>A great week for music

>It’s a pretty damn exciting time for music at the moment – a lovely mix of finding brilliant albums I never knew existed and anticipating exciting new releases from artists I already love. This week see’s the release of the new album from the massively under-rated KT Tunstall. KT will always be dear to me for forming a part of the soundtrack to my road trip across South Africa a few years back. Like many people my first glimpse of KT came with her performance on Jools Holland which absolutely blew me away. 

Another new release I’m excited about is Jimmy Eat World returning with Invented. At the risk of repeating myself they are a hugely underrated band who are capable of both truly beautiful fragile and visceral, energetic music. Chase this Light was gloriously pop and I secretly hope for more of the same although it would be nice to get a Hear You Me or Drugs or Me on this album as there wasn’t anything comparable on the last record. To get in the mood here is a great video of them performing in the studio from the Bleed American sessions and just for sheer nostalgic joy Salt Sweat Sugar on Letterman:

This was also the week that I embarrassingly only just found out that the finest voice in music Ray LaMontagne had released a new album last month with a backing band called The Pariah Dogs. I actually only found out thanks to the single ‘Repo Man’ being played on the brilliant Minnesota radio station The Current that I have been listening too a lot online. ‘God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise’ will probably receive the full blog treatment before long so I won’t say much except that I am far from disappointed. I’ve added a live performance below of Repo Man and the sumptuous Can I Stay? which had the honour of being second dance at my wedding. I’m sure Ray views that as his greatest achievement!

I’ve also had the pleasure of discovering a couple of artists I wasn’t familiar with; Clem Snide and Matt Costa. All credit has to go for the peerless Heather Browne at fuel friends blog who continues to enrich my musical palette with every post. Costa has a new album out this year ‘Mobile Chateau’ which is a soulful, sixties tinged album which showcases his impressive knack of matching catchy hooks with inciteful lyrics. Mobile Chateau is his first venture into self-production and importantly features a drummer called Corey Gash which is to be applauded. Similarly Clem Snide had not previously entered into my consciousness despite a large back catalogue. It is one of life’s great pleasures to find an artist you enjoy only to discover they have hours of material to enjoy. The band’s seventh studio album ‘The Meat of Life’ is a great slice of alt-country which I heartily recommend. Enjoy the videos below (the Clem Snide track needs forwarding to 1m 35s).

All that leaves is for three quick observations and an excuse for a couple more videos. I drove back from the in-laws on Sunday and listened to Whatever, and ever, amen for the first time in a while and I think it deserves to be considered one of the finest albums of all time. Ben Folds is a genius. Secondly on my cycle in the Autumn sunshine yesterday I listened to Reservoir by Fanfarlo again and can’t believe they aren’t absolutely huge. Fans of Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons and The National really should check them out if they haven’t already as they deserve a bigger following. Finally in a seamless link I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful friend who picked me up a ticket to go an see The National in Brixton on November 29th. I will make it my first live review blog and am really rather excited.

Enjoy your week everyone (well all five or six of you!)

ps – If you have enjoyed this or have some constructive advice it would be most kind of you to leave a comment. x

>Sound of The Suburbs

>Hotly anticipated can be a poisoned chalice. Sometimes mass expectation can bring out the best in a band (Room on Fire springs to mind) whereas for others it can prove a dead weight disrupting the atmosphere that fostered the previous brilliance (MGMT I’m scowling in your direction). For Arcade Fire’s follow up to the decade defining Funeral they really fell between two stools. Yes there were great moments but despite critical acclaim I couldn’t help but underwhelmed. The infamous difficult second album can come as a blessing and I approach the third release by Arcade Fire in hope that the absence of dizzying expectations that surrounded Neon Bible will result in a finer end product.

The Suburbs – by Arcade Fire

The album opens with the track of the same name and it is immediately striking that grand drama appears to have been dispensed with in favour of a rootsier, folksier sound. If the band were intending to create a Neil Young vibe then on the evidence of the opener they have achieved it.  Ready to Start sees an increase in the urgency – the driving tempo and insistent vocals remind me of The Dears and this is much more like the Arcade Fire with which we became familiar in their early tracks. They have stuck with Markus Dravs, producer of Neon Bible, but there is a notably more stripped back approach with a more conventional structure to songs and an emphasis on a clean, clear vocal. This is crucial as lyrically this album has a lot to say. It follows a consistent theme of questioning our consumer society and the suffocation of ambition this implies. The Suburbs makes more sense as a title when you grasp this, and the album certainly seems to be addressing the creeping frustrations of twenty somethings who have become part of the furniture rather than succeeding in changing the world as they once hoped. The plethora of media and artistic opportunities have fragmented rather than emboldened a movement for change which has left a generation confused:

Maybe when you’re older you will understand
Why you don’t feel right
Why you can’t sleep at night now
(from Modern Man)

Let’s go downtown and talk to the modern kids
They will eat right out of your hand
Using great big words that they don’t understand
(from Rococo)

Music divides us into tribes,
You choose your’s and I’ll choose mine (from Suburban War) 

This really is an album that lyrically is verging on bitterness. Butler seems uncomfortable and unhappy with his own role since he has found fame and this comes through consistently, like in the bleak ‘City with No Children’ where he warns:

You never trust a millionaire
Quoting the sermon on the mount
I used to think I was not like them
But I’m beginning to have my doubts

The recurring messages of self-doubt and dissatisfaction with modern living have been poetically covered before by the likes of Conor Oberst yet this album is far more direct and I can’t help but feel less effective as a result. Suburban War is potentially the stand out track with a slow development of drama bringing a much needed injection of theatre to proceedings. It heralds a second wind to the album and is followed by the stomping Month of May which sounds like it has been nicked off an Eagles of Death Metal record. It really is great to hear that this band are capable of composing an old fashioned punky track and I’d love to see this indulged in the future. On the whole though the album sticks to the alternative Indie formula which sees a rich palette of influences from Radiohead to The Cure shine through at different points.

As a rule albums I immediately adore are often short lived in my affections whereas those I grow to love become personal favourites. I have a suspicion that this could well fall into the latter category. On first listen it is good but not great yet I sense there are nuances in this album that will take time for me to appreciate. This is very much a first listen rating, and it will be interesting to see whether I feel the same after several repeat listens.

7 out of 10

Published in: on 04/08/2010 at 4:07 pm  Comments (2)