cream of obscure international boogie and vintage grooves, striking gold with their inaugural long player, a collection of unheard gems from Russian-born, Estonian-raised electro-funk pioneer, Uti Kuut. Written (in part with his mother, jazz vocalist Maryn E. Coote) and recorded at various points throughout the eighties, Visions Of Estonia is essential listening for aficionados of obscure dance music, vintage electronica and those who simply enjoy fantastic underground music. RS

Out now

Chasing Dragons

Take Flight For A Firefight (self release)

The lead singer of this Leeds five-piece is called Tank. Imagine being in a restaurant with her: “Pass the salt, Tank”, “Tank, do you want that last piece of garlic bread”. No matter. Tank fronts up a right bunch of gonks (daft hair, ill advised leggings) who dish out the kind of rock that has layers of well-appointed riffage and a surfeit of radio-friendly hooks (providing your radio is tuned in to 80s Poodle Rock FM). It’s all about as threatening as Justin Bieber in a Winnie The Pooh outfit, but, hey, who needs to be threatened all of the time? RM

Released August 13

The Ironweed Project

These Chains Ain’t Gonna Hold Me (The Birdman Records)

The Ironweed Project is the work of Aniff Akinola, founding member of cult Manchester hip-hop outfit Chapter And The Verse (and co-writer of classic house anthem Voodoo Ray), and he’s really come up with the goods here. It’s a spirited mix of hip-hop and twangy indie-pop, by way of dubstep and drum and bass, and all of these disparate elements are kept in check by Akinola, who proves himself to be a ringmaster supreme who knows just how to keep those plates a-spinning. GM

Released August 7

Various

Bass Culture Vols 1-4 (Nascente)

This monster four-volume, eight-disc bass odyssey comprises just about everything you need to know about the genesis and evolution of reggae, from its roots in ska and rocksteady (Vol 1), through early reggae sounds (Vol 2) and its progression through dub (Vol 3) and dancehall (Vol 4). The gems are too numerous to mention, but with names like Prince Buster, The Ethiopians, The Upsetters and Sugar Minott gracing the CD covers, you know you’re in for a ride. RS

Out now

Various

Saigon Rock & Soul: Vietnamese Classic Tracks 1968-1974 (Sublime Frequencies)

As bloody war raged in Vietnam, the business of producing entertainment for the masses rolled on. This superb album documents the rich musical heritage of an hitherto unknown era of cultural fecundity. A treasury of bluesy scuzz-funk (Bang Chan's ‘Fireballs’), hypnotic folk-pop ballads (Le Thu’s ‘Starfish’) and sixties soul-pop (Phuong Tam’s ‘Magical Night’), Saigon Rock & Soul is a must-have for all fans of vintage international musical ephemera. RS

Out now

Single of the Month

Little Mix

Wings (Syco)

Pop Quiz: What were Little Mix originally called? Can’t remember? It was Rhythmix. I know because I stupidly, and somewhat prematurely, got it tattooed right across my back as soon as I was subjected to their sugar-rush sass on The X-Factor. What an idiot. No matter. This is great, with the lasses taking flight from Dreary Ballad Land and into a world of double-handclaps, thwomping beats and unexpected marching bands (oh yes!). It appears to be about bullying (they’re against it) and comes over like Christina Aguilera on a bucking bronco. RM

Released August 22

Hattie Murdoch

Secret War (Portable Magic)

Newcastle-based Hattie Murdoch has talent to burn and that’s very evident on this release with ‘Secret War’ going off like a pop flare with up-front beats and clashy synths all wrapped up in more stridency than a Living Marxism meeting. The flip ‘Wait’ shows that she knows how to do the plaintive strings thing, too, and really shows off her very fine vocals. Excellent. DP

Released July 29

The Narrators

The Statement (self release)

The Narrators are a Newcastle based band, who, if this release is anything to go by, know more than a thing or two about knocking out blues that is full of rock and soul. Great female vocals are the perfect accompaniment to the sweaty fret and keyboard work. And nice handclaps! DP

Out now

George Michael

White Light (Aegean Records)

A new George Michael record! How should that make you feel? Full of yearning for wibbly and skippy yet understated beats and minor chord changes with a meandering tune that never really gets anywhere? You got it! RM

Released August 12

Vinyl Jacket

Moment (The Calico Print)

A new release from this Wylam bunch is always a good excuse to get the bunting up and this is great: a Vampire Weekend meets The Beat slice of rhythmic indie with plenty of snap, crackle and pop. RM

Released July 30

Drumsound & Bassline Smith

Through The Night (New State Music)

This is the kind of chart-bound drum and bass that your parents would probably like: supremely inoffensive and jammed with soaring vocals, monumental builds and elephantine breakdowns. I, like your mam and dad, quite enjoyed it. RM

Released July 29

By Toutatis

Hero & Leander (self release)

This is really fantastic stuff from this Saltburn outfit! They play knock-out, rock-out, alt-folk and ‘Hero & Leander’ is a real rabble-rouser of a song; a swirling, seething chunk of percussion, melody and chanting which sounds like the kind of thing cool pirates might play at their annual disco. File under ‘Rum Funk’.  HYPERLINK "http://www.bytoutatis.com" www.bytoutatis.com RM

The Killers

Runaways (Island)

The Killers skip away from the dance feel of ‘Day & Age’ finding a sound lazing predictably between the ‘classic’ but tired Killers signature of guitar-driven chorus/synth interlude, and a lyrical tone that would sound more at home on Brandon Flowers’ ‘Flamingo’. One can hope for a vintage fourth Killers album, but it doesn’t seem likely. SH

Out now

Colonel Red

Spacesleep EP (Apollo)

Colonel Red’s vox have been gracing future jazz and broken beat tracks for a decade now and here he goes solo for an EP of slick sci fi soul. Burbling synths and crisp beats provide the perfect backdrop to Red’s seasoned soul vocals. A laid back treat for fans of Amp Fiddler and Vikter Duplaix. RS

Out now

Daniel Avery & The Deadstock 33s

Nylon Icon (Gomma)

You can always rely on these guys to come up trumps with some super-thick disco-electro. Simplicity is key here: find a groove and stick to it, in the best house music tradition. Add some acidic twiddlings and you’ve got an EP that’ll have you hankering for the glory days of scuzzy clubbing. RS

Out now

Cardopusher & Hehuen

Split 01 (Classicworks)

The acid revival continues unabated on this (as the title suggests) split EP of bass-line inspired retro madness. Vintage house and acid sounds jostle for attention with maniac beats, resulting in a backward-glancing brew that still manages to be as fresh as tomorrow’s milk. RS

Out now

Urulu

Sincerely 91 (Exploited)

The title says it all on this modern take on classic club sounds. Urulu’s clear love for 90s dance is filtered through super slick production to produce four tracks of glow-stick waving bliss. RS

Out now

Om Unit

Aeolian (Civil)

Slo-mo beats combine with Blade Runner-esque atmospherics on opener ‘Ulysses’, ‘Dark Sunrise’ is dark 21st century soul, ‘Fumes’ is smokey bass-line done the way it should be, while ‘Lightworkers Call’ and ‘Slowfast Matrix’ take the template in new and interesting directions. Add some remixes of ‘Ulysses’ and you’ve got an EP of epic, yet subtle, dubwise electronica. RS

Out now