Posts Tagged ‘alt-j’

The Top 5 Records of MMXII / 20:12

August 31, 2012

The year of our Lord: MMXII or 20:12 if you’re digital. What follows is a brief appraisal of the years musical offerings to the fickle hydra that is music. Lay down your first-born at the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan.

Where are we? Ah yes. Music. Follow me…

Beach House – Bloom (Sub Pop)

Ethereal. Otherworldly. Dream Pop. Which means? Beach House have created a fantastic summer record made for lying on the grass and staring at a clear blue sky. Alternatively it can be enjoyed through headphones sitting next to the patio door, pining, as the great British summer pours from the grey heavens.

The title ‘Bloom’ conjures up Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’

‘Bloom’ can be seen as the evolution of the surf-rock revival fad a few years ago, bands such as Wavves, Best Coast, etcetera. Yet it is the wiser, more grown-up brother to the anarchic stoner punks that preceded it.

The record has a euphoric quality which is summed up most perfectly in ‘Lazuli.’ – (which I sounds a bit like ‘Life in a Northern Town‘)

Django Django – Django Django (Because Music)

“Our name has absolutely nothing to do with Django Reinhardt”,

Django, Django, Django, Django. Are they named after four Gypsy, digit-impaired musical maestros? Well apparently not.

The band occupy a new wave of ‘geek-rock’ along with  proceeding band (*spoiler warning*) alt-J, therefore a seemingly impenetrable name is de rigueur.  Add to that a flourish of obscure lyrics and occasional smatterings of computer-related sound effects and you’ve kinda got the idea. The band stroll down a path previously paved by fellow-Scots Franz Ferdinand & non-fellow Scots  Hot Chip.  The stand-out single is the stomp-box, computer-inspired pop-song ‘Default.’

The band have an experimental avant-garde sound combined with radio-friendly tunes akin to the *excellent* Beta Band.

2012 has been without a doubt the year of the disastrous sophomore album. Either critically or commercially or any -ally that actu-ally matters. To list but a smattering – Santogold, Marina & The Diamonds, Sleigh Bells, The Temper Trap, Miike Snow & Best Coast. Have all either been shite or failed to meet expectations. I won’t review what I haven’t heard but reservations remain for The xx’s follow-up along with *shudders* Mumford & Sons upcoming record.

 

***Death Grips review here*** 

 

Grimes – Visions (Arbutus) AND  Purity Ring – Shrines (4AD)

“Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you,”

Yes two albums for the price of one, i.e. nothing. Due to the limited space I’ve imposed upon myself by arbitrarily declaring this the five best albums of 2012 so far, I’ve had to economise. And with what style. These two albums are perfect bedfellows. Furthermore I gather the two artists are pals. Perfect.

“Grimes is easily my favourite artist of the year. Her often wonderfully haunting vocals over such well produced tracks works so perfectly to me.” – @loluke

Grimes’ album is a mix of dirty ethereal electro, the grimey (urgh) beats are contrasted starkly with Claire Boucher’s sweet vocals.  The album is hard to pin down and therefore I won’t.  Safe to say ‘Visions’ is highly progressive and Grimes is one of the shining lights of the ever blossoming Montreal music scene.

Purity Ring’s offering is slightly more upbeat-pop than Grimes’ effort, but by no means is it Passion Pit levels of accessibility. Your Grandparents wouldn’t approve. Comparisons can be drawn with The xx at their most voluminous. The titles of the songs are reminiscent of  newspeak from George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ (Grandloves, Belispeak, Crawlersout)  synthesising two words to create new meanings.

Musically ‘Shrines’ is more dub-steppy than ‘Visions’  highlighted by ‘Ungirthed’ -another Newspeak word, maybe. Which features the tried and trusted ‘whomp, whomp’ baseline and ‘yeah yeahs’ -if there’s a better description for those tropes I’m all ears btw.

alt-J – An Awesome Wave (Infectious Records)

Other band name considerations included FILMS & Daljit Dhaliwal

I’ve reviewed this record in depth here. Needless to say it’s easily one of 2012 best, a benchfellow to Django Django’s LP. ‘Tessellate’ is described rather marvellously by Sam Wolfson as being “an onomatopoeic puzzle of angular beats and pointed sexual advances.” It’s perfect coffee-shop faire, as a former barista myself I mean that as high praise.

I firmly believe alt-J’s music is a result of earlier works by bands such as Bloc Party Wild Beasts & Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. With Joe Newman’s marmite-like vocals being comparable to the latter two.

To conclude 2012 so far has been the year of geekrock, or post-dubstep electro , or dreampop, or the shit second album ….

Basically anything that wasn’t L*n* D*l R*y. I need more Pale Ale. All hail Tlaloc!

Alt-J – ‘An Awesome Wave’ (Infectious Music 2012)

June 29, 2012

Other name considerations included Daljit Dhaliwal and FILMS

 

Alt-J – interesting name? My initial reaction was an awkward combination of eye rolling, eyebrow raising, sighing and wry-smiling. I’ll give you a moment to digest. Moving on.

 

Alt-J are named after the Mac keyboard command for a triangle sign…Yeah, me neither. But nonetheless I had heard much about the BBC “Sound of the Year” nearly-rans (formerly featuring such musical luminaries as Adele & Jessie J :O). The band are four Leeds University arty-types who spent most of their recording time in Cambridge for this album.

And what an excellent album “An Awesome Wave” is.  My penny-dropping moment came during a particularly busy-spell at work with the album playing on repeat three successive times, I suddenly realised that I didn’t mind. You can appreciate that listening to an album thrice consecutively and dare I say enjoying it is quite something.

However on further listens my appreciation has appreciated. Musically the album is not ground-breaking but instead seems to piece together the current edges of emerging musical trends and knits the seams cohesively to create something new all together. The band have harnessed the wave of new sounds into something quite awesome. For example the almost dub-step-like baseline from “Fitzpleasure” with a hard rocking guitar sound, a similar effect is employed on “Something Good”.  alt-J have drawn Radiohead comparisons from some quarters; a dangerous step considering the band have only produced one very polished album thus far & given this year’s smattering of disappointing sophomore efforts e.g. Sleigh Bells & Miike Snow.

Their frequent undulating key changes are reminiscent of everyone’s favourite new-wave, goth, art-rockers, The Cure exemplified most perfectly in ‘Something Good.’

But labelling albums ‘The Next Something’ is the ball-park of the ever wide-eyed optimist. Alt-J are certainly influenced by bands such as Radiohead, Wild Beasts & Clap Your Hands Say Yeah which is excellent furrow to plough. And while we’re at it, their frequent undulating key changes are reminiscent of everyone’s favourite new-wave, goth, art-rockers, The Cure exemplified most perfectly in ‘Something Good.’

The feel of the record is something I haven’t fully enjoyed since 2009’s LPs from Wild Beasts (Two Dancers) and The xx. The band in fact recently toured with Wild Beasts. All three albums occupy the same imagined recording studio space in my head (not literally). An Awesome Wave achieves a stripped-back half-electronic half-folk effect- which is better than it sounds.  According to the band their music is “Trip Folk” which is as good a description as any.

An important facet of the band is singer Joe Newman’s marmite vocals, a gurning bluesy voice which only adds to the aura, similar to Hayden Thorpe’s. When they’re not falsetto or acapella .  The records lyrics are packed with knowing-references to works as diverse as Luc Besson’s masterpiece Leon to Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’

The stand out tracks for me are ‘Tessellate’ (a dancey number) and ‘Breezeblocks’ (a desperate plea to a fleeing lover). So give it a listen. Or don’t if you can’t be arsed. But you may as well. You clearly have to much time on your hands if you’ve just read these 500 words. You could’ve started The Great Gatsby…