KH – Question

It seems KH (Four Tet) has pulled out a late winner as the best track to come out of the summer. This without a doupt needs to be listened to on headphones or very loud in your car.

SEPTEMBER : LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

So first things first. Let’s celebrate we’ve been running this blog merrily for more than FIVE YEARS! Well done us. And what a constant source of great music and discussion it’s been.

And how apt that we turn to a band after whom the blog was (kind of) named. And a band that has glued us all together musically for many years. We’re talking, of course, about James Murphy and his merry band of LCD wizards.

Second things second. This is a really good album. He’s at the top his game. It’s LCD Soundsystem FFS, what else was it going to be? What I’d like to get into is this: is it a GREAT album? And can something be a GREAT album if it wears its inflences so strongly on its sleeve that it’s impossible to ignore them.

Let’s start with the simple positives. The songwriting is great, and all the lyrical content, with his obsession about getting older, loneliness, disaffection, it’s as as good as anything he’s done. AND, despite the LOOOOOONG running time, I think they pull it off. I was a bit daunted when I saw list of 6, 7, 8, 9 minute songs – but on the whole, they’re little works of art that build their own internal momentum.

So what about that influences thing? Murphy’s mentioned in a number of interviews being inspired by Bowie to make another album, and to do exactly what he wanted to do, regardless of what the audience wants. He’s sure done that. But my goodness, those influences are SO plain the mix. Here’s a list of ones that jumped out on me on pretty much a first listen:


Emotional Haircut – Jesus H Christ, this is pure Joy Division. Could it sound any more like it was produced by Martin Hannett? That drum mix is quintessential Joy Division.


How Do You Sleep? – Oh man, name your early 80s influences. Siouxise? Cure? New Order? Bauhaus? Hell, this could be a bloody band from Leeds in 1982.


Change Your Mind – That guitar part is STRAIGHT from Bowie’s Scary Monsters. You think I’m exaggerating?

I could go on. There’s heaps of New Order and Joy Division influences, but Bowie is the veil than hangs over it all.

And then there are even times when LCD feel like they’re doing a cover of themselves. Do you know what I mean?

Call The Police

Other Voices (again, man, that Robert Fripp-esque guitar that could be from any number of Bowie albums!)

– both of these could have appeared on any of the LCD albums since Day 1. And they feel both wonderfully familiar, but also it’s as I’ve actually heard them before.

So I guess what I’m asking is: does this matter? We talk a lot on this blog about influences and being derivative and being original. Will that, in the end, mean that this is an album I play for quite a bit, then shelve because, when it comes down to it, I might as well listen to Unknown Pleasures or Heroes? Or has Murphy pulled this off with such brio and force and passion, that he’s moulded all the sounds he’s pilfered from his heroes into something new?

Right now, I don’t know. I’m so enjoying listening to it. But I do have a nagging voice in the back of my head. And occassionally, I’ve laughed out loud at how obvious he’s been about stealing a sound.

Over to you, Brothers. And here’s to another 5 years!

AUGUST: Aldous Harding – Party

If you were to ask me what are my most listened to types of music it would go like this: 1) Hip Hop, 2) Folk, 3) Dance. In the middle there is arguably a bump in the road with folk but it for a number of reasons it works for me and has for a very long time. I’d actually argue folk is ahead of hip hop at times.

 

Parking that top 3 and delving more into folk I noticed a year or so ago that my folk collection was heavily swayed towards males. One could say that about my hip hop collection but there is reason for that.. there are (in my opinion) many more males with better talents that females as a whole within hop hop. Folk on the other hand is a fair split. So logically I started to delve deeper into folk to find more females that I liked. Of course there is everything from Joni Mitchel, Laura Marling, The Staves, but I needed to dig deeper like I have to find male artists. Where I often came short wasn’t great songs but in fact strong consistent albums.

Brother Joseph has introduced us all to two fantastic Female artists over the last few months with his contributions and with my selection I hope it continues with Aldous Harding.

I very much want to leave this album to sink in with you like it did when I came across it a few months ago, so I don’t want to delve into it too deep except for saying that I have found it an album that gets better with time. So what to tell you then; well she from New Zealand, she’s on 4AD records and at the ripe age of 27 she sings beyond her years. At times you could compare her to Kate Bush, others Bjork apparently.

For me this album brings a beautiful calm with honest and at times some surprisingly dark lyrics. Her haunting yet happy at times vocals give her lyrics credit. This also is a complete album of music.

 

So enjoy brothers, and happy August… or should I say Aldous (sorry, I had to do it).

 

Arcade Fire: Everything Now

SONG OF THE SUMMER ALERT

Lordy lord. What is this? I loved the first two Arcade Fire albums so hard, and then seemed to go right up their fundaments, becoming more pompous and boring and alt-stadium rock with every release.

So count me astonished that this seems to have come out of nowhere. And what is this they’re channelling? Why, it’s surely a touch of ABBA’s Dancing Queen? Dancing Queen with a huge existenial lyric, a bit of nose flute and a giant choir?

YES FUCKING PLEASE.

This will piss off the rock purists so badly.
This makes me so happy.
I’ve listened to this 25 times in the past week.

NOTE TO ALL BANDS: Find your inner Agnetha and Annifrid, and all will be well.

JULY – Joe Goddard – Electric Lines

 

So, I don’t think I need any disclosure here: this feels a little obvious as a ‘Guy Album Of The Month’.  Yes, I love Hot Chip (and LCD, and Joe and Al and Felix and Owen and Alexis and New Build and 2 Bears and…) as much as any other band that’s been around in the last two decades, but this doesn’t make it a throwaway choice. In fact, it’s one of the most listenable albums of the year so far for me, but it’s also much more than ‘oh, that bloke from Hot Chip’s made a solo album of dancefloor bangers’. It’s actually pleasingly more subtle than that, and it’s an LP that you should give a chance, because in many ways, it talks about what music means to me and tries to grab bits of all those *moments* that you have, whether it’s in a club, on the way to work, at a festival, at a gig. It may be ‘dancey’, but it’s not just a dance album. Stick with it and hopefully you’ll end up as rewarded as I do.

Joe’s a proper, unashamed, music geek. He loves disco and Salsoul (more of that later), but also dancehall and dub (just look at The 2 Bears influences). He loves techno and rave, and he loves pop music. But until now, his songs have often been twinned with others – Alexis Taylor in Hot Chip, Raf Rundell in The 2 Bears, as well as his Greco-Roman collective (label and releases-wise) – but while the solo stuff he’s done goes back to 2009, and there’s been some memorable stuff, this feels like a long time coming, and a bit of a new chapter for Goddard. He’s spoken about having a load of new kit, and wanting to make a record that  gets the most out of it, and to push himself in a way that perhaps he doesn’t get when operating within the strictures of a band. But even with the newer sounds he’s created, what his music always sounds is joyous, vibrant, and throbbingly alive. And it takes someone with a cold heart to feel there’s nothing in Electric Lines for them.

So, what’s it like? There’s a myriad of influences, but instead of wrapping them in knowing subtlety, they’re out there front and centre, whether it’s the famous Celeda sample in tribute-heavy and vibes-laden Music Is The Answer, or the Salsoul sample – Brainstorm’s We’re On Our Way Home – in the paen to late-night wobbly post-club treks Home (with its brilliant Pete Fowler cartoons), Joe’s celebrating the music that is important to him, framed in his own template. The album flits around, from Ordinary Madness’ restrained modern soul openings, to shimmering, wide-angle pain of Human Heart, via balls-out 6am sweatbox Lasers, but there is a traceable line, and changes in tempo and feel that works across the length. You don’t make half a dozen albums without knowing how to structure an LP. Above all though, sonically and stylistically, the album shouts ‘HAVE FUN’, and it’s hard not to just let it wash over you and bounce down the road. It’s definitely made for summer and shades.

And with Al’s away with LCD, and Alexis releases piano-based albums, it’s a deserved chance for Joe to get some more limelight. No, it’s not a huge departure from other work he’s done, but why need it be? Alexis joins on the title track to sublime and familiar effect, and there’s some shades of Hot Chip around a few turns, particularly the cascading synth lines of Truth Is Light. But it’s very much Joe’s own project, and an album that shows that solo work doesn’t have to be any more complicated than putting together a load of music that shows who you are, and if that’s about good times, then where’s the evil in that? Despite being the wrong side of 35, he’s not a man that appears to be growing respectable with age (his comments about simply tearing out into Shangri-La and hanging on for the next 4 days made me chuckle), and if you saw his Glastonbury set on the Sunday, it’s a pretty impressive knowing what he probably got up to before that point!

Sometimes albums that are instantly accessible fade quickly, and feel disposable, but this isn’t one. Also, it’s hard to say what you’ll connect with in music. Even something you think you’ll like, it just doesn’t happen. But I’ve listened to it a couple of dozen times, and all I’ve done is feel it speaks to me and those moments you have when you’re out (we’ve all been in that fuzzy cab ride home). And you feel the connection was there from the start. I can’t make you like it, but I can make you listen, and just hope you do.