thebigpinkHad 90’s era the Chemical Brothers morphed into some shoegazers, they might’ve sounded like rock duo Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell, who comprise the London based band the Big Pink. Their debut record, A Brief History Of Love, is an epic sounding mix of shoegaze, electronica and a keen ear for a pop hook, reminiscent at times of the Church or the Dandy Warhols circa Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, as well as their peers the Horrors. It’s an ambitious record that’s also great fun to listen to, as the band makes the most of their broad range of influences, changing things up enough from song to song to keep the record compelling from first note to last. Standout cuts: “Crystal Visions,” “Dominos,” “Velvet” and “A Brief History Of Love.”

lordnewbornI’m very much a fan of Shawn Lee’s work, so the idea of a collaboration between him, Money Mark and Tommy Guerrero sounded pretty great. And having now heard the results, I was not let down. The record features twelve tracks, largely instrumental, and is an eclectic, highly addictive and utterly entertaining mix of jazz, funk, soul, electronica and prog rock, with an array of world music influences added here and there, and there are some video game music and sounds to boot. The recording session for Lord Newborn and the Magic Skulls lasted just two weeks at Money Mark’s Los Angeles studio, amazing considering no aspect of the album seems tossed off or otherwise rushed. There is a sense of fun and playfulness about the whole proceedings, which adds to the enjoyment. If some of it sounds like elements of a soundtrack to a film you think you might have seen, it’s because all the composers have done film work. (Lee also scored the video game Bully.) Recommended for fans of the individual artist, and for those looking for moody, cool sounding theme music for their groovy lives. Standout cuts: “Astro Blue,” “Dime Bag Conspiracy,” “She’s My Melody” and “Crazy Apartment.”

patrickwolfI had never heard an album from South London based musician Patrick Wolf before, despite The Bachelor, the first part of a two record project, being his fourth release. It’s largely an electronica album with very ornate production, with Gothic overtones, rock guitar and choirs added in. Wolf’s powerful vocals, which recall Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan and Howard Jones, really drive the songs, which range from dance pop to electroclash to moody synthpop ballads. Most of it is pretty good, sometimes great, stuff, though if there’s a flaw with The Bachelor, it’s that so much of the album is pitched at such a high intensity that inevitably some of the tracks come off as somewhat overwrought or over the top. In general, though, The Bachelor is a pretty solid electronic rock and pop album, and very much recommended, especially for fans of the genres. Standout cuts: “Hard Times,” “Oblivion,” “Damaris” and “Vulture.”

JJ – JJ N° 2

August 17, 2009

jjno2JJ N° 2, the debut album from Swedish band JJ, with its 9 tracks, clocks in at just under 27 minutes, but it nevertheless makes a huge impression. It’s a ethereal sounding mix of Saint Etienne and Air-style electronica with folky sounding indie pop, as well a heavy dose of the vintage world travelogue film sound of New Zealand’s the Ruby Suns, with an emphasis on African and tropical rhythms. (It also features a track inspired by Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop.”) What also makes it intriguing are idiosyncratic touches like the inclusion of studio chatter and noise, the singer clearing her voice before a song starts, the unexpected inclusion of a loud, random and profane sample in the midst of the acoustic closer, all of which give the whole project a strange, slightly off the cuff feel. It’s certainly worth a listen for indie pop fans. Standout cuts: “Things Will Never Be The Same Again,” “From Africa To Malaga,” “Are You Still In Vallda?,” and “Intermezzo.”


July 3, 2009

spinneretteBrody Dalle, late of the punk band the Distillers, steps into the electronic dance rock field with her band’s self-titled debut, Spinnerette. Most of the album is taken up by a fusion of industrial, electronica and punk rock, though on track 7, “Distorting A Code,” there’s a decidedly 80’s New Wave influence going on. Although Dalle and company don’t bring a lot new to the genre, the album mostly works owing to Dalle’s charismatic presence and a solid backing band (Tony Bevilacqua, Jack Irons and Alain Johannes). Distillers fans may like that the band reverts to some bluesy metal influenced rock for the last couple of tracks, “Impaler” and “A Presciption For Mankind.” It’s by no means a perfect album, but it’s worth the ride for its best tracks, “Ghetto Love,” “All Babes Are Wolves,” the current single “Baptized By Fire” and “Sex Bomb,” which strikes just the right balance between sexy and campy.

Bjork – Voltaic

July 2, 2009

voltaicI wasn’t that crazy about Bjork’s last studio album, Volta, so I was less than enthuiastic about her current release, Voltaic, a live album recorded in one take at a London studio shortly before her 2007 Glastonbury appearance. It may have been that either I didn’t really get Volta when I listened to it, or else I just really prefer the five live interpretations included among the eleven tracks here, which comprise the live set she had worked out for her Volta tour. At any rate, it’s no exaggeration to say that Voltaic is one of Bjork’s very best albums, and a rich and inspired summation of everything that has earned her a worldwide following since her days with the Sugarcubes and throughout her solo career: Grandly scaled, restlessly experimental electronica mixed with pop, coupled with an overarching intelligence and wit, and that powerful, distinctive voice of hers. Oh, Bjork, I will never doubt you again. Standout cuts: “Wanderlust,” “Hunter,” “Pagan Poetry” and “Declare Independence.”

Moby – Wait For Me

June 19, 2009

waitformeThe latest album from New York City based artist Moby was, according to its press, inspired by a speech by David Lynch, which characterized “creativity for its own sake” as “a beautiful, wonderful thing.” The result, Wait For Me, recorded in Moby’s home studio, is a work of sustained, mostly quiet beauty, instrumental for the most part, but featuring some vocals, mostly female, though Moby himself sings on “Mistake.” Listeners looking for dance tracks like “Feeling So Real” or “Bodyrock” will be disappointed, but fans of Moby’s ambient and moodier music in general will enjoy Wait For Me quite a lot. What lyrics there are tend towards the somber, sometimes borderline melodramatic, as with “Hope Is Gone,” but in general the album holds together very well. Wait For Me isn’t really much of a groundbreaking release, but it is easily Moby’s most satisfying work in some time. Standout cuts: “Pale Horses,” “Shot In The Back Of The Head,” “Scream Pilots” and “jltf.”

stilllifestillnightLast year, I referred to Beach House’s album Devotion as “David Lynch movie music,” which I defined as being “beautiful, dreamily paced, sometimes eerie sounding…” Brooklyn based trio Au Revoir Simone’s first couple of albums certainly fell into that category, and unsurprisingly, they accompanied Lynch on a few of his readings for his last book tour. (Lynch has referred to their band and their music as “Innocent, hip and new.”) To some degree, Still Night, Still Life is more of the same, waif-like vocals, dream pop and folk melded with sometimes lushly produced, sometimes minimalist electropop. There are some subtle changes, however, as the band has added some hard edges to their music here and there, and lyrically, the songs are decidedly more sophisticated than innocent, concerned as they are with the hard reality of relationships, the consequences of some personal choices, and the resistance of some to face the future, owing to the past: “I’m moving on / I hope you’re coming with me…” The best material may be featured in the first half of the album, but in general, Still Night, Still Light is filled with lovely, often captivating music, and is a solid follow up to their breakthrough album, The Bird Of Music. Standout cuts: “Another Likely Story,” “Shadows,” “Knight Of Wands” and “Trace A Line.”

yourstrulyThree years after the dissolution of his band Grandaddy, front man Jason Lytle returns with a solo album in the truest sense: Yours Truly, The Commuter was written, recorded and played solely by Lytle at his current home base in Montana. Musically, it’s a mix of electronica, neo-psychedelia, experimental pop and acoustic folk, and lyrically, there’s a thorniness and melancholy that pervades the album, sometimes co-existing alongside apparent sunniness and optimism. Much of the record has a airy beauty about it, and sometimes seems rather like a tone poem about transition, loss and finally arrival and discovery. It’s for the most part a very quiet and very subtle work that may take repeated listens to peel back all its layers, but the effort will be worth it. Standout cuts: “Yours Truly, The Commuter,” “Ghost Of My Old Dog,” “Brand New Sun” and “Birds Encouraged Him.”

peachesifeelcreamI have nothing against Lady Gaga, but frankly, after listening to I Feel Cream, the new album from Berlin based American electroclash musician Peaches, it’s a little hard to take her seriously. Though I Feel Cream takes a while to really catch fire, despite the early appearance of the first single, “Talk To Me” (on which Peaches shows she can really sing), once the album does get started four tracks in with “More”, it makes Lady Gaga’s songs sound like the slickly made top 40 throwaways they mostly are. Peaches’s songs, by comparison, feel raw, effortlessly sexy and most of all, positively adult in their wit and sophistication. She works with a number of different collaborators this time out, primarily with Simian Mobile Disco, and the result is a bit more poppy than her past efforts, but still as entertaining and as playfully edgy as electroclash gets. I Feel Cream is by no means her masterwork, but it’s great fun to listen to for the most part. Standout cuts: “Talk To Me,” “More,” “I Feel Cream” and “Mommy Complex.”