Friday, 28 December 2007

The Albums of 2007!

Best of lists seem to be the bread and butter of any blog these days so here is my side of the story that has been 2007's albums. Remembering I am not superhuman, and haven't listened to everything out this year I am going to be explaining my top 5, just the big deals!

1) LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
It is hard to place this above the others, especially as this has been such a good year for electronic music and also with every man and his dog either agreeing, or shooting anyone down who does for latching on to the trends. However, there is something that happens when I listen to this, and it's the thought that people will still be partying to these classic tunes for many years to come. For me, this album represents 2007, perhaps along with one other, and this is why it is sitting pretty at the top of the pile.

2) Kings of Leon - Because of the Times
Arguably the biggest band in the world at the moment (until the return of Radiohead), coupling an immensely popular No.1 album with breathtaking live shows spanning the US and Europe. For many, this wouldn't be at all 'cool' however, I'd rather a band making music like Because of the Times be the biggest in the world than many others who find themselves splattered across the worlds publications and websites. Filled with potential singles, interesting and tight musicianship, and quirky takes upon the history of rock music this album was almost impossible to separate from the one above. It still was the rock/pop album of the year for me.

3) Frank Turner - Sleep is for the Week
Hilariously funny and starkly truthful lyrics underpin Frank Turner's debut, an album that lead the way for me, for most of the year. On the 13 tracks he doesn't put a foot wrong and they all offer us an insight into different corner's of his mind. Underpinned by a sense of melody and rhythm which bridges the gap between quirkiness and pop appeal this LP was a real triumph of 2007!

4) Feist - The Reminder
1, 2, 3, 4, is Feist "cool" anymore? That is the question many seem to be asking, and one which seems seemingly strange when you realise that Feist's lead single, and advertisers dream, is another hark back to classic 60's pop, something hardly unusual for either the artist nor the whole indie-pop (eugh, genre's!) scene as a whole. The whole album, like Turner's above, doesn't really disappoint throughout and seems a natural progression from 2005's Let it Die. For me the success is deserved and this is an album which will appeal to many, so all the better that it has reached them.

5) mewithoutYou - Brother, Sister
For a moment I thought I'd gone soft but here are mwY to provide a suitable end to the list with their unmistakable brand of alt/rock. As a bass player the first thing I noticed about this album was the super-tight rhythm section and clever, melodic bass lines which sit prominently amongst the mix but to singly focus on bass alone (although bass player's never get enough credit!) would be to ignore the band as a whole, who are very proficient in all their respective instruments. The style's really vary across the album and it is aided by brilliant production, especially in the opener where the light rain is broken by those fast-paced ringing chords. Topped off by deep and introspective vocals, there is longevity in this record and always something to keep coming back to.

That was my personal highlights of this year and the records I feel have offered the most. There are several other records of note I'd like to run through real quick though!

  • M.I.A - Kala - With artists like LCD, Girl Talk and others M.I.A has pushed the envelope this year and this was a record which has topped many proper music journo's lists. Left out alot because she canceled on Nottingham! This wave of dance has helped to make wide-eyed freshers like myself even more aware of the super-hip, vice-led scene which populate the globes coolest districts, bringing it a little closer to rural England!
  • Band of Horses - Cease to Begin - Like a rolling ball of snow (my effort to be seasonal!), BoH are rapidly picking up admirers across the world but this record just didn't quite match their debut for me.
  • Biffy Clyro - Puzzle - Really fun album, just off the list as I've found I haven't listened much since that first month. Much like Zeitgeist too.
  • James Murphy & Pat Mahoney - Fabriclive 36 - If I felt compilation's were worthy this album would be sitting up there with the best but unfortunately I don't and possibly the funnest album of the year will have to be content with this mention.
There you have it, my list and please reply with your favourites of the year. I'm aware of the Animal Collective, Burial and, of course, Radiohead efforts along with many other's but I just couldn't put down stuff that I haven't given my full time to!

Hope everyone continues to have a good seasonal time,
Josh x

Monday, 3 December 2007

Radiohead - Amnesiac (2001)

New month, and I will be updating again hopefully. I've totally lost track of the blog and been awful at updates!
Anyway, what an album to return with. I've never been a fan of Radiohead up until recently, but now I have discovered the beauty of Kid A and Amnesiac, I am converted! (to the electronic stuff at least!)
A mix of glitchy beats, and ambient soundscapes, Amnesiac is a really fulfilling album. Of particular note is the brilliant drumming on the less electronic tracks, which has a real jazzy feel. Pitchfork gave this a 9.0 despite many critics complaining about it not being a return to the traditional rock format.
My favorite track would be the normal cliche, "Pyramid Song" but also of note is the opener "Packt Like Sardines..." which lyrically, is meant to address those expecting Amnesiac to conform back to those rock roots,

"after years of waiting / nothing came / and you realize you're looking / looking in the wrong place / I'm a reasonable man, get off my case"


Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Two Gallants @ Cockpit – November 7th

The general idea of a support band is to warm up the crowd and the magnificent Blitzen Trapper had their Cockpit crowd positively toasty after a rousing set which saw their breed of southern rock take many twists including the odd bout of psychedelia.
The main event was San Francisco’s Two Gallants who, as guitarist/vocalist Adam Stephens was keen to point out, carry a very loyal and enthusiastic fan base, evident on this evening especially as 2G’s appearance on stage to help set-up brought early cheers from all corners.
When they appeared for real, anticipation was soon turned to pleasure for the crowd as the band launched into a fierce and rousing performance of ‘Two Days Short Tomorrow’. Two Gallants create an immense sound to experience live, the mixture of unique finger picked guitar and frenetic drums creating a truly full sound. Showing their talents across loud and softer efforts from all three albums the band never ceased to impress and show commitment to the cause. The set ended with ‘Las Cruces Jail’, a crowd favourite, which gave us all plenty of chance to sing (or shout!) along.
However, this wasn’t all as there was a special surprise waiting for drummer, Tyson Vogel, as Blitzen Trapper and his band mate invited the crowd to surprise him with a Birthday sing-a-long and afterwards to finish once again with a final song, the euphoric, ‘Nothing To You’. A brilliant ending to the gig, and one, which seemed to leave all parties smiling.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Something to read...

Just found one of the best articles I've read on pitchfork, (we all know some of their stuff is painful too!) and thought I'd point it out to any passers by. This is of special interest to any Brits out there like myself,

Poptimist 9

Monday, 29 October 2007

NaS - Illmatic (1994)

Absolutely definitive album from '94. Slick jazzy beats provide the backdrop for Nas' lyrical genius. Probably my shortest review ever, but the only way to appreciate this album is to have it.


Sunday, 28 October 2007

Ryan Adams - Demolition (2002)

Got my tickets for Ryan Adams back in Nottingham the other day so I've been listening to him a lot again. As a consequence I thought why not up an album, 2002's Demolition which is mainly made up of B-sides and songs which didn't make the cut for the first two-albums, but surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) the record is full of gems, highlighting why this period of Adam's career is regarded as his finest.
Beginning with clean-cut "Nuclear" Adams shows us a different style of song, not present on Heartbreaker or Gold which he revisits a couple more times to great effect. Between these simple rockers' are a varied bunch of brooding country classic and beautiful ballads which showcase Adams ear for melody. Possibly the highlights are the male-female vocals on "Tomorrow" and the plodding street-corner rock 'n' roll on "Tennessee Sucks". The latter in particular shows how well Adams can compose a song, and really bring the most out of each individual instrument.
So, if you're a fan of Adams early work, give this a try as it really is just another very good album, and not a random collection of outtakes!



Saturday, 27 October 2007

Fionn Regan: Cockpit, Leeds, Oct 26th

Looking fairly timid as he entered the stage to the cheers of the substantial crowd you could be mistaken for thinking Fionn Regan was new at this. However, as soon he begins to play, you are immediately reassured that he is the real deal.
Starting slowly on his lone acoustic, fittingly illuminated in a warm orange glow, Regan eased his crowd in before welcoming on stage the rest of his band, assembled from various other bands including Babyshambles. Luckily, the bands performance was very unlike Pete Doherty's men and a tight rhythm section gave the songs the additional lift they needed. An additional percussionist added to the atmosphere and worked really well when he reverted back to the lone acoustic for a couple songs.
Regan's lyrics are filled with clever lines and on the whole, nice and upbeat which left the crowd smiling rather than staring at their shoes. As I was unfamiliar with him before the gig I didn't know what to expect from Fionn Regan but I guess now, I can see what all the hype is about.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Normal service will resume...

Just posting to say that, very soon I will be back up to regular posting again so keep coming back. The past month or so has been hectic, starting life in Leeds and my university and although I've heard a load of great music I haven't been rushing to get it on the blog. That leaves me with a lot of cool stuff to review though, so hopefully you'll be seeing it all very soon! I have a request to put out there as well;

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Tyranny of Distance

Josh x

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (2006)

With their thickly layered guitar and tight rhythm's the Silversun Pickups are a band that instantly catches your attention but the question is whether they can keep hold of it.
A four-piece hailing from California they got their most early gigs in all the famous L.A. clubs and began to get attention from there. With vocals from bassist, Nikki Monniger, and more often, guitarist, Brian Aubert, the psychedelic melodies are complemented by crashing drums and clever keyboard work, that often involves looping the single guitar to create a layered affect. In my opinion they are one of the best new live bands around, after their set at Leeds absolutely blew me away so aside from checking out this album...try and catch them in a venue near you.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the album. Firstly you will be struck by the riffs and drumming, especially on second track "Well Thought Out Twinkles" but if you listen deeper and further in, then you will start to notice everything that makes this band. The dual, harmonized vocals on "Little Lovers So Polite" collide beautifully with the hypnotic drumming and heavy riff. Haunting synth adds to the ever increasing number of pluses and be sure to check out the awesome bass and drums on "Waste It On".
So, while not a classic, this album shows that Silversun Pickups are a band to keep tabs on and here, they have a really good debut. Definitely recommended for those who are growing ever tired of the jangly Brit-pop that is flavour of the month.


Saturday, 6 October 2007

Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time (2006)

Band Of Horses are essentially alt-rock with country and folk influences but saying just that could nowhere do them justice. They are one of those bands who sounds like many others, but still sound very individual and with this album they have a cool debut that's definitely caught the attention of quite a few. Songs range from faster paced, KOL style, rockers to lazy, slow, winding songs which remind you of The Shins and Iron & Wine. Personal favorites would be the quirky "Wicked Gil" and the stomping "Our Swords".


Sunday, 30 September 2007

The Departure: Cockpit, Leeds, Sept 28th

Taking the best parts of Duran Duran and the rest from a lot of far cooler acts, The Departure’s earlier work certainly went down a treat, with old favourites such as “Lump In My Throat” and “All Mapped Out” getting the small Cockpit crowd moving. It was in the new material however, that the interest lied as they showed off a range of material from the forthcoming album, including latest single “Chemicals” and the rousing “Seven Years”. In these new songs lays a degree of pop appeal that the band never managed to grasp before, however brilliant and bleak their first release was.
The funky bass of Ben Winton and thick, layered guitar of Sam Harvey showed individual talent and this all tied together in a great sounding show. Front man David Jones crooned and leant over the stage with a certain degree of menace, which matched his sharp, witty lyrics but always finished with a smile as the band clearly enjoyed their warm reception.
Much has changed for the Departure since their first album, the loss of two members and a distinct shift in sound but sometimes change is for the better, and perhaps now they will get the attention they have always deserved.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Mates Of State - Team Boo (2003)

Bearing similarities to Brendan Benson and many others this Husband-Wife duo produce a really full sound and all round interesting record, bursting with kitsch, fun tunes. With too much focus often being placed on their relationship status, I can't help but feel Mates Of State are a band being overlooked by many people who potentially, would love their work.
I haven't always been a fan of organ/keyboard sounds like the ones used but MOS seem to make it work and with clever melodies, make the sound very much their own signature. The use of the boy/girl vocal harmonies adds a classic touch which many are a sucker for while quirky structure keep the songs unique and make the album work very well in its entirety. This is real sugary sweet but sometimes, we all need a little sugar.


Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Busy Times

Just got back from Berlin on Friday night and therefore haven't had any posts in a while. Had an amazing time though, Berlin is a truly unique city with so much to experience and I'd recommend it to anyone, also the Circus Hostel in the Mitte was great with really warm and friendly staff so a big thanks to them!
Back to the blogging, I'm starting university in Leeds this Saturday so I apologise in advance for infrequent posting but things may be a little busy with freshers, settling in and finding a new job! I will keep going though, and once settled I can assure that the blog will be teaming with new stuff. Keep coming back, props to the other great blogs keeping the net interesting, and guys...start leaving some comments!!!

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Carling Festival 2007: Leeds (Part 3)

With the little known activity of sleep far lower on our list of priorities, waking up on Sunday proved to be a much more difficult task than previously. Despite that, we were off to the main arena bright and early for a spot of everyone's favourite pop-punkers, Paramore. Despite plugging the new album at a rate of about three times a minute, they were entertaining and managed to keep the crowd interested for their 30 minute set. After this we were struggling and ended up at the hands, or guitars, of Teenagers where my ears were sonically raped, so much that I felt violated enough after 10 minutes and had to leave. Continuing this trend a friend and I managed a whole song and a half of Good Shoes before we surrendered and left in search of a musical saviour.
Luckily, it was time for The Shins and they played a fairly rocky set on the main stage right in the blazing mid day sunshine to which I think 95% of the audience were smiling and swaying along to. Rightly so, as I thought they were excellent and really brought a calm and soothing vibe to Bramham Park. Bravely missing out crowd favourite "Caring Is Creepy" the set seemed to include material mainly from the 2nd and 3rd albums with my favourite being recent single, "Australia".
Deciding to opt for some alone time, my next visit was to the Carling Tent to catch Oxford's technical dance-rockers Foals. Really tight and full of variation in their songs, I was very impressed by this 5-piece and so it seemed was everyone else, with a overflowing tent moving to every beat. They didn't seem to miss a note and it was really cool to see a new band with such technical proficiency, a definite band to keep on your radar! On a friends recommendation I stuck around for Cobra Starship, a band I'd never heard of, and for a start I was pretty unimpressed. It was only when the songs moved from disco, to pop-rock that I became more interested and the members started to show a few more of their skills. Despite this, I think they may have trouble distinguishing themselves as anything more as another Panic or FOB.
Coming towards the end we quickly got over to the Dance Tent for a spot of "Bizzle Bizzle" and general fun times. Lethal Bizzle is a UK garage/hip-hop artist who has made significant inroads into the indie/pop markets, evident in his appearance at this years festival. A full tent was definitely enjoying the show and, even on my last legs, I did spend most of the show dancing like a complete idiot. It's a show I enjoyed, but not necessarily something I really listen to at home. Despite that, LB is someone you should at least check out.
With the whole crew reunited, I found myself in a good spot for Bloc Party on the main stage and they weren't bad at all, at least for a start. Mixing it up between the two albums and seemingly keeping the crowd entertained. It was only when I got home, and found out that they did exactly the same set at Glastonbury right down to the between song banter, that I felt slightly cheated! I mean, sort it out guys and show a little bit of charisma.
Taking the risky decision to shun indie behemoth The Arcade Fire, myself and a friend went to the half empty Carling Tent to see the significantly less hyped, Silversun Pickups. Sound wise, this band actually had the hairs standing on the back of my neck with the beautifully heavy, layered and looped guitar work. Backed up by solid bass, soaring keyboards and crashing drums the Pickups paint a musical picture much richer than most and they have some tunes too, with songs like "Well Thought Out Twinkles" and "Little Lover's So Polite" rocking the Leeds crowd. The band have an awesome stage presence too with two static figures left and right, leaving loads of space for the highly entertaining theatrics of drummer, Christopher Guanlao, and front man, Brian Aubert. While I expect the Arcade Fire were still working their magic upon the Main Stage we literally ran across to the NME, my lone attempt to get around the logistics of this horrible tent, in order to catch the start of Biffy Clyro. Both really excited about the Biff, they did play pretty well but there was something missing. I have to admit, I was really excited about seeing them so perhaps I am being extra harsh when I say they weren't quite as good as I expected. Still, they were better than most and rocked out especially with "Saturday Superhouse" and "Living Is A Problem" from the latest album.
Finally, cold, hungry but still wanting a little bit more, I searched out the huge flag my friends were now equipped with and found my place within the crowd for the legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers. Starting with lots of energy and some cool extended jams, everything was promising and the crowd, including myself, seemed captivated. However as more and more new songs displaced the favourites everyone was waiting for and the jams got longer, and less fluid it was in the air, that patience was wearing thin. On their last leg of an 18 month world tour, it was evident that the Chili's were tiring quickly and never was this more evident than when the encore started with the decidedly flat album track, "C'mon Girl", a complete let down. I know the pedigree of RHCP and in no way will this performance change my opinion of them overall, but it was disappointing that the festival had to end this way! Never mind, the madness of Sunday night quickly put any disappointments to the back of my mind and my Leeds experience was complete, along with the dirtiest burger I have ever received, just in time to eat while the sun rose again, signalling the real end of this amazing weekend.
Huge amounts of love to everyone who shared the weekend with me, x.

Set List
'Can't Stop'
'Dani California'
'Other Side'
'Throw Away Your Television'
'Snow (Hey Oh)'
'Get On Top'
'Emit Remus'
'Don't Forget Me'
'So Much I Wish'
'She's Only 18'
'Right On Time'
'By The Way'
'C'mon Girl'
'Give It Away'

Friday, 31 August 2007

When Paul Weller found me

Today I’m going to lose my “reviewing virginity” and who should I do it with but the god that is, Paul Weller.
Back in my early teens I was in a very dark place. I neglected the classics I grew up with. I cringed when forced to listen to Springsteen on family holidays (whilst secretly loving his music). Even Costello tapes were shoved to the back of my wardrobe.
Instead I adopted a disgraceful taste in music whilst attempting to define myself as an individual. Avril Lavigne was a favourite, Pink songs sang loud and clear and shamefully enough, I sometimes even pulled out a bit of Busted.
That’s before Paul Weller found me.
This epiphany took place when I was attempting to learn to play the guitar. (Something I soon gave up on realising I was royally terrible at it)
On being asked if I wanted to learn a Paul Weller rift, I committed a sin that I will regret to this day. Dare I say it? I shamefully replied with, “Who’s Paul Weller?” (I cringe at the memory) The look on my teachers face was enough to make me realise I had said something truly terrible and unforgivable. To not know who Paul Weller is a tragedy. I have come to realise he is one of the few artists who fully deserves to be where he is. Not many people have this.
His songs are delivered so effortlessly yet with so much feeling. It takes a lot for a song to touch me emotionally and I will shamelessly say at least half of his have done such that. His voice is distinguished, slightly husky at parts, a twang here a there, and an ironic light deepness to it.
I’m not just talking the classics such as “You do something to me”, although this is a classic for a reason.
On educating yourself on Weller you can take two paths. You can take The Jam road. This is probably a good idea yet I would say I personally prefer his later work as a single artist.
The other road is Stanley Road. As Josh has already said, Stanley Road is a “
rich production, beautiful lead guitar work and vocal layering, all tied together by a tight rhythm section.” But aside from the musical technicalities, there is a lot of truth and sentiment in the lyrics that really hit a spot.
“Time Passes” is an all time favorite song for me. Its captivating combination of piano and guitar assist you through the song whilst the lyrics speak emotional truths. With other great songs such as “Changing Man”, “Gilded Splinters” and “Broken Stones”, I would have no qualms in saying “Stanley Road” is one of Paul Weller’s greatest productions.
If you’re however dying for more, have a listen to the album “Wild Wood”. “Sunflower” is a bit more upbeat whilst “Wild Wood” is defiantly more chilled. I would say “Wild Wood” is the more soulful album whereas “Stanley road” is more uplifting so it really depends on your musical preferences.
I would however recommend ending you Paul Weller journey with “Moon on your pyjamas”. With a title like that you just know it’s a corker.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Carling Festival 2007: Leeds (Part 2)

Saturday morning and with memories of the Pumpkins still as fresh in the mind, as the dew on the grass, we were up and about early for the day's music. First up was the second half of The Pipettes and although it was hard to judge on a few songs, I think these girls coped well with the early slot, getting some early birds dancing to their Motown grooves. Searching for some undiscovered gems, we moved on to the Carling Stage to see fresh faced Nashville punk rockers, the Turbo Fruits. Blasting through a 30 minute set that included 3 chords, 2 ripped string vests and 1 lonesome blow up ball the kids tried their best and at times managed to sound at least a little like The Stooges. By the looks of it, time is on their side so maybe they'll be back again next year.
So, if we had waited 10 minutes longer for the mysterious "Hooks For Hands" we would have been presented with the greatest surprise of the weekend...a secret gig from Leeds very own Kaiser Chiefs, and, although I am by no means a huge fan, I have to say I would have love to have caught them. We moved on quickly, to the sunny main stage, and I had another chance to see The Long Blondes, another local band, who have risen to fame off a critically acclaimed debut album. They were again, pretty fun and almost marked a real start to the day in terms of music.
Next, I decided to venture off alone and I returned to Carling Tent for my first band of a planned double header. Blood Red Shoes were meant to just be my warm up but they turned out better than expected and their tight, edgy two piece rock showed an early ear for hooks and clever melodies. Next up was the one I had waited for, Frank Turner. Almost at the front, I was in prime position to sing, shout and jump my way through his charismatic and warm show. This is a guy who is writing some of the most interesting tracks in the singer/songwriter field and his live performance showed off the personality that is spawning such clever and catchy songs, all with his angry folk/punk edge.
After, with many friends going to see Maximo Park on the main stage I thought I'd come along as there was nothing else that caught my attention. This is a band I've never really been into, but in the live setting they really weren't so bad and all my mates seemed to have a great time dancing and singing to the hits! Interpol were next up on the main and I faced a major clash, them or The Bronx. After much deliberation, I went with my heart and ran off to catch LA's finest for my second occasion. They really didn't disappoint. This is a band which sweats and bleeds passion, a punk band I really believe in and the show was fucking awesome. Spending more time in the crowd than on stage, frontman Matt Caughthran, actually means it when he says he wants to break down the barriers between audience and band. For me, this brings so much respect, and after seeing several bands already profess such things and not really live up to their outlandish claims, it was a refreshing change. Racing through no end of hits like "Shitty Future" and "White Tar" (which I think I got to shout a line on!) the band showed that they meant business. For the former, he lead with the line;

"The bad news is here comes the next song. It's for all the psychopaths. It's feeding time!"

After which he dove into the crowd for what seemed like most the set. All that needs to be said about this band now is, if you want hard rock to believe in and to motivate you, look no further than these guys!
After that exhilarating experience, the fun didn't stop as Kings Of Leon took to the main stage. I've always loved KOL but this performance cemented their place as one of my favourite bands, they are the consummate rock band, a band at the height of their powers. With style, panache and truly brilliant songs they rocked through a set that lasted a little over an hour and took in material from all three records. Slowing it down, on tracks like "Fans" and the beautiful "Knocked Up", and then rockin' out again, with others like "Spiral Staircase" and "Four Kicks", Kings Of Leon are a band that deserved to be entertaining 60,000 smiling fans on that Saturday evening.
Finally, we sat on the grass for a more relaxed view of headlining act, Razorlight. As a big fan of the first album, but not its follow up, I was interested to see these guys, especially after they disappointed me back last year in Nottingham. Plus it was a good chance to just hang out with friends and chill. My overall impression of the set was that they were, not bad. I respect the fact that the songs they have written carry alot of emotion for millions of people and in that area they seemed to entertain their fans, but to me, the new material is a little flat and unexciting and this is highlighted in the live situation. Excluding 'those' two singles, I didn't hear anything that, was up to par with the songs from "Up All Night", the edgy, paranoid and essential debut. Personal highlights for me were when they dipped to the bottom of their relatively shallow bag of songs, to pull out classics such as "Rock & Roll Lies" and "Rip It Up" which did sound as good as when I first heard them. Overall then, they were better than in Nottingham, and maybe with a more creative third effort they'll be able to find another, more interesting, direction but on that Saturday evening they were thoroughly outclassed by everyone's favourite American band of brothers.

Set List
'In The Morning'
'Hold On'
'Golden Touch'
'Back To The Start'
'(Don't Go Back To) Dalston'
'Fall To Pieces'
'Pop Song 2006'
'Can't Stop This Feeling'
'LA Waltz'
'Leave Me Alone'
'Rock 'N' Roll Lies'
'Rip It Up'
'Who Needs Love'
'In The City'
'Funeral Blues'
'Stumble And Fall'
'Somewhere Else'

Monday, 27 August 2007

Carling Festival 2007: Leeds (Part 1)

My first festival experience, beautiful weather, amazing friends and a brilliant selection of bands. Maybe I was blessed this weekend, but Leeds 2007 was just about perfect and here is my review of the weekend, musically and a little more.

Thursday was the day of arrival, and as we dragged our bags through the camp the size of the whole thing dawned on me. Have to say I was pretty impressed when we managed to get a beaut of a camping spot, right near a security tower in loads of space and in a place, that was dead easy to find. Downside was being in the "Orange funfair camp" which meant close proximity to an array of rides pumping out a mix of the star wars theme tune and chart house until the early morning, aka half past 4 or even later! We learnt to live with this and all was well after the first night. At risk of using too many private jokes and going on, I think I'll try and leave the social/friend commentary here and concentrate on the least until Sunday night!

After a poor nights sleep, we arose early for the music on Friday only to be caught in the one logistical nightmare of the weekend, a massive bottleneck of people around the main entrance which meant being stuck for an hour and a half, and missing any acts before half one. My first show of the weekend then, was Billy Talent. They were much better than I expected and musically very sound although those vocals did grate on me a little bit. Still, a fun show and good way to start. After that The Used came on the main stage, and after a couple of songs I decided to leave with a couple friends and sample some of the other music. Unfortunately I stumbled across a pretty poor attempt at lad rock, named The Sunshine Underground and decided to return to the main for the rest of The Used and a chill in the sun. Bert McCracken made an early claim for most annoying frontman of the weekend with constant whining about parents, school, money etc so we all had a good laugh about that.
Next on were Funeral For A Friend, a band I liked very much a while ago, so I watched with a few friends, reminiscing in the sun, and ended up having a great time. By the end of the set I had restored alot of respect for this band and had my first good sing-a-long to tracks like "Juneau" and "She Drove Me To Daytime Television". Hunger kicked in, so I moved on again to grab some lovely Mexican (my favourite all weekend!) and have a listen to the Cold War Kids. I didn't hear the whole set, but they sounded better than when I saw them a couple months ago, and my friend Rick, who watched the whole set, was really impressed, again saying they had improved since the last time.
To the lock up next for some punk and a chance to catch the highly regarded Against Me! who had a huge VIP crowd watching including members of Billy Talent. I haven't heard much of this folk/punk outfit but they put on a really tight live show, which seemed very geared to those loyal fans. Something that was nice to see, even as a casual punter. Next up were the massively hyped Gallows, from London, bringing their blend of hardcore and classic brit-rock/punk to a full crowd. Energy levels were through the roof and despite annoying me a little, I can give credit to the band for thoroughly pleasing their fans, and winning some new ones. Special credit goes to the two guitarists for performing some epic Hendrix style, through each others legs maneuvers.
After this I had chance to buy some food, a lovely warm jacket (for a fiver!) and prepare for the main event, at least it was for myself. Slightly late, but completely captivating, The Smashing Pumpkins played a set, which took in new and old and seemed to please everyone who hadn't buggered off to see the Klaxons! Summed up best in one word, mesmerizing, the set seemed to span about an 1hr 45mins, actually longer than billed and included loads of hits like the big two "Tonight, Tonight" and an acoustic "1979". Starting with "United States" they bravely set out their stall, with grandeur and faultless musicianship. Some people decided to boo them during this opener, and pronounce Billy as a "bald twat", but they didn't really seem to understand the song at all so never mind. With the rest of the set its really a case of where do you start! Personal highlight for me was "Stand Inside My Love" but even that is at a stretch as the set worked as a single entity, pretty much perfectly. Chamberlain had his moments of glory and received a chant of appreciation during "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" which was clearly special. As for the new members, I thought all three were excellent throughout with Reyes having the spotlight on "Hummer" and Schroeder shredding throughout! Also, it must be said..."you probably would the bassist". On that rather coarse low note, it's time for me to continue catching up on sleep so i'll move onto Saturday tomorrow!

Set List
'United States'
'Tonight, Tonight'
'Bullet With Butterfly Wings'
'Glass And The Ghost Children'
'To Sheila'
'Stand Inside Your Love'
'Doomsday Clock'
'Heavy Metal Machine'

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Lack of Posts

Sorry for the lack of posts but I just lost my internet for a couple of days and now I have Leeds Festival! Anyways, if I get a request for something festival related then I could probably throw that up later and when I get back it'll be all systems go with my festival highlights and a return to regular posting. So...keep coming back, please!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Shame Video by Ingmar Bergman

With the excitement building for Leeds festival the Smashing Pumpkins have been high on my listening agenda and tonight I found this cracker of a mini video for the song "Shame" my favourite from Adore, and a very poignant track.


Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Smashing Pumpkins - Gish (1991)

After my furore into the world of Paramore I think it's time
we returned to something a little more classic and here it is, with the Smashing Pumpkins legendary debut.
Like many I'm sure, I got into the SP through the Rotten Apples greatest hits and while that kept me satisfied long enough, after a while I had to dig back into the catalogue and Gish was the first studio album I checked out. From the first seconds of "I Am One" with its pounding drums, and ringing chord I was pretty certain that I'd be paid back for my interest. The next two tracks represented more familiar ground, as they were included on Rotten Apples, but the haunting feedback at the end of "Rhinoceros" leads you into the rest of the album perfectly. Of course, the guitar work from Iha and, in particular, Corgan is breathtaking as well, not just your standard solos. "Bury Me" and "Tristessa" follow the same vain, just brilliant rock tracks with abit of groove as well, courtesy of D'arcy and Chamberlain. However, around these songs, there are a collection of beautiful slower tracks of which my favourite would have to be "Crush",

"And this feeling shivers down your spine
Love comes in colors I can't deny
All that matters is love, love, your love "

As a whole this is just a top album where every track plays its part and for me, even though this was recorded 16 years ago, it still sounds fresh today.



Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Paramore - Riot! (2007)

With this one I totally risk losing the little bit of credibility I might have amassed so far, but never mind. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for certain things, I just want a good solid rock/pop record to really chill out with or enjoy with friends and this is exactly what Riot! is. After the first album the band lost their rhythm guitarist and, no offence to the guy, but you wouldn't notice any difference as the music is tight, aggressive and engaging. Guitarist, Josh Farro, takes advantage of his lone role to put his only signature on many of the songs and this is refreshing to hear.
What Paramore, that so many other's fighting for the spot of coolest uncool band, is an energetic and star front woman like Hayley Williams. I've seen bits of live stuff on MTV and she definitely rises to live situation so hopefully I'll be able to catch these guys (and gal) at Leeds Festival. The two singles released so far, "Misery Business" and "Hallelujah" are catchy as hell with singable choruses and smart structures so chances are you've already had a sing a long to Paramore, whether you like it or not! To be honest though, I like it all!



Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Rancid - ...And Out Come The Wolves (1995)

A classic album from these stalwarts of the punk rock scene. First I'll get my only criticism out of the way, this is perhaps a tad too long. Okay, that's it!
The band has always drawn comparisons with The Clash and this is ever present on this album, but what Rancid have drawn from British punk/ska is only a benefit to their sound. The organ contributions on tracks like "Time Bomb" hark back to the sounds of the Specials and really help to give the songs a little something extra. Throughout, the rhythm section is extremely sound and Matt Freeman throws in many great bass fills all over the record, showing how much he has pushed modern bass playing. To cap it off you have the pair of Friedriksen and Armstrong giving the songs the bite and passion, each in their own distinctive styles. However, it's hard not to imagine abit of Joe Strummer in there somewhere. Again, just another cool summer CD!


Friday, 3 August 2007

Set Your Goals - Mutiny! (2006)

Really cool album from this positive-hardcore/pop-punk band. Ah, I'm no good with genre's anyways but this band blends lots of styles together to make a punchy album full of great hooks, excuse the pun. The vocals are split between two frontmen and feature rousing choruses. Lyrics themselves are actually very clever and its hard to listen to the album without singing along (well I do anyway!), first track "Work In Progress" perhaps being the best example. The riffs aren't exactly covering new ground but they are fun as hell, suitably heavy and well varied. I would say through these summer months this record probably comes into its own so give it a listen now, get it in your car or something!


Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Thanks to Mewzique™ for this one, I decided to put up something that i've only just discovered myself.
This is a record with alot of critical acclaim so I felt somewhat obliged to give it a listen and I can see why people like it so much. Wilco's alt-rock sound seems to borrow much from the past and on listening to the atmospheric first track I was already to drawing comparisons to, long time favourites of mine, the Dandy Warhols. Songs like "Jesus etc" seem to show more pop leanings with great hooks and there are also folkier moments like "Radio Cure". I cant comment on this in comparison to their other records as I haven't heard them but I think this is well worth trying like I have done.


Monday, 30 July 2007

Sleater Kinney - The Woods (2005)

Picked up towards the back end of last year this was quite a random purchase for me as I dont own any other of the bands work and for a while I struggled with this one. Finally it clicked and from there on its been a happy relationship as I've realised this quirky, clever brand of rock 'n' roll is pretty hard not to enjoy. Duelling guitars and vocals pass through soft and heavy passages as songs go from one part to another in an instance. I especially dig the drumming in this one as it just seems so bouncy and a little loose, but in a good way as this fits well with the bands overall sound. Brownstein's vocals can be slightly harsh, but the whole record is bathed in a thick layer of fuzz so it is to be expected and once again, just another piece in the jigsaw.
This is a really fun record with a lot of depth to it and well worth a try for you passers by. Must be noted that this is definitely louder than your average LP, just in case you were unsure of how hard hard these girls rock!



I'm starting to have some visits to the page so guys and gals, leave comments! Anything is good, opinions, requests, recommendations and links to your own respective corners of the net.
In other news, a couple of my friends and I gave blood for the first time and, although a little foreign too me, it really felt good to contribute to such an important cause so if you have chance yourselves, go for it!

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Elliott Smith - Either/Or (1997)

Elliott Smith has been back in the press again recently for the compilation of B-sides, named "New Moon" that was released last month. I am yet to hear it, but I thought I'd focus here on my favourite of his albums from his tragically short, but illustrious career.
Either/Or was Smith's final release on the independent Kill Rock Stars label and it finds him in fine form and at a real transition point between his early and later styles. Several of the songs feature full instrumentation with Smith playing drums, bass, keyboards and electric guitars as well as his trusted acoustic. The sound, sometimes still stripped down, hints at earlier releases but the ventures into full instrumentation also add to the songs and show the direction Smith would go on his following albums.
Throughout, the melodies are breathtaking and very catchy while still retaining a timeless sound. No second of any song seems unneccesary and that is perhaps why I fell in love with this album, the songs just seem 'right' together. Each track has very different elements and the album is filled with both very haunting and, in contrast, upbeat moments. I almost always listen to this at night, and I think that's just the nature of it, slightly eerie and suited to the evening. I'd be interested if anyone else has found this?! Although it is very hard I would say my favourite songs are the trilogy of "Angeles", "Cupid's Trick" and "2:45am" which really take you on a journey through moods in the little over 9 minutes. The way the latter broods and builds is just beautiful, as the anger in his voice seeps through the delicate guitar. You should buy this one for that song alone but in truth this is a classic to me and could be for any fan of rock, acoustic and classic songwriting.


Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Frank Turner - Sleep Is For The Week (2007)

Semi-Acoustic Folk/Punk from this ex-member of UK hardcore outfit Million Dead. This was one of my slightly more random finds of the year so far and definitely one of the most refreshing. Frank Turner has a way with words and his lyrics, not only hit home in ways we can all to relate to but they also make you laugh;

"I've got friends who are bankers, and it's an easy rhyme to call them wankers"

He comments on all aspects of life, from his teens becoming a young punk to his current surroundings and balancing anarchy with his responsibilities. In all, this makes for an interesting combination and one that makes this such a facsinating listen. "Vital Signs" does stand out from the rest as a real anthem, but the whole album is solid. Variations in style, melody and pace mean that songs are easy to define and remember, unlike some in this genre. Finally, in the songs with a full band, the arrangements are fuller than you perhaps would expect and this benefits the album alot, making individual songs more memorable. Definately check this one out if you are looking for a different angle on the songwriter genre, its been one of my faves of 2007.


Sunday, 22 July 2007

Smashing Pumpkins - Zeitgeist (2007)

As one of my favourite bands I had to up this as some point and make some conclusion on it. On first listen I was happy with the album, but saw it as just an okay hard rock album and not necessarily anything more. Of course, as we all know, one brief listen is rarely enough to judge and with time this has grown on me and probably will continue to. In comparison to the other Smashing Pumpkins releases this doesn't have the same groundbreaking sound as previous, but this is a new era with no Pixies, no Nirvana and the rest and therefore how "groundbreaking" it is, should really be put into context. The fact is, there are alot of really poor rock bands out there at the moment that would have probably never made it in the early 90's and against them, Zeitgeist really kicks some ass.
Songwriting is strong, I can imagine "That's the Way" and "Starz" being sung whole heartily at festivals this summer, and Chamberlain still commands his kit like he always did. The first half of the album, in particular, thunders through at terrific pace with "Doomsday Clock" setting the agenda. My main criticism would be that after "United States" the album doesn't seem to be quite up to par with the first half however, that track mentioned is a true rock epic, possibly level with "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans" and its refreshing to hear that Corgan can still produce those magical moments. In conclusion, this isn't Siamese Dream or Gish, but what we do have is a good rock album which shows us how some bands just have "it" and others, polluting our charts at the moment, just don't.


Saturday, 21 July 2007

Lucero - Tennessee (2002)

I got this one after a recomendation, so thanks for that! Without the keys, the sound is more country and the songs seem slightly more downbeat and introspective. Upon my few listens, I like both albums equally but they show clear distinction and show off different aspects of the band's talent. My personal favourite on this album so far would be "The Last Song", which broods and builds up beautifully. Throughout the guitar work is excellent and the solo towards the end of this song combines so well with the vocals, reflecting the emotion of the song perfectly.


Friday, 20 July 2007

Lucero - Rebels, Rogues and Sworn Brothers (2006)

I thought i'd check out this band because i've heard them linked with the Hold Steady a couple times and while it may not be quite as good, i'm still pleased I did. A definate grower, this album has charm in bundles and is a classic example of the Southern Rock sound. Whisky-soaked vocals deliver great tales and these are supported by a tight and confident band. Keys thicken out the album and the variation between songs is alot more apparent after a couple of listens. At first the songs can sound a little similar but they quickly become more defined and I think there is something here for any rock/indie fan. I'll probably like this one even more in time.


Thursday, 19 July 2007

Minus The Bear - Menos el Oso (2005)

Technical indie rock from Seattle which provides an interesting listen time and time again. The songs have definite hooks but with complex time signatures and clever musicianship this band definitely knows how to give their music real depth. In particular 'Pachuca Sunrise' and 'Fulfill the Dream' stand out, but it is difficult to pick tracks out from an album that works so well in its entirety. This could be for fans of many genres so give it a try and hopefully you'll like it as much as I do!


Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days (2004)

Iron & Wine is the musical name of Sam Beam, an acoustic performer based in Florida. I am a big fan of this kind of southern sounding folk/country style and lately, this album has been the soundtrack to my evenings. For me, whatever I may be doing in those evenings, it works great as I chill out. Sam Beam has a warm vocal and it is accompanied by beautiful melodies on his, often lone, guitar. Of particular note are 'Naked as we Came' and the country charm of 'Teeth in the Grass'.


Modern Life Is War - Witness (2005)

A unique brand of hardcore from Iowa, USA and a very worthy first post in my blog . Lyrically, vocalist Jeffery Eaton is dynamic and his delivery seems honest and genuine with an angsty mix of screams, shouts and clean vocals. This is set to a backdrop of epic and soaring riffs which show how different Hardcore and Metal can be. One of my favourite 'aggressive' albums and a definate download, trust me, my description nowhere near does this justice!