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Summer catch-up: Records

Posted: June 23rd, 2008, by Marceline Smith

Pissed Jeans – Hope For Men
I think pointing out that bands have done this before is missing the point somehow. I don’t think even the Sub Pop bands of yesteryear summed up the total dismay of being in the middle of utter averageness as well as Pissed Jeans do. Luke Younger described them as perfectly encapsulating the myriad of feelings that come with a really depressing wank. It’s nice to see a band make so much noise about such close-to-home, mundane stuff. Some footage of them in Nottingham. [Chris Summerlin]

Nicole Atkins: Neptune City
I seldom find myself browsing aimlessly for records – usually I base my purchases on live shows or recommendations from friends – but t’wasn’t more than a few months ago that I was milling through a major chain record store, wasting time before a movie, when a particular album caught my eye.  Thus began an obsessive love affair with Nicole Atkins’ “Neptune City” album.  It’s an intensely melodic, ornamental almost symphonic collection of 10 pop songs, each drenched in wistfulness and melancholy.  The album clearly tips its hat towards 60s girl groups like the Ronettes, but the backing music sounds more like something you’d find in musical theater – the best comparison I can make is the soundtrack for “Moulin Rouge.”  Most striking about the album is its cohesiveness.  Ignoring all conversation about the rise of the MP3 in the death of the album, Atkins has created a collection of songs that live perfectly together.  This is one of those “the whole is greater than the parts” situations.  Each song is good, but it’s made even better by the fact that it’s coexisting amongst such complimentary siblings.  The result is a sonic experience that allows the listener to transcend the limitations of his/her humanity and embrace the all encompassing magnitude of the omniverse.  (Two or three listens may be required for this effect to take hold.) [Wil Forbis]

Human Bell – S/T
Essentially a duo of Dave Heumann from Bonnie Prince Billy’s touring band / Arboureteum and Nathan Bell who played bass in Lungfish for my favourite 3 albums from them. So, I was never going to ignore this one. But it delivers more than I thought it would do. Again, they won me over live where they weaved a dense sheet of intertwined guitar sound that recalled Lungfish’s economy and throb but with a more primitive and direct blues and Americana influence. Some dark and fuzzy film of them in Nottingham. [Chris Summerlin]

Portishead – Third
The new Portishead album is the first new record I’ve listened to in ages that’s really captivated me. They’ve managed to do once again what they did with their first album – create a whole world of sound that seems to have always been there, but which you’ve never heard before. Spooky and rhythmic and weird and excellent. [Simon Minter]

Washington Phillips – What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?
A reissue of some ancient private press LP called “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?” by a guy called Washington Phillips, who played some bizarre instrument that has been lost to the mists of time, but was probably a dolcea – an ghostly-sounding cross between a piano and a guitar. Phillips’ voice is pleasantly reedy and his conversational tone in some really reverential songs is totally awesome. “What are they doing in heaven today?” he asks at the start of the title track, “I don’t know, but it’s my job to sing about it.” Totally cool and strangely reassuring despite its haunting, distant sound. Mississippi Records have been cutting  and reissuing a slew of amazing LPs in annoyingly limited editions over the last year or so (their “Lipi City Yodi Council” and “Life is a Problem” compilations were two of the best things I heard last year) and this is just the latest little miracle they’ve unearthed. [Dave Stockwell]

The Enablers – Output Negative Space
Quite oldish now but they’re touring again later this year. Loud and aggressive, yet exceptionally subtle and trimmed of all unnecessary fat it’s a real grower in the old sense of the word that’s undoubtedly helped by seeing them play live where they are an utter force. Video. [Chris Summerlin]

Paulo Angeli – Tessuti
One bloke producing a wild variety of sounds with a large upright Sardinian guitar. I saw him play a few months back and rushed to the cash machine to buy his album. ‘Tessuti’ is a mix of covers including Björk (‘Unravel’ in stunning) and Fred Frith plus some of Angeli’s own compositions. Attached to his guitar are little foot pedals which correspond to each string. While stomping on  these he bows and taps his guitar, setting off a flickering string device; general mayhem but absolutely beautiful. Review | Video 1 | Video 2 [Pascal Ansell]

Errors – It’s Not Something, But It Is Like Whatever / Blood Red Shoes – Box of Secrets
On the one hand you have heart-tugging melancholic electropostrock and stupidfun danceable tricksy electroPOP. On the other, you have sharp-edged, super-catchy singalong indie rock. Together, you have a soundtrack for any Summer day the UK might bring you, and two of the best upcoming bands in the UK. [Marceline Smith]

Harvey Milk – Life… The Best Game In Town
Just getting to grips with this one. “Heavy” doesn’t even do it justice. It’s King Crimson-heavy but utterly non-po-faced. Plus, any band with an album named after Dusty Hill’s finger is good by me. Looking forward to seeing them live…Video. [Chris Summerlin]

Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs
Their seventh album follows up on their critically acclaimed album ‘Plans.’ To begin Gibbard’s high tenor emotes plaintively ‘I descended a dusty gravel ridge beneath the ‘Bixby Canyon Bridge,” on the superb opening track, which mixes hard ass percussion with the melody. Next up is the hypnotic eight-minute single, ‘I Will Possess Your Heart.’ The spooky instrumental has a ‘Riders on the Storm’ feel. It possesses a relentless quality, which is appropriate for the subject matter of stalker and prey. The gorgeous ‘Cath’ is a standout track on an album of standout tracks. Melancholy lyrics create images in your mind. ‘And as the flashbulbs burst she holds a smile like someone would hold a crying child.’ It’s lump in your throat stuff, which is dominated by some very creative drumming by Jason McGerr. ‘Grapevine Fires,’ is a masterful piece of tranquil understatement. ‘The firemen worked in double shifts with prayers for rain on their lips.’ is whispered over electric piano chords and insistent drumbeats. On ‘Long Division,’ ominous verses lead into sing-along hysteria. ‘His head was a city of paper buildings and the echoes that remained of old friends and lovers. Pessimism goes pop with ‘No Sunlight,’ and on ‘Pity and Fear’ tablas take centre stage. ‘The Ice Is Getting Thinner’ is about a relationship in decline and replaces the live piano with an electric guitar. This album is less produced than ‘Plans’ but it has the usual remarkable mix of literacy and orchestration. After a three-year hiatus Seattle’s finest produce another tour de force. [Mandy Williams]

Free Kitten – Inherit / Paul F Tompkin – Impersonal
I have genuinely tried to find a record I have truly loved this year but alas I have failed.  That said INHERIT by FREE KITTEN became the first record that ever prompted a fellow passenger to request I turn my iPod down.  Personally I didn’t think the volume was too high so perhaps it was the piercing and meandering shrieks of Kim Gordon’s offshot that upset the grumpy fat cow.  I have also found myself listening to PAUL F TOMPKIN’S comedy album IMPERSONAL on repeated plays, super funny.  Oh and BOOTY LUV of course, they rule the world. [JGram]

Marceline Smith

Marceline is the fierce, terrifying force behind diskant.net, laughing with disdain as she fires sharpened blades of sarcasm in all directions. Based in Scotland, her lexicon consists of words such as 'jings', 'aboot' and 'aye': our trained voice analysts are yet to decipher some of the relentless stream of genius uttered on a twenty-four hour basis. Marceline's hobbies include working too much and going out in bad weather.


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